Saturday, August 29, 2015


Joint project maps Sydney’s future food supply
In the Local Government section of the Sydney Morning Herald 25 August there is small article about the Syndey Peri-Urban Netowrk (12 councils around the ring of the city) and the Institute of Sustainable Futures at UTS starting work on a project called Mapping Sydney’s Potential Foodsheds, the aim of which is develop info that ‘will help inform both local and stage government land-use planning decisions relating to Sydney’s fringe’.

[Note to self, must read Local Government pages more often}

A social history of Jell-O: The rise and fall of an American icon
‘Plain Jell-O and sweet Jell-O salads remain popular in the US, especially in the rural Midwest and the Deep South. Savory Jell-O salads do, however, remain popular in Utah and other heavily Mormon areas. "There will be at least four or five kinds of Jell-O salads at any event," almost all of them savory, Sariah Hilliam of Roosevelt, Utah, told the Los Angeles Times. In fact, this region is often nicknamed the "Jell-O Belt," and in 2001 the state of Utah named Jell-O its official state snack.’

I don’t recall every having the savoury made-grelatine salads of the peak of this fashion but I have to confess I am tempted to try some. I do recall quite fondly the Aeroplane jellies my mum made with canned peaches or pineapple or cherries inside, though, with a dollop or two of vanilla ice cream; I used to love mashing it all up together, vomitous though the result often looked. In latter years I have on occasion made a fruit jelly though I am likley to use agar agar these days as I live with a vegan; the consistency is quite different at least in my experience, and I have had an interesting time when too much agar agar has made a think rubbery sliceable lump.

Weird waters: the trend for modified, mleted or infused H2O
‘“Lots of people are really working the water space,” says Morgaine Gaye, a food futurologist.’

Well, there certainly is a lot of space to work between the ears of the likes of Morgaine, that’s for sure. On the other hand, you have to be in awe of capitalism at times like this.

Kale crisis: aphids could destroy the superfood smoothie revolution
‘It doesn’t bear thinking about. Where will they get their daily doses of beta-carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol and bile acid sequestrants now?
And smugness. Don’t forget the smugness. You would be smug, too, if you were banishing cancer, wrinkles, bowel woes and cholesterol in one fell swoop.
And joy. You banish joy if you’re forever chewing on a fibrous bale of bitter greens. There are lots of ways to improve those aspects of this wonderfood.
Mm-hm. Any of them wholly successful? The Italian method of calling it cavolo nero and drowning small portions of it in cream, cheese, olive oil and spaghetti seems to work best.’
Look, you can slapdown your superfood kale any time and that’s fine with me, but keep your satire away from cavalo nero.

Less salt in home brand foods, surprised researchers find
‘"This research shows that is not always the case in regard to salt," she said. "This is good news, especially for families shopping on tight budgets who are more likely to buy private label products, but are also most likely to suffer from health problems caused by high blood pressure.’

Yeah, but, call me cynical, just how much of the whole product is salt, hmmm. And can I say this research is typically the kind that Tim Spector criticises in his book The Diet Myth. The Real Science Behind What We Eat, research that looks at a single part of foods whose overall nutritional value is still staggeringly low.

Read more:

Friday, August 14, 2015


Loved finding this new treat - Yunnan pot noodle soup - yep, this is a single serve :)

A surprise J

Deer penis with hagfish: City of Gold celebrates the eclectic flaours of L.A.
‘But the documentary is mainly focused on the families and communities that run, support and keep alive the numerous eateries and restaurants that make up the LA food scene. Guerilla Tacos, Soban, Chengdu Taste, Jitlada, Meals by Genet, Pho Minh, Petit Trois and Earlez Dogs all get a special mention with interesting snapshots into how these places got started. Many of these are stories of migration, financial struggle and passionate determination. These fascinating mini-narratives are a celebration of the ethnic diversity of LA and support Gold’s contention that cuisine should continually break with convention and create something new.’
I hope the film lives up to this claim.

