From Jo Corrigan to Adam Robinson
To follow is a beautiful letter sent to Mr Robinson by his friend, Jo Corrigan. Ms Corrigan cooked with Robinson in London, during the 90s. Her current occupation is working with her partner to forage for wild things for the kitchens of knowing chefs.
Shared here, with her permission.
” I’m sitting on a beach on Phu Quoc Isle, Vietnam, having had ten splendid days here with Matt. The flowers and the fruit are on steroids. The sea is bath warm and roars on happily outside our villa. It’s monsoon and, whilst our fellow travellers struggle, their humour noisily suspended by the constant downpour of inches and inches of tropical rain and the absence of hot water due to solar interruption we are both just- well - very content.
We are cocooned in the heat and the sheer luxury of swapping our Macedon Ranges home, which currently battles snow and ice, for this life of freedom in the shape of an old motorbike, beautiful people, night fish market feasts of razor clams, grilled squid and pho, plates of sautéed morning glory, whole days motionless… reading and reading… and sleep- the kind of sleep it’s hard to really have unless you momentarily hang your life on a high shelf.
Life at home has finally settled into a beautiful yearly rhythm where we do exactly what we planned we always would - pretty much the length of the year.
From February onward we go into mushroom season. Matt and the team start in the Blue Mountains in some of the most beautiful old forests I’ve ever seen. Towering, they are miles from civilisation. We see few folk through there, the odd cattle farmer who shares the boundary with the forestry commission. These forests are rich in all wild mushrooms, blackberries, river mint… Their slopes are high. They test the spirit and the legs.
I travel between there and Melbourne with early loads then I catch further tonnes off overnight freight in one of the vans and deliver to the wholesale market and the restaurants. It’s a great sustainable business. It can be demanding, however. The light at the end of the tunnel is this period in July, August/September when we can ramble happily and live without a plan.
We are often joined on our mission by travellers eager for an experience of food in the wild. The last lot boasted a very good fisherman. This made for some pretty memorable suppers.
We finish in NSW when the local season starts on Mount Macedon around April/May.
We spend a couple of weeks changing spots into south Australia where we have a cabin for 3 months a year, a beautiful spot with koalas, a lemon tree, a pub and about 20 huge forests that offer kilos and kilos of mushrooms at a time of year that others find it difficult to source them. Sometimes we head into Adelaide, catching a game of our beloved Collingwood and driving happily through the Adelaide Hills and a favourite spot, Basket Range, where wild watercress is delicious right from the stream. We found lovely Porcini here one year… under a set of swings in a park!
Spring. September offers us morels. We head to the snow country after the thaw. We’re still yet to crack the tonnes that we experience with the other varieties but we get a little better every year. Matt is such a happy camper if we can come home with 40 kg. They don’t taste as strong as European morel but they’re thrilling to sleuth out and always sell well.
Cooking is still my first love. However, I do not miss the shape of it in terms of restaurant life. Where did honest food go? I know it’s on our table at home. It is in the homes of our friends. That’s where we eat more and more. I don’t miss owning a restaurant. I don’t miss fielding a young chef’s desire to create something ‘new’ when all we really need is to combine a menu that reflects a good combination historically. A menu that will take into account the skill on board and the ingredients available locally. Then back all that up with good, honest warmth and hospitality. We supply many, many kitchens that champion these values, certainly values that The Brackenbury instilled in me. Since joining Matt in his quest to put hard to get gear onto the chopping boards of like-minded chefs I have so enjoyed walking into those businesses and seeing faces instantly light up as they chat excitedly about what they will cook with whatever we have brought them.
In previous summers we have lent our time to part time gigs, event catering and so on. Instead, this year, we are going to finally complete our dream of growing 12 different heirloom tomatoes on a large scale. We did a test amount last year in our back garden and produced a good 70 kilos which went to favoured chefs. Wonderful! I wrote a form letter last month and, being in winery rich/organic country I popped it through twenty or so letterboxes. I wasn’t prepared for the response. 10 properties offered spare land, a tractor and bore water and so the project took joyous flight. We chose three of the local wineries and we start ploughing and preparing next week. They will receive vegetables for the house on return. One fellow, giving us the biggest area, has requested 6% of our total crop earn. A good deal in the end.
To aid the size of all of this we finally purchased a beautiful big green house. We have this delivered the day after we get back and our seedlings will go in. Joy.
Hoping my yearly yarn finds you both well and enjoying both your businesses. I do check them out from time to time and do dream of visiting. I do know I’ll find honest cooking there and it’s not too far to go to find it.”