Life moves at a different pace on Flinders Island. A picture of lush green pastures girdled by craggy cliff faces, this remote rocky outcrop in Bass Strait is home to a proud farming community who live in harmony with nature.
For Miele ambassador Jo Barrett, the opportunity to spend five months living and working in this spectacularly wild landscape was a dream come true.
“The community here on the island is incredible,” she says of the 800-strong population, with many local families tracing their lineage back multiple generations.
“Nature is at the forefront of everyone’s activities. They spend their days either on the water or exploring the natural beauty of the island. Time zooms past; you’re not sitting on social media, that’s for sure. The community really embraces and respects its surroundings.”
This symbiosis with nature made Flinders Island the perfect choice for Miele’s Stories of Sustainability series.
“The island has such incredible produce,” says Barrett, a long-time champion of minimum-waste-maximum flavour cooking.
“Everyone works on the land so their livelihood depends on the state of the water and the soil. There’s a fisherman who line-catches fish and takes it straight to the wharf restaurant.
“There’s also a young couple who are reopening the abattoir because people have realised how inefficient it is to raise livestock, send it away to be processed only to bring it back for consumption.”
For Barrett, Flinders Island is a great example of how a small, localised food system can work.
“It’s all about growers doing things with a sustainable mindset. This island is their home and they know they have to look after it for the generations to come.
“Everyone here cares about their environment so much. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of rubbish on the beach.”
While she had planned to use her island downtime to work on her sustainable cookbook, instead it was taken up by the lure of the wild: foraging for coastal herbs, diving for crayfish and mutton-birding with local Indigenous people.
“If the weather’s good, you head on out. It’s a busy life, where everyone is working hard but finding so much satisfaction in it. And the emotional payoff is feeling part of a system – a place where everyone is friendly because they feel their interconnection with each other and the land and sea.”
It’s a little island with a lot of innovation; the recent installation of solar panels and two wind turbines now satisfies 70 per cent of the island’s energy needs. And it’s this sustainable approach that mirrors Barrett’s own ethos when it comes to cooking and eating.
“Seeing how pristine the ingredients are means I really want to do them justice as a cook,” she says.
Barrett’s favourite island practice was to catch a fish and cook it over a fire on the beach, creating steam with saltbush.
“When I’m back at home, my Miele steam oven is such a great way to capture the flavour and nutrients of the fish. It’s a gentle way to cook and it lets you have lots of control and precision in your cooking.”