Thursday, March 27, 2014

This weeks compost

1.      Average Australian eats fast food nearly every week

'While fast food maintains its grip on our girths and wallets, cafes proved the most popular destinations for dining out with 29.8 million visits to cafes each month. Australians pay a further 44 million visits to cafes each month to buy coffee or other drinks. Of the 51.5 million visits to fast food restaurants, just 21 million are for dining in, while the majority of visits are for take-away meals.'

Well, these figures are obviously not right. I make at least, oh, 35 million of those visits for coffee.

2.      Pizza flingers pale in comparison

This is one mutha of a roti. The skill in thinning it out alone is astonishing, but then the casualness with which he drapes it over what looks like half a concrete pipe, and then flips it without getting a single crease in it!!!!

3.      Gastrodiplomacy: Cooking Up A Tasty Lesson On War And Peace
‘It's often said that the closest interaction many Americans have with other countries' cultures is through food. That kind of culinary diplomacy is particularly common in Washington, D.C., where immigrants from all over the world have cooked up a diverse food scene. Now one scholar-in-residence at American University is using the city's food culture to teach her students about global affairs via a course on "gastrodiplomacy" — using food as a tool to foster cultural understanding among countries.’
So that’s what Lucrezia Borgia and Titus Andronicus were up to – gastrodiplomacy!
What comes under the term, though, seems to be...let’s say a tad elastic. Have a look at:




SO: anyone out there got examples of Aussie gastrodiplomacy they’d like to shar?

4.      Wackaging: do we want our food to talk back?
‘Some know the phenomenon as "wackaging", the Guardian's own Rebecca Nicholson launched a Tumblr dedicated to it a few years back, with a slogan proclaiming "I blame Innocent smoothies". And the company, born from a start-up by a group of Cambridge students in 1999, surely marked a watershed in groceries that give good chat.’
I honestly hadn’t noticed, probably because I don’t buy the kind of products that wackage. And anyway, why isn’t it called ‘yackaging’?

'The department store that brought us size 16 mannequins, banned airbrushing on swimwear and featured paralympians in its advertising has decided that one way of redressing the gender imbalance when it comes to body image is to make men identify with vegetables.'

I definitely identify with a bitter melon, particularly as I grow older.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sweet Surrender Part 2

I have had a few responses to Sweet Surrender, my earlier blog on the lollies I scoffed as a primary school kid. Ian McMillan's reminded me that I had forgotten mint leaves, or more formally spearmint leaves. These had the three pluses of a minty flavour, a jelly consistency and a crust of granulated sugar.

Loose lollies were not the only ones that found their way into my mouth. Choo-Choo Bars were one way licorice was okay with me as they were coated with chocolate. The image here is of new packaging that is a tad twee for me; memory is that the image was more naturalistic back then.

Another treat that has had a makeover were Redskins. Wikipedia tells me the original image of a Native American in full feathered headdress was replaced in the 1990s by 'a more neutral character', and now they seem to have dropped any character at all. In 1996, Wikipedia also tells me, the New Zealand Advertising Standards Complaints Board up held a complaint against and ad for these that featured a comedian dressed up as a Native American, and 'assuming an accent'.

I wish I had been able to take out a complaint against the Milky Bar kid whose annoying tag line 'The Milky Bars Are On Me!' post having outgunned some ornery galoot in a Wild West street was excruciating then and still sets my teeth on edge. The milky bar itself however, was splendid. It was probably the first white chocolate I ate and also perhaps the most healthy in that as the label says it was and still is made from all natural ingredients - never mind  that these are mostly milk and sugar, at least there is no artificial colouring or flavouring.

Almost as annoying was the ad for the other Wild West treat, the Wagon Wheel. They seemed huge at the time and were a textural thriller with their combination of crunchy crumbly biscuit, smooth slightly rubbery marshmallow and a coating of chocolate. If I recall, the ads looked like a really bad out-take from Rawhide.

There was nothing annoying or politically sensitive about the last of my wrapped treats, fruit tingles. The pleasure here was the acidic tang and the fizz;  sort of like solid sherbert, which in effect they were sharing the same reactive mix of acids and bases (carbonates).

