Friday, August 4, 2017

Compost 5th August

Hungry, poor, exploited: alarm over Australia's import of farm workers
‘Those brought to Australia are bonded to a labour hire company or employer. They are not free to leave without risking deportation, nor complain about abuses without risking the same. The “boss-man”, as many of the seasonal workers refer to their employer, has an almost-total control over workers’ lives – if and where they work, where they sleep, what they eat, how much they will be paid, and whether they can stay in the country – and many workers feel there is no authority they can practicably turn to if they are exploited or abused.’

Chains are not the only way to enslave people.

The Fair Work Commission has been running a 3 year campaign The Harvest Trail ‘to help employers and employees working on the Harvest trail to understand their rights and obligations at work.’ It will be interesting to see the results of the campaign.

Three challenges we must overcome to secure the future of food
‘Governments are the first major obstacle. In both rich and poor countries they operate in silos on issues relating to agriculture, biodiversity, water, health, demography, and other environmental considerations. These issues tend to be discussed in isolation. Governments also fail to adequately tap into expertise from civil society, business, and the science community. A similar disconnect occurs among academics: climate scientists, agronomists, ecologists, hydrologists, economists, and representatives of other fields rarely come together to propose integrated targets for sustainable food and land use systems, or pathways for achieving them.’

Reading this article led me to check where Australia stood in terms of a comprehensive future food plan. I found the National Food Plan on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources site. A report on the State of the Food System and a review of the Policy is due in 2018

Who Orders Eggs Anymore? The Future of Sydney Cafe
‘I know a place that has closed their dining room and now they just use their kitchen to do UBER eats so they don't have to pay wait staff. This is me at my darkest, where people don't go out anymore. That's horrible.’

Nicholas Jordan talks with Russell Beard, Nick Smith and Anthony Svilicich. Sadly, no-one is trending toward Sri Lankan egg hoppers with fish curry and onion sambol for brekkie.

Pineapple on pizza? The highly controversial fruit has a fascinating history in Australian cuisine
‘Her favourite recipe is the pineapple cartwheel salad in which a pineapple ring is cut in half, the two halves are stood on their edge next to one another and stuffed between the two are dessert prunes and cream cheese. "And it looks so delightful," she said.’

The image at the head of this edition of Diggings is of said salad.

The article is only the entrée. Follow the other link below to James Valentine’s podcast on Food Crimes: Pineapple for some truly wondrous Oz recipes for deploying tinned pineapple, including the essentially ockerly named chicken slops.

And for those like me with a passion for the perversely pleasurable and the pleasurably perverse  head to

Mugaritz Is Now Serving Moldy Apples
‘The dish was the result of an ongoing collaboration between the restaurant’s R&D and sommelier teams, a collaboration in which “they create the solid and the liquid part together, from the beginning, not looking for pairings, but for harmonies.” This dish in particular merges the two worlds, and represents “the beauty and the taboos surrounding fermented and rotten things.’

Tricksy, but I’m up for it being a taboo breaker from way back.

From Soil to Plate: District Exhibits at Sydney Royal Easter Show
‘TPH:  Are you a farmer up there?
Arthur:  No, I’m a burnt out farmer.  I’ve got an acre of dirt and then I’ve got another acre five minutes away.
TPH:  What do you do on your land?
Arthur:  I grow the produce for the this, for the district exhibits at the Royal Easter Show. I grow melons, pumpkins, corn, ryegrass, oats etcetera.’

A delightful interview with Arthur Johns, manager of the Northern Districts display – a 9 times winner. Like The Plant Hunter, I have remained entranced by the District displays since I was in short pants.

Watch Gordon Ramsay and James Corden Judge Meals Cooked by Toddlers and Babies
‘On MasterChef Junior Junior toddlers and actual babies are tasked with preparing dishes for Corden and Ramsay, and the results include a croissant with a toy car baked in the middle, a doughnut made of Play-Doh, and a ground beef dish that makes the late night host violently ill.’
Gordon Ramsay almost redeems himself.

Australia: where healthier diets are cheaper …
Helen Greenwood forwarded this podcast on Australian research by Dr Amanda Lee on our "topsy turvy" eating habits.

Oh, Snap! Scientists Are Turning People's Food Photos Into Recipes
‘You, too, can try out this interface, called Pic2Recipe. To use it, just upload your food photo. The computer will analyze it and retrieve a recipe from a collection of test recipes that best matches your image. It usually works pretty well, although it can miss an ingredient or two sometimes.’

Actually it usually works really really badly. I uploaded three images – one of a simple plat of roasted lamb cutlets with rosemary sprigs; another of a mix of a few ingredients but nothing special – mushrooms and olives pretty clearly pictured; and another more complicated eggplant paella where it should at least have found rice and parsley. The uploaded photos just sat there looking lost with nothing, nada happening to tell me anything about the ingredients or even a stab at a recipe.

