Saturday, March 4, 2017

Compost 5 march 2017

So, this year's crop of mangoes was looking pretty good before I went on hols...the possums had other ideas. However, waste not want not so the samplers bites will be cauterised and the rest mushed for a sorbet or such. At least they alerted me that the mangoes despite their green skin were indeed ready.

Seven things in food to stay livid about in 2017
Barbara Santich sent me the following in response to last Compost’s item on this.

Clean and green, local and seasonal, are near to the top of my list of ‘things foodwise you will stay furious about this year’ but what really annoys me, perhaps less often, are menus that describe a dish in terms of its main ingredients, as if each had equal weight: for example, a (hypothetical) dish of ‘cured kingfish, shaved squid, quinoa, samphire’ that has a couple of slices of tuna plus one fine shaving of squid, six puffed quinoa grains, and a shred of samphire. I’m sure readers could add many real-life examples.

Second, another restaurant gripe: a dish described as (again, hypothetical) as ‘Seared lamb, roast tomatoes, carrot puree, French lentils’ that I order, and the waitperson asks would I like a side of vegetables. No, I say, there are vegetables with my dish. It’s not a lot, says the waitperson, I recommend a side of rosemary potatoes. So I order the side, and get a dish big enough to serve six. The carrot puree turns out to be a smear, the lentils form a random decoration on the rim of the plate, and there’s one miniscule tomato on top of the lamb. Why can’t the chef add the appropriate vegetable to the dish and charge an extra dollar? This one gets me hot under the collar every time.

Oh, and of course, the chestnuts that ignorant and lazy journalists come out with – for example, that Australia has the best cheese/fish/lamb etc. in the world; that it’s time Australians gave up hot roast turkey for Christmas (as if they have just invented the idea); that the European colonists in the eighteenth/nineteenth century emphatically rejected all indigenous foods (which usually precedes a congratulatory paen to the current generation of chefs).

I think I could add many more if I really got worked up!

And Charmaine sent these comments:

Here's to great year in challenging food orthodoxies (including historical ones!) and neoliberal solutions. Perhaps if people thought about the fact that part of the neoliberal agenda seems to be to deskill us as cooks so that we spend more money having our meals prepared for us by others (nothing against restaurants but we need to get a better perspective on our use of these) we might not be wasting so much for out. Not only are we being deskilled as cooks we apparently are not 'too busy' to actually go out and eat at the restaurants we buy our meals for so we have to have them delivered we can sit in front of Netflix binge watching wonder we are getting fat ..except the food delivery people who are riding around the food non bikes! 
In regards to food wastage if one eats out. I love the thali concept in restaurants in India (which I am sure you are familiar with). You are given a modest amount of food to begin and then the waiters come around and offer you more which you take as you need. It is socially frowned upon to take more than you can eat so it seems people rarely waste food. Perhaps we need a bit more of this in restaurants to prevent waste!
No animal required, but would people be prepared to eat artificial meat?

Gender was the biggest predicting factor, with men more likely on average to say they would try IVM, whereas women were less sure. Men also had more positive views of its benefits.’

Anyone care to speculate why?

Recipes are to cooking as listicles are to journalism: they're intrinsically flawed

‘All this is not to say that I dislike recipes. After all, I’ve published thousands of the bloody things over the years and most of them, I think, are really quite good – if I do say so myself.

Recipes are flawed by their very nature but those flaws are not fatal. Understanding the limitations of recipes can make them very useful indeed. They’re often our first step in exploring new dishes, new ingredients, new cuisines – and with them, new ways of living. They are an arrow pointing the way, not the destination itself.’

I found this article intensely annoying and snobby. Apart from the smug self-congratulation, I think it reeks of the kind of privileging of cooking by chefs who have time and money and who write food porn recipes to earn even more money.

The Hunt for the Perfect Sugar
 ‘Let us pause here to acknowledge the sugar-frosted codependent embrace of Big Food and the American consumer. You could rightly fault consumers for their insistence on an oxymoronic product. But who has been indulging their fantasies for decades now, promising sweet, satisfying taste and no calories? Big Food, of course. Now customers are upping the stakes—and it’s not at all clear that companies can pass the test.’

