Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate that we are now living in a world that is changing so fast. Change is all around us in all aspects of our life. Technological, social, employment, spiritual, dietary, housing and political changes are happening all the time, often so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up. We have robots that mow our lawns, strawberries in winter, video calls to friends on the other side of the world, and mobiles with a mindboggling myriad of functions. All of these things were science fiction a generation ago, but now they are part of our everyday life. Of course, much of this change is welcome… but other aspects are to our loss: we have forgotten how to eat with the seasons, or chat with people face to face, for example.
I was born in 1963 and grew up on a farm in rural Co Galway. We were largely self-sufficient for our diet (with the exception of tea!). We grew our own vegetables, supplied our own milk from the cows on our farm, baked our own bread, ate apples from the orchard, had fresh eggs from our hens, and kept potatoes in a pit to eat all winter long. All our food was 100% natural. Though we didn’t use the term at the time, everything was organic. We used cattle manure as fertilizer, and any leftovers from mealtimes fed the dogs, cats or hens, or went into the compost bin. We used virtually no weed killers or artificial chemicals on our farm, but if we had to, they were used very sparingly.
We had a very simple, often unchanging, diet of meat and vegetables, perhaps with a treat for desert, and of course, fish on Fridays. There were no fizzy drinks, but water – from the pump – was in fine supply, and tasted so good and natural with no taste of chemicals. We had no microwaves, but the Aga was always on, with the kettle, pots and oven in constant use.
We never starved, but we were always hungry. Being farmers, the work was very physical and most of it meant being outdoors. As the old saying goes, “Hunger is the best sauce.” Unlike many kids today, we did not lead a sedentary lifestyle. We walked to school, and cycled everywhere. We were one of the first families to get television in our village, but it was a special treat, and there was nothing on for large parts of the day. On match days, everyone would come to our house for the game, a great source of enjoyment and memories.
Sweets and chocolate were a rare luxury: the truth was we could barely afford them, and any spare money went towards essentials on the farm. Out treats came in the form of treacle cakes, apple tarts and scones, and boy did they taste good fresh from the oven.
And now? In our busy, technical and electrical world, we actively yearn for the beautiful simplicity of the past. Nowadays we live in a world where there are robotic milking machines, 24 hour TV’s in our lounges, kitchens and bedrooms, seasonal foods are available – at a price – all year round, many children have no idea or appreciation of where their food comes from, much of what we eat is chock full of sugar and unnatural chemicals, and we send texts and emails rather than interacting face to face. Though I love many of the changes that have enhanced our lives, sometimes how I hanker for the old days, when we appreciated the simple things in life. We looked after our habitat and environment with love and respect, and our habitat and environment looked after us. We lived at one with nature, and were all the happier for it. We had nothing, yet we had everything. Perhaps it’s time to go back to basics and enjoy the simple things in life!