Ian also mentioned 'some little red raspberry-flavoured hard jelly thing' which I suspect was a raspberry fruit gum, the 'hard' jujube I wrote about in the last blog, and aniseed balls. Can't recall ever trying the latter.

Sweet Surrender

 A Facebook friend posted a picture of primary school kids in Britain getting their milk drink at lunch time and it set me off recalling my days at Saint Augustine's in Singleton where I spent the end of fifth class and all of sixth class. We used to have our milk at play lunch, that 20 minute break around 10.30am.  - unimaginatively now often called recess - when you had just enough time to gulp down the milk, have a quick visit to the toilet, and maybe get in some gos of chasings.

Photo from the National Archive of Australia of Canberra: Making school children drink milk
The milk came in half pint bottles, with a thin layer of cream on top if it was plain milk or without it when it came as those pastel coloured flavoured concoctions that claimed to be chocolate and strawberry. Being milk monitor for the week was the best; you got out of class 10 minutes before the bell so you could go with the other monitor and carry in the crated milk onto the classroom steps, and you got first dibs on it which meant you got it fractionally less warm than others did during summer, got to check which bottle had the most cream, and you got to grab one of the flavoured milks if you wanted and so deprive someone else of the dubious pleasure.

Licorice Allsorts
Recalling the milk set me to recalling what else I ate at school during those years. I took sandwiches to school most days so my pocket money was pretty much spent on sweets. I can still vividly remember the array on the front counter of the tuck shop which was set up in the back half of the building that housed the lower primary classes (we fifth and sixth classers had our own newer two room block across the bare gravel and dirt of the playground). The patience of the tuck shop ladies (and they were all ladies, not women back then) was admirable as the fifteenth kid untied the knot in his snotty handkerchief to find the zac (five pence to you) he would then spend 10 minutes deciding to spend.

I wasn't fond of licorice sticks or twists, but I did go for the allsorts mainly because the icing paste cut what for me was a slightly medicinal flavour. I still find licorice a bit overwhelming when it's the sweetened glossy black stuff you find in most shops, but I am fine with drinking root beer which often has licorice added to it and eating fennel, dill, anise, and aniseed which are similar in flavour but not botanically related.

Musk Sticks

I perhaps was too fond of musk sticks. Pink musk sticks were the most popular, but I was quite taken with the pepperminty green ones too as I was of the bright yellow banana flavoured ones. It was this combination that I found in bananas - the lolly not the fruit. There is no musk oil in them but there is something musky about the bouquet. I was also attracted here to that meringue-y soft crunch they have though the only thing they share with meringues is sugar. Also in the musky bouquet category were milk bottles.  I see from the list of current ingredients that they no longer have milk in them  - if they ever did. The added pleasure here was their marshmallow-y jelly-ish texture. I

Milk bottles

Jujubes - soft
Indeed, anything with a jelly like mouthfeel was a hit. The varieties of jubes (aka jujubes) being a case in point.  At least half the pleasure with the soft sugar coated ones (purists would claim these to be the only true jubes) was having the sugar rub off and collect down the bottom of the paper bag which of course meant you just had to dispose of this residue via a spit-wet-finger-dip-and-suck.
Jelly beans

Jujube fruits - firm
The firmer resin-y fruit jellies were excellent for endless chewing and the sucking sound when you prised your jaws apart post them getting stuck together was wicked. Jelly beans were good because of the hard coat you crunched through to get to the  jelly inside and also because they stained your fingers rainbow colours.

Champion in the teeth sticking category however were cobbers; those hard lumps of caramel toffee coated in chocolate. The pleasure here was double. First sucking off the chocolate. Then chewing and chewing and gradually softening up the toffee as its sugars dissolved with your spit. Again there was that point at which they were sticky enough to lightly glue your teeth together. Actually the pleasure was triple; right at the end you had to use your fingernails or a sliver of stick, or in desperation the point of a compass, to gouge out the last bites of toffee from between your teeth. If you were lucky there would be a recalcitrant blob that would stick on top of a molar which you would have to suck at for the rest of the day trying to release it as you also tried - not very hard - to stop that sucking slushing sound as dislodgement failed.