But hey, go ahead, give it a try and tell me what you discover.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Compost 29 July 2017

Food Workers Are at Risk in Today's Changing Economy
‘The gig economy is less likely to provide workers with salaries, benefits, or a consistent schedule. And it also often frees employers from any obligation to provide year-round income for their employees, and leaves workers’ livelihood in the hands of the customer.’

I am no Luddite, but I am a passionate supporter of fair wage and working conditions for all. This article echoes the concerns I and others of my cabal  - oh, okay, comrades – no, okay friends have of the ‘sharing economy’ which bares not a lot of resemblance to what we meant back in the day. I am not sure that the five solutions given in the article will work in Australia. It would be great to see what proposals there are for addressing the problems in situ.

Michael Gove asked me to a meeting to share my expertise. I declined. Instead, I’ve given him a piece of my mind.
' If, as many fear, a bad deal is done for Britain resulting in huge tariffs and penalties on trade, food price inflation is going to be in double digits for years to come. That’s if we can get hold of food at all. The people who will suffer the most, of course, are those who already have the least. For them the buying of food will use up a massive proportion of their expendable income.
There are major implications for the nation’s health and therefore, over the long term, for educational attainment and class division. The state of our food supply post Brexit has within it the great potential to make Britain an even more unequal society than it already is.
I make no apologies for being a Remainer. The implications for this country of leaving the EU are appalling. It is a project which should be abandoned.’

Thanks to Helen Greenwood for forwarding this to Diggings. Jay Rayner pulls apart the impact of Brexit on food in the UK, offering some strategies for mitigation but remaining a staucnh Remianer. It’s an excellent follow on to the post in the last edition from Fiona HarveyAndrew Wasley, Madlen Davies and David Child on the Rise of mega farms in the UK.
Chlorinated chicken? Yes, we really can have too much trade
‘It is true to say that rates of foodborne illness are similar between the EU and North America. Remarkably, however, chlorine-washed chicken could be the least offensive of the US meat regulations a trade deal might force us to adopt. It has been pushed to the fore because it is less politically toxic than the issues hiding behind it. The European Union rules, which currently prevail in the UK, take a precautionary approach to food regulation, permitting only products and processes proved to be safe. In contrast, the US government uses a providential approach, permitting anything not yet proved to be dangerous. By limiting the budgets and powers of its regulators, it ensures that proof of danger is difficult to establish.’

George Monbiot segues from chickens to a game of chicken in trade agreements.

A Sandwich Shop’s Fake ‘Bullet Holes’ Cause Controversy in Brooklyn
‘But when Brennan admitted to Gothamist that the bullet holes were actually just cosmetic damage, and that she fabricated the location’s history as an illegal gun shop from an anonymous comment left on a community blog, the situation exploded. Anger and action were almost immediate, with Brennan and her restaurant called out online for “slum cosplay,” “tragedy porn,” and “faux-ghetto schtick.

I doubt this is the first time someone has fabricated a history for their restaurant, but this example is particularly reprehensible. But then, it’s the market stupid, and whatever will sell will.

Want to be happier, healthier, save money? It’s time to get cooking
‘In an Irish survey, over 1,000 adults were asked about their cooking skills, including cooking measures such as chopping, food skills like budgeting, cooking practices including food safety, cooking attitudes, diet quality and health. They were also asked when they learnt to cook and who taught them. Results showed adults who had learnt to cook as children or teenagers were significantly more confident, had a greater number of cooking skills and practices and mostly had better overall diet quality and health. Mothers had been the main person who taught them how to cook. Learning to cook from an early age is important. This means the health of the whole family could potentially be improved by helping the main carers to improve their cooking skills.’

So I guess Ireland doesn’t have Masterchef or any of the other cooking comp shows that are supposed to be leading to so many leanbh cooking.

The Toxic Saga of the World’s Greatest Fish Market
‘After an extended period of construction bidding, work began on the new space in 2012. Located in the ward of Koto, about a 20-minute train ride from Tsukiji, the initial renderings of the Toyosu site reflected an Epcot-like, futuristic vibe. It was to be a surgically sterile place for handling precious edible cargo, coupled with a distinctly separate area for tourists where the hungry and shutter-happy could enjoy snacks in a contained environment and soak in hot mineral baths. On a chilly autumn afternoon when I toured the site, the overcast sky and sprawling, boxy complex seemed to fuse together into one indistinguishable landscape that was 180 degrees of difference from Tsukiji. Grey and lifeless, the Toyosu market has an exterior — huge, polished and shiny — that could just as easily be found in Austin, Texas, as in Tokyo. Scraggly trees had been planted to give it some semblance of vibrancy, but the impact was minimal.’

