Friday, April 29, 2016


Edible Utensils

Veggie is the most low-carbon diet, right? Well, it depends where you live
 So what does this all mean? Well, 90% of our energy intake comes directly from the soil, so agricultural practices obviously have a big effect on soil health. If you care about conserving soils as well as minimising your greenhouse emissions, it’s not as simple as just going vegetarian. Grazing animals can be good for soils, even though their methane emissions are bad for the atmosphere. Working out where the balance sits is a fiendishly tricky question. This is because agricultural emissions are related to individual site factors (such as climate or soil type) as well as agricultural practices (such as fertiliser regime or grazing intensity).’
Just shoot me, really.

Museums Lure a New Generation of Patrons Through Their Stomach
 ‘It shouldn’t be surprising. A whole generation has come of age whilst suckling the philosophies of Anthony Bourdain and Michael Pollan. This isn't just a flock of sheep grazing on the closest taco truck; these are consumers so involved in food and culture that they’re founding new food museums of their own. The challenge is to translate the history of food into experiences that both work within and push the boundaries of a museum.’

Jacqui Newling, your work with Sydney Living Museums is ‘on trend’ J

Your Grandmother’s Cooking

‘A new website called Grandmas Project is seeking to preserve – like so much jam – the unique recipes from grandmothers around the world. The aim is produce a series of documentary films that focus on 30 grandmothers, explaining how to cook 30 of their best, time-tested recipes. If you have a grandmother, and she has recipes, you’re encouraged to contribute.’
Darn, I haven’t any grand kids old enough – well, I haven’t any at all, really – who could kick up a fuss about this assuming that only grandma’s cooked.

War crime? Israel destroys Gaza crops with aerial herbicide spraying

‘Gaza farmers have lost 187 hectares of crops to aerial spraying of herbicides by Israel hundreds of meters within the territory's borders. The action, carried out in the name of 'security', further undermines Gaza's ability to feed itself and may permanently deprive farmers of their livelihoods. It may also represent a war crime under the 1977 Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.’

The kind of food war you don’t read about.

Hadley Freeman: If the cavemen did it or ate it it’s got to be good for you, right?
‘People have been sentimental about earlier eras for as long as there have been earlier eras to sentimentalise. But this particular sentimentality has little to do with a desire to improve the modern era, let alone to genuinely relive the past. Not even someone daft enough to discuss “bone broth” wants to return to Palaeolithic times. Instead, it’s a bizarre backlash against feminism, replete with men lugging rocks around and women reduced to salad eaters and babyfeeders. Who knew the modern era would look so retrograde?’

A fresh take on the Paleodiet, to me at least, and a cogent one.

 Kitchen science: gastrophysics brings the universe into your kitchen
‘Have you ever dropped a just-opened plastic bottle of milk or fruit juice on the kitchen bench and had the contents jumped up and hit you in the face? I have. And when it happened, I suddenly realised there was a connection with the physics of a type II supernova explosions.’

Love the ideas in this article. Pity the ebook from the author is only available via Apple. There goes a substantial part of the potential audience, like me. Barbara he could be a good one for Food and Word this year though.

Nestle’s Half-Billion Dollar Noodles Debacle in India
 It was the middle of the night when the jangle of his cellphone woke Sanjay Khajuria from a deep sleep. In the few seconds it took him to get his bearings—to remember he was in a Manhattan hotel room and not at home in his bed in Delhi—the Nestlé executive had an unsettling thought: Could this be about Maggi?