An interesting article on the commercial imperative and not the health imperative behind the search for a low-calorie sweetener. But why do we need sweet foods at all? Sure we have taste receptors for sweetness, but what of what makes a food naturally sweet, like honey, do we need that we can’t get if honey tasted umami?

Can eating lead to understanding? In the case of Trump’s travel ban, some hope so.
 ‘As enjoyable a form of resistance as it may be, learning about and eating food from the banned countries will not, of course, directly influence lawmakers or change any policy. But it could make a difference for immigrant-owned restaurants, whose businesses may have suffered because of stigma. And while some of those restaurant owners may be safely based in this country, many are worried about their family members, which can take a toll on their work.’

I’m also not convinced that just eating the other’s food leads is an adequate way to learn about the culture. For example, while I am happy to tell people who ask me where to eat good Sri Lankan in Sydney I know (a) depending on where I send them they will get a different idea of Sri Lankan food and food practices and (b) they could go somewhere and eat and have no deeper understanding of the whole of the cultures in Sri Lanka (note the plural) nor how they have developed nor how they are deployed within Sri Lanka as ways of entrenching power, conformity and so on.  Unless there is the opportunity to ask questions about this in the restaurant or unless the diner’s interest is piqued enough to ask these questions later, the food experience I think remains just that.

That is not to say at all that I don’t support people actively expressing support and solidarity with the banned communities in whatever ways they can, choosing to eat in a immigrant-owned restaurant among them. But it is to say that to expect too much of a meal is problematic.

 Where we source recipes
 From Barbara Santich:

If you don’t frequent Ikea or kitchenware shops you might have been unaware of the newest kitchen accessory - the tablet stand:

It’s a telling statement as to where people go for recipes!

As I confessed to Barbara, I often have recourse to the web for recipes, particularly if I want to find esoteric combinations of which there are usually several recipes more than I have in my cookbook collection. I have yet to cross-over to tablet use, however, and hauling the laptop from the office to the benchtop is tiresome so inevitable print out what I find anyway…on recycled paper of course.

MOLD Magazine goes print
 ‘We’re thrilled to announce the launch of MOLD Magazine, the first print magazine about the future of food. After three years and over 400 stories about food and design, we are excited to work in a new medium for our investigations into how design can shape the way we eat and drink in the future.

Ta Colin for putting me on to this. You may have noticed I have a growing interest in foodways of the future - including where the growing is all in a petri dish - so I am looking forward to this. Meanwhile the MOLD website is a great place to waste time…I mean research food.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Seven things in food to stay livid about in 2017
‘Good news. Comfort eating dealt brilliantly with the horrors of 2016, though sadly the effect was only temporary. Once I’d eaten all the salted caramel ice cream, the things that drove me nuts about the world were still there. This made me angry. After sticking a fork in my hand repeatedly to see if the feelings would go away, I’ve decided to stay angry. Because this year, being furious is the only way forward.’

What, only seven things! And really, the list is pretty tame, I think. What about superfoods? The Paeleo diet?!

Do write back with the things foodwise you will stay furious about this year.

A women’s business – street food vending in Accra
I grew up on street food after school in Sri Lanka and crave it wherever I travel. In SL, and PNG also where I have often had lunch from a street stall, as in Accra the work is mainly done by women. This is a lovely short doco about some of these women. Yes, a lot of plastic bagging and Styrofoam, depressingly.

Parrot pie and possum curry – how colonial Australians embraced native food
‘In her 1895 book The Antipodean Cookery Book, Rawson noted that “I am beholden to the blacks for nearly all my knowledge of the edible ground game” and that “whatever the blacks eat the whites may safely try”.
Rawson’s relationship with Aboriginal people was complex and nuanced. Demonstrating an understanding of the dispossession of land occurring in Queensland at the time, she wrote sympathetically of
The lessons white men should learn from the blacks before the work of extermination which is so rapidly going on has swept all the blacks who possess this wonderful bush lore off the face of the earth

And for more on Wilhelmina Rawson

 Dreams of cooking behind barbed wire
‘It's a cookbook, its recipes written by the inmates of Ravensbrück, the largest female concentration camp in Germany during World War II. Its writers were starving and the recipes recorded are a mixture of memory and fantasy.’

