Saturday, May 30, 2015

This Week's Compost

I Wish I Could Sell You a $200 Wooden Spoon
‘I want Ariele Alasko's discipline. I want her world. And I want the kind of life, the financial confidence, the guts, that it takes to make a $200 spoon.’

Me...not so much. I have some lovely wooden spoons that I like using they are pictured above on a marble slab. All of them I am pretty sure were hand crafted. All of them are functional and I am not afraid to use them, their beauty notwithstanding. None of them cost $200.

A Plea for Culinary Modernism
‘The (Culinary) Luddites’ fable of disaster, of a fall from grace, smacks more of wishful thinking than of digging through archives. It gains credence not from scholarship but from evocative dichotomies: fresh and natural versus processed and preserved; local versus global; slow versus fast: artisanal and traditional versus urban and industrial; healthful versus contaminated and fatty. History shows, I believe, that the Luddites have things back to front.’

I like much of the myth busting and grounding in this article but I also think the some of the arguments misrepresent the positions of those who undoubtedly would fall into the author’s Culinary Luddite camp  - Michael Pollan for one, Alice Waters, and, often, me. I don’t think outside of the raw foodists anyone is advocating for not processing grains, vegetables, fruit, or meat, nor for preserving them – smoked, dried, cured, jarred, canned or otherwise. I don’t have any absolute objection to industrial practices for processing or preserving. I do have objections to purely market driven practices that put crap in food to make it taste sweeter, or fattier, or dumb down food knowledge under the guise of convenience. Equally I have concerns for industrial practices that are dangerous to mental and physical well being of those engaged in them and that do not pay fair wages, and I find it curious from that perspetive that this article is in Jacobin which describes itself as ‘a leading voice of the American Left, offering a socialist perspective on politics, economics and culture’ and at no point examines the labour issue in current industrial and commercial foodways.

What Master Chef teaches us about food and the food industry
So while MasterChef might teach us a lot about food and food trends, it also glosses over some of the harsher realities of the industry that produces this food. The unsociable work hours, the bullying, the heat – this is not part of the culinary cultural capital that we learn from MasterChef.
MasterChef offers contestants and viewers a taste of the cooking techniques and presentation style of the restaurant industry, and presents these to us in ways that make them seem both aspirational and desirable.
This has given MasterChef the ratings boost it so desperately needed, but it has done this without engaging with the realities of the industry that the show is essentially promoting.’
But was Master Chef even remotely intended to ground anyone in the reality of the industry? Or does anyone watch it with that intention? Of course not. It’s a vanity show, not a reality show despite the name for its genre.
Fair Food
‘A collaboration between the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) and food publishers and facilitators The Field Institute, Fair Food documents the people pioneering new approaches to food production and distribution. Watch the trailer.’

Darn, I again am going to miss a showing of this Aussie doco, but maybe you can get along.

Local government and public place gardening – imposing limitations?
‘When we consider community food production in our cities, one particular area in desperate need of reform in local government is its anti-democratic approach to dealing with complaints. Two cases I know of involved people making footpath gardens. What happened was that one person on the street complained and council decided that, on the basis of this single complaint rather that the large number who signed a petition to retain the garden, the gardens had to go. This was a unilateral decision by council that ignored due process in negotiating disagreements among citizens. Citizens saw it as profoundly unfair.’
We set up our footpath garden – not a full on vegie patch but a mix of herbs and citrus and non-edible plants – at the time that Marrickville Council had no policy on this. Happily their position was as long as we kept reasonable footpath access for pedestrians they had no worries. Now they do have an enabling policy. No-one in the street has ever complained – in fact, I have had people dobbed in to me by neighbours for nicking the parsley J

France to force big supermarkets to give unsold food to charities
‘French supermarkets will be banned from throwing away or destroying unsold food and must instead donate it to charities or for animal feed, under a law set to crack down on food waste... Supermarkets will be barred from deliberately spoiling unsold food so it cannot be eaten. Those with a footprint of 4,305 sq ft (400 sq m) or more will have to sign contracts with charities by July next year or face penalties including fines of up to €75,000 (£53,000) or two years in jail.’

Supermarkets do what! Do they in Aus does anyone know? And while I applaud the proposal I worry about the impact on Les Fregans Francais L

Kitchen gadget review: The Garlic Zoom a leprechaun’s Perspex stagecoach
According to the packaging, Garlic Zoom was created by “David A Holcombe, Famous Inventor”. The words are self-undermining, but I like the attitude. It is what an eight-year-old would write on his pencil case. In fact, with big green wheels and mini blades that resemble ninja throwing stars, the Garlic Zoom does feel a bit child-designed.’

I am thoroughly enjoying this series. And if using this stagecoach gets kids started off helping in the kitchen, I’m for it J [He says, not wanting to admit that playing while prepping would be just peachy by him, too].

The Lexicon of Sustainability
A site I have just come across that looks worth the exploring. I have dipped into the Lexicon of Food and the Food List.

Ethical eating: the plants (and animals) are watching us
‘Think of the scene in the 1999 movie Notting Hill in which William, played by Hugh Grant, has dinner with Keziah, a self-described frutarian, who believes that fruits and vegetables have feelings, and so will only eat things that have spontaneously fallen off the vine. “So these carrots…?” ventures William. “Have been murdered,” responds Keziah.’
And of course we know that mandrake screams as it is pulled from the ground. The discussion being had in various places about what constitutes intelligence does raise fascinating new insights into how plnts interact with all aspects of their environment includinf humans, but I still think most cabbbages are dumb as. Ta all the same to Colin for this article.

The new religion: How the emphasis on ‘clean eating’ has created a moral hierarchy
‘She argues that the rise in food movements has coincided with a decline of religion in society, with many people seeking familiar values such as purity, ethics, goodness. But these movements also tend to encourage behaviours that have steered a generation away from religion: Judgment, self-righteousness, an us-versus-them mentality. And, she adds, many seek a fulfilment that cannot be satisfied with food.’

Another from Colin. I think it’s a pretty long bow that’s being drawn here, and, dare I say it, it’s typical Stateside with its obsession with religion. The decline in religion I suspect if historically charted would show bugger all relationship to the rise of vegetarianism, veganism or any other foodism. Which is not to say the food restrictions have not been used as religious distinction, but as Colin said in his email to me, what would Mary Douglas think about this.

Monday, May 18, 2015

This week's compost

Had a splendid time doing brekkies for choristers over the weekend at Stroud. Found the triffic Two Men and a Pumpkin Farmgate which runs on Saturdays at Stroud Road (no, that’s NOT a road in Stroud but the next town up toward Gloucester so named, I think , cause that’s where the railway station is for the area). Loved the produce I grabbed for our last brekkie, a sample of which is my pic for this week. I mean, how fab to find somewhere away from the Big Smoke that grows turmeric, lemon grass, and – wonder of wonders – arrowroot!. Check out their FB page at and you can check out Limestone Permaculture, one of the two men at

Week of Tastes
The indefatigable Helen Campbell is again running the Week of Tastes this year and needs taste presenters for some schools who want to be involved. They can be chef, baker, pastry, cheesemaker, providore, etc as long as they work with a quality product. There are Sydney schools and regional NSW schools. Allons! Below is a list that she would love to fill so if you have any suggestions, please get in touché avec ella (or something Francais like that J The numbers after the names are how many presenters I need. I myself have put my hand up to bring spice knowledge to the darlings of Darlington. I did it a couple of years ago and it was triff J

1.      Boggabri (halfway between Narrabri and Gunnedah).. 1
2.      Booligal (80 km north Hay)… 1
3.      Cudgen ( just near Kingscliff)…1
4.      Dubbo West..2
5.      Junee North… 1
6.      Kentlyn (near Campbelltown)… 1
7.      Kinchela (between Kempsey and South West Rocks)… 2
8.      Medlow (Taylors Arm, 40 km from Macksville)…. 1
9.      Niangala (75 km from Tamworth, 75 km from Walcha)…. 1
10.  Chisholm ( just east of Maitland) I think I have Morpeth Bakery for this.
11.  Tuntable Creek (just out of Nimbin) … 1
12.  Wellington (50km SE of Dubbo)….  2
13.  Wilcannia… 1

And within Sydney:
1.      Bligh Park – 8 classes, so I will need 4 people! Just near Windsor
2.      Lalor Park (Blacktown)… 2
3.      Kingsgrove… 1
4.      Parramatta West… 2
5.      Wheelers Heights… 2
6.      Allambie Heights… 1
7.      Mount Pritchard (near Liverpool) … 3
8.      Padstow… 2
9.      Werrington County (Penrith) … 2

Helen can be contacted via Helen Campbell []

Why recipe less cooking is the next big thing
Everyone’s grandma did it, and now chefs are encouraging a new generation to do it. They want you to cook without a recipe.’

Except they don’t. The links to the pot roast and the soup will take you to pages where  - surprise surprise – you get narratives that tell you what to use and how to use them. Now call me pedantic, but that’s a recipe as far as I’m concerned. Sure, it doesn’t have ingredient in a list with specific quantities – except in the pot roast not-a-recipe you do get told how much of a couple of things you need. But as we know quantifying like this is a relatively recent approach developed to fill a very specific need. Interestingly most of the comments are very much along the lines of OFFS and some are hilarious: I particularly liked ‘Didn't Nostradamus have people cooking without recipes as one of the signs of the end of the world?’.

An Illustrated Field Guide to Modern Day Foodies (from Colin Sheringham)

It being US I don’t get all the references but I recognise several local varieties of the species.

How can we get street food back onto the streets ?
‘The principle that, in order to thrive, street-food traders need to work together to attract a crowd, is well established. Any romantic notion foodies may once have had about seeing lone food vans operating across our cities, offering a cheap, colourful alternative to the high street, remains a distant dream. Instead, the scene is all about collective action.’

I think this article misses the real obstacles entirely as to why street food will never have the presence in Australia that people romanticise for it and those are hygiene legislation driven by fear of litigation and fanned by cultural and class prejudices.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

This week's compost

The olives above are from a tree in Greenwich that Cherry Ripe alerted me to. Her friend Helen was selling up and moving north and there was a small window of opp before the new owners took over. Heavens knows what they thought when they arrived and found no olives on a tree that days before was all bright green and purple with fruit. I've given away bagfuls and put up a good couple of kilos for myself. I use a method passed to me by Maria Kelly who got it from a long line of Kytherian picklers, If you are interested you can find it at  - look for Pickling Olives in the drop down. I love the recipe because it depends heavily on the makers discretion as to when to move from leeching to brining and when to then move from brining to putting up.

This Morbid Artist Serve Her Cake with a Side of Death
The macabre and beautiful work of Annabel de Vetten.

The Diet Myth
‘Drawing on the latest science and his own research team's pioneering work, Professor Tim Spector explores the hidden world of the microbiome and demystifies the common misconceptions about fat, calories, vitamins and nutrients. Only by understanding how our own microbes interact with our bodies can we overcome our confusion about modern diets and nutrition to regain the correct balance of our ancestors.’

I love my biome, even if I am not entirely sure what’s in there. So I am pleased to draw your attention to this book, courtesy of Helen Greenwood.

‘The UK’s only national body for market and street traders, events retailers and mobile caterers – with FREE liabilities insurance!’

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the acronympun. Came across the National Market Traders Federation  - NMTF – in the UK. It’s been around for 100 years in Yorkshire apparently begun by a bunch of traders not impressed by a leaking market hall roof and the high charge for using railway station cloakrooms. What’s the Oz equivalent and does it include street traders and ‘mobile caterers’?

Netflix reaches peak food porn in Chef’s Table
‘Of course, one of the biggest problems the series faces is that there are really only a handful of celebrity chef narratives, and most of them go like this: a tortured genius who trained hard in classic techniques uses that basic technique to break out and carve their own voice. The conflict comes from the establishment, which is, at first, outraged by the young upstart’s disrespect for the cuisine. Nobody comes to their restaurant at first, but eventually the chef is given the recognition they deserve. Heard that one before?’

Not as far as I am aware all that common a narrative, actually.  This piece by Ben Neutze is a tad try-hard-iconoclastic- which I guess befits its medium – Crikey. John Newtown argues for a more reasoned consideration of what Dan Barber of Blue Hill gets shafted with.

I’d be tempted to watch the series except Optus refuses to package Netflix for me as an existing customer of theirs who doesn’t have a landline with them despite that I have a mobile, tv and broadband with them – don’t ask.

You say yarwar I say beetroot
From Colin Sheringham:

‘The Yawar potato hails from the Andes and has burgundy skin and a deep red flesh - hence its name, a Quecha word meaning blood.’

Love to see it hit the markets here and be served to the unwary diner by one of the ‘celebrity chefs’ Ben Neutze disparages. Gees, they won’t even have to push the envelope in describing it.

French toast: The pudding of 2015?
‘But the winner of this modern-day toastathon has to be the Bone Daddies Shackfuyu version. Or – to give it its full name – the “kinako french toast with Matcha soft serve”: a dish that attracts comments positively overflowing with hyperbole’.

Okay, listen up you shackofloozies – much around all you like with French toast, but TOUCH blancmange and I will come gunning fer yer! And French toast isn’t even French anyway – quel surprise!