A fascinating article about the minefields in industrial neo-colonialism.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Took a ride on the train from Kandy to Nuwera Eliya for the first time in 50 plus years on my march Sri Lanka food tour. There is no buffet car on the train so we all got lunch boxes from our previous night's hotel. Shouldn't have bothered as a couple of stations up from Kandy this guy, selling prawn vada (lentil cakes with a prawn pressed in and then deep fried) accompanied by onions and fried whole dried red chilies, and a couple of others hopped on the train with street food that was streets ahead of the limp sandwiches in the box.
21 Pictures that Prove Hipsters Should be Banned from Food Forever
How could I resist posting this J I understand the shovel is already in use at a certain cafe in Alexandria.
His Paula Deen takedown when viral but this food scholar has more on his mind.
‘Twitty’s embrace of all the various parts of himself — African, African American, European, black, white, gay, Jewish — sometimes raises hackles, as does his habit of speaking his mind. An article he wrote in the ‘Guardian on July 4, 2015, suggesting that American barbecue “is as African as it is Native American and European, though enslaved Africans have largely been erased” from its story, elicited scorn and worse: Many commenters were outraged by his idea of barbecue as cultural appropriation. Even scholars who appreciate Twitty’s insistence that the African and African Americans who helped create Southern cooking be recognized say he sometimes overstates his case. “What gives scholars pause is his tendency to make bold statements when more nuance is needed when writing about a time period — pre-colonial Africa — that is not well documented,” says Adrian Miller, James Beard Award-winning­ author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine.”
To which my response is that sometimes it takes bold statements to generate questioning that leads to scholarship which may lead to documentation that answers the question.
Thanks to Jacqui Newling for the lead to this article on the fascinating Michael Twitty.

The vast bay leaf conspiracy

‘Maybe you’ve had this experience: You throw a bay leaf into a broth, and it doesn’t do anything. Then you throw the rest of the bay leaves you bought into the broth, too, because you only bought them for this, and you’ll be damned if you don’t taste a bay leaf, and they don’t do anything, either. What could be the cause of this? I’ll tell you. Bay leaves are bullshit.’

It goes on a bit but it’s a fun article. I have a good mate who would agree with the sentiment.

The Rise of Egotarian Cuisine

‘This style of dining is currently nameless. What makes the food different is that every chef is seeking to express himself in an incomparable and triumphant manner. I call it Egotarian Cuisine.
The food is ingenious. It's occasionally brilliant. Too often, it's awful.’

Love the 9 signs – especial 5. The herb in your soup is found only in botany textbooks and 9. The chef explains that his cooking has "a story to tell," and it's a romantic novel of self-love.

Ta John Newton for the lead.

What it’s like to cook for the Pope

There were certain restrictions, which were obvious because of his age: nothing spicy, no irritants, nothing too greasy,” Ibarra explained. “All the fruits had to be seedless to avoid digestive problems.

Go on! You KNOW you want to know.

21st Symposium of Australian Gastronomy

This looks seriously good with some fab OS guests. Registrations not open yet. The webpage for the Symposium and the corresonding Facebook page are a welcome advance. Signing up to the FB will keep you informed.

Just a pity I already delivered a paper on Utopias & Dystopias: Upesia & Dyspepsia at a Symposium in  2004 – available for anyone interested via moi.

Food Politics

The call for papers is now open for the Food Politics: From the Margins to the Mainstream conference, which will be held at the University of Tasmania from Thursday 30 June – Friday 1 July 2016.

No info yet on how to register but you can follow the site via its blog.