Okay not the same but some resonances for me with the plans to move the Sydney Fish Market sort of around the side and out of the way of the really good prime harbourside land. For me, the best fish market I have been to in recent years was that in Negombo, Sri Lanka – blood and gore everywhere on the wharf where the fish came in. I also recall the Colomob fish market of my youth where we would go on Sundays post mass to buy mud crabs, wading through fish guts, scales, and unmentionable and undefinable fluids – now replaced by, yes, a white tile, neon light soulless space, but which on my last visit couldn’t contain its viscera and stench. But then I have never been a sanitised, hygienised approach to food marketing be it meat or fish or veg. I am one of the few who probably enjoys the seagulls swooping, the untidiness of the boats, the stench of fish and sea wrack at the current Syndey site.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Buried tools and pigments tell a new history of humans in Australia for 65,000 years
‘Among the artefacts in the lowest levels we found many pieces used for seed grinding and ochre “crayons” that were used to make pigments. Our large excavation area allowed us to pick up very rare items, such as the world’s oldest known edge-ground hatchets and world’s oldest known use of reflective pigment.’

Such exciting news for all Indigenous Australians, and particularly for those like Bruce Pascoe who have been re-writing the history of food in Australia and the first people’s management advanced food practices over millennia.

Former Josephine Pignolet Award winner returns volley
‘I agree that it would be a wonderful image, however imparting a quota for female finalists is unfair to all entrants. They are judged on their potential and talent, not by their gender. For the picture to change, a deeper adjustment within the industry is required. The media need to embrace a role in which they seek out and promote talented women in hospitality. To date, much of the promotion of successful female chefs seems to miss the point.’

This is a terrific article with which I could not agree more.

Top 10 Australian junk foods
‘Don't be fooled, a mille-feuille this ain't. Proudly less refined than other incarnations, the Aussie version touts a characteristic slab of gelatine-set vanilla custard, sandwiched between two pieces of flaky pastry, and topped with icing that varies in flavour and consistency between states. The slightly tart NSW version, spiked with passionfruit, ticks all boxes’

I have serious problems with lumping a vanilla slice, a Neenish tart, a pie and even a Golden Gaytime into the category of junk food. Hell, I’d even go in to defend the Chiko Roll as having several degrees of nutritional value above Shapes or Passiona. Beerden doesn’t bother to define junk food so I shouldn’t have expected much better.

Will technology kill fine dining?
‘My guess is more fine-dining restaurant groups have decided home delivery is worth the risk. Americans now spend more on takeaway food and eating out than on groceries each week and the same would be true for many inner-city Australians. The prospect of celebrity chefs and restaurants licensing their intellectual property to third parties and getting a fee for each meal ordered – without the risk of storefront locations, hiring staff and the many challenges of restaurants – must appeal. Restaurateurs who follow creative-disruption lessons from other industry will know the online market is many times larger and that holding on to legacy businesses, which have low growth prospects, for too long, kills ventures in the long run.’

The creative-disruption lesson I would like to teach the first high-ender in Sydney who does this is that their cash flow will be seriously disrupted. This is a fascinating article from a non-food writer perspective and leads me to wonder if any fine dining establishments in Sydney are already doing this and if so with what success or otherwise.

Rise of mega farms: how the US model of intensive farming is invading the world
‘According to Defra, there are roughly 173 million poultry being raised at a time in the UK, amounting to more than one billion birds a year. If these birds were raised according to free range standards, they would take up an area twice the size of Copenhagen; to house these birds organically would require a space the size of Anglesey. Food prices have risen in recent years while wages have stagnated, meaning a larger proportion of the family budget is having to be spent on food, and people on low incomes face a choice between eating and other essentials such as heating and housing. In these circumstances, measures to keep food cheap have a political resonance far beyond farming communities.’

Depressing reading if not saying anything new about the Gordian knot that is the need to feed sustainably. It does raise interesting and worrying questions about the impact of Brexit on UK farm practices that I haven’t seen or heard discussed elsewhere.

Watch the Trailer for ‘Barbecue,’ a New Documentary About, Well, Barbecue
‘Director Matthew Salleh traveled to 12 countries to get a taste of different barbecue cultures around the world. Salleh says the doc isn’t limited to covering food, but it also examines how “something as basic as cooking over fire unites us across race, class, and culture in increasingly uncertain times.”

Gees, mate, it’s a barbie not a solution to race, class or culture wars – and no amount of new age music or blokes with cans in their hands telling us it’s about bringing people together is going to make it any more than that. Time food stopped having to bear the weight of being some kind of universal gluey leveller.

What So Many ‘Southern’ Restaurants Get Wrong, According to John T. Edge

‘There are dishonest, trend-surfing restaurants, Edge says, that intend to sell the mythos of the South. It’s a phenomenon that began in the late 1960s in Southern states, possibly in reaction to the Civil Rights movement, and is apparent today in restaurants outside of the region. “You see restaurants that would mount a confederate cannon on the awning and offer you steaks that are Lincoln-ized, or Sherman-ized, or Stonewalled,” Edge says. He refers to this as a “kind of pageantry of the Old South, repackaged for a more modern era.” To use the South as a theme in this way without acknowledging its past — a past obviously fraught with serious race and class issues — is, quite simply, wrong.’

I have to think about this article more for its resonances with the Australianising of native foods.

Taste of the Silk Road
‘Chinese culture has also left its mark on Dungan cuisine. Ashlyanfu, a delicious noodle salad served in a spicy vinaigrette, is one of the Dungans’ most famous recipes, sold in many Central Asian cities. The dish is topped with grated starch in a jellylike consistency. The texture of this ingredient, also used in liangfen, a noodle dish from China’s Sichuan province, is mostly unfamiliar to the Western palate. While traces of the Dungans’ Chinese history still season their cuisine, there are few culinary hallmarks from their new home among the 40 dishes that Hamida has prepared. “The Kyrgyz culture doesn’t influence our cuisine so much,” says Karim. “We serve boorsok [fried pieces of bread that are surprisingly satisfying] and besh-barmak [boiled meat with noodles in an onion sauce], but that’s about it.”

This is the kind of food writing that I love – a combination of ethnography, politics and gastronomy that makes me want to catch the next flight to sit, eat, listen. And there’s a whole book in the differences in relations around food that comes with eating on the floor versus at the table, I reckon.

Plonk: a language lover’s guide to Australian drinking
‘Australian drinkers are known to have a bit of fun with French. Last year the new edition of the Australian National Dictionary (AND) welcomed chateau cardboard to its pages, a tongue-in-cheek reference to cask wine, using chateau for a wine-producing estate in an ironic way. Australians invented boxed wine and celebrate its invention through games (Goon of Fortune was another addition to the AND) and a rich array of words, including boxie, box monster, Dapto briefcase, Dubbo handbag, red handbag, goon, goonie, goon bag, goon juice and goon sack.
Goon is mostly likely a shortening of flagon, but might also be linked to the Australian English goom, itself linked to an indigenous word gun, meaning “water” in the south Queensland languages Gabi-gabi, Waga-waga and Gureng-gureng.’

And then of course there is what for me is the quintessential Kath and Kim moment where Kim, pissed off with being sent up for her mis-pronunciation hits back with ‘Alright then Chardonnay, Chardonnay, you pack of Chunts!’

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Compost July 2017 2#

It's citrus season in the yard again and the lime tree is going gangbusters. Experimenting with a different way of pickling limes this year, without putting them out in the sun to dry first.
They will take a good few months to mature, so in the meantime...

The Australian palaeodiet: which native animals should we eat?
‘The archaeological record suggests Aboriginal Australians had varied diets prior to colonisation, with specific prey and butchery patterns in different parts of the country. For example, in Ice Age southwest Tasmania (between approximately 40,000 and 12,000 years ago) people hunted the medium-sized Bennett’s wallaby, focusing on its larger and “meatier” hindlimbs.’

Despite my cringing at the title of the article, this looks like a fantastic project adding to our knowledge of the foodways of the first people’s in Australia and the relevance it may have in these anxious post-millennium years.

Before Farm to Table: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures
 ‘“Before Farm to Table will use the pervasiveness of food in everyday life as a window into early modern culture,” notes Lynch. “In the course of this project, participants will investigate big questions about the way food participates in and actively shapes human knowledge, ethics, and imagination. They will explore such issues as the unevenness of food supply, the development and spread of tastes, and the socially cohesive rituals of eating together. With fresh understandings of a pre-industrial world, this project also gives the scholarly community purchase on some post-industrial assumptions, aspirations, and challenges….Grant funding will support the hire of three post-doctoral research fellows to work with the group leaders and an array of visiting distinguished scholars, residential fellows, graduate seminar participants, and leading farmers and restaunteurs. A dedicated project coordinator is also funded by the grant.’

A $1.5 million grant…the kind of financing so many food researchers could only dream about here in Oz, let alone our libraries. But will the research shake up our understanding (groan…I don’t often get the opportunity for puns so give me license)

The Sad, Sexist Past of Bengali Cuisine
‘Though the life of a bidhobha, a woman without a husband, wasn’t a reality she prepared herself for, my great-grandmother accepted this new lifestyle dutifully. Without the ingredients she once used routinely at her disposal, she cultivated her vegetarian cooking into an art of its own, full of sensory charge. My mother would go crazy for her mochar ghonto, a dry curry made with banana flower, or echorer tarkari, a gravy prepared with jackfruit. To my mother, there was little better than didar hatther ranna, cooking from the hands of a grandmother. This food was bellied with comfort and tempered with pain.’

Mayukh Sen’s story is without a doubt one of the best pieces of food writing I have read in a very long time.

Impossible Foods CEO: we want to eliminate all meat from human diets
‘It’s the veggie burger that bleeds. When eaten, it tastes and feels remarkably similar in your mouth to a burger made from animal meat.  After a blaze of publicity, the US-based company behind it, Impossible Foods, is scaling up production. A new facility in California will open before the end of the year with the ability to produce four million burgers a month.’

Why would anyone want to eat a vegie burger that bleeds? I have never actually understood the need to make vegetables or gluten or anything else taste like meat to get people to eat them, let alone bleed like meat. I am all for having red juice run down from my bun and stain my fingers and clothes, but a good slice or two of beetroot will do that just fine.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Compost July 10 2017

Gin with a twist: South Australian distilleries stir in native ingredients’
‘Carter reels off the produce he uses to make his gins: peppermint gum leaf, blood limes, finger limes, desert limes, sunrise limes, Kakadu plums, myrtle, cinnamon, apple plums, wild thyme and mountain pepper.’

No mention of what if any benefit flows to Indigenous Australians

‘Thanks to a $1.25 million South Australian Government grant, the two organisations will work together over a two year period with the aim of building the still fledgling Australian native food industry into an indispensable part of Australian culinary culture. Their hope is also to return the benefits of resulting research and potential industry to the hands of the Indigenous communities from which the produce and knowledge originally hails.’

Going right to the heart of my question of who benefits from the upsurge in interest in native food and the discussion of what constitutes appropriation and how to counter it, I am thoroughly looking forward to hearing of the progress of this venture.

A Passage to Chindia
‘One minute, Chindian was a kind of food your fancy, well-travelled aunt treated you to after you scored high in your final-year exams. Another, it was what you ate at an interstate highway dhaba in the dead of night, on a trip up north with your college friends. For those who made it, it was easy enough to learn, a quick and cheap option to sell. If you were creative enough, virtually anything could be Chindian.’

I have eaten Chindia once in Harris Park and was not taken with it. Some Indian men I know from Delhi and Banglaore tho say that when their parents visit eating Chindian is a must as it’s what they eat when they eat out back hoeme. When I dined families were not in evidence, but there were several tables of Indian men dressed to the nines and knocking back whiskies along with their momo.

First Look: Neil Perry’s Jade Temple
‘Lemon chicken and sweet-and-sour pork aren’t necessarily good examples of the cuisine, but Perry says he has to include them because they represent classic Australian-Chinese cuisine. “We had to do some of those classic dishes which are seen as gwai lo [white guy] cliches. I've had them in Hong Kong and they can be super delicious.”

And just the other day I was asking Asian Fber mates of mine if there was such a thing as Chinstralian as there is Chindian. Anyone want to suggest other Chistralian foods?

Fair Food Film
Fair Food- The Documentary, made by AFSA in collaboration with The Field Institute back in 2015, is now up online for free! The film looks at our flawed food system and the inspiring legends creating real change.

Meet the chef who’s debunking detox, diets and wellness
‘In an age of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, of “Deliciously Ella” Mills, and Hemsley and Hemsley, these somehow seem quite radical ideas. “A lot of the clean-eating people, I just think they have a broken relationship with the truth,” says Warner. “They’re selling something that is impossible to justify in the context of evidence-based medicine.

“I don’t think any of them are lying,” he goes on, “they are just stuck in this strange world of false belief, which is fascinating. How can you look at NHS guidelines on how to eat healthily and go, ‘Well, I know better than that’? Maybe if you were a professor of dietetics or nutrition, you might disagree with some stuff. But how as a 19-year-old blogger you can look at it and go, ‘No, that’s wrong. This is right,’ I don’t know.”

I’ve pre-ordered his book due out at end June  - I love the smell of iconoclasm in the morning. 😊

Social media and the great recipe explosion: does more mean better?
‘Earlier this year, Google launched an “advanced recipe search” for its mobile apps, confirming what many of us have long suspected, which is that the internet is really just a giant recipe swap. A person who searches for “chicken wings” on the Google mobile app is now given options such as “crispy”, “honey mustard” and “slow cooker”. The ideal internet recipe takes five minutes, uses only two “insanely simple” ingredients and gives you both comfort and a flat stomach.’

Thanks Jacqui for putting me on to this thought  provoking article by Bee Wilson. It leads me to reflect on my internet recipe swap practice which I have no shame in admitting to. I go to it when I wonder if anyone has come up with a dish that combines two unlikely ingredients I have impluse bought at the market or as a quick way to confirm what I suspect may be the basics of a dish I haven’t tried before mostly when it’s from a cuisine that I don’t have recipes for in the books on my shelf, but also to see how different home-cook-recipe-posters make a dish I am more familiar with  but want to rings some changes or for vegan alternatives or techniques for again ringing changes on familiar styles of dishes. I am in this outside the demographic that the article is about; not a five-minute-two-ingredient-kinda-guy. But I’m not going to dump on those who are, either if it means they don’t just go the Deliveroo route.

It's in smoothies, toothpaste and pizza – is charcoal the new black?
“Charcoal was an ingredient we started to see emerging in restaurants and food pop-ups last year. With its earthy, slightly smoky taste and dark colouring, it gives a premium feel to food and makes it a real talking point,” says Jonathan Moore, executive chef for Waitrose.’

At the vegan ravioi stall at Addison Road markets last week, the pasta guy was rolling out some black pasta. A customer asked if it was squid ink flavoured. He said it was charcoal. His response was that it had no particular flavour but people like the colour of it when it is cooked – the glossy black sheeniness. Me, I’ve had a charcoal bun and found it underwhelming from any angle.

Friday, June 9, 2017

More in this edition on appropriation or otherwise.

Hawaiian pizza inventor Sam Panopoulos dies aged 83
‘Mr Panopoulos invented the 'pineapple' pizza with his two brothers after they emigrated to Canada from Greece in 1954.’

I confess to having had more than one in my past. But to our theme: is a Greek putting pineapple on an Italian dish in Canada appropriating?

Other People’s Food: Preliminary Thoughts
‘As a result, I’ve bracketed “culinary appropriation” for the time being in favor of “dealing with other people’s food.”

I think Rachel Ludlam is starting what she says will be a series of posts from the wrong mark. Appropriation and ‘dealing with other people’s food’ I think are quite different.

‘If you do not do all the things I ask you, I as a minority, obviously having no autonomy of my own and being so sensitive that I am troubled by people enjoying and engaging in my culture, will report you to the pertinent authorities. Or whip up a storm on Social Media. Or write a heartfelt, rambling article calling out all the whiteys who oppress me just by existing and show everyone how #woke I am. Or come yank your Vindaloo away from you if you don’t have the right skin tone while you’re basking in its spicy goodness.’

And from the perspective of the appropriated.

Flat white urbanism: there must be better ways to foster a vibrant street life
‘Paired with changing consumer habits (such as online and mall shopping), the result is that many high streets are now dominated by the cafe, a sort of “high street lite”. The cafe appears to be a market-driven solution to achieve an active street front in Australian cities. This is flat white urbanism.’

First they came for our cafes, then they came for...It’s a catchy phrase ‘flat white urbanism’ with its conscious play on whiteness as equal to blandness, but I think the analysis and solution are both wrong. My recollection of ‘high streets’ of my past, and I include King St, Newtown, and Darling Street, Balmain, is that they have always been heavily populated by commercial enterprises of one kind or another and rarely had the kinds of community facilities that are being called for here.  What ‘active street front’ they created was pretty much a 9 – 5 one. Cafes and restaurants extend the active hours and do allow casual street surveillance at times when threats to safety are high. I am absolutely a supporter of bringing back the butcher, the baker, the grocer and the hardware store to the ‘high street’ but I know they will close at night and the streets will be dead again. Ditto community facilities, which in my experience have never been located on the ‘high street’ anyway in Australia, nor have generally been open at night except for the church hall where the AA gang were meeting. And don’t get me started on how dodgy the practice of developers getting sweet deals for some kind of ‘social contribution’ in their development can get.

The Story of Patel Brothers, the Biggest Indian Grocery Store in America
‘I have lived in a world without Patel Brothers, so I can say this much definitively: It’s terrifying to imagine a world where this store does not exist. Here is a business venture born out of one man’s hankering for home and his family's willingness to ease it. How comforting that they were brave enough to wield these desires openly, so that the rest of us could satisfy the hungers we don’t always realize we have. I left the store with very little from that visit, drawn to what had long been my objects of affection: cake rusks for dipping in tea, a packet of wheaty and flat-baked Parle-G biscuits, and bag of frozen spinach-paneer samosas. These were items that others may characterize as inessential, but I needed them.’

A lovely piece of writing that speaks strongly to my experience of growing up in Australia in the 60’s and 70’s and the delight of finding Graham’s spice shop in the early 80s.  I also now may well walk into a South Asian grocery and come away with nothing but a can of tamarind drink, but just walking the aisles, pulling down packets, smelling them, opening the fridges and seeing the fresh rotis and chillies and murunga leaves, eyeing off the home made biriyani and pittu, is paradise enow.

Why I’m Not Reviewing Noma Mexico
‘By all reports, Noma Mexico has sense of place in spades. The path to the jungle dining area is lined with baskets of jackfruit and mangoes. The tables slipped in between the palms were made from a local hardwood. Directly in front of the kitchen, four women from a nearby Mayan village make tortillas.’

Salad days soon over: consumers throw away 40% of bagged leaves
‘Britons throw away 40% of the bagged salad they buy every year, according to the latest data, with 37,000 tonnes – the equivalent of 178m bags – going uneaten every year…Shoppers do not always buy bagged salads with a specific meal in mind, which can lead to them being forgotten about and then binned…’

Guilty as charged, though in my case I have usually bagged the mix myself. I don’t do it often, mind you, but I do chastise myself when I find that deflated and wrinkled bag of deep tan sludge that was once a delightful mesclun that just didn’t make it to the plate as planned.

Call for Papers: The 11th New Zealand Symposium of Gastronomy
The 11th New Zealand Symposium of Gastronomy
Christchurch, November 25 & 26, 2017
ARA Institute of Canterbury
Symposium Theme: Everyday

Food and food-related activities are important, yet often taken-for-granted parts of our everyday lives. The biological imperative that makes eating a necessity usually makes us look at it as a mundane practice. Cooking, too, especially in its ‘domestic’ context, may seem insignificant and uninteresting. Shopping for food, chopping and washing ingredients, and cleaning up after a meal rarely seem poetic or even important. However, the very everydayness of these activities can evolve into meaningful cultural and social symbols, depicting individuals’ or societies’ relationship with different issues ranging from nutrition, health and hygiene to gender norms, national identity and memory. By looking at the everydayness of food-related activities, we come to understand how societies feed themselves, and therefore, we get a better understanding of their cultures, their past, present, and future. By observing and studying everyday food-related practices, habits, and values that are constantly being passed in ordinary kitchens from one generation to the next, we can open a window to also understanding non-everyday foodways such as those practiced in sacred rituals, mourning, and celebrations.

We welcome scholars, cooks, armchair gastronomers and food enthusiasts to present their research, discuss their viewpoints, and be a part of the 11th New Zealand Symposium of Gastronomy with the main theme of ‘Everyday’, to be held in Christchurch (25 & 26 November, 2017).
Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
        •       Everyday cooking/eating practices
        •       Food and identity (gendered, national, etc.) in everyday life
        •       Everyday food choices
        •       Historical, cultural and economic aspects of everyday food
        •       Fast food and slow food
        •       Routinization of everyday life
        •       Everyday food and ethics
        •       Everyday food and memory
        •       Everydayness and Non-everydayness
        •       The production, cultivation and distribution of everyday food
        •       Politics of everyday food

Please send your abstract (max 150 words) and a short biographical statement (max 100 words) before Monday, July 31, 2017 to either Sam or Amir (or both) at:

They will also be happy to answer any questions regarding the symposium.
Notification of acceptance will be sent out by Thursday, August 31st, 2017.
Please feel free to spread the word!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Compost 20 May 2017

[This edition's pic Invasion of the Omega Fatty Acids 2015 52x42 cm paper collage, pencil, ink. Max Dingle]

This edition of Compost has several articles I have come across in the last month that talk about the lack of diversity in food writing and dining.

I haven’t put my usual commentary with them because I find the area both confronting and problematic to discuss. What they say has long been something I also see and feel. They speak to something deep within the structures of, for want of a better word, Anglo foodways which cannot but help replicate the deep discriminatory structures within Anglo cultures. So, redressing what these writers observe is not as simple as having diverse voices in the food media or diversity in more than the dish pig end of the kitchen. It involves deep questioning of the ways we construct our worlds and complex strategies at the personal and the structural level to reconstruct those worlds.

King Lear is the play above plays for me full of insights and challenges. One the comes to mind, and the word ‘insight’ is apposite to what I have been saying. The play is very much about seeing, with a beautiful pairing of Gloucester’s physical blindness and Lear’s more troubling psychological and moral blindness. In Act 1, soon after Lear has exiled Cordelia, Kent urges: ‘See better, Lear’. I think this is the challenge in its deepest meaning that these articles ask of us, and by seeing better to act, to be better.

