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"Astonish me in the morning!" Tyrone Guthrie

As you know, as well as writing this blog, to entertain myself I take photographs as I walk, and a few friends and I take turns in suggesting a different topic to look out for each week. This week it has been 'renewal' and I can't tell you how difficult that has been, in spite of the very many different meanings you can attach to the word.

This is actually an old photograph I took of a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit to revive (renew) me in the afternoon. I did take a similar one to contribute to this week's theme but it came out all blurry, so this is a substitute - the best of my renewals I think. And I absolutely need my breakfast cup of coffee in the morning - it doesn't astonish me but it does revive me. Which, as I said, is a sort of renewal. And every day is a renewal - a new start. I did take a photo of my breakfast as well - on a day when the food was raisin bread as David calls it - but toasted. The pills are merely vitamins that David seems to think we need.

"Things are always better in the morning.” says Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird, which is mostly true - especially if you have had nightmares, or not much sleep - at last the night long torture of not being able to sleep is over. It's an opportunity to start again. The only time it would not be I guess, is if you are undergoing something distressing in some way in your life, and yet again you have to face up to it. But even then morning may bring the hope of relief.

"Every day is a renewal, every morning the daily miracle. This joy you feel is life." Gertrude Stein

Generally speaking I have been a bit uninspired of late - hence missing a day of blogging on Friday. So after lunch today I went for a walk because often a walk somehow manages to insert ideas into my head. And today was no exception. Why not write about renewal - particularly with respect to food I thought, as I strolled along snapping pictures of solar panels on roofs, water tanks and replanting along creeks. My weekly walks around Eltham are unlikely to be as inspiring as the one above - Umbria in case you are wondering - but then I don't have any photographs of me walking around Eltham - well anywhere much really - this is one of the very few. So yes, a walk can be a renewing experience in spite of the tiredness it might produce. The body may suffer but the mind is revived.

Cooking is a source of renewal for me. For my sister it's gardening. They are both soothing and can sometimes be creative. Her garden is her happy place. My kitchen is mine. It's also an opportunity to release tension by mashing stuff in a pot or bashing meat with a tenderiser. I'm sure there are equivalent processes in the garden. Obviously sometimes it is more renewing than others, but generally, yes, it revives me.

So other than the cooking process what else is there about food and cooking that speaks to the concept of renewal? Well heaps actually, and I'll probably miss some aspects out. Of course the most important aspect of renewal is that it keeps us healthy - and alive. It helps the body restore and replace every living cell in our bodies every seven years.

"We have to eat; we like to eat; eating makes us feel good; it is more important than sex. To ensure genetic survival the sex urge need only be satisfied a few times in a lifetime; the hunger urge must be satisfied every day." Robin Fox

If we are sick food will play a part in making us better, even if that part is actually not eating for a short period - like when you have a stomach upset.

If you are feeling down, or tired, food can revive you, renew your spirit as well as your body - like that cup of coffee and chocolate biscuit, a perfectly cooked meal, a dinner out with family and/or friends, the romantic dinner in some exotic place. Events that will revive memories of happy times in the future. Renewal repeated - the initial event that perhaps renewed old acquaintances and revived memories of times past; the event itself that renewed energy at the end of a busy day and the memory - revived via photography of that whole week - in this case in a divine house, in the seriously underappreicated town of Beaucaire on the River Rhône.

But there are many other aspects of renewal when it comes to food.

Every meal I cook contains many aspects of renewal. Perhaps it is a favourite meal, cooked over and over again throughout my life, and so, weighted down with memories. Perhaps I am reusing some leftovers from a day or so before, whether in a different way or by simply reheating them. Either way renewal is involved. In the course of the preparation of the meal I have probably recycled the vegetable peelings, the bones, the fat and so on - some to be reused elsewhere, mostly recycled via our own compost bin or the green bin, hopefully ultimately restoring the soil to a healthier state. Perhaps I am using an old recipe but reinventing it in some way. Perhaps the recipe itself is a reinvention, readjustment, of a classic dish. Perhaps it is a rediscovery of something I had forgotten, something that the cookery world had forgotten. A revival of tradition or a tradition renewed and revised to suit the modern world.

To renew means to make like new. Renewal is the process of restoring freshness and reviving something that already existed." Sam Milbrath - Second Harvest

Today there is a massive industry involved in all aspects of food renewal - whether it be redistributing surplus or less than perfect food to organisations like OzHarvest and Second Bite; discovering and marketing ancient grains - or any other previously 'unknown' ingredients; finding new ways to provide ready made dinners; republishing old cookbooks; finding new and adventurous ways to deal with traditional dishes, and everyday ingredients; inventing new ways of keeping food fresh for longer - and on and on it goes. Some of it is to be deplored. But most of it is to be applauded - if only for the ingenuity of the human mind. I might not be astonished in the morning, but I am constantly astonished at the inventiveness of the food industry in the very broadest sense.

As I walked this afternoon I thought of all the other words that sort of mean renewal. Which made me realise what a rich language English is. Here are some that I thought of. I am sure there are more:

repair, reuse, recycle, reinvent, restore, reinvigorate, reacquaint, revive, refresh, reclaim, reimagine, rewrite, rehash, recuperate, revitalise, restitute, repurpose, rediscover, retrieve, recapture, rethink, reheat, re-energise, regenerate

I should have been able to think of more to photograph. Here are some that I did take:

Next week it's triangles. Much easier, although perhaps not so many connections with food. I shall have to think about that.


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