Oxford Symposium calling for donations

The Friends of the Oxford Symposium have put out a call for donations to support work of the Symposium that is ‘important to the Symposium that are not funded by registration fees’ such as Student Research Grants, prizes for Best Student Paper Presentations, the Best Presentation award for a non-student first-time presenter, Young Chef grants, and ongoing support for the website and the Proceedings Digitisation Project.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Welcome all to 2016. Big ish this time as I have been slack.
The pic for this issue is of a Sri Lankan egg hopper. The name is a corruption of appam, Hindi for the same thing, usually a toddy-fermented batter of rice made into a bowl shaped pancake and eaten with a variety of things from sweetened milk or coconut milk as a breakfast dish in Tamil Nadu to Syrian Christians in Kerala eating it with a meat stew. In Sri Lanka it’s a breakfast dish often eaten with fish curry and a seeni (sugar and fried onion) sambol. But my interest is in the particularly Sri Lankan variation, the egg hopper (at least I can’t find this variation described for Southern India). To make this, once you have swirled the batter around the bowl shaped hopper pan and set that back on the fire, you crack an egg into the centre and cover the whole as you do when making plain hoppers, so the egg and the batter cook together. Tastes vary as to how firm the egg should be. You then can use a plain hopper to dip into a softer eff a la toast soldiers, or pull the firmer egg hopper apart, or top it with sambol, or fish curry or whatever really.
Reading Another Anglo-Indian Cuisine: Te Cousins of Curry, Featuring ‘A Few Nice Pies’  by Blake Perkins in PPC 104 (an article with I have some issues) set me wondering about the origin of this practice. I am trying to think of any other dish that resembles it i.e. one where an egg is cracked directly on to some other substance, not just batter, and cooked with it in this manner. Does anyone have any suggestions?
Project Boomerang
It’s kicked off well with a robust discussion about this year’s MLA ad for Australia Day which, for those who haven’t caught it, is an action epic featuring Australian SAS type men rescuing Australian’s overseas and bringing them back to share lamb chops on the barbie.
If you’ve not seen the critiques, here are a few links:
In a discussion thread amongst a few of us made the following observations:
Alison -  Speaks to the broader issue of trying to invent tradition.
Colin - I would argue that as an advertisement it works - how many times did they have to pay for TV screenings before it went viral on the net. How many people have viewed the ad and how much is it now costing to be 'aired'.
John - And without getting into all the political and racial arguments, that's the only thing the MLA cares about.
Juan Carlo - Exactly. From that perspective, the ad works and fits well into their strategy of controversial Australia Day ads.
Paul - Agreed, Colin, in terms of its virality, but will it get anyone to put lamb on the bbq if they weren't before or indeed buy any more lamb than they did before at any other time in the year? Love to see what the sales figures show.
And of course, being a dyed in the wool Catholic I look forward to a great campaign around Easter and the munching into the Paschal Lamb :)
John - My contacts in MLA tell me that it works its bum off. Lamb sales leap over the fence.
Our discussion took us to curious places as it usually does.
From Colin:
While we are in the ad watching mood
And from Juan Carlo:
On the subject of charcoal and ads, this insight from Ben Grubb:
So what was the response of others of you?
First taste of chocolate
Ta Maria and Ross for the link to this quite delightful and in its quiet way agitprop vid.
Cabbage Cores for Sale at Baldor Specialty Foods in New York
And thanks for Helen for this story to add to my collection on reducing food waste. I hope these ventures are not just fads but become a permanent part of the industrial scale food chain.
‘Baldor’s processing facility Fresh Cuts works with 40–50 types of fruits and vegetables daily. Its workers chop, dice, and peel to create 1,400 different products, such as carrot sticks and shredded Brussels sprouts. At the end of the day, the business is left with copious amounts of organic matter, such as brussel sprout bits, mango peels, and the outermost ring of the onions, which can be tough to eat.
Until very recently, all Baldor’s food waste moved from conveyer belts into large pipes that line the walls and cavernous ceilings of its production facility. All pipes led to a dumpster out back, and all that food waste got trucked at Baldor’s expense to the landfill, where, in the process of decomposing, it would create the dangerous greenhouse gas methane.’
How the Perennial’s Sustainable Mode Will Break the Restaurant Mold.
