Living thoughtfully: Matt and Lentil

How to grow, cook, preserve, trade and live well.

A practical guide to traditional skills in the modern world lies at the heart of Matt and Lentil’s beautiful first book, Grown and Gathered. An ode to thoughtful living, it captures the joy that comes from the simple things – growing summer tomatoes, trading flowers from the garden, preserving a glut of ripe fruit.

With the new year offering a period of reflection, Matt and Lentil share a few thoughts on living well.

How did your own upbringings contribute to the ‘grown and gathered’ philosophy you live by today?

Neither of us grew up fully immersed in this kind of life, but both of our early lives certainly had tastes of things to come. Lentil grew up outside Cairns on a small palm tree farm – a far cry from the flower patch, but a farm nonetheless. Her dad Russ would grow a crop of pumpkins every year without fail, and she has fond memories of long days pottering in the garden with her mum.

I grew up surrounded by vineyards. Nonna and Nonno grew grapes for sultanas up in Mildura. On Tahbilk, the family winery near where I lived as a child and where we have now carved out our little patch, I watched grapes being transformed into wine, vintage after vintage.

While we don’t necessarily think these upbringings are what led us to where we are now, it’s hard to deny they were laying foundations we probably weren’t aware of at the time.

With your first book out, workshops being run and consulting taking place – how important has the ‘education’ role become in what you do?

Hugely. It’s likely that we won’t continue to farm at the capacity we have been for much longer. Education is to us a far more fulfilling way to spend our time than producing food for a few. And it’s taken us a few years but we’ve finally admitted to ourselves that we can’t do everything!

I guess it’s the ‘teach a man to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime’ thing. Above all else, we just really want to encourage as many people as we can to begin to bring some of these experiences into their lives, because they have enriched our life so much. If everyone just grows one thing, preserves one thing, trades just once, we know it will change their life in the best way forever.

And so the whole aim in writing the book was to empower people to have a go at these traditional experiences that we see as so innate to happiness.

“We have worked hard to look back with honest eyes to the way of life our ancestors knew, and we continue to simplify our own life to resonate with what we discover. Happiness seems to lie in simplicity, that’s for sure.”

From farm life to flower trading, what has guided the decisions you’ve made?

Our hearts. Follow your hearts everyone! This is a huge one for us. This whole journey has flowed from a place we don’t feel we have complete control over. Somehow one thing has led to another and we have just tried to stay open to the opportunities that have presented themselves and remain keen observers of the world around us.

We have worked hard to look back with honest eyes to the way of life our ancestors knew, and we continue to simplify our own life to resonate with what we discover. Happiness seems to lie in simplicity, that’s for sure.

Outside Australia, what cultures and cuisines do you feel embody your own thoughtful living approach?

We feel this kind of simple, productive lifestyle reverberates globally. The experiences of being in touch with the natural world that surrounds us, of growing, gathering and raising your own food, of trading and feasting – these are the joys of human life, they aren’t culturally specific. The plants may vary, the holiday dates, the spices in your dinner, but the experiences and human connection are universal.

What are your favourite recipes people should try this summer from Grown and Gathered?

Dill pickles! They go with everything! Caponata is also one of the ultimate celebrations of the summer garden for us, and who can go past a cold glass of homemade ginger beer or gooseberry lassi? Summer for us is about bright, light, happy food and fresh, do-nothing-to-it home grown produce.

Grown and Gathered by Matt and Lentil is published by Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $45.

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