Bitter truth
‘On the face of it, reducing bitterness in foods sounds like a great idea...But there is a catch. The same chemicals thatmake fruit and veg bitter also imbue them with many of their health benefits. When scientists talk of the healthiness of green tea, dark chocolate, red wine or broccoli, much of  what they are talking about is due to bitter chemicals called phytonutrients. To satisfy our love of sweetness, food manufacturers are now removing many of these substances, causing some people to worry that we are turning bitter fruit and veg into junk foods of the fresh produce aisle.’

A terrific article from New Scientist, 1 August 2015. Jennifer McLagan gets a side bar talking about how to keep bitter in food based on her book Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavour. Happily I have never had a problem with bitter, which I put down to my Sri Lankan foodways in which vegies like bittergourd and aubergine are common items at table.  I have scanned the article and can make copies available on request.

Ah Toy’s Garden: A Chinese market garden on the Palmer River goldfield.
I came across a reference to this study in Susan Parham’s Food and Urbanism. It’s a 1984 paper in Australian Historical Archaeology by Ian Jack, Kate Holmes, and Ruth Kerr. I’ve been reading some other short studies by archaeologists and anthrolopologists on interpreting sites for what they say about foodways and find them fascinating both for their approach to deduction and also the insights they report. This one spends more time on the dwelling and the site but has intriguing findings on irrigation and identifies some fruit trees but has little about what market produce was grown. Still, I can make a copy available to those of you who are interested.

NASA astronauts take first bit of lettuce grown in space: “Tastes like arugula”
Is it just me, or do you also worry that a romaine lettuce grown in outer space – well, inside a space thingy – would taste like rocket/arugula? I mean, they aren’t even the same species, yeh? Arugula is Eruca sativa and Romaine is Lactuca sativa L. var. Longifolia. Sure, they both have ‘sativa’ in their name but so does pot.

Greek the Salad
‘Horiatiki was not one of the salads Kremezi grew up eating, because it didn’t exist until the mid-nineteen sixties. “When you sat down at the tavern, you ordered tomato salad and feta cheese, and then whatever else you wanted to order,” Kremezi says. Tomato salad, sometimes with cucumber or onion, sometimes not, was its own dish. A big slab of feta cheese (sheep’s milk only, or if you must, a tiny bit of goat’s milk, says Kremezi), covered in olive oil and dried oregano, was its own dish. Olives, too, were separate. Horiatiki takes all of those disparate meze dishes and combines them into one big salad. Horiatiki was created, and then adopted throughout the country, in response to Greece’s desire in the sixties to be considered a real urban power—a European country, not a Middle Eastern country, like Turkey. Horiatiki is a salad to compete with niçoise. 

I asked Maria Kelly to comment on this one: Great article….I totally agree with Aglaiia...I can never recall in my childhood having so called Greek salad - though growing up in Gunnedah there was never any fetta available. I recall that a salesman used to regularly come through the town  and we used to always buy our tins of olive oil,  a head of pecorino cheese and huge tins of salted sardines from him.  I think they (the wholesalers) were called Gallanis  Bros, but don’t quote me.  Our family did mix tomatoes and cucumbers together, with olive oil and S & P.

Fighting food waste: four stories from around the world
‘“If the market price is favourable, the farmer can choose to sell, but they are now no longer forced to sell immediately following harvest to avoid losses,” explains WFP’s Uganda programme officer, Richard Sewava. Nakaziba, who purchased the silo and a plastic tarpaulin from the WFP on a cost-sharing basis, is happy. “Now the rats cannot get to my grain, and by selling later I am able to get 900 shillings [16p] per kilogram instead of 350,” she says. “With the extra money I’m getting I can buy things for my children and my garden.”

One of four terrific vignettes about the small and not so small changes that can avoide food waste from production to consumption.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Kottu Roti: The creation of a fusion dish in Sri Lanka

I was asked recently whether kottu roti, a Sri Lankan dish of chopped god(h)amba (wheat-based) roti combined with vegetables and egg and sometimes meat, was a Tamil contribution to Sri Lankan cuisine.

When I was growing up in Sri Lanka there was no such dish. By most accounts from Sri Lankans it made its appearance on the streets of Kandy sometime in the 1970's.

It's origins, I hazard, are twofold.

The first is the godamba roti itself, a long established part of Sri Lankan cuisine, most usually associated with Tamils, and similar to Malaysian murtabak; made from an buttery and oily wheat based dough that is tossed and tossed till thin and almost translucent onto a flat hot plate. Here it cooks rapidly, being folded from time to time to make a layered flat bread. When an egg is cracked into it as it is cooking you get egg godamba.

Godamba roti like other rotis in Sri Lanka and India are used as you would other flat breads like naan or pita, mainly to scoop up another dish, say a curry or a a vegetable sabzi.

The other part of the creation of kottu roti is not so clear, but the process through which it is made, two heavy wide flat blades being used to chop up and mix pre cut godamba with other ingredients - meat, vegetables, spices - is exactly the way Pakistani kat-a-kat is made. This latter is usually a dish of offal that is tossed onto a hot plate and chopped as it cooks using two flat wide blades. Here also onion, chilies, spices are mixed in with sweeping and gathering and cutting motions of the blades. The name kat-a-kat comes from the sound of the blades hitting the hot plate.

I have no idea as to how the two came together in Kandy in the 1970's but they seem to have. Certainly there is no other dish like it in the 'classic' Sri Lankan menu.

Here's a video of making kottu roti


Labelling liars: how Australia food is hot property
‘These counterfeit products are found in the supply chain of many companies and not only on the streets, as we assume."
One who learned the hard way was wagyu beef farmer David Blackmore, whose beef takes pride of place on the menu of Neil Perry's Rockpool restaurants and other high-end eateries across the globe.’

...and who is facing closure because of complaints that his farm is a ‘feedlot’ which has led Neil Perry to start a campaign in his defence.

Most Australians now Contestants on a Cooking Show
‘Social researcher Gabby Henderson said the way we cook at home had changed as a result. “Most people now describe out loud how they are cooking something, while they are cooking it, which is a great new development”. two more of them are about to hit our screens L

Micreogravity veg
New Scientist 18 July 2015 reports:

‘On July 8, astronauts on the International Space Station began growing their own romaine lettuce. If all goes well, by next month they’ll get to eat some.’

...yeah, unless the lettuce eats them first! Haven’t these people ever seen Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!!!

Rice’s gas problem gets muted
More news from New Scientist, this time from 25 July:

‘It’s food for climate conscious consumers. A strain of rice has been genetically modified to produce less methane. Rice agriculture is responsible for between 7 and 17 per cent of human-induced mehtane emissons. Sugars produced during photsynthesis leak into the soil via the roots, where they are used up by methane-producing soil microrganisms. Chuanxin Sun from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala and his colleagues have now engineered rice that stores more sugar in its grains and stems. In a three-year long trial, the rice grew well and led to drops in paddy field methane emissions’

And here I thought the stench in the rice fields behind our house when I was young was the windy farmers.

A Renaissance painting reveals how breeding changed watermelons
Thanks to Jacqui Newling for these two delightful and informative links. No I did not pursue the link at the bottom of the painting page to discover...well, you may like to do it and you can report to me what the answer is.

On MSG and Chinese Restaurant Syndrome
‘But the important thing to know is that, hundreds and hundreds of studies later, there is no evidence that MSG causes the symptoms of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. This was an unfortunate episode that should teach us a lot about carefully reading proposals of cause and effect between something we eat and some effect that it might have.’

A timely article by Harold McGee and a fascinating story of the origins of a food myth.

Frequent spicy meals linked to human longevity
As the study, published in the BMJ on Tuesday, was observational, conclusions could not be drawn about cause and effect but the team of international authors, led by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, suggested that more research could lead to dietary advice being updated. Experts warned that the study did not provide evidence to “prompt a change in diet”.

I somehow think this is a diet fad that won’t take off. That being said, nice to know that my return to chili flakes on pasta and upping the ante on chili ion my curries generally can now be passed of as a health intervention.

