Saturday, August 30, 2014

This week's compost

Gourmet Food and Drink Quiz
Well that’s what it says on the lid of a pressie a friend bought me anyway of a set of cards in a little tin. So just for fun, I thought for the next several editions of TWC I would post a question at the start and the answer at the end.
No peeking now! And now resorting to on-line or print sources. Just have fun seeing if you know the answer already J

NB: NO discussions will be entered into on the correctness or otherwise of the answer. Well, only if you can cite references. Otherwise ‘The tin hath spoke’.

Ques: The earliest archaeological evidence for the consumption of soup dates back to 6000BC – what flavour was it?


‘The growing interest in fermented foods has been fueled by a large number of excellent how-to guides. But information on why fermentation happens and the microbiology behind these artisan foods is generally hard to access. This site is a forum for the synthesis and distribution of current knowledge and research on the microbiology of fermented artisan foods.’

For the germ nerds among us J

Breakfast Downgraded from ‘Most Important Meal of the Day’ to ‘Meal’

‘This week health columnist Gretchen Reynolds at The New York Times did the slapping with science, reporting on two new nutrition studies. She concluded, "If you like breakfast, fine; but if not, don’t sweat it."’

I feel so relieved I can out myself as a non breakfast eater at last, even a tad smugly. I am never really hungry till mid morning at the earliest and mostly can happily wait till lunch to have anything more than a piece of fruit. I did eat breakfast as a school kid but once I hit uni my natural instinct kicked in and I haven’t looked back since. However, I feel weirdly compelled to eat something for brekkie when it is part of B & B travelling for work or on hols. I protest, however, that this does not suggest that I don’t do brekkie at home because I am lazy. There is something about being different when away from home that makes breakfast okay.

Creative Food Art

Hopefully you can access the pics of the stunning work of Sarah Illenberger.

Guerilla Grafters

‘The [Guerrilla Grafters] graft fruit bearing branches onto non-fruit bearing, ornamental fruit trees. Over time, delicious, nutritious fruit is made available to urban residents through these grafts. We aim to prove that a culture of care can be cultivated from the ground up. We aim to turn city streets into food forests, and unravel civilization one branch at a time.’

Oh, I sooooooo want to do this....

Gourmet Food and Drink Quiz Answer: Hippopotamus

Friday, August 22, 2014

This week's compost

1.      The Szathmary Culinary Cookbooks and Manuscripts digital collection Iowa University

A friend put me onto this site – an absolute delight J

Any of you out there know other digital cookbook and manuscript sites?

2.      Farmers of the Urban Footpath

If you haven’t come across the Issue site before it’s a treasure trove of online mags and books like this one to which Colin Sherringhan alerted me.

3.      The Foodies Interactive Table
‘Our food journey often begins at the table. Many of us do not know the full journey of the food we are about to consume. We have once again created an interactive tablecloth, which will help us consider some of these food related questions, as well as being a fun piece of technology to explore. Try out our interactive tablecloth setting and not just play with your food but also the tableware!’
Slow Food Sydney are putting this event on. The last time I interacted with a tablecloth my mother gave me a good smack across the head. I hope the outcome will be different at this event.

4.     The science of making mind-blowing cocktails

"When we start to work on a drink, we first create the narrative," says Tony Conigliaro of 69 Colebrooke Row in north London. The idea is storyboarded as though it's a piece of theatre, which in a way it is.”

Call me old fashioned or call me just an old whisked sourpuss but I come from the school where it was the customer who did the narrative while the bartender listened, and a drink that listed its ingredients as "distilled clay, flintstone and lichen" sounds very like the mud soup I used to make as a kid in Sri Lanka. But then my brothers and I in our pre teens went through a period of making ‘cocktails’ by putting salt and pepper into bottled fizzy soft drinks so who am I to cavil.

5.      Strengthening food security in Australia and beyond
‘Good food and nutrition are fundamental to individual wellbeing and healthy communities. Delivering sufficient, safe and nutritious food in a sustainable manner to meet the requirements of a growing human population is one of the world’s greatest challenges. By focusing on good nutrition and the interrelationships between farmers, traders, regulators, consumers and policy makers to determine policies and food systems, this seminar provides insights into how our team is contributing to the delivery appropriate, sustainable, diverse and nutritious diets in Australia and globally. ‘
Looking forward to this talk from Assoc. Prof Robyn Alders particularly to hear what is being done here in Australia.
6.      Fighting bull beef: “The most ecological meat in the world”
‘Restaurateur Juanlu Fern├índez in no way supports bullfighting, but believes that using the byproduct – the meat – is important, likening it to supporting Andalusian winemakers. "We are in a struggle to defend Andalusian gastronomic culture and recipes against the extreme modernity that is invading us," he says.’
The title of the article is patently absurd and there is nothing in the article to support the contention. Indeed, it isn’t even actually abou eating the carcase of bulls killed in the ring, though it does say that in its earliest days as an adjunct to cattle fairs the bulls killed were ‘used to feed the town as part of the fiesta, providing a rare opportunity for poor rural communities to eat beef.’ What the article is about is people valorising the taste of the meat of cattle being bred as fighters but who don’t make the grade and so are sold for their meat, the enhanced quality being ascribed to their ‘better lifestyle’. Sounds like a lot of rubbish to me and that what ishappening is more faux gourmets being able to flaunt their ‘transgressive’ edge. You don’t have to be breeding bulls for fighting in order to givbe those bulls a ‘better lifestyle’ pre their slaughter.

