Friday, October 30, 2015


This week has been one of those where the cacophony of confusion about what is or is not healthy to eat, what will or will not make you a supermodel, what will or will not make you the sexiest lover on earth – okay I made that one up – has driven me past drink. So, at the risk of offending someone somewhere, my choice for pic of the week goes to this clever food hack - well, I think it’s a food hack, or maybe it’s a bleeding heart hack, or maybe it;s a hack of a hack, it certainly is to me a heck of a hack.

It came via Facebook with this request with which I was happy to comply: Post this ribbon to support Fearmongering Awareness. And then, eat your damn bacon. It's not going to kill you that much faster than anything else.

Best Before?
‘The bottom line is that although aspects of today’s food production, processing and storage might make what we eat a bit less nutritious, they are also making foods more available and that is far more important’. (Chloe Lambert, New Scientist, 17 October 2015)

What level of nutritional decline is being spoken of here? The article cites a US survey of 43 crops which found a decline in six key nutrients since 1950: Vitamin C down 15%, Iron down 15%, Vitamin B@ down 38%, Calcium down 16%, protein down 6% and phosphorus down 9%. So a challenging conclusion to me that I am still grappling with and will need to consider along with research on whether in fact availability is leading to any increase in quantity to offset loss in nutritional content.

The article makes some other challenging statements, for example citing a 2012 study that found that in terms of minerals in vegies the difference between organis and inorganic is pretty small, and that frozen fruit and vegetables can be more nutritious than what’s on the shelf in the supermarket as they have ‘been in suspended animation from the point of harvest...Peas can lose half of their Vitamin C in the first 48 hours after harvesting, but if frozen within the 2 hours of picking they retain it’.

I have scanned a copy of the article for anyone interested.

And I would love to be linked to articles that make counter arguments.

Native rice may hold key to food future
Australian native rice may contain valuable genes that could help buffer the world's rice crop against the damage wrought by rising global temperatures.’

Harvesting the seeds for analysis and experimentation is apparently not without its risks – in this case crocs lurking in the flood plains where the wild rice grows, just waiting for a bit of Yummius botanicus humanus to drop by. Only in Australia, eh.

And there are other dangers than the crocs...

We need to stop Australia’s genetic heritage from being taken overseas
‘Most of Australia’s mineral heritage has been sold cheaply as unprocessed ore. Our international customers increase its value many-fold through innovative manufacturing. Then we buy it back. Should we follow the same path with our genetic heritage so that one day Australian farmers will be forced to buy from overseas agricultural companies new drought-tolerant crop varieties sporting Australian genes? Or should we build genetic IP in Australia for the sustainable benefit of Australians?

Hainan Chicken Rice in Singapore: A short history
‘The first chicken rice vendor was Mr Wong Yi Guan 义元 who in the 1940s peddled his Hainanese chicken in the Hainanese enclave with two baskets slung on a bamboo pole across his shoulders. He later moved into a coffee shop along Purvis Street thus starting Singapore's first Hainanese chicken rice stall. Mr Wong's stall was known as "Commie Chicken 產雞" and he had the nickname "Uncle Commie 產叔".

Ta to John Newtown for pointing me to Johorkaki Singapore Food Travel Blog which boasts 260million+ views on Google. It’s mostly a review style blog from my quick look around, including of his foodied travels in other countries, like a food and wine tour group through the Swan Valley in WA.

Jean Duruz, I wonder if you know this blogger?

Porridge in the Panopticon
‘The lip-smacking ‘Devonshire Pie’ trailblazers the neglected combo of gooseberries and tripe – or ‘bleached stomach’, as the editors gloss it. ‘

Ta to Helen for the link to this review of Jeremy Bentham’s Prison Cooking. A collection of Utilitarian recipes. No, it’s not a joke, it really is by Bentham; recipes for use in his Panopticon, an experimental prison which failed, not however because of the food. The book is available from the Transcribe Bentham project.

The review is at

Food Festivals Are Fundamentally Bad
“The last time charitable giving has been used so cynically and blatantly to excuse morally suspect behavior was the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church — and that caused that Protestant Reformation.”

Another contribution from Helen. I haven’t been to any event in the Sydney festival in a very long time – can’t afford it, so I don’t know to what extent the critique here applies and would be interested in responses. Does any income generated go to charities? How heavy is it reliant on brand promotion, placement and sponsorship? I’m pretty sure it hasn’t ever boasted anything like: ‘"In seven years, we've served 33 tons of meat and enough beer to fill three average-sized swimming pools.", nor "more than 40 of America's best chefs, who travelled a combined 40,370 miles to participate in the event" which seems a stoopid figure to be spruiking even if it isn’t food but the chefs clocking up the miles here.

