Sunday, July 28, 2013

This week's compost

T1. The good earth: Boneo Leptic Tenosol and parsnips

“Not everyone likes parsnips. Some people may be sensitive to the high concentrations of psoralens. These chemicals are toxic, photoactive, mutagenic and photocarcinogenic, so perhaps it’s no wonder some people are put off.”

Sensitivity and hence avoidance I can understand, but not liking them? What’s not to like from their creamy rumpledness to that subtle sweetness, one of winter’s highlights for me.

22. City cafe in development

“During the two centuries (1650-1850) the coffee houses of London served Englishmen as a composite office, club and post box. Unlike the cafés of Continental Europe, the English coffeehouse served business as well as social purposes. Within these establishments conversations and debate would be conducted promoting: scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual interchange; and opposing: superstition and intolerance. The coffee houses had a major impact on the culture and politics of the Western world, and played a significant role in the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Fast forward to the 21st Century … and the need for renewed enlightenment and the propagation of good ideas has never been greater. There is an opportunity for City Café by General Thinking (powered by the people and energy of TEDxSydney) to play a leading role in this reinvigoration of civic life within cities.”

I love the idea of a modern take on the coffee house.

3. Aussie burger buyers abandoning McDonalds 

" “Australia is another one of those markets that at this point in time we see from their perspective you're seeing some softer – clearly a softer economy," Mr Thompson said during a presentation for McDonald's second-quarter earnings.

"Youth unemployment in Australia is about 25.5 per cent. So they're facing something; unemployment for 
them has risen."

According to recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics there were 116,500 unemployed 15- to 19-year-olds, equating to 14.5 per cent of those in the labour force. The ABS reported the youth unemployment rate in May was 11.6 per cent.”

I blame Master Chef, myself. Why not, it’s as likely as a bullshit figure on youth unemployment.

4. Would you like real food with that? Or why your bread tastes funny.
“Had Coles used any other words in their promotion other than the ones they have I think they would have escaped any ACCC attention. It goes to show just how important the JND is to food brands at the moment in turning your bread into more bread, or money.”

5. Secret strategy to keep Tim Tams tip top.

"The iconic Australian Tim Tam will undergo a revamp including new flavours and packaging to fight off increasing competition from rival chocky biscuits that have taken some of the gloss off the much-loved biscuit and threatened its slice of the consumer dollar.

It is believed a new Tim Tam flavour will involve the term "chocolicious", but like the highly secretive Willy Wonka, Tim Tam's American owners are keeping mum about their plans for the Aussie classic however Fairfax Media has learned that two new flavours to be launched will be Chocolate Brownie and Luscious Strawberry."

Worst. Idea. Ever!!!!

6. After the fish are gone.

Beautifully filmed and photographed with a quietly evocative narration that asks what of the fisher after the fish are gone and suggests disturbing answers.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

This week's compost

      1. Turkish protesters break Ramadan fast of Gezi Park

“Riot police watched as Istanbul protesters broke their fast together in a massive banquet that stretched far along Istiklal Avenue in a splendid show of unity, Reuters reports. Though the police used teargas and water cannons to clear them out of Gezi Park a mere two nights ago, on Tuesday they allowed the protesters to break their fast together before resuming efforts to force them to leave.”

What can I say? A stunning example of how food can be used to make a strong political statement. I am thinking through and hence looking for examples of where food is used in particular for peace activism and if anyone of you has examples I would love to hear about them.  I am looking forward to the Peace Meal Wollemi Common is hosting this weekend at which I will be cooking from The Gaza Kitchen cookbook and where will be talking about peace activism in the Middle East. I’ll report on the event next week.

2. The good earth: Buderim Red Ferrosol and ginger 

“Rhizome shape, size, degree of branching and extent of rooting are directly affected by soil type and soil acidity. Whilst ginger is very susceptible to waterlogging, periods of low water availability decrease yield and size of rhizomes and makes them more fibrous. So, to get fully flavoured, nicely shaped and big rhizomes you need beaut soil.As for potatoes grown on the Thorpdale Red Ferrosol, the Buderim Red Ferrosol provides an ideal framework for growing ginger.”

Now it can be told...Ginger Meggs was a Buderim Red Ferrosol geophagist.

3  3. Organic water claims misleading says watchdog

"In the context of food and drink, the word "organic" refers to agricultural products that have been farmed according to certain practices and standards. 

Because water is not an agricultural product it can not benefit from such practices and so it was inappropriate to label it "organic", the ACCC said."

Now, about selling bottled water per se...