Eat insects and fake meat to cut impact of livestock on the planet – study
‘Globally, twice as much land is used to raise cattle, pigs and other animals than is used to grow crops. Furthermore, a third of those crops harvested are fed back to livestock. The new research is the first systematic comparison of the environmental impact of various sources of food, and found that imitation meat and insects are vastly more efficient than raising livestock.
The work, published in the journal Global Food Security, found that if half of traditional animal products were replaced by imitation meat or insects the land required to produce the world’s food would be slashed by a third.’

It’s ironic that the very diets that many of those in African and Asian countries are moving away from are those that are being promoted as important components of sustainable foodways for the future.

The Struggles of Writing about Chinese Food as a Chinese Person
“Of the 263 entries under the "Chinese" recipe filter on the New York Times food section, almost 90 percent have a white person listed as author in the by-line. Only 10 percent of the recipes are authored by Chinese writers.”

This article raises many of the dilemmas and frustrations I face as someone who writes about South Asian cuisine in Australia. I don’t hold that only South Asians can write about South Asian food, as Wei also does not hold that only Chinese can write about Chinese food. But I reckon if I did a count of who gets their recipes for South Asian food into mainstream food media in Australia, I’d find an analogous situation. The non-Anglo-Australia voice does not get heard outside of a very small number of exceptions. But lest this sound like wog pleading, as I was working on this Compost I chanced to see a promo for Gardening Australia where Costa said that next week, he would be showing how to use native produce. Now, I haven’t seen the ep yet, and I trust Costa will have an Indigenous provider or cook on as well, but he gave no indication of that.

Highlights From Our Interview with Kusuma Rao of Ruchikala
‘So when I see other people that don't have that moral conflict of selling something they didn't have a lot of personal experience with, or marketing for food businesses that use a lot of religious imagery of brown people to sell makes me wonder what it would have been like for them to have had the experience of being the "other," and how that would changed how they market what they do.’

The Calls Are Coming From Inside The House
‘This post reminded me of a conversation that I had at a dinner with a manager of one of the top restaurants in Boston. I mentioned that I would love to see more people of color at hospitality events. He responded with, ‘well, maybe those kinds of people don’t care about hospitality.” My jaw dropped. Then I felt angry. Then I felt embarrassed as I looked around at my fellow restaurant workers, managers, chefs, all of whom were white, and realized that none of them were challenging him in this assertion.’

BD Wong teaches you how to eat a chicken wing
And here I thought all I had to do was put it in my mouth and scrape it against my teeth 😊

Which oils are best to cook with?
‘He thinks the ideal "compromise" oil for cooking purposes is olive oil, "because it is about 76% monounsaturates, 14% saturates and only 10% polyunsaturates - monounsaturates and saturates are much more resistant to oxidation than polyunsaturates".’

Has this mob ever tasted a Sri Lankan curry cooked with olive oil? It’s shite. Can we just get on with using oils appropriate to the cuisine the oils are supposed to serve and stop endlessly imposing a problem which developed within a  - I hate to use the term but I can’t find another – Western, market driven high fat content per se diet and the neo-liberal individualistic solutions that this article and others like it promotes?

Plot 29: A Memoir by Allan Jenkins review – childhood trauma and the solace of gardening
‘The garden cannot cure Jenkins’s fragile state of mind, nor stop him having vicious dreams of men with knives, but it does at least allow him a space to breathe, a “chemical-free” form of medicine. When he buys seed packets, he feels he is “collecting hope – at £2 a packet”. Those of us who are not so green-fingered sometimes make the mistake of thinking that gardening is a bland activity, but Jenkins shows that it can be a meaningful and muddy sort of stoicism: an acceptance of the way things are. This haunting memoir offers a reminder that after the digging, sometimes all you can do is plant.’

Thanks Helen for putting me on to (a) this review and so (b) the book which I look forward to reading.

What comes first: the free-range chicken or the free-range egg?
‘When we asked shoppers what they look for in terms of products that promote animal welfare, the most common answers involved free-range or cage-free eggs. We then asked people why they chose these products. A strong theme emerged: many shoppers preferred these types of eggs because they viewed them as higher quality, having better taste and colour, more nutritious, and safer than eggs produced using other methods such as barn systems.’

I’ve just finished Dan Jurafsky’s the Language of Food and this is an excellent example of what he discusses so genially and powrfully  - the persusasive power of words.

War on waste: Recycling shells from your plate to benefit the ocean
‘But for the last two years, restaurants and seafood wholesalers in Geelong, south-west of Melbourne, have been donating their shells to a local shell recycling program.
The donated mussel, oyster and scallop shells are then used to form a reef foundation, in the hope of restoring the once abundant shellfish reefs of Port Phillip Bay.’

I love a good food waste recycling venture and this one is a beauty which not only does good by waster but also by a social enterprise.