Grafting fruit tree branches on city trees to grow free apples
‘The sterile, ornamental fruit trees of San Francisco will be returned to their “roots”, thanks to a group of urban agriculture activists known as the “Guerrilla Grafters”. The city’s barren population of apple, plum, and pear trees lining parks and street corners will begin to bear new life—and the fruit they produce will be free for all–if grafters get their way.”
Now this  kind of food hacking I can absolutley understand J I love how they only graft where people living or working near the trees agree to be stewards.

The Psychology of Overeating. Food and the culture of consumerism
This book investigates how developments in food science, branding and marketing have transformed Western diets and how the food industry employs psychology to trick us into eating more and more – and why we let them. The first book to introduce a clinical and existential psychology perspective into the field of food studies, this is key reading for students and researchers in food studies, psychology, health and nutrition and anyone wishing to learn more about the relationship between food and consumption. ‘

Thanks Colin for drawing my attention to this book and giving me a headache.

The Archive of Eating
Thanks to Colinalso for this much less brain taxing link to a lovely article on the compendium of Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, which, frankly, puts all my half-hearted attempts at various indexings of recipes to shame. I do hope someday some library does put this wonderful resource on line.

Food Paradoxes: Equity, Access and Excess
The 3rd Australian Food, Society and Culture Network Workshop has called for papers.

This one day symposium examines contemporary politics and paradoxes of food in the context of equity, access and excess.  In a world where increasing poverty and disadvantage contribute to hunger and health disparities, we are seeing the systematic collection of surplus food that is re-circulated and distributed through local networks, food charity services and food banks.  At the same time social issues like obesity are interpreted as symptomatic of excess and a mismatch between biological and social environments, and over-consumption of readily accessible processed foods.  Equity, access and excess are thus nodes of complex cultural systems that contribute to current practices of how we eat and the everyday performances and representations of food politics.  This symposium invites papers that focus on the dynamics of food equity, access and excess from a variety of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives. The overall aim of the symposium is to open broad discussion that explores and potentially draws together the relationships between these paradoxes and politics. Postgraduate and early career researchers are especially welcome.

To submit a paper please send your abstract (250 words) and contact information to the Network Convenors – Associate Professor Teresa Davis ( and Associate Professor Megan Warin ( by November 30th 2015.

Friday, October 23, 2015


First some fun.

The pic above is from a stall in the Campo di fiori  where there were several of these quite entrancing bouquets mixing chilies with fruit and flowers.

And then there's this:
Food and Words presents Magnus Nillson
‘Join Magnus Nilsson for an evening of food stories that provide a glimpse into the mind of this creative chef, his writing, the Nordic region, and the cycle of life at his restaurant Fäviken Magasinet in Sweden. In Australia to launch his latest book, The Nordic Cookbook (Phaidon Press)Magnus will recount his adventures and the making of the book, with Barbara Sweeney from Food & Words. The Nordic Cookbook draws on the history and culture of the region to present a guide to Nordic home cooking.’
Looking forward to this with great interest. Of the six chefs in the Netflix Chef’s Table series, he was one I particularly liked.
Where are all the women chefs?
‘But today, in the food industry and in the restaurant industry, I think the male approach dominates and the female one is overlooked. In a lot of kitchens, food is treated as a problem to be solved, something to dominate—something that has to give up its secrets. Kitchens are turned into laboratories, filled with tools and weapons: vacuum packers, sous-vides, probes, and all the other stuff. Sometimes the instinctive part gets lost. It almost makes me weep to be told that to confit a duck leg in plastic underwater is just as good as to confit in duck fat. The loving, nurturing side of the trade, the instinctive side—and, I would say, the feminine side—is being forgotten.’