Utterly fascinating and touching.

Would you eat a 3d printed pizza?
“But that’s not all. There’s also the radical idea of using insects and laboratory-grown meat in 3D printed food as a sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources. Meat and Livestock Australia also recently announced that it is looking into ways to use 3D printing to produce new meat products to extract the most value from animal carcasses. So it is not far-fetched to imagine serving a Christmas lunch with 3D printed food made from red meat and poultry, or decorative edible items made from fruit or vegetable purees, sugar or chocolate.”

The wow factor with the video embedded in the article is through the roof for me. Sure, it’s sugar sugar and more sugar, but that you can create these shapes with food by printing has me totally entranced.

And if it can do for insects what it can do for sugar, I am there, as I am with them using the technology to print food for people with chewing and swallowing difficulties or as a way of getting food into emergency zones.

A slower pace fot tv’s ‘Galloping Gourmet’
 “His wife, he said, always advised him against looking too closley at what he did so spontane and so well, because studying what worked and what didn’t would destroy the spontaneity – and the joy.”

Loved watching his show and I suspect a tad of my flamboyance in the kitchen was instilled by him. Nice to see what he has been up to since.

Make a fresh start with your fridge in 2017: apps to reduce food waste and save money
‘It doesn’t sound very sexy, but planning meals and knowing what’s in your fridge and pantry when you go shopping is a great way to reduce food waste and save time and money.’

Another neo-liberalist solution to a systemic problem, says this grouchy socialist. As one of the comments here points out and material I have posted in Compost shows major food wastage happens at the grower/production end. I also heard a disturbing paper by Dianne McGrath at last year’s Symposium of Australian Gastronomy on research by RMIT on food wastage in the food service sector showing that the biggest share of wastage here comes from the diners’ plates, with 1 in 4 diners saying they left food on their plate, often because of portions being too large. Up to 317 g of food waste per cover. The research itself is now closed but you can sign up for a newsletter update at


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

To end the year on some good - nay - great news - the Australian National Dictionary Centre's word(s) of the year is democracy sausage - yep, the one you have on election day at the polling station.

And in dumb arse news,  Geoff Roberts, the economic commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission and others of his ilk have drawn a 'latte line' across Sydney...the class war lives, comrades. 

Traditions revived as kids take to the bay

Yuin Nation fishermen (sic) have resumed teaching their community's kids in Yarra Bay traditional fishing techniques, reports the SMH 17 December 2016.  There has reportedly been a hiatus of 3o odd years in the practice, and it's now become possible as Indigenous fishermen (sic) were given back the right to resume fishing for mullet and other special occasions (sic) in March this year. 

SA foundation gets $1.25m grant to expand native foods industry

"Adelaide chef and restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo's Orana Foundation will receive $1.25 million from the State Government to foster the research, cultivation and production of native foods."

Congrats to Jock and all at the Orana Foundation

Hipsters’ insatiable appetite for superfoods is starving India’s ancient indigenous people

“The downside of turning quinoa, teff, and acai berries, all from the Amazon forest, or even moringa (drumstick), into new superfoods is that urban consumers start to compete with indigenous peoples for food resources. Through our demand for superfoods, we are pushing indigenous populations into switching to cheaper, less nutritious, and less flavourful imported staple, such as maize, rice and wheat....

Indigenous peoples have collectively managed forests for years but without legal recognition of their rights to the land and its produce, they increasingly face restrictions when it comes to foraging for food. This has put them at high risk for malnutrition and hunger, diminishing their food security and nutrition heritage.”

The article doesn’t discuss solutions but it did ask for comment so I took the opportunity to send them the link to the article above on the Orana Foundation project. It seems to me that building partnerships that can support continuing access by Indigenous populations to historically (I don’t want to use ‘traditionally’) foraged significant sources of food that can also engage Indigenous peoples in  production for market and so provide a hopefully longer term sustainable income are a great way forward for food justice in these situations.