And finally the freckle, that delicious disk of chocolate topped with hundreds and thousands. Inevitably these would begin to melt half way through play lunch and you would have to lick the chocolate and  microdots of flavour off the paper bag.

I was hoping to find a picture of sherbert, that fizzy, tingly powder that was the closest thing to fairy dust you could buy and still keep this side of legal. It used to come in a flat paper bag in a sort of house shape, a square mounted with a triangle. A plastic spoon was encased in the bag, it's top sticking out in the form of a ring that you could snap off and wear or give to whoever you had a crush on that play lunch.

Finally, and to bring my hyperglycemic blog to a close, I was excited last week to find a new kind of jelly treat that would have been a firm fave had it been around back then. They are called jelly fruits, of Chinese provenance and made of the most extraordinary ingredients: water, seaweed extract (carrageenan) locust bean gum, acidulants (citric acid, sodium nitrate, malic acid), food dyes, and the natural flavour of the various fruits. The texture is like what you get when you mash up jelly; quivery and squishy and runny all in one. You cut the end of the plastic 'stem' and suck and squeeze. They would have been great as jelly cannons, great squirts of it flying across the playground to splosh on someone's face or better yet their shirt. Paintball for kindies.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

This week's compost

1.      Waste Deep

I know you are all up on this issue and the ideas for doing your bit to cut down on food waste, but this vid reminds us of the simple practical things we can do and I think is a great conversation starter with kids and those curmudgeons who think it’s all too wanky and green. Sustainable Table itself is a neato org with a regular enewsletter that’s worth subscribing to.

2.      Cropfest

Another this week on using ‘waste’.

‘“With the help of our friends Studio Neon, we’re setting up a massive pop-up kitchen, so people can hold, peel, taste and cook this wanted waste of ours – all to the tunes of local musicians. You’ll get a plate of yummy food out of it, but we’re not just cooking food for ourselves. The amazing people at OzHarvest have also come on board to distribute some of the scrumptious fare to local charities and those in need.”

3.      Chili today hot tamale

That’s the title of my latest blog post that has a fascinating little insight into why capsaicin makes you feel hot and mentol makes you feel cool.

4.      Innovators of American Cuisine

Open Online Course on the Innovators of American Cuisine (
Enrollment is open and the course will start on March 24.
The course is FREE, thanks to a grant from the Julia Child Foundation, and is composed of four units, covering Julia Child, Judith Jones, Henri Soule', and James Beard. The course is built around the videos from The New School ongoing public event series Culinary Luminaries, which focuses on important figures in American and international cuisine (the next one, on Marcella Hazan, will take place on June 4).

Chili today hot tamale (really bad old joke)

Fascinated to read in the New Scientist of 1 March 2014 of the latest research on why chillies cause that burning sensation. Yes yes I now it's the capsaicin, but why is it?

Well, turns out that sensory perceptions depend on channels on the surface of nerve cells that when activated open their pores allowing a tiny electrical charge to flow in. The one that responds to capsaicin has the unsalubrious designation TRPV1. This channel also responds to painfully hot temperatures of about 43C or higher which, NS says, explains why chillies feel like they burn your mouth.

These TRP (apparently pronounced 'trip' - calling all hippies :) ) channels are involved in other sensory perception also.  TRPM8 is activate by relatively cool temperatures between 10C and 30C and gives us a cooling sensation, like when we taste menthol.

These findings are leading eggheads to look at using these channels for other purposes like fighting fat and tumours by tickling the thermostat.

Which of course leads me to pondering the long established ayurvedic/naturopathic uses of herb and spice extracts for heating and cooling the body to treat a range of ailments. Seems like there is a growing convergence of knowledge between trad and 'modern' medicinal practice.

Here's a neato pic from NS of our 'internal thermostat' and where various herb and spice ingredients fit on the scale.