Friday, August 15, 2014

This week's compost

1.      Sweet Treats from Ada de la Harpe

Ada was my grandmother and I am chuffed that three of her recipes were selected for inclusion on Sweet Treats from Around the World, K & T Roufs, ABC-Clio, July 2014.
Ada de La Harpe's Christmas Cake (Sri Lanka)
(Courtesy of her grandson, Paul van Reyk, from The Recipe Book of Ada de la Harpe, a Sri Lankan Dutch Burgher Woman, 2013. Sydney, Australia: Privately Published, pp. 95-97. Accessed July 27, 2013.
This is an adaptation of the transcription of Ada de La Harpe's Christmas Cake recipe provided by Paul van Reyk. For a beautiful facsimile version of the original from Ada's "Cookery Book" see van Reyk (2013), pp. 95-97.

Ada de La Harpe's "Singapore Pudding," and Sago Pudding (Sri Lanka)
(Courtesy of her grandson, Paul van Reyk, from The Recipe Book of Ada de la Harpe, a Sri Lankan Dutch Burgher Woman, 2013. Sydney, Australia: Privately Published, p. 100. Accessed July 27, 2013.)

Ada de La Harpe's "Sweets" (Sweetened "Cajunuts" [Cashews], Sri Lanka)
(Courtesy of her grandson, Paul van Reyk, from The Recipe Book of Ada de la Harpe, a Sri Lankan Dutch Burgher Woman, 2013. Sydney, Australia: Privately Published, pp. 99-100. Accessed 27 July 2013.)

2.      Asian Food Heritage Project

Dear all, I have become involved in this project (ta Jean J )which is only at the inception stage of putting together a proposal for project funding. The basic thrust is to do for Asian and South Asian food material what is being done more thoroughly in recent years for foods of Europe and the Americas. I am looking for any leads any of you have for anyone in academe or otherwise doing research or projects around identifying heritage foods in South Asian and Asian foods and/or preserving/propagating etc. Happy to send more info to those interested though the parameters of the project are still being refined.

But mainly as I am not in academe and so have bugger all wherewithal to do the kinds of searches that might prove fruitful, I am hoping some of you may have 6 or less or even more degrees of separation from people who I might get onto. David Thompson is already in the fold.

3.      Are broccoli stalks the next kale?

‘If you're looking for tomorrow's hot ingredients—and today's top values—start with the compost bin. How different foods go from trash to treat to trite.’

Ta to Helen Campbell for finding this article. Most of you know wasting perfectly edible and indeed delicious bits of animals, fruit and veg has  been a bugbear of mine for some time so it’s great to see any article that promotes people repurposing pre-compost. One of my treasured gifts is a copy of Tasty Dishes from Waste Items by Argona Reejhsingani published in India in 1973 which often provides inspiration as I stare at the waste on my kitchen table. The things she does with vegetable peels alone are dazzling.

4.      Gut reaction Part 1

Thrilling first part of a two part Catalyst program looking at one of my favourite subjects - gut bacteria, and in this program how changing diet changes the gut bacteria profile and may well change your health. Oh, and a lot of it is filmed in my new favouritest Sydney building, the Charles Perkins Centre at Sydney Uni which I have only so far seen from outside but will now hurry and go into and marvel at its interior used to stunning effect as a stand in for the gut itself.

5.      Duopoly Money

“No other country in the world has as large a percentage of its dry groceries market controlled by two chains’, says (Nick) Xenophon. “We have been bums to allow that to happen.”

This article by Malcolm Knox in The Monthly August 2014 is an excellent expose of ‘Coles, Woolworths and the price we pay for their domination’. I thought I knew all there was about it but gees I was wrong. I had no idea of the extent to which their ‘vertical’ integration has led to them dominating so many other sectors than food distribution. It not matter to some of you, but I am shocked to know that Wesfarmers which owns Coles also owns Bunnings the mega hardware store that has in the last months become the ONLY hardware option for many of us in the Inner West as our local stores close down. Given Bunnings has a growing garden section I am worried about how long some of the small independent nurseries are going to be able to hold out also.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Waste Not Want Not

The title of this blog comes from one of the many pithy rules for living that I heard so often as a child and more or less forgot or found quaint but unhelpful as I grew older.

