Saturday, May 31, 2014

This week's compost

1.      The secret of the Mediterranean diet? There is no secret.

NHS Choices actively encourages us to "make our diets more Mediterranean" by, among other things, "eating more bread and pasta" (studiously ignoring the growing body of evidence that implicates refined carbohydrates in obesity) and telling us, somewhat inarticulately, to eat "more fruit and salad, including tomatoes and vegetables". But this reheated, rehashed "Mediterranean" diet increasingly looks like a lazy student's essay cobbled together from out-of-date textbooks.’

How often does one have to say it before it dies a natural death...oh, wait, it can’t because it’s Mediterranean L

2.      Unfiltered beer: would you drink a cloudy pint?

‘‘Far from clear, these beers are opaque on a spectrum from hazy to weak, milky tea. Such is the growth in unfiltered craft beers that this style has been dubbed (mainly by its detractors) as "London murky".’

Having recently had my first meeting with orange wine (NOT Orange wine) and quite enjoyed it cheers thanks a lot, and having pulled some shockingly cloudy beers in my time as a RAS, I have no qualms whatsoever if the taste is on a par with some of the boutique beers around Sydney these days

3.      Going to the US ?
Check out Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000 at the Smithsonian. The exhibit highlights how American eating and shopping habits have changed during those five decades, and the museum compiled this retrospective to show the progression and evolution of the changes leading up to what shows up at the American table.

There is online version of the exhibition too to while away an hour or two...

How fab if an Australian Uni did something similar.

4.      The Men Who Made Us Fat

A three-parter of which the first episode went in hard on sugar and the food and soft drink  industry.  Made me reach for a highly sugared carbonated drink instantly.

No but really do programs like these get to those who need to see them – well probably not when they are programmed at 9.30 on Thursday night on ABC.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

This week' compost

It’s been as barren as a backyard patch in Sydney in winter food interest wise, but here are a few morsels.

1.      FREE stuff

The University of Chicago has a free monthly e-book.
This month it is “Accounting for Taste: The Triumph of French Cuisine” by Priscilla Ferguson.
For your free download, go here and follow the instructions.

2.      The end of food

But that is Soylent’s downside, too. You begin to realize how much of your day revolves around food. Meals provide punctuation to our lives: we’re constantly recovering from them, anticipating them, riding the emotional ups and downs of a good or a bad sandwich. With a bottle of Soylent on your desk, time stretches before you, featureless and a little sad. On Saturday, I woke up and sipped a glass of Soylent. What to do? Breakfast wasn’t an issue. Neither was lunch. I had work to do, but I didn’t want to do it, so I went out for coffee. On the way there, I passed my neighbourhood bagel place, where I saw someone ordering my usual breakfast: a bagel with butter. I watched with envy. I wasn’t hungry, and I knew that I was better off than the bagel eater: the Soylent was cheaper, and it had provided me with fewer empty calories and much better nutrition. Buttered bagels aren’t even that great; I shouldn’t be eating them. But Soylent makes you realize how many daily indulgences we allow ourselves in the name of sustenance.’

I am fascinated and scared by this article. Fascinated by the continuing pursuit of ways to intake nutrient without growing it, hunting it, gathering it, cooking it. I am a scifi child and that world has always had a gee whizz attraction for me. I am scared by the psychology of Reinhart and his fanbase and network of co DIY Soylent makers; they come across to me as frighteningly alienated and soul-less and as cult as the god-botherers Reinhart derides.

3.      And now the bad news: red wine is not good for health after all
‘So, with a more robust measure of resveratrol on hand, how had the health of this group of Italians fared when they were followed up nine years later? The answer was as you would expect; rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality had no link with amounts of resveratrol metabolites in participants' urine. Even blood markers of inflammation, which lie at the heart of metabolic disease risk, had no link with resveratrol levels.’

4.      Activated almonds? Yes well eating them may make you a pretentious git

‘So while Evans might be concerned that people think he's a wanker, he shouldn't worry too much. For all our idealised tropes about egalitarianism and not letting anyone get up themselves, it's more about perception than reality. Wankers can be and do anything they dream of, Pete – prime minister, radio host, stripper pole wheeler. Just err more on the side of yob, if you can manage it, and keep your "activated almonds" out of kicking distance, if you know what's good for you.’

Okay, I know, Pete Evans is a soft target and this is not really an article about food – but in a bleak Budget week this gave me a laff.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Of apron strings, seasonality and preserves

I've spent the last month pickling and jamming and that's led me to recognising how time and labour consuming it was for women to have to deal with forward provisioning post harvests, indeed post 'the season' for fruits and vegetables, in the absence of fridges and freezers.What I mean is...

I have fruit trees, herbs and grow some vegetables in my backyard and forage from neighbouring properties when there is produce going unregarded. I also shop at a growers' market and often engage in 'rescuing' produce that's put on the discount shelf at the greengrocer for being too old or bruised or a tad over-ripe or whatever.

This leads to me facing gluts of produce well beyond anything I can eat within the period the produce is at its best or least worst. This is the situation that faced or faces anyone growing fruit and vegetables still dependent on the seasonal cycles. Its the joy and curse of seasonality.

So, I like others have to do something to not waste the abundance when it comes. I don't have the imperative of having to provide for a winter of no produce, however. One of the solutions we humans came up with was to preserve the produce via pickling or jamming and it has usually been women to whom that responsibility has fallen. And it is bloody hard and time consuming work!

You spend an hour juicing thirty limes; then finely slicing their skins; then mix them with their juice and sugar; then stand for another hour over a pot as the mix boils away threatening to spume up and drench your fire and stove and you at the least inattention from you; testing testing testing for the setting point; meanwhile sterilising jars; then filling and sealing them; and finally labeling them.

Or you slice chokos under running water so your hands don't react with the sticky juice that can form a black film on a careless hand; then grind spices and in the days before electric spice grinders this would have been immensely tiring of the arms and back as you bend over and pound away; stand over a boiling pot stirring and stirring so nothing sticks and burns all the while being careful not to mash the fruit in the process and that the flour heavy sauce doesn't cake; and again you do the jar sterilising, filling, sealing, labeling.

If you are making a guava jelly there is the tedium of straining the steaming pulp out of its cooking liquid so it becomes clear and free of the merest hint of a speck of flesh. Then if you are determined to not waste the pulp and go on to make guava cheese you get to stand over - yes, you guessed it - a steaming pot, as the pulp and sugar you have added condense down into a larval paste that erupts scaldingly till it is set and lifts away from the sides of the pot.

Then of course you have to clean the pots and pans, the utensils, the stove, the benches...

I get satisfaction for all of this from the oohs and aahs of friends to whom I give the finished product, the cache of home made. I suspect I would look on it differently if I wasn't doing it by choice but out of necessity, as routine, as something expected of me in my position within a household.