JANE GRYLLS - DOMESTIC SCIENTIST
I grew up on a farm north of Bendigo then moved to Maldon when I was five. Mum was a Melbourne girl and had travelled quite a bit, she was in London in the swinging 60s and worked as a SPC (Sheppaton Preserving Company) girl driving around flogging Australian peaches to the Poms. She also nursed in Africa. She knew my father before she left and they kept in contact all the time she was overseas and he picked her up from the airport when she came home. Nine months and a shotgun wedding later my older sister Elizabeth was born. I arrived shortly after that. I loved farm life, we had all sorts of animals, there was always wildlife in and around our home including a few tiger snakes. We use to kill our own sheep and cattle for food and my sister and I loved duck shooting season when we would collect the cartridges for our fingers. Mum said I always used to have a roast quail in hand. I do remember plucking chickens and having a ball like my own pillow fight massacre. Friends and family from the city would always visit and we spent many a schooling afternoon catching and eating yabbies.
During the '78 drought Dad, on horseback, and a few other drovers took the stock up to Wilcana and we followed in the car. Mum bathed us in a plastic rubbish bin. They really were happy times. Sadly my dear old cowboy dad passed away not long after this and we moved to Maldon. we had been to the camp drafts and mum sold the farm and packed us off to a new town. I'm not sure I enjoyed growing up there, but even as a kid I had a happy disposition and did all the things you do when you grew up in a country in the 80s. Lots of freedom, Countdown and Monkey Magic ruled. I was encouraged from a very young age to eat all matter of things. Mum was great cook and always trying out new dishes on us. As teenagers we ate our body weight in loin lamb chops.
I passed my year 12 exams. Just. (Sorry Mum). There was a lot of drinking. I still had a country yearning so I did a course in Wool and Fibre Marketing at the Melbourne College of Textiles (now part of RMIT) and went to quite a few B&S balls. Needless to say I never met a worthy bachelor,particularly with my rum goggles on. I ended up in Western Australia and worked at the Ocean Beach Hotel, then as a Jillaroo on a 1.5 million- acre sheep and cattle station and on a scallop trawler in Shark Bay. By the age of 22 I realised why mum wanted me to get a good education. I went back to uni and studied for a Bachelor of Applied Science in Consumer Science and got a Diploma in Community Development. This was where I made the many contacts which helped to kick start my career. It was the one of the only courses at the time where you could become a Home Economist and Food Stylist. Now I work in Community Development as a cooking teacher for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program at Winters Flat Primary School and as a Freelance Home Economist.
I have worked on a few TV cooking shows, one of my favourites being Paddock to Plate with Matt Moran, which was also the most trying. We got to travel to places all over Victoria, NSW, SA and WA, and met the most amazing people who were growing sensational produce, what a dream to set up a shoot on Cable Beach wearing only bikinis! But television is not glamorous; I worked like a dog. I would do Matt's food prep, set the scene, most of the time there was no running water and there is definitely no power in the middle of a wheat paddock, or on a seaside-cliff. My assistant and I were always first there and last to leave, after a long drive back to where we were staying we'd wash up and sort out all the props, produce and prep for the next day and type out the recipes, sometimes we were doing 19 hour days.
I also worked in Homelessness in South Melbourne for five years and I realised that helping people was my jam. I feel better if I'm making a difference to peoples' lives.
About 12 years ago, Stephanie Alexander gave a talk about her idea to start a Kitchen Garden Program in primary schools across Australia at my uni faculty. She spoke with such conviction and I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved. When my son Will was three I had him in child care one day a week and decided that if I was going to be away from him I should be doing something that I'm passionate about, with people who appreciate me. I started volunteering for the SAKG program in Eaglehawk and we didn’t have much money, but with my cooking skills we were able to live very well on not much at all. This led to a job as Kitchen Specialist at Winters Flat Primary School. I've been with the program for seven years now and it's wonderful to have fulfilling work in a country town.
My work days vary; if I'm teaching, after a conversation with the Garden Specialist Terry Willis about what's ready for the kids to harvest in the school garden, I put together a seasonal menu based on five categories; salad, vegetables, rice, pasta or grains, bread and a fruit-based dessert. I might have a coffee at one of my local haunts, then do a shop for any extra food I need. I set the kitchen stations up and get all the equipment out while the kids bring in the harvest. Then I spend two hours preparing, cooking and eating a seasonal tasting menu with kids from grade 2 to 6.
I do love this town, it is so much more interesting than when I was growing up, I'm so glad we came back twelve years ago. We have great friends and family, produce, food, coffee and the artistic sensibility is everywhere. I am consumed by wanderlust, so the desire to travel is strong, but this is satiated by freelance work, a train trip to Melbourne, and sometimes a coffee in Daylesford to feel like like an anonymous tourist. I only have to drive in Melbourne for a couple of days and I'm ready to come home to my dear little family home and two minute peak hour traffic. You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl.
Future plans: I'm doing a few big walks this year. One I've already ticked off was in Sydney for the Fred Hollows Foundation, and I'd like to do one from Perth to Broome. I'd love to do more of these around the world, as well as the 30km Goldfields track to Daylesford.
Favourite places in the area: I do love a swim at the Hepburn baths and filling bottles with natural farty mineral water, yoga on a Monday night with Patricia at the Sun Studio is heaven, the salad plate lunches at Fig are to die for, picking edible mushrooms in the bush is golden when it's cold and pool hopping in summer is a must. Also farmers markets and Ray's chai at the Wesley Hill Market on a Saturday.