Rebecca Sullivan – Dirty Girl Kitchen: Safeguarding granny skills

As featured in The Country Web  Number 59 Spring 2013 edition.

Rebecca Sullivan is a self-taught cook and has worked with some of the world’s best producers, environmental academics, activists, chefs and restaurants as an ecoagronomist, activist, sustainable food writer, urban farmer and entrepreneur; a project any food lover would envy.

Pauline Tee, 79, and her granddaughter Rebecca Sullivan sharing Granny skills

From launching the Real Food Festival in London to working on Slow Food Nation in San Francisco, farming coffee in Uganda to teaching scientists the art of communications in the Maldives for the United Nations.

Rebecca’s obsession with food began in Italy, so it followed that she would become interested in the Slow Food Movement which she spent two years working with in the UK and US organising events, campaigns and, of course, eating. She is extraordinarily passionate about heritage, tradition, sustainability and the things that we all love … good, clean and fair produce.

Having recently re-settled in Australia Rebecca has become a popular presenter for her simple dishes, great advice and wonderful ideas for simple sustainable recipes we can all try at home. She is also an OZ Harvest ambassador and sits on the board of the Regional Development Agency in South Australia.

Her first book ‘Just Like Grandma Used to Make’, was released in April 2013. One of her latest projects— Dirty Girl Kitchen Australia—is  a community-supported cooperative inspiring women to be more in touch with the land and old crafts. She says, ‘it is about bringing those communities of women from our Multi-cultural Australia together ‘dirty’, from growing food to making soap, brewing stock to weaving baskets.’ These are what Rebecca has called “Granny Skills”.

Rebecca says the idea for Dirty Girl Kitchen was dreamt up one afternoon as she stirred a boiling pot of strawberry jam staring out her window watching the autumn leaves full outside of her Cotswold cottage in Gloucestershire. ‘More than just a kitchen, our mission is to safeguard our “granny skills”, by protecting food heritage, culture, skills, knowledge and tradition, passing down what grannies know best.

‘Our grannies are from all sorts of places (our own included) such as the country, the city and refugee communities. We are planting kitchen gardens, making jam, curing meat and pickling every cucumber insight!’ As well as all of the exciting collaborations we are cooking up a storm and are selling their goods in delis and farmers markets, catering for all kinds of events, restaurants and people,
serving up nothing but the best seasonal, nostalgic goodness.

‘Our Dirty Girls are keen to help you save money by passing on ways to be thrifty and in turn helping protect mother earth.’ ‘In a fast-paced world, tradition and worshipful skills are being lost. We are all finding it hard to even have time to ourselves, let alone each other.

Amongst the blur of daily lives, the elderly are left lonely with no-one to pass down their stories and skills to and yet a whole plethora of women young and old; and often lonely too, are crying out for a way to connect with each other and the land again. Dirty those women together and taking a step back.

When asked who has been the most influential women in her life Rebecca says her mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother have definitely been a strong influence. ‘They are all incredible women who have worked so hard for their families. They are all so generous, kind and loving— perfect role models for any girl ‘Their influence has definitely played a role in me setting up the granny skills movement!

I would like to think that people see me in the same light I see them too’. Rebecca says the greatest piece of advice she was given was from her Great Grandmother Lil who said, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Rebecca says she ‘always asks’.

So what advice would Rebecca pass on to other women? ‘Learn from your elders, ask them questions, treasure the moments and then pass it all on’.

Rebecca is always looking for grannies to teach, and girls to learn, so if you are keen to be part of this social project you can find out more at:

About nswrwn

NSW Rural Women’s Network is a government program working in innovative ways to promote leadership and action on rural women’s issues. The RWN team is dedicated to connecting and exchanging information with women and stakeholders in rural, regional and remote communities.
This entry was posted in agriculture, Communities, education and training, Elderly, Environment, Families, farming, food, Health, inspirational, Landcare, Mentor, primary industries, resilience, Rural Australia, rural women, stories, Sustainability, women, women's networks. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Rebecca Sullivan – Dirty Girl Kitchen: Safeguarding granny skills

  1. This sounds wonderful! It really is so good when people connect over food.

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