And thanks again to Helen for this link.
‘For the ingredients that need a little more room to roam than the West Oakland compound allows, Myint, Leibowitz and Kiyuna have identified local farms that not only raise their livestock in a clean and humane way, but are also on the cutting edge of carbon farming practices that leave the land in better shape than they found it.’
Fruit and Vegies. Why Do They Cost So Much and Who Gets What
No prizes for guessing the answer.
‘John Dollisson, chief executive of Apple and Pear Australia, said the average farm-gate price for all apple varieties last year was $2.57/kg while the retail price was $4.20/kg. In terms of profitability, 2015 was one of the worst years on record, with some growers – like some of the valencia growers – unable to cover production costs, he said.
"We want to work with retailers much more closely to develop strategies that ensure a fair share of profits to both growers and retailers and, importantly, a fair price for consumers," he said.
Farmer’s Market versus Supermarket
‘If time, budget – and let’s be honest, weather – allow, the outdoor environment and personal interaction at the farmers market makes shopping more fun than a chore (although you do have to lug what you buy). Local, seasonal, fresh and unprocessed is always best, but at least here in Portland, it’s nice to know that the supermarket is not anathema to eating healthfully and well.’
Colin forwarded this to me.  The take home message for me, as I pretty much knew, is that I make choices about buying at the Farmer’s Market for reasons not always to do with the quality of the produce, but for values I can enact in purchasing there. Mind you, I will still never find the variety of vegies in the supermarket up the road to what i find on Hapi’s stall at Addison Road, and certainly will not find the bits and bobs that would otherwise be tossed away or ignored but which Hapi pops into a tray to tempt me with.
The lucky country? Social space and community gardens in Australia
‘Recent research in Australian cities is telling a different story. Unlike the experiences in Boston and Detroit, forms of alternative food systems (e.g., community gardens) are, for the most part, working within existing neoliberal structures, as opposed to a Lefevbrian appropriation of space... This is particularly the case where local councils have yet to recognise the social use value of space, nor consider it on par with economic use value when making land use decisions. Respondents emphasized that the main barrier to community garden groups in starting up or maintaining established activities was working with local councils. Although some city officials are sympathetic and supportive of neighbourhood efforts to start community gardens on public lands, these are considered as community initiatives and are assessed by officials on a case-by-case basis. In Sydney, such assessments use criteria developed, largely, by planning departments at inner city and suburban local councils.’
Hmm...I will have to toss Lefevbre into my next encounter with Marrickville Council. When Marilyn and I suggested to Council some years back now that we would rather have a garden, if not a vegie garden, on our nature strip instead of buffalo grass to replace the concrete they were finally digging up they had no guidelines for what we wanted to do but did ont oppose it as long as we kept the footpath and roadway clear. I guess that counts as ‘working within existing neoliberal structures’ though the Council wouldn’t see it that way. Apparently they now have developed a set of guidelines now for others wanting to do what we did, which is nice to know. Oh, and there is parsley and lemon verbena wilding the garden strip these days too J
The problems with food media that no-one wants to talk about
‘Too often an immigrant cuisine is anointed “the next big thing” only after a certain kind of chef comes to the fore who can check the right media-favored boxes: the white guy who spent a year in Laos and already inked a book deal; the hipster with a five-panel Supreme hat whose trio of kimchi is considered “edgy”; the flashy international superstar with a fine-dining pedigree. Even as our tastes broaden, the way we want those stories packaged—along with whom we deem worthy to play the lead role—is still very selective.’
I admit I haven’t read a Delicious, or Gourmet in years, and to say I skim through Good Food is to suggest I spend more time on it than I do, and I barely subsribe to any online food media. But then, I don’t expect to get much but fluff from them and I don’t know that we should any more if we ever did. Frankly I get more interesting foodway writing from New Scientist, the Guardian daily and at times The Conversation.
Ta to Colin for this link
Ten Bush Foods e book by Kado Muir
Ta to Colin again for the link to this nice little book J