Nothing like kicking off a newsletter with a controversial proposition. I generally have a problem with gender essentialism so have problems with this article. I think of the many male chefs who don’t approach food as a to be solved and who also love and produce ‘ the food that women love: regional, instinctive cooking that is not being celebrated in the top-fifty lists’. And are there no women chefs who approach food as ‘something that has to give up its secrets’? I think there are way more structural and systemic and just plain mysogynist reasons for the absence of women chefs. Arnold herself points to one significant barrier: ‘Children, as we all know, take your world, your love, and, in my case, they took my food. It took quite a few years once I came away from looking after small children to find my courage again.
Anyone know examples where it is the male partner who takes on the responsibility of the children while the woman chef continues her career?
This “Proudly Feminist” Restaurant Is Run Entirely By Asylum Seeker Women
‘There are nine asylum seekers running the show tonight. Helping the two lead chefs with food prep, making drinks, and providing service on the floor are women from countries all over the world, including Uganda, Rwanda, Iran, Burundi, Fiji and Nigeria. “One of the great things about this program is that they’re not just reproducing their own cuisines, everyone involved gets to learn the recipes from different cultures and backgrounds” Lloyd tells me.
Being a long time supporter of initiatives like this where food and hospitality provide opportunities for cross-cultural support I’ve signed up to get news of upcoming Mazi Mas events like the one described.
I will post notices of events via Compost and my FB page.
Felafel Nation. Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel. Yael Raviv
 ‘When people discuss food in Israel, their debates ask politically charged questions: Who has the right to falafel? Whose hummus is better? But Yael Raviv’s Falafel Nation moves beyond the simply territorial to divulge the role food plays in the Jewish nation. She ponders the power struggles, moral dilemmas, and religious and ideological affiliations of the different ethnic groups that make up the “Jewish State” and how they relate to the gastronomy of the region. How do we interpret the recent upsurge in the Israeli culinary scene—the transition from ideological asceticism to the current deluge of fine restaurants, gourmet stores, and related publications and media?’
I’ve been reading a few articles about the questions posed in this abstract of this book so I am very much looking forward to getting it as I am to reading this chapter John Newton sent me
Also planning on rocking up to the launch of Palestine Fair Trade Australia
And then there’s this
The Surreal Thrill of Moscow Dining
‘Their dishes resembled edible Magritte canvases, like a branch covered with glistening red berries that turned out to be made of chicken liver. A mystery broth alternated sour black-currant-filled dumplings with foie-gras-filled sweeter ones. A quantity of bark was set aflame. One dish arrived atop a birch stump that was later opened to reveal another dish inside it. When my friend and I complimented their cooking, the Berzutskys pressed their hands to their hearts and nodded gravely, like opera singers at a curtain call. ​​‘
And in the local grocery store the shelves are empty and somewhere bulldozers are pushing mountains of imported cheapo canned goods into vast trenches in Siberia.
Pete Evans given award which recognises ‘quackery’
"Is Evans genuine? I don't know. Check out the lengthy disclaimer on his Facebook page to see how he protects himself from his own pronouncements. But he is certainly influential, and he has a wide following, so when he pushes something of highly dubious quality or scientific evidence, then it has to be a worry. It's all the quackery he promotes, some of it dangerous quackery."
Duck, Pete!
 I read a pretty tiresome article about his in the latest ish of Gastronomica. The article describes it as:
‘Food hacker projects use open soource and participatory – but also artistic and performative- methods of research, prototyping, and work, which are close to the emergent field of interactive food design studies. [Hah! I bet you didn’t know THAT existed either!]...The results vary from very practical low-cost DIY remote irrigation systems for urban gardens, incubators for fermentation, food printers and other automatization and standardization solutions, to highly idiosyncratic projects around molecular gastronomy, experimental food items such as oylent, experimental dinners and various food hackathons exploring the sepculative futures of food and other niche iterests.’ Food Hackers: Political and Metphysical Gastronomes in the Hackerspaces. Deinsa Kera, Zack Denfield, and Catherine Kramer, Gastronomica, 15:2 Summer 2015.
The article describes a particular hack that left me unimpressed with its insularity and its need to have volumes of theory to authenticate it.
Here however are two things that I suppose are food hacks that I came soon after reading the article.
Lure Cafe
“The project does not criticise, foodies per se, but simply highlights food as one platform on which millenials have chosen to fulfil their needs for social belonging and validation”
Gulty as charged J Ta Colin Sherringham for the link.
Help Tony the Tiger
‘Last week, someone uploaded a YouTube commercial purporting to be a the first in a series of ten new Frosted Flakes ads to the account Tony Is Back! As their story goes, Tony The Tiger is trying to help the now-grown up kids who starred in his commercials 30 years ago. In the first video, Tony shows up to help an aging sex worker named Candy. It’s dark as hell.’
Warning, the content of the videos is confronting and may well strike you as either in bad taste or irresponsible or indeed reprehensible.
Writing a Bad Review on TripAdvisor, Urban Spoon Could Land You  in Court
‘Law graduate Julian Tully was told last week by an Adelaide pizzeria owner he would face legal action if a review of his business which compared it to the plague, and provided “the worst service and experience”, was not removed from TripAdvisor by the end of the month..’
Who knew a pizzeria would bother worrying about what TripAdvisor would have to say.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Hi all, back post a successful food tour with a small group willing to investigate some of the more obscure areas of Sri Lankan foodways, like fresh coconut toddy straight out of the tappers pot or gal siambala, aka velvet tamarind, and braving the Negombo beach side fish market at squid gutting time. 