And look, I know I am in a losing battle, but can we please stop equating ‘spicy’ with chili-ed.

The day I ordered pizza that ‘doesn’t exist’
‘As we eat them upstairs in my flat, I'm still unable to come to terms with Emanuela's reaction. "I've ordered it a few times in various pizzerias, and nobody's ever batted an eyelid!" I say defensively. I'm now wondering if the waiters were simply being polite. Chicca - who's Sicilian - says she can see my point, but thinks it would be wise if in future I ordered margherita with garlic to avoid, I quote, "emotionally destabilising the pizza-maker"

I can undestand the reaction of the pizzaiola in this article. My sister in law, of Sicilian parentage, was ‘emotionally destabilised’ when someone at the dinnner table put parmesan on her marinara pasta. I get emotionally destabilised when someone puts yoghurt in a Sri Lankan goat curry I have made.  It’s not rational; it’s visceral; I cannot but feel a little disregarded when it happens.

Russians despair at food destruction as Moscow says it is having its desire effect
‘Tonnes of pork tossed into incinerators, truckloads of cheese bulldozed into the ground, and an orchard’s worth of apples buried in a shallow grave. The visuals ofRussia’s stepped-up fight against sanctioned foodstuffs have been dramatic, and left many Russians wondering why so much is being destroyed in a country where millions of people live below the poverty line.’

I can only hope that the undesired effect of this criminality is violent revolution.

How colour coding your fridge can stop your greens going to waste
‘To help households waste less food, first we need to understand exactly why it happens. My research has identified three major contributing factors: food location knowledge (where are items stored?), food supply knowledge (what items are available?), and food literacy (how are items used and how do we judge if they are still edible?).’

And you need to colour code your fridge to resolve this?!! Can you just teach people to use their senses intelligently – LOOK where things are in the fridge; SEE what you have and don’t buy  more; SMELL & TOUCH to test for freshness. Sheesh! But I suppose it’s better than having fridgecam for chrissakes!

Brew do you think you are? Why tea needs to copy coffee in order to survive
‘With its steely levers, clanking and hissing, the coffee machine hides its secrets in a puff of magic steam. But any fool can make a tea.’

Fie! Making a good cup of tea is every bit as expert as making a skinny flat soy latte with extra froth. I’ve drunk some perfectly awful tea in my time. And then there was the marvellous chai strained through the filthiest cloth imaginable outside a Ganesh temple somewhere in Rajasthan.

The secret life of cheese
This peculiar cheese—known as caligù or su callu, depending on whom you talk to—is one of Sardinia’s lesser-known but more ubiquitous specialties. It’s also one of the most primal dairy products you’ll encounter in the modern world. Upon killing a kid, a farmer simply takes its milk-filled stomach, ties it off in a tight knot or sews it shut, perhaps covers it in mesh to keep the flies off, then hangs it from the ceiling of a cool, dark room. He then waits for a few months until the natural rennet within curdles and hardens the milk into a thick, creamy cheese and desiccation tightens the gut into a pungent, leathery rind.’

Wow, su callu AND casu marzu. I really really have to go to Sardinia. Warning: this article has one perhaps very confronting image among its stunning pics. And it’s a damn good read, too.

This article is one of three food stories in the latest ebulletins from the Roads and Kingdom site, each well written and with fantastic pics. The other two are:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

This Week's Compost

This week's image is a lovely naive painting a tad hidden in Trattoria da Carlo in Orvieto where I had the second best meals in Italy last year..the best being at Benito Osteria in Rome. Carlo mixes deconstructedish dishes with plain old round the kitchen table ones but all deeply satisfying flavour, texture and visual-wise. I am hoping to get up a foodie excursion to Orvieto for their food and wine festival in October 2016 and am open to expressions of interest in joining me.

Also, if you have anyone you think might like to be on the Compost email list, please direct them my way.

And thanks for contributors to this week's ed.

Food and Words
A shameless plug for Barbara Sweeney’s 4th wonderful fest of food and falderol J Je suis desole that I will not be there this year L

‘I’ve got judges who love them’: in defence of the deep fried Mars bar
‘Birthplace of the World Famous Deep Fried Mars Bar,” the banner announces. It’s vast, proud, and as of this week under threat. Welcome to The Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, where 20 years ago – so the legend has it – two pupils from the local academy challenged each other to eat a load of random battered stuff, resulting in the Scottish delicacy (or culinary embarrassment, depending on who you talk to) known as the deep-fried Mars bar. Aberdeenshire council refuses to share The Carron’s pride and has demanded the banner’s removal.’
As some of you know, I tried one earlier this year and I LOVED it. Oily, gooey, hot, gushy...everything you want in the worst of indulgence. It needs no defending. And I love someone who is not ashamed to say ‘ “I would draw the line at Minstrels and Maltesers,” he says. “Too small. But other than that, I’ll deep fry anything.”

Faith, Philosophy and Food
‘In these last weeks of Ramadan we hear how those of Muslim and Jewish faith navigate this and how it affects their everyday lives. We also hear from a vegan how her personal ethics have influenced her food choices and the knock-on effect that has had in where she lives and works.’
July 11 ep of Radio National’s Blueprint for Living, The discussion starts at around 53:00. A nicely pitched exploration of the personal and the convivial.
The lunchtime revolution at a school for children with autism
‘He also handles the more refined dietary requests, like those of a 15-year-old boy called Finn who for a long while favoured things that were black, like Oreos and burnt toast. “He used to burn his own toast which would bring the fire brigade,” Ragan tells me. “Now they phone us up when there’s an alarm and ask whether Finn has been burning the toast again.” At lunchtime, Lucio makes the toast for him, gently reducing the level of burn so that now it is merely a shade of brown.’
A truly inspiring story which needs no commentary from me.
Researchers at Oregon State University have found a new seaweed that tastes like bacon and has twice the nutritional value of kale
I am not sure that any vegan I know is hanging out for things that taste like bacon.
I, on the other hand, am TOTALLY hanging out for someone to invite me round for a Bacon Bowl.
Lunch at Dunkin’ Don’t-nuts
Meanwhile in India..I  hope you can open the link...the descriptions of the burgers are more than OTT.
Read this and you’ll never eat a ready meal again
‘Irish authorities were equally shocked to discover that a pizza bearing the label 'country of origin Ireland' in fact contained 35 ingredients that had passed through 60 countries during preparation and packaging.’

Ta to Sarah Benjamin for directing to me to this article. I haven’t eaten a ‘ready meal’ in many many a year and am in no danger of doing so in the near future but already get the chills when I visit my mum in the nursing home and see the gloop she gets some times.
Barbara Sweeney commented on the article in another forum:
‘I don’t think it would be too far from the commercial reality of food manufacturing here. The only reason why it wouldn’t be is scale. I’ve been looking at the increase in heat and serve dishes onside at Woolies in Potts Point and wondering about them - what ingredients are used, how old the ingredients are, have they been irradiated etc. John’s example can’t be compared to the meals referred to in the story, which is more about Lean Cuisine or other packaged meals, which really do look like the dog’s breakfast. Buying someone else home cooked food from a deli is still home cooked food, like eating at a friend’s house. Local food manufacturers would definitely be buying in single components of pre-prepared ingredients - peeled, chopped frozen vegies for example, mashed potato for gratin toppings etc. This specialisation has seen big growth in commercial catering in last few decades. I know that most yogurt and pie makers here – including organic – cannot get enough locally produced fruit purees for their products and so buy in from Europe.’
And John Newton also commented:
‘I remember some years ago a UK ready meal company came bursting onto the scene, promising 'home made goodness in every bite' or some such crap and exited some six months later. For a Short Black piece I asked the company guy what went wrong. He told me the main reason was that most people in Australia can cook, whereas in the UK they couldn't. True or false?’
How Greece’s Debt Crisis Is Impacting It’s Wine Industry
And thanks to Helen Greenwoood for directing me to this article. Interesting info on Greek drinking patterns and alcohol tax system as well as a look at the impact of the financial crisis.
‘One of the large issues looming for Greek wineries, beyond the difficulty of sales, is the approaching harvest. Many wineries are having trouble sourcing the bottles they need from abroad and shipments of bottles can require significant lead time to purchase. With bank transfers out of the country recently on hold, many Greek wineries are wondering if they will have enough bottles for their wine. Winemaker Yiannis Paraskevopoulos of Gaia Wines notes that most bottle suppliers have stopped delivering, or are requesting to be paid in cash, up-front. This is especially challenging for Greek winemakers like him who make wine in regions, like Santorini, where harvest may be as early as August.’


Saturday, July 11, 2015

This Weeks Compost

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, also has been shown to have wide reaching positive impacts on brain functioning. It causes mild stress to brain cells triggering the production of antioxidant enzymes that hold down free radicals and the accumulation of toxic proteins. Some animal studies also suggest that it may reduce damage from strokes and could help alleviate depression and anxiety (Mattson, Mark What Doesn't Kill You...Scientific American, July 2015). I love that Big Science every now and then finds that old wives or indeed old ayurvedic's tales have some truth in them.

But enough schadenfreude...this week’s pic comes courtesy of Martin Boetz new venture in bringing his Portland farm produce to the Inner West, the frontiers of the IW at that...St Peters! Between this and the Addison Road Markets and popping up the road to see what’s on the quick sale trays at Arcella Fresh up the street I am one very happy urban foodista.

Fork to Fork
Ta to Helen Campbell for directing my attention to this. It will be interesting to see it working.
‘Fork to Fork is a project that aims to provide an online marketplace for the sale
of Tasmanian food. The project is run by
 Sprout Tasmania. Sprout Tasmania is a not for profit organisation dedicated to supporting local food producers who would like to get their ideas in the ground, growing and to market’

Green is the new black: the unstoppable rise of the healthy eating guru
‘The wellness blogger is, crucially, photogenic and young, which is why “wellness” looks so much more desirable than it did a decade ago, when it wasGillian McKeith, say, telling us all to eat more fibre. Eat like me, look like me, is the message. Typical photo poses include sitting on a beach lounger in a bikini while drinking from a coconut, or reclining in a rustic kitchen in skinny jeans, a cute porcelain bowl of vegetables in one hand. There are differences, however: some bloggers endorse juice fasts, whereas others scorn juice and compare its sugar content to Coca-Cola; some promote fasting, others advise against. Such subjective disagreements are perhaps inevitable among a profession in which no training is required.’

Depressing reading, the comments included.

Why does food taste different on planes?
‘Taste buds and sense of smell are the first things to go at 30,000 feet, says Russ Brown, director of In-flight Dining & Retail at American Airlines. “Flavour is a combination of both, and our perception of saltiness and sweetness drop when inside a pressurised cabin. Everything that makes up the in-flight experience, it turns out, affects how your food tastes. “Food and drink really do taste different in the air compared to on the ground,” says Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University. “There are several reasons for this: lack of humidity, lower air pressure, and the background noise.”

Also the attitude of the flight stewards has a really really big impact, and who you are sitting next to and how gross it is that they ordered the nasi goreng chicken...But seriously, some fascinating info in here about how being inside a plane plays havoc with your senses generally.

Land of pork and honey
‘At Truck De Luxe, you can while away the hours on a patio that stretches into the street, tucking into a cold beer and a soft pretzel with bacon jam, or its signature pancake tower, which is layered with pulled pork and slathered with maple syrup. In the past five years, Israelis’ passion for pork has blown up, says one of the restaurant’s owners, Ori Marmorstein. And since the pork industry is monopolized by only a few pig farms, mostly in Israel’s northern Arab-Christian area, demand has made pork prices skyrocket almost 100 percent, he says, with some cuts up to about $8 per pound... But at the truck, the staff is quintessentially Tel Aviv: beautiful, hedonistic, blasé, flirty young things who see good food and alcohol not as moments of gratification, but as a way of life. Ignoring the country’s loaded and increasingly depressing political scene is exactly the point, and pork is a means to that escape.’

Okay, you all know I love pork, but why oh why does it have to come in a pulled pork stack smothered in maple syrup. The point of an accompaniment to pork for me is to balance its sweetness with something sour like in a classsic Sri Lankan pork curry where goroka (aka gamboge) makes the fat the more unctuous by its sharpness. Transgression and rebellion via food I applaud, but can we do it with some discernment?

What? Too flippant?

Big Plates Are the New Small Plates
‘At Provision No. 14, the Filipino-style fried suckling pork leg arrives at the table on a silver platter with a  large white-handled knife stabbed in the middle. The upright serrated blade is the chef’s mic drop. It’s the kind of gesture that dares you to question it.’

No, what it does is tell me that the chef is up himself, and the rest of the article just confirms it.

The madness of drinking bottled water shipped halfway around the world
‘Bottled water’s global boom is arguably driven by fear, firstly among developing world consumers who worry about water quality from the tap, and secondly among developed world consumers about the health impacts of sugary drinks.’

It has been one of the most successful unnecessary campaigns in years, get us to (a) drink more water per se and (b) drink bottled water. Such a frisson still when to the inevitable questoin of do I want still or sparkling water I answer ‘tap water’.

Curry on cooking: how long will the UKs adopted national dish survive?
Salim’s restaurant, which he has owned for 15 years, is one of thousands comprising the £3.6bn Indian restaurant industry in Britain. It is a quirk of colonialism, globalisation, and modernisation that a curry has become as synonymous with British culinary culture as fish and chips. But in Conservative Britain – where the attitude toward migrants is becoming increasingly and explicitly hostile – this culinary mainstay is in sharp decline not due to lack of demand, but to a lack of skilled chefs. 

Well, that’s it. The end of Empire and God Save the Queen and all who sail in her. Look, if this means the end of crap Bangladeshi curry, rejoice all ye say I.

Oh, all right, the article has some excellent points to make about the nature of the labour market at this end of the food sector not only in the UK but generally in Western economies and the abuse of labour arguments in anti-immigration polemic and politics. Mind you there is also a thead of neo-imperialism in all of this curry-national-dish-exploitation-of-former-colonial-serfs that isn’t canvassed,

Monday, June 22, 2015

This Week's Compospt

Had the opportunity to watch the entire 6 eps of Chefs’ Table via Netflix. The stand out for me was Francis Mallman, who I have never heard about, but who convinced me that a frozen island in the middle of Patagonia is where I need to go and eat. No fiddly fuddly micro leaves and petals in mini splodges in mid plate. Nah. My fondest image is of Mallman crucifying the carcasses of three beeves and sticking them in the snow in front of a roaring fire. Or it may also be several chooks suspended by strings from a sapling dome smoking. Or even the brilliance of a smashed Andean pumpkin that has emerged out of the Argentinean version of a hangi. The others all come across as, dare I say it, prissy; the exception here being Massimo Bottura and maybe that’s my prejudice for his food over the others, but he had less bullshit and agonising and needing to psychpatholigise than the others. I think basically I am sick to death of chefs who keep yakking on about how their food has to be an expression of themselves versus actually being about conviviality and sustenance.

The other series I have delighted in of late is Heston Blumenthal’s In Search of Perfection on SBS on Fridays. I have to admit to a total soft spot for all the series I have seen of Heston’s because of their combination of erudition, humour, and inventiveness.

I’m also enjoying Susan Parham’s new book Food and Urbanism. The Convivial City and a Sustainable Future. In her words ‘This book  explores the complex ways that food and cities interconnect through urbanism: the study of the art of building cities.’ It’s a survey of the changes in the spatial positioning of growing, marketing, cooking and consuming food working out from the kitchen table to the food region reaching as far back as written records and archaeological digs will take her focusing mainly on European, US and Australian studies (Jean Duruz it’s lovely to see you cited every several pages J ) but including material from Asia where it is available. She’s excellent on tracking the shifts toward and away from and then back toward small scale arrangements, and again the informal to the formal and back to the informal again, and the forces that have driven the changes. I’ve just finished her look at Food’s Outdoor Room, meaning markets in their many forms including and I am walking with her now through The Gastronomic Townscape of food precincts and eat streets. It’s already has me looking at the spaces I move through on my daily feeding differently; a whole new dimension to the term foodways for me to explore.