44. Fried chicken and waffle sandwich

And why not say I. It’s about as crazy and idea as some molecular chefs get up to and you can make this one at home without expensive technically challenging equipment, though I have had some unfortunate run-ins with jaffle irons over the years.

55. 22 children die after eating free school lunch

“Mr Sahi said a preliminary investigation suggested the food contained an organophosphate used as an insecticide on rice and wheat crops. It's believed the grain was not washed before it was served at the school, he said.”

A tragedy waiting to happen. India has the biggest free school lunch program in the world but the news-reporter says that it is riddled with poor hygiene and corruption.

66. Warning: chefs behaving properly.

“The gist of the book is that, other than improved working hours, little has changed since the Kitchen Confidential days. Bad-boy chefs: tick. Bullying: tick. Sex in cupboards: tick. Drink and drugs: tick and tick. Our narrator awakes, still dressed after passing out the night before, with a strange blonde in his bed. The coke-head chef of his one-Michelin-starred restaurant is grotesque in every way, from his appalling personal hygiene to his penchant for brief, hassle-free extramarital flings with drunken women. A young commis chef arrives at work off his face. In the telling, Edwards-Jones reveals such unsavoury kitchen practices such as "lick and stick", where chefs use saliva to adhere delicate ingredients to the plate.”

Ho-hum, another book about bad chef behaviour from Imogen Edwards-Jones, called Restaurant Babylon. Babble on, I would have thought more like.

77. Affordable fresh food for every Australian child – regardless of postcode

"Now I am an academic and not a politician – and for the purposes of this article, my political bias is not totally relevant. But I want to make a call – draw a line in the sand and urge both sides of politics to consider adopting a new and bold promise for this coming election.

That by the end of the coming term, every child in our country will have equal access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

That no matter where that child lives – the centre of Sydney or the red centre – fresh produce will cost the same.

And this cost will be affordable."

I applaud the sentiment, but it's a little like the old no-child-will-live-in-poverty mantra of Bob Hawke. It takes more than a political promise to combat entrenched economic practices that lead to these situations.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

This week's compost

1. Global threat to food supply as water wells dry up, warns top environment expert

“In a major new essay Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, claims that 18 countries, together containing half the world's people, are now overpumping their underground water tables to the point – known as "peak water" – where they are not replenishing and where harvests are getting smaller each year.”

Water futures trading can’t be far off. I was talking with a woman who has been doing work in Alice Springs over the last few months where the aquifer is estimated to have about 400 years of water left at the current rate of usage. They are developing a water usage reduction program targeting the top 1000 households identified in a massive survey of use. The greatest waste was from leaks that were undetectable by the householder except where the cistern just kept dribbling, and watering of lawns.  But of course big users of water are the Council and government Departments in town and it is to these that they are next turning. While there is water enough, the quality is getting poorer, more saline. Interestingly they have no water restrictions at all at present. Apparently people from States where they have/have had water restrictions have been taken aback by this. There as a community wide consultation to discuss mandatory restrictions but voluntary restrictions was all that was agreed to with a waterwise type programme being rolled out.

Courtesy of Helen Greenwood is this offering about coffee houses from an eastern perspective. The parallels between them and English coffee houses are striking, both in what they provided as social meeting spaces for men and also in government attempts to close them.

3. Margarine v butter: are synthetic spreads toast?

“And yet, and yet. I'm looking at a tub of Pure Dairy-Free Soya Spread. It contains 14g saturated fat per 100g, compared to butter's 54%. For many consumers, such stats still outweigh taste when it comes to deciding what's on their toast. And what about vegans, and those with lactose intolerance? Margarine can fulfill needs that butter can't. It will never win any taste awards, but there is still a place for margarine on the supermarket shelves – even if there isn't one for it in most food lovers' fridges.”

It must have been in my last year in Sri Lanka – 1961 – when some relatives of mine came back from the US on a visit and brought with them an enormous amount of margarine. It caused a sensation because it wouldn’t go off in the heat, and I recall being highly excited when we were due for a visit there because I knew I could  get a thick slice of puffy white bread spread with this extraordinary yellow oily tasty stuff. In Australia we began with butter but switched to margarine like many other households did in the sixties and that continued into my adolescence and early twenties living in communal houses. Now the home fridge has butter (the delicious Pepe Saya’s – the butter, not Pepe), Nuttlex for my vegan niece, sometimes that olive oil spread, and good old imported Sri Lankan ghee without which some dishes just don’t taste right, like smore, the slow pot roast which has to be seared in ghee once done before serving.