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Suddenly there are three upmarketed pub within ten minutes walk of me. Well, the pubs have been there all the time I have been here but in the past year each has gone through major makeovers to attract the increasingly younger, childed families now in the area, and young craft beer heads.

They have also all upped the ante on pub food but without going the whole gastropub route. The pic above if from West Village which used to be the White Cockatoo. It's called a Stockman's Board, and yes, it's a remodelled ploughman's lunch.

As Adelaide swelters, South Australian man cooks a steak in his Holden Monaro
Couldn’t resist kicking of this holiday Compost with this. John Newtown, does this finally meet your criteria for an Australian food invention J

The secret ingredient in Geoff Beattie’s rich dark fruit cake
‘Geoff looks up once more to that face in the portrait on his wall. “I believe she sees it,” he says. “I believe she sees everything we do in this house. She sees us here. She sees everything I make. She sees everything I do.” And his secret is here. For 24 years he’s been cooking for her. It’s always been her. And she deserves nothing less than perfection.’
Ta to John Newtown

Cry me a cocktail: the unpalatable rise of body food
‘Experimental food artistes Bompas and Parr are offering a workshop teaching London punters to concoct bitters containing real human tears. Music and candles will be provided to make participants sad or wistful – whatever it takes – and then the resulting tears will be blended with neutral alcohol and various herbs to create the perfect Christmas gift for an acquaintance you wish to frighten. ‘

Makes me wish Gay you had made those sausages out of her own blood.

Winemakers turn to wild fermentation
If wild ferments give so much better results, you might wonder why winemakers ever moved away from them. There are reasons. Pure yeast cultures were developed to make winemaking easier, with more predictable and consistent results. This was and still is the best way to mass-produce large volumes of inexpensive wines. Pure yeast cultures (just one strain of yeast conducts the entire fermentation) provide greater reliability than wild ferments (in which there could be hundreds of strains). Wild ferments can produce strange, even bizarre, aromas and flavours. It seems to make sense, though, that single-yeast ferments produce simpler wines.’

A mate of mine is brewing his own beer and making sourdoughs down in Vic and I wondered again about indigenous yeasts in Australia that must surely have got into early alcohol and bread making in Oz. I went on line and found this article. Does anyone out there know of any research that has been done on indigenous yeasts?

Remote Indigenous Gardens Network
‘RIG Network is a national, cross-sectoral networking, research and outreach initiative. We link people, projects and resources to support better practice and undertake projects to help build better local food production initiatives that can deliver social, health and economic benefits to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.’

Don’t know if any of you follow this mob but it’s a great project.

‘Since 2005 Alimentum has been delighting readers with stories, essays, and poems that use food as a kind of must to inspire memory, ideas, humour, joy, melancholy and reflectoion.’

Barbara Santich put me on to this site. It’s a mixed bag with some quirky pages like the Jukebox (songs about food) and Recipe Poems. Nice to dip into.

Friday, December 4, 2015


Mazi Mas
John Newton and I had a terrific meal at the 5th Mazi Mas Sydneydinner. It's a team of four women who work with partner organisations to support women refugees and asylum seekers get experience and training in hospitality.

Our meal was a combo of Persian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan and was absolutely delicious with highlights for me being Ghormeh Sabzim a Persian stew of lamb and fenugreek leaves, Gow Maluwa, a Sri Lankan dish of cabbage sautéed in unroasted spices (mainly coriander) and fresh green chillies, and handmade squishy and crunchy gaz i.e. Persian nougat. Mind you, the Kachay Qeemay Kay Kabab's were also right up there with these, as was the Persian saffron ice cream which accompanied the nougat (both pictured above), and the Chicken Karahi and the Kashke Bademjan (roasted eggplant with walnut and whey).

It was great to chat with the women as they brought our courses to the table about the food, their experience in Mazi Mas and what their plans are - not all of which involved taking up commercial cooking as a career.

Check out their website

We plan on going again J

Food, Interrupted
The problem with food is we care too much. Take the example of Diane, a 48-year-old office manager who took part in a study of eating habits in 2010. She believed food was entirely about pleasure and imagination, a matter of “what I like and what I fancy,” she told an interviewer. She obsessed over the variables that might interfere with her enjoyment—as a gourmet might critique the texture of a sous vide chicken breast or frown at the seasoning of a broth. The temperature of her food was particularly important. Diane invited the researchers to a café nearby so they could see her navigate the menu, or rather navigate its dearth of appetizing options. When dinner was served, she ate rapidly but didn’t finish. She would only eat a cooked meal, she explained, when it was still piping hot. So Diane was a picky eater.’