What climate change will do to your loaf of bread
‘AgFace leader Glenn Fitzgerald said the effect of high carbon dioxide  on grains is complex. On the one hand, it makes plants such as wheat and canola grow faster and produce greater yields but, on the other hand, they contain less protein. Elevated carbon dioxide also alters the ratio of different types of proteins in wheat, which, in the case of bread, affects the elasticity of dough and how well a loaf rises.

Give me protein and elasticity over high yield anytime.

Smashed avo anyone?: Five Australian creations taking the world by storm
Can you guess which other  ones?

‘Try to describe Australian cuisine to a visitor and you’re likely to struggle a little. But there are some dishes that as a nation we recognise as quintessentially Australian – and they’ve started to pop up on menus from Brixton to Brooklyn.’

Let the debates begin on which is or is not Australian – Dr Newton I turn first to thee.

Burger wars: the battle of the beef patties
‘Among the new entrants to the market are Grill'd​, Mary's, Chur Burger Express, Burger Project, Burger Edge, Burger Shed, Ribs & Burgers, Burger Bro? and Melbourne's Brother Burgers. That doesn't include the numerous pubs that offer their own versions as a drawcard. Giving the sector even more power is that these are run by an array of top chefs, including Neil Perry, Luke Powell (ex-Tetsuya's) and Warren Turnbull, among many others. Property agents say the backing of these top-shelf foodies has meant they know all about the real estate business and have exact locations in mind... Other operators such as The Pantry and Trunk Diner have created high-quality burgers that provide customers with a premium experience within a casual dining offering. ’
Give me a thick bun with lashings of butter, grilled onions, a good everyday mince pattie, some slices of canned beetroot and a leaf or two of iceberg lettuce that I can carry away in a greaseproof paper wrap and eat one hand while I walk or sit with mates in the park...but save me from a ‘premium experience within a casual dining offering’ at a price that will compete with my mortgage.
The pic this week is of a beef brisket bun from The Counter in Audley Street, Petersham

The 4 Ways People Rationalise Eating Meat
And in more news from the meat eat front, Helen sent me this.

‘This combination — eating meat while being opposed, in principle, to the acts that are required for meat-eating to take place — suggests that omnivores come up with psychological ways to justify their dietary habits.’

In case you wonder, I fit firmly into the fourth rationale – ‘it’s nice’.

Stop Romanticising Your Grandparents’ Food
‘In short, Laudan has delivered an evocative corrective to the culinary romanticism that pervades our farmers markets and farm-to-table culinary temples. Yet her "plea for culinary modernism" contains its own gaping blind spot. If Laudan's "culinary Luddites" feast on tales of an imaginary prelapsarian food past, she herself presents a gauzy and romanticized view of industrialized food.

A short critique of Rachel Laudan’s Plea for Culinary Modernism (see Compost May 30 at my blog

In praise of fast food
‘Of course, all of this is in sharp contrast to the brutalist fast-food culture that has risen up since Ray Krok wed standardized burger-and-fries production to the post-war expansion of car ownership. But the corporatized vision of fast food, as embodied by global powerhouses McDonald’s and Yum Foods, represents a mere tick of the clock in the long and mostly proud history of fast food.’

I think we have to find some other term for most of what Philpott talks about here, and what Laudan also talks about. A meat pie from a bakery shop is not fast food as far as I am concerned nor is a good snag sanger from at the footy nor a bowl of pho whipped up in a road side stall in Hanoi nor a naan with mutton curry on some dusty road in Gujarat. Street food doesn’t fit across the whole of these examples either. Convenience food would be a good term if it also were not so debased now.