Space salad days

New Scientist  10 December, 2016 reports: " NASA astronauts on the International Space Station have reaped their first harvest: red romaine lettuces.  They first ate space lettuce in August 2015, but that was just a taste. On 2 december, they cut enough for a whole salad. The plants grow in a microgravity farm system called Veggie, installed in 2014.'

But nothing said about what it tasted like, disappointingly.

Meat and potato pie 'sent into space' from Wigan

And in  other space news - 

"The pioneering delicacy was launched from Roby Mill, Wigan, at about 11:30 GMT ahead of the World Pie Eating Championship next week.
The aim is to see if its journey up to 100,000ft (30km) changes the molecular structure of the pie making it quicker to eat.
It is believed this is the first pie to be launched into the stratosphere."
But again I ask - what will it taste like :(

The futuristic utensils designed to help you eat bugs

'By now, you’ve probably heard that eating bugs is in your future. Insects are protein-rich and efficient to farm, and the UN has predicted we’ll largely be surviving off of beetle bites and caterpillar consommé by 2050. Chefs are already whipping up recipes for curried grasshoppers, buffalo worm nuggets, and chocolate mealworm spread—although, of course, the easiest way of tucking in to these delicacies is just eating the insects whole. So what’s stopping you?
Maybe your tongue has a few questions. But if it’s merely the lack of an appropriate utensil that is holding you back, designer Wataru Kobayashi has you covered. In his new project, BUGBUG, Kobayashi introduces a set of cutlery that’ll have you gleefully crunching exoskeletons, scooping scorpions, and sinking your teeth into a different style of wing.'
Unfortunately they can't be bought yet so I will still have to use my fingers on my upcoming entomophagic trip to Cambodia in Feb 2016

How to make spaghetti bolognese on Future Tense

I really like this approach to discussing the impact of climate change on foodways.

The surprising botany of ice cream

'As food historian Mary Işin mentions in her book on Turkish sweets, the history of salep in ice cream making was never documented, so we have only speculation and legend to turn to. Regrettably, the future of salep-yielding orchids is both less uncertain and more disturbing: increasing demand and unsustainable harvesting practices have endangered wild orchid populations. Over 40 million orchids are estimated to be annually harvested and ground to salep only in Turkey. The numbers are far from palatable."

No wonder my home efforts are less than fabulousness incarnate - carob flour, eh. 
Thanks to Barbara Sweeney for putting me onto Georgina Reid and The Planthunter from which this article comes via this year's Food and Words event. 

Paleo diet was a veggie feast with a side of meat

"Today's Paleo diet cookbooks might be missing a few pages. It seems out early ancestors were more adventurous with their plant foods than we might expect, with roasted acorns, sedges and water lily seeds on the menu, along with fish and meat."

Yes, in another blow to Pete Evans and his ilk Homo erectus guys and gals living at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov back in 780,000 ate no less than 55 kinds of plant, even if some of their choices may no longer be on the middle astern menu  according to this article in New Scientist 10 Dec 2016.

I have the article scanned for those who may be interested.

The Business of Eating: Entrepreneurship and Cultural Politics - Call for Papers 

"The sale of food is simultaneously the world’s biggest business and a site of innumerable micro-level transactions in which itinerant street vendors compete, albeit on an unequal basis, with transnational giants like McDonald’s and Walmart. This special issue will further our understanding of these complex markets by encouraging conversations across disciplinary and national boundaries between scholars of management, social sciences and humanities in the global North and South. We seek a robust understanding of the possibilities and restraints on culinary entrepreneurship. We build on the concept of “culinary infrastructure” to highlight linkages between the material nature of food systems and production, on the one hand, and the symbolic and social realm of culinary cultures. We encourage theoretical and empirical studies that illuminate the myriad networks connecting high and low cuisine."

And to end on a festive note

Monday, December 12, 2016

As some of you know I attended the 21st Symposium of Australian Gastronomy 2 - 5 December 2016. I presented a paper on Doris Lessing's writings on food security and war via the lens of her Canopus in Argos: Archives quintet. Happy to send it on to anyone interested.

I found the Symp structurally unwieldy - 4 full on days, the first of which was very loooooong a set of panel sessions tracing the Melbourne history of high end restaurant dining and one on a proposed Manifesto for Utopian Food Futures: Towards a Gastronomic Commons about which the less said the better and which went no further than this panel session, and then three days of plenaries and triple concurrent sessions, the latter being a substantial break from Symps of the past and not to my liking as you have the usual problem of having sessions you are interested in up against each other.

Another break that did not go down well with some of we oldies was commercial sponsorship by a frying pan maker including a presentation by him at the Saturday dinner (tho I did win one such frypan for having - ironically - a white serviette whereas others had black and blue ones).

There were other glitches which niggled but for all of that the papers I went to were generally interesting and thought provoking. Particular faves were three papers on waste, a terrific paper by Gay Bilson which to be frank ought to have been a plenary paper,  Juan-Carlo Tomas's memory piece on his grandmother's pancit molo, Jacqui Newling's on the early days of the Norfolk Island Settlement, and Charmaine O'Brien's paper challenging the common view of colonial food as dire, and visiting scholar Darra Goldstein's plenary paper on food in the early days of the Russian Soviet which was nicely complemented by Maria Emanovskaya's paper looking at contemporary Russian foodways through the lens of two dystopian novels.

I also liked the slightly overlong Boozy Botanicals session on booze makers using Australian indigenous leaves and barks in locally made gin and vermouth at the end of which we had fun making negronis and getting mildly tipsy.

Learned a new phrase - 'plate diving' i.e. eating food off a plate when someone else has finished and left edibles - and put it into practice at the Symp dinner where I enjoyed the outer ring of crumbed deep fried trip my dining companion had left choosing only to eat the chicken mousse inside, and baby radish leaves that she ditto spurned.

Phrases of the Symp for me:
"Utopia is not a pop-up" - Jane Levi talking about her project on temporarily at least re-greening parts of Somerset House.

"Order is not benign" - Lily Cleary in a paper critical of the certainty of the positions of Michael Symons, Charles Fourier and Roland Barthes she sees as a 'shared conviction in gastronomic pleasures as pivotal to creating a better society, girded by a shared passion for systematic organisations and tendency to proselytise' and arguing that gastronomy should instead embrace disorder, to be "both situated and a wanderer".

"Foraging should never be safe." Cameron Russell in an entrancing session on the creation of an enclosed but wild mushroom foraging space with architect Simon Whibley.

"To shift to the chef is to ignore the whole for the part" - Gay Bilson on part of the modern malaise. She also said "Plated food is exclusive and guarded" and that "food pages [in print media] are segregated from what matters in food today' and 'unexpected excellence in the wrong place is the best dining of all' that 'we have lost the commentary on the domestic table' and made a plea for the restaurant to return to a place of restoration. You can see why I think she ought to have been a plenary speaker.

The pic at the top of this Compost is of the elegant presentation of two kinds of sweet balls made from byproducts - the green ones are balls of almond pulp left post making almond milk and covered in matcha, the black ones are beetroot pulp post juicing mixed with cacao and rolled in sesame seeds. Spearmint leaves and pansy flowers also of course edible. This was the first morning tea at the Symposium but the make is uncredited in the program, but I think is one of the cooks/chefs from William Angliss.

Meet all The Archibull Prize 2016 Artwork Finalists
 I wish they gave us more info about each of the school’s projects.

 Virtual food tech adds bit to VR
 ‘Many people cannot eat food satisfactorily because of weak jaws, allergies and diet.’

I woud add cause the food tastes like shit. My mum is in a  nursing home and it is so hit and miss as to whether what she is served up, especially on weekends, taste’s at all interesting let alone looks like food on the plate. Of course we ought to be agitating for food in these places to be...well, food. At the same time I know the issues with having to provide institutional meals and of trying to get people nutritious, life saving food when they cannot chew, are increasingly unable to taste anything but the strongest flavours and so just reject the food. So, I applaud anything that may get someone like my mum to eat.

This is an article from New Scientist about some experiments in high tech solutions to help people eat. I have a scanned copy I am happy to send to those who are interested.

The key to future food supply is sitting on our cities’ doorsteps
 ‘City foodbowls are increasingly at risk. Our project has previously highlighted risks from urban sprawlclimate changewater scarcity and high levels of food waste. Melbourne’s foodbowl currently supplies 41% of the city’s total food needs. But growing population and less land means this could fall to 18% by 2050. Australia’s other city foodbowls face similar pressures. For example, between 2000 and 2005, Brisbane’s land available for vegetable crops reduced by 28%, and Sydney may lose 90% of its vegetable-growing landby 2031 if its current growth rate continues.’

My first home in Australia was on an orchard in Arcadia, then in the outermost ring of Sydney suburbs. No more orchards out there. The flood plain between Windsor and the mountains where I used to see fields and fields of corn as we drove between Sydney and Singleton are increasingly becomine turf farms. The iconic Aisan market garden in West Botany Road continue to be threatened by development. ‘Nothing but acres of tar and cement’ as a fave song of old goes.

Rise of the purists. Is chocolate the new coffee?
‘Although this price premium is positive for cocoa growers, the beans remain a raw material export. The chocolate is then manufactured in Europe or North America, with ingredients (cocoa butter, milk, sugar) sourced elsewhere. Most of the costs are added outside the country of origin; typically, raw ingredients only make up about 3% of a bar’s price. Some chocolate producers are therefore pushing the concept of single origin further. And it is this that offers the potential for even more of the value of the lucrative chocolate trade to be kept in countries such as Ivory Coast and Madagascar. The new idea of single-origin chocolate means that all the ingredients in the couverture (the wholesale/bulk cocoa used by chefs, chocolatiers etc) must come from the same country and be processed locally.’

At the purchaser end, of course, it will all still be in who in the country of sale sells it and how. I can still see the unscrupulous adding a further premium that doesn’t get back into the growers’ hands and I bet there will remain a scandal or two that uncovers product where all ingredients have in fact not been sourced in the home country nor processed locally. Or am I just too old and cyncial these days.

From grain to beer glass – tracing the journey of Ethiopian barley, in pictures.
Just to show I am not inveterately cynical.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Compost November 2016

Sorry about the long time between newsletters. I could say I have been busy putting together my paper on Doris Lessing's take on war and food security in her sci-fi works for the Aus Gastronomy Symposium coming up in December, which is true. But also there has been a dearth of anything worth the adding to the compost bin.

Anyhoo, here's some orts.

Click plate: how Instagram is changing the way we eat
 ‘Once these Instagram-friendly foods go viral, they can completely change the way we eat. Breakfast, for example, has shifted from a decidedly unphotogenic cereal or marmalade on toast to the bright hues of avocado toast (there are nearly 250,000 #avocadotoast hashtagged photos on Instagram) and smoothie bowls.’

Really? It’s the sort of article that begs the question of who the ‘we’ is that is being spoken of here and how you judge when something is completely changed or is just a fad or the result of clever marketing. It’s annoying that the article cites no research for its heftier claims like the following:

‘Posting food on social media can reframe the ways that we interact with food on a fundamental level. When we document the food we eat, taking time to relish, share and even be proud of it, we also destigmatise it. Although #cleaneating, weight loss and #cleanse food photographs on Instagram have created a shaming, toxic subculture of foodphobia and guilt, there is a still greater faction of foodie social media that rallies against that nastiness. People in recovery from eating disorders are able to chronicle their recovery and celebrate each morsel of food that they are able to eat. In the absence of positive depictions of plus-size people in the mainstream media, social media affords fat people a place where they can subvert the expectations of embarrassment, shyness and prescribed dieting foisted upon them by a fatphobic world. Posting your meals online – whether they are healthy, unhealthy or none of your goddamn business – can be a freeing act.’

Reducing food waste could put birds and animals at risk
 “So what is the implication of removing that waste from the system?” he said. “There may be some species then that face a significant decline in their populations.”

No, but really, some days you just feel like giving up. Nothing anyone does can do anything but screw up something so why bother, eh.

With the familiar cavendish banana in dnage can science help it survive?
 ‘Virtually all the bananas sold across the Western world belong to the so-called Cavendish subgroup of the species and are genetically nearly identical. These bananas are sterile and dependent on propagation via cloning, either by using suckers and cuttings taken from the underground stem or through modern tissue culture.
The familiar bright yellow Cavendish banana is ubiquitous in supermarkets and fruit bowls, but it is in imminent danger. The vast worldwide monoculture of genetically identical plants leaves the Cavendish intensely vulnerable to disease outbreaks.’
Again, really, do we want to protect a monocultural market bonanza or would be rather get other varieties to market and increase the genetic pool and hence the capacity for fighting diseases without the intervention of expensive Big Science solutions.

“Silvia’s Italian Table” is a 30 mintues instruction in self-hatred
 ‘When Silvia isn’t wearing a garland in her long, amazing hair or sensually kneading dough-penises that recall the idyll of a bullshit peasant past, she is talking with Australians of note to a weekly theme. The format, which borrows as copiously from Annabel Crabb’s Kitchen Cabinet as it does Nigella Bites, might work to provoke conversation if anyone was permitted to say anything other than “I prefer the simple things” and “I believe in being true to myself”.

One of Helen Razer’s more bust-my-side-laughing sprays where I could have grabbed any para and posted it. But I must get nback to sensually kneading dough penises.

Why can’t Australians cope with a British Empire themed restaurant
‘Great Britain has on its history the indelible blot of not only having had an empire like the Germans and Japanese, but of having had an empire that – thanks to two generations of Marxist-derived indoctrination in schools and universities – is now known to have been just about the greatest force of evil in the history of the universe. There’s no point in saying other empires have been worse. Australians can’t argue rationally where the British are concerned. Of course many British loathe their empire as well. But in Australia the hatred instilled by post-colonialist history courses is compounded by the chippy republican anti-Britishness long present in this country, inherited from Irish immigrants of the nineteenth century.’

And speaking of hilarious sprays...though I don’t think the writer would see it that wat.

My question, which Charmaine and I will resolve, is whether the food is any good. I know, I know, shallow bloody crypto Marxist foodie that I am.

Liquid assets: how the business of bottled water went mad
 There was Life, Volvic, Ugly, Sibberi (birch or maple), Plenish, What A Melon watermelon water, Vita Coco, Coco Pro, Coco Zumi, Chi 100% Pure Coconut Water, Rebel Kitchen Coconut Water and coconut water straight from the nut (“you have to make the hole yourself”, explained a shop assistant). Also: an electrolyte-enhanced water pledging to hydrate you with 40% less fluid than ordinary water (Overly Fitness), a birch water offering “a natural source of anti-oxidising manganese” (Tapped) and an alternative birch water promising to “eliminate cellulite” (Buddha). There was also a “water bar” – a tap in the corner of the shop – that, according to the large sign hanging from the ceiling, offered, for free, the “cleanest drinking water on the planet”, thanks to a four-stage process conducted by a “reverse osmosis deionising water filter”.

Squid’s out – are there any you can still eat?
 ‘Despite a growth in popularity, squid is classified as an unprotected species and is not currently subject to quota restrictions – but the methods used to catch it can have an impact on other species. New ratings produced by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide suggest that some species should be eaten either rarely or not at all. So which squid is the most sustainable? Here is our guide to the calamari to consume ...’

Anyone know which species are mainly consumed here in Oz?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Compost 8 October 2016

Some of us went to the Time Out forum on The politics of bush food now and were underwhelmed. A read of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu and John Newton’s The Oldest Foods on Earth had way more to say about the politics and placed the debate in its historic context which, it may come as a surprise to some of the other panellists at that session, did not begin with Rene Noma.

I shouldn’t go to those events. I am clearly not the demographic of ‘cool’ that wants to have a feel good night about how ethically aware they are...well at least till the next food ethical cool thang comes along.

On to happier fields:

Super Size. The dizzying grandeur of 21st century agriculture.