Well, growing older still, this one has come back more and more in the last years as I hear and read more about food wastage and the size and ramifications of the problem. This blog in particular is spurred by a talk by Dr Brian Jones at the first of the Food@Sydney Seminar Series 2014 sponsored by the Environmental Institute of the University of Sydney, August 10 2014.

There were three speakers on the night:
  • Ronni Khan, the indefatigable CEO of OzHarvest, the now Australia-wide organisation that re-distributes excess perishable food from commercial outlets like restaurants and supermarkets to charities throughout Australia providing meals to vulnerable people.
  • Alex Iljadica, from Youth Food Movement Australia, whose aim is to make conscious consumers of young adults.
  • Dr Brian Jones, Senior Lecturer,  University of Sydney.
Ronni's work is amazing, with food collected enough for something like 500,000 meals across Oz last year, and she has also spearheaded changes to legislation in four states around civil liabilities that allowed OzHarvest to be established.

I didn't make it to the  Youth Food Movement's Cropfest and Passata Day but they will be on my calendar for the upcoming year.

This blog though focuses on Brian Jones' talk which highlighted the systemic factors leading to food waste.

As I was heading off to the seminar, my good mate Tanya who has been in the waste policy business for many a year, said something along the lines of 'I hope they talk about waste at the production end which is much more an issue than waste at the consumption end'. And as it happens, Jones' talk was very much about this, though there are areas in which the production system and the consumer systems overlap to create waste.

Jones put up some slides from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation Save Food. Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction which I have summarised here. In industrialised countries:
    •  22% of global production of oils and pulses is lost or wasted every year, the majority of it at the production and distribution end.
    • 30% of cereal crops are lost or wasted, the majority of this in industrialised countries being at the consumer end.
    • 20% of dairy products are lost or wasted, with the majority of this happening at the consumer end for industrialised countries.
    • 30% of seafood is lost or wasted, mostly in the production and distribution end globally, but about equally with with the consumer end for North America and Oceania.
    • 45% of fruit and vegetables are lost or wasted, with the production and distribution end the overwhelming area in which this happens globally, though consumer wastage is high in industrialised countries.
    • 20% of meat products are lost or wasted with the majority of this at the consumer end in industrialised countries.
    • 45% of tubers and root foods are lost or wasted very largely at the production and distribution ends globally, but in North America and Oceania about one third is down to consumers.
     Jones focused on the drivers of loss and wastage at the production end identifying four factors:
    • Quality standards which are consumer driven (though I would argue they are also health litigation driven).
    • Weather and disease.
    • Market forces where for example growers have to produce in excess of what will be bought at times (see below).
    • Labour shortages that affect seasonal crops like stone fruit.
    In NSW, Jones said, 1.1 million tonnes of food is thrown away each year. The direct cost to the consumer is more than $10000 per household per year.

    As it happens, the August edition of The Monthly carries a story that looks at the duopoly that controls the Australian food market - that between Coles and Woolworths. Part of that story highlights the market force in creating wastage.

    'Steve, a Woolworths-contracted lettuce grower who does not want to be identified, is destroying more produce than he used to farm.  The supermarket's orders very in volume, but Steve has to be ready to fill the largest one possible. He has duly increased the size of his farm. "I have to grow for the maximum size of an order, or else I lost the contract. So I grow on that scale even though the order is usually a lot less. Everything I don't sell, I have to destroy". '

    Duopoly Money by Malcolm Knox

    It is going to take more than consumer led action to change this as Knox's article shows as it looks at a range of areas in which the big two control not just the fresh produce market but increasingly more product areas like hardware (yes, Bunnings, the mega hardware store that has seen off the small business hardware and some of it's chain competitors, is owned by Wesfarmers which also owns Coles) and wine.

    There is also probably little that can be done in the short term about the iron rule of use by and best by dates which have led us to rely on quite arbitrary standards (and believe me, I've looked for some clear guidelines on how to determine these to various products to give myself protection when selling my home made jams and pickles and basically the way they operate seems to be that it's up to the manufacturer to decide these for themselves, ie. there are no regulations governing these). At the forum when I raised this the panelists as one agreed that learning how to tell when food is off and how to deal with it when it is. as many of us did back in the day, - like scraping off the mould from a tub of yoghurt to get to the unmouldy and perfectly edible and safe lusciousness underneath, or smelling or looking at the colour of meat - are much less wasteful and waaaaaaaaaaaaaay less risky than trusting some manufacturer's fancy.

    Projects like OzHarvest can make a significant impact at the consumption end, as can a range of domestic practices like composting, re-purposing (as they say these days) left-overs, only buying in small quantities and so on. This extends to consumer community action like community compost bins, or even something as simple as community cooking classes about using waste/unlovely fruit and veg.

    And there is something consumers can do at the standards end. But is that so? That this may not have to be so is perfectly exemplified by the Inglorious Food campaign by the Intermarche franchise in France. The punchline in the video is that as a result of the campaign all the food identified as inglorious was sold. Granted, the fruit and vegetables were sold at a discounted price. Jones said that one of the big problems in Australia in trying to get past the 'cosmetic' factor in our fruit and veg purchases is that our fruit and veg are so relatively cheap there is no market for 'second grade' products.

    But research done by the Youth Food Movement suggests there also may be some wiggle room in educating people about what a blemish or a fungus or a weird shape does or does not mean about the quality of the product. Alex reported, for example, that a high proportion of young people surveyed by them thought that a spot on fruit meant that it was poisoned.

    Today at the growers' market to which I go, I was more than slightly taken aback when the young male of a couple next to me at a fruit stall dissuaded his partner from buying a blood orange because it had a red blush on a small part of its skin. It was one of those moments where I could have and indeed probably should have said something, thankless as it would have been. But next time, should there be the opportunity, I will take it.

    Ronni's mantra on the night of the food forum was that we have to make the changes we want, and she is right. And sometimes if we are lucky, others join us and we can bring about the more systemic changes. I found a great resource that I am looking forward to reading for more ideas about what I can do at the small scale and what I can look at lobbying for - Reducing the Food Wastage Footprint. Toolkit.

    Meanwhile, I will continue to rescue fruit and veg and bore people batless with posting on Facebook when I do but also hopefully giving them a nudge to do the same. I will keep cutting the bruised bits out of the fruit in the fruit bowl, turning the over ripe banana into a smoothie or a banana ca. I will keep composting what I can - we being a mostly vegan/vegetarian household have heaps of compostable material. And I will keep on standing up for the inglorious and consigning them to my cooking pots and pans with as much satisfaction, if not more, as their toned, botoxed, waxed peers.

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

    This week's compost

    A bit  light on this week – but that’s good for the winter tum, isn’t it.

    1.       Food Flicks

    If you haven’t seen The Lunchbox yet, the Indian film built around the tiffin lunch system, do go. The food is enticing, the insight (slight though it is) into the system is lovely, the script is subtle and supple and the acting is just wonderful.

    Anyone hear anything about the upcoming one The Hundred Foot Journey? This review is kinda what I expected from the trailer:

    ‘What is it about recent food movies — Jon Favreau's Chef, and now Lasse Hallstrom's The Hundred-Foot Journey — that, despite their virtues, they have to be so darned corny, so dewy-eyed, with everything tied up in a feel-good bow at the end? It's as if all that great food on set had this tranquilising effect, sending everyone off, sated and smiling, with great life lessons learned, into a rosy sunset. - See more at:

    I missed ‘Chef’ but will try and catch up with it now I have been sucked in to Dendy On Demand.

    2.      Blake Lively’s Preserve website made me want to eat the rich

    ‘Rather than committing to donate a percentage of the site's profits to charity, Preserve invites us to imagine Lively tucking 2,000 orphans into their free blankets with her own hands, perhaps patting them each tenderly on the head. It's the crass noblesse oblige of new money: making a fuss over a pre-specified number of blankets and hot meals, deploying the rhetoric of community, as though Lively couldn't personally fund 5,000 hot meals with the change in her glovebox.’

    I had never heard of Blake Ellender Lively and to be honest when I checked out Preserve it didn’t strike me as much more offensive than what other celebs jumping on the goodworks wagon do. The food product range is small and banal but not overpriced compared again with the prices charged for ‘artisansal’ products these days -  a small jar of a beer whole grain mustard for US$7.99, though I couldn’t tell how much of said mustard was in the jar.  Sure, she is likely to make heaps more than her  stated bountiful works are going to cost her, but this article comes off to me as just being narky.

    I’d be interested in other’s views.

    3.      How a Kit Kat is classified as healthy

    ‘Food companies are advertising products such as Kit Kats and Coco Pops to children because they are classified as healthy by their own nutritional standards.’

    Quel surprise!

    4.      Food@Sydney Seminar Series 2014

    Sponsored and hosted by the Sydney Uni Environment Institute, this series looks promising if the first one I attended, Tackling Food Waste, is an indication. I will be doing a blog post on the forum and will message you all when I do.

    Meanwhile you can check out more about the series at

    5.      Food and Words 2014

    And Barbara Sweeney has just posted details for this year’s Food and Words which as some of you know is establishing itself as a must go to event on the Sydney foodie calendar. Gay Bilson, Christine Manfield, Kate Llewellyn, Feather and Bone, Kitchen by Mike and more...

    6.      Putting food on the table. Food security is everyone’s business.

    This is the inaugural conference of the Right to Food Coalition and will be held at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Liverpool, NSW, October 13-14. They are still looking for papers.