I’m going to make a big call here and say that to call Diane ‘a picky eater’ and to suggest, as the content of this review does, that it was all to do with her food upbringing, is to leave serious questions of Diane’s mental health unexplored. I look forward to reading Bee Wilson’s new book ‘First Bite’ having enjoyed ‘Consider the Fork’, but I hope it is more substantial than this review suggests.

Gut Thinking
On the other hand, Diane may also be suffering from a particularly barren gut microbiome that is leading her to choose only foods her gut microbes want to eat.

‘But we now know the gut itself, and also the microbes inside it, manipulate what we crave, painting a much more complex picture of the forces that determine the way we see food.’

An excellent article that continues my fascination as life in and on Planet Paul. Chloe Lambert writing in New Scientist 21 November 2015.

I have a pdf copy of the article if you are interested.

In search of Ibn Battuta’s melon
From John Newton:
‘Paul – Aramco world is an online magazine published by the no doubt wicked Saudi Arabian crude oil company. Nevertheless the magazine is magnificent and this issue contains a wonderful story called Ibn Battuta's Melon. Not sure if it's possible to separate the story from the rest of the mag, but scroll down to it.’

Indeed a quite wonderful article on the search for said melon in places with too few vowels in their names. I so want to try qovun qoqi, dry rolled melon studded with black raisins. And all praise to the melon vendor woken at 3am to produce the most likely, I’d have had some harsh words for the local who thought it important enough to wake me from a hard earned sleep to satisfy some crazed foodie’s craving for a melon, no matter how famous it was.

Chinese food and the joy of inauthentic cooking
‘While many of his professional peers may hope to “transport” their diners to some obscure corner of Asia, Talde writes, his food, inspired by taquerias, gyro shops, diners, burger spots, and Chinese takeout, “is meant to remind you that you’re home, in that strange and awesome country where we live.”

Thanks to Alison Vincent for directing me to this smile making poke in the eye of authenticity which as we know is a flawed and ultimately useless concept...we do, don’t we?  One of my fave lines in Shakespeare is from King Lear when Edmund declares ‘Now Gods, stand up for bastards’. I am happy to stand up  for bastard foods even when they go horribly wrong for out of them have come such treats in Sri Lankan cuisine as my dad’s lamb should smore and my mum’s Milo wattalappam J

A woman is making bread with yeast from her vagina and live blogging it
‘For most women, a bout of thrush usually results in a couple of days of insatiable itchiness and a trip to the chemist.But one woman, feminist blogger Zoe Stavri, rose to the occasion (as any good baker does) and used her excess yeast to, ah, make a loaf of bread. You know what they say? When life gives you thrush, make sourdough.’

I’m pretty sure that’s not what my women friends would say. I haven’t followed this story further; I kinda feel weirdly prurient though my interest is in hearing how the bread turns out [Sure, they say, and you used to read Playboy for Gore Vidal’s essays on US politics]. If anyone out there has been following it, I would be pleased to hear an update. There was some discussion along the lines of ‘yeasts ain’t yeasts, Sol’. Can anyone throw light on that question?

The myth of ‘easy cooking’
‘Food editors are, for the record, acutely aware that their (mostly female) readers want sophisticated meals but feel that the complex recipes offered by chefs are incompatible with their harried lifestyles. So, they make efforts to simplify and streamline, without ever admitting the one thing that cooks really need to hear: that real “easy” cooking, if that’s what you’re after, is far too simple to sustain a magazine and cookbook industry. It relies on foods that can be purchased at a single point of sale and involves a bare minimum of ingredients and a small repertoire of techniques. It leans heavily on things your mom taught you. There are no garnishes of thyme leaves in simple weeknight dinners, and no appetizer salads. Homemade breakfast smoothies are many things, but they are not an “easy” alternative to one of those squeezable yogurt things that you can eat with no hands in the car.’

The argument isn’t new, but it’s wittily made. What interested me tho was that I read it at the same time as I read a critique of ‘smart’ homes  - those ones where fridges talk to you and so on – which argued quite cogently that homes are really being made ‘smarter’ for men as what domestic labour is left will still generally fall to women (in the heteronormative household, that is) -