‘Our industrialized food system nourishes more people, at lower cost, than any comparable system in history. It also exerts a terrifyingly massive influence on our health and our environment. Photographer George Steinmetz spent nearly a year travelling the country to capture that system, in all its scope, grandeur and dizzying scale. His photographs are all the more remarkable for the fact that so few large food producers are willing to open themselves to this sort of public view.’

Startling and sobering. The vid of harvesting organic baby beans is a salutary reminder that demand even here leads to extraordinary scale.

It’s the taste we’ve been missing

‘Every culture has a major source of complex can’t taste carbohydrate. The idea that we what we’re eating doesn’t make sense’.

A terrifically interesting article on our ability to taste starch as a flavour in its own right. I’ve often wondered about how I could fit some of what I taste into the Holy Four + One, particularly some spices I am sometimes reduced to having to describe as tasting musty. So it’s exciting to see a breakthrough into a possible official designation of a sixth and perhaps more.

The article is in New Scientist 10 September 2016. I have a scanned copy I can send on to anyone interested.

Sifting through LAC’s Cookbook Collection

‘In this episode, we sit down with Erika Reinhardt, archivist at Library and Archives Canada, to discuss LAC’s cookbook collection. We discuss how culture and technology have shaped these books and recipes over time, and the impact they have had on our relationship with food and cooking throughout our history.’

Thanks to my librarian mate Julie for finding this.

Seed: the untold story
‘The Untold Story follows passionate seed keepers protecting our 12,000 year-old food legacy. In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared. As biotech chemical companies control the majority of our seeds, farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers fight a David and Goliath battle to defend the future of our food. In a harrowing and heartening story, these reluctant heroes rekindle a lost connection to our most treasured resource and revive a culture connected to seeds.’

One to look out for I reckon.

‘ The gay restaurant is a throwback to that time long ago before the American palate had been Bourdained’.
The Death and Life of America’s Gay Restaurants
Mike Albo

‘Jarry  is a print magazine that explores where food and gay culture intersect. More than just a magazine, Jarry brings together a community of gay chefs, eaters, artisans, writers, photographers, artists, and industry influencers, and celebrates the art of gay domesticity’

Colin S got me on to this journal which had first ish in Sept 2015 naturally I had to subscribe ‘for the stories’ I can only wonder why it took so long J

Cacao Biology. Chocolate Culture and Superfood
‘Only the merchants’ fear of losing  cacao was greater than their fear of the potentially dangerous newcomers, triggering a panicked recovery of what the strangers so thoughtlessly fumbled. It was the first lesson in what cacao was worth.’

Kathryn Sampeck in her arcticle in Revista, the Harvard Review of Latin America, Fall 2016 focussing on ‘the biology of culture’.

Courtesy of John N.

Is Colonialism the Worst Restaurant trend of 2016

As the Guardian reports, a recently opened restaurant in Brisbane, Australia has sparked outrage with its bizarre marketing push. Called British Colonial Co., its website originally explained the concept as “inspired by the stylish days of the empirical push into the developing cultures of the world, with the promise of adventure and modern refinement in a safari style setting.’

There is a branch in Darlinghurst which I have to confess I have been interested to sample – both for the food and the context. I also am not sure three restaurants makes for a trend. However, Helen or anyone else who wants to have a colonial adventure...please email me surreptitiously.

Review: Bugs on the Menu at the Environmental Film Festival

‘Bugs are on the menu in Canadian filmmaker Ian Toews’ documentary screening at the Environmental Film Festival Australia this month. The film promotes that the view that bugs can provide a more sustainable way of food (particularly protein) production for an expanding human population.’

You know me well enough by now to know that I take this kind of statement with several handfuls of salt. Hey, I want to eat bugs along with the rest of em and am looking forward to Cambodia in February with just that in mind. But simplistic solutions like this I reckon will the sound of millions of cricket in their urban farms in the streets of Petersham.

Australian food history timeline

Ta to Jacqui Newling for alerting me to Jan O’Connell’s time line. A great place to fossick in. I am a tad disappointed that Jan hasn’t used Aussie cookbooks as source material tho – or at least hasn’t listed them.