David grew up in Islington. It was in conversation with him about the history of the suburb that it struck me how we have come full circle about food. Actually it was this photo of David’s father and grandmother knee deep in the most amazing backyard vegetable garden that made me stop and think about some things David had previously mentioned.
David felt that his childhood wasn’t as difficult as some because they kept chickens and ducks that they could eat. David’s Mum would preserve eggs by coating them in Vaseline and then floating them in oil. The man from the Owens grocery store used to do home deliveries of things they couldn’t grow themselves – ‘first they would come to your door to take your order and then they would pack it at the shop and deliver it back to your house’. There were at least three general stores just a few blocks from David’s house and a bakery on the corner which used to deliver fresh bread to all the local suburbs. There was a noticeable absence of big trees in backyards and when I mentioned this to David he said that people only grew trees that could bear fruit and be productive.
Doesn’t this all sound like our current wish for local food, for connections with the growers of our food, our growing demands for healthy unprocessed and even organic food, and increasingly, our concern over food security and resilience? Back in David’s day they had no choice. We, on the other hand, are beginning to see the advantages of growing backyard veggies and teaching ourselves how to make the odd pickle or two – who knows how this might come in handy next time the power is out for a week and the shops can’t open.
David Hugginson interview with Bonnie McBain, 2014.