The pic this week is of saravita, a treat recalled from childhood; you put candied and coloured shreds of coconut together with all those spices and wrap them in a cone made from a betel leaf and chomp down on a burst of complex, peppery, sweet flavour. It's still sold on the street by men who carry the makings in a tray around their neck - like ushers used to with sweets and ice creams at the Saturday arvo flicks - alerting customers they are one their way by shaking a bangle of bells, You can add tobacco, but this seller wasn't into it and neither was I.

Hoping the February food and gardens tour comes off too. If you know anyone interested, they can check it out here

Meanwhile, back to scouring my inboxes for your degustation.

Five companies using waste products in surprising ways
‘Coffee shops offer used grounds as fertiliser to their customers, and coffee pulp from farms can be ground down to produce coffee flour, a new product which is high in anti-oxidants. In addition to this, a British design company has developed a way to create stunning furniture comprising 60% recycled coffee grounds, sold in many cases to the same offices and shops that they were sourced from. ‘
And you won’t believe what they are doing with tomatoes!
When ‘hand-crafted’ is really just crafty marketing
‘Artisan-posturing by industrial producers isn’t just a matter of regulatory transgressions. Industrial food giants who “craft-wash”, or use idioms of craft while trashing its essential values, are actively obscuring a set of political issues. Ethical consumers are often well-heeled, for sure, but their deep pockets attend to a deeper commitment to small enterprise, localism, fair trade, ethical supply chains, seasonal produce, farm animal welfare, workers’ freedoms and low environmental impact.’
Home-made, just like mum’s, made to a recipe not just a price, farm was ever thus and ever will be as long as there is a buck to be made by gulling people.
Fish fingers turn 60: how Britain fell for not-very-fishy-sticks- of frozen protein
‘Why bother feeding your guilty habit by stealing fish fingers from your own kids’ plates when you can enjoy far superior examples everywhere, from Yorkshire’s award-winning Star at Harome, where they come with pea, lettuce and mint vinaigrette, to Glasgow’s Gandolfi Fish, which fries them in beef dripping before squidging them into a soft morning roll, or one of Mark Hix’s growing empire of restaurants, where they are apparently a bestseller, despite a distinctly adult-sized price tag (£17.95, mushy peas and chips thrown in).’
What was that I said above about (sea)gulling. Mind you, I wouldn't pass by a crisp fried fish finger with tartare sauce and an iceberg salad.
Feeding the troops: the emotional meaning of food in wartime
‘Food is central to ideas of national and cultural belonging, something that can be used to bolster wartime patriotism, but it also gives a pungent flavour to cultural difference. Food therefore also provides powerful imagery for propaganda, such as in a 1915 Australian newspaper report that equates German food with hatred and bloodlust: Blood sausage. Brain Sausage. Decaying cabbage pickled in vinegar … only a few of the cheery dishes in which the German rejoices, the delicacies upon which he feeds his hatred.”

It’s  no wonder the Barrossa Coookbook was not reprinted in the post WW1 years. And check out the triffic exhortation to saving bread to Stop the UBoats.
£255 to eat in The Fat Duck? That’s indefensible
‘Football fans and music lovers have had to learn to tolerate the (emotionally contentious) corporate sponsorship of hallowed grounds and music venues, but restaurants have yet to exploit the naming rights and sponsorship deals that, for globally famous brands such as the Fat Duck, would surely be a productive revenue stream.’
Tina Turner pumping out Simply the Best? But of course the fat ducks of finance and industry will continue to eat there, that’s the point of this end of dining after all, to be immorally extravagant of other people’s money.
SBS will dish up its fourth free-to-air channel, dedicated to the food genre, later this year.
'The 24/7 channel will combine original SBS content with programs from around the world, sampling a wide-variety of tastes and cultures, in a bid to attract key demographics like women to the network.'
Because of course women will be hanging around the house 24/7 just wondering what to cook.