4. Beer brewers tap growing economic clout to fight for clean water

“Whether brewers are creating ales, pilsners, porters, wits or stouts, one ingredient must go into every batch: clean water,” says Karen Hobbs, a senior policy analyst at NRDC. “Craft brewers need clean water to make great beer.”

It’s almost counter intuitive (hey, that was a totally unconscious pun): beer makers standing up for water, but what a great venture. Anyone know if local craft brewers are doing anything similar?

CONTACT: NRDC Brewers for Clean Water,

5. McDonald’s goes belly up in Bolivia

“After 14 years of presence in the country, and despite all the existing campaigns and having a network, the chain was forced to close the eight restaurants that remained open in the three main cities: La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

It is a question of the first Latin-American country that will remain without any McDonald’s, and the first country in the world where the company has to close because it persists in having their numbers in the red for over a decade.”

No me gusto Big Mac!

6. Hey mom and dad what’s in that burger?’

According to Oliver, the fatty parts of beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger. Before this process, according to the presenter, the food is deemed unfit for human consumption.

According to the chef and presenter, Jamie Oliver, who has undertaken a war against the fast food industry: “Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest way for dogs, and after this process, is being given to human beings.”

Besides the low quality of the meat, the ammonium hydroxide is harmful to health. Oliver calls it “the pink slime process”.’

This story makes a good pair with the one above, and much as I have been known to rail against the man he does good stuff.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

This week's compost: A collection of bits and pieces of reading

1. The good earth – King Island cheese and Currie Yellow Kurosol

“This Yellow Kurosol has allowed pastoralists to develop dairy farms and take advantage of the year-round rainfall and cool conditions to make premium cheeses. There are of course losers in all this. Forest was cleared to make way for cows, and the loss of habitat has been profound, particularly of large, old, hollowed trees. With increased pasture, the population of Bennett’s Wallaby on King Island has boomed – in 2008, over 500,000 animals foraged on just 66,413 hectares of pasture. Farmers want that pasture for their cows, so the wallabies have been “controlled”. Alas, even the tender craft of making cheese is poisoned with brutality.” 

I am totally enraptured by this series of articles in The Conversation on Australian soils. I don’t understand half the science, of course but I love how the articles link the soil type to a particular food...and I’m dying to get the opportunity to talk terroir and drop these wonderful soil names as I pass the cheese or the lentils and such at future meals.

2. The smell of vegemite explained

“By far the strangest chemical that showed up was cis-9-hexadecenoic acid, which has in the description "old-person smell".

Can’t wait to snarl at my aged care nurse – “That’s not me. It’s the vegemite!”

3. Eat me, drink me. Fuelling riders in the Tour de France

“Although sports drinks are one practical way of delivering fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates (simple sugars such as glucose and fructose, and complex carbohydrates such as maltodextrin), a rider could do similar with water, jam sandwiches and a banana”

Parents of Australia please note and pack those Saturday sports half time hampers sensibly.

4. Museum of Food and Drink

Forwarded to me by Jean Duruz. Still in its very very early stages but one to keep an eye on. The hyperlink is in the text tho it’s not showing J

The Museum of Food and Drink, a first-of-its-kind project based in NYC, is proud to present our first exhibit: BOOM! The Puffing Gun and the Rise of Breakfast Cereal

Our vision is to create a brick-and-mortar museum that will revolutionize the way people think about--and experience--food.  But until MOFAD has a permanent home, the museum will consist of a series of mobile pop-up exhibits.  The first, rolling out this August, centers on the puffing gun, a 3,200 pound machine that puffs wheat and rice with an explosive boom.  Our exhibition will scan the history of breakfast cereal in America, track the evolution of food advertising, and dig into some nerdy food science facts about popping.

"For example, the number of Nobel laureates in a country is correlated with chocolate consumption in that country, but that could simply be due to richer countries being able to support education and consumption of luxury items. The fact that there is a stronger association between the number of Nobel laureates and the number of IKEA stores in a country suggests the wealth explanation is more likely than some brain enhancing property of chocolate."

A fascinating little detail from a lovely article that looks at the difficulty for you average punter of understanding the science in journalistic reporting well enough to know how to decide between competing reportage of pro and con when trying to make lifestyle changes.

“The customary argument advanced by existing businesses is that street vendors and food trucks offer “unfair competition”. It’s variously alleged they ignore safe food regulations, underpay their staff, and don’t pay rates. That’s typical “rent seeker” propaganda. “

And links to two other stories mentioned in this article: