Wednesday, December 21, 2016

To end the year on some good - nay - great news - the Australian National Dictionary Centre's word(s) of the year is democracy sausage - yep, the one you have on election day at the polling station.

And in dumb arse news,  Geoff Roberts, the economic commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission and others of his ilk have drawn a 'latte line' across Sydney...the class war lives, comrades. 

Traditions revived as kids take to the bay

Yuin Nation fishermen (sic) have resumed teaching their community's kids in Yarra Bay traditional fishing techniques, reports the SMH 17 December 2016.  There has reportedly been a hiatus of 3o odd years in the practice, and it's now become possible as Indigenous fishermen (sic) were given back the right to resume fishing for mullet and other special occasions (sic) in March this year. 

SA foundation gets $1.25m grant to expand native foods industry

"Adelaide chef and restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo's Orana Foundation will receive $1.25 million from the State Government to foster the research, cultivation and production of native foods."

Congrats to Jock and all at the Orana Foundation

Hipsters’ insatiable appetite for superfoods is starving India’s ancient indigenous people

“The downside of turning quinoa, teff, and acai berries, all from the Amazon forest, or even moringa (drumstick), into new superfoods is that urban consumers start to compete with indigenous peoples for food resources. Through our demand for superfoods, we are pushing indigenous populations into switching to cheaper, less nutritious, and less flavourful imported staple, such as maize, rice and wheat....

Indigenous peoples have collectively managed forests for years but without legal recognition of their rights to the land and its produce, they increasingly face restrictions when it comes to foraging for food. This has put them at high risk for malnutrition and hunger, diminishing their food security and nutrition heritage.”

The article doesn’t discuss solutions but it did ask for comment so I took the opportunity to send them the link to the article above on the Orana Foundation project. It seems to me that building partnerships that can support continuing access by Indigenous populations to historically (I don’t want to use ‘traditionally’) foraged significant sources of food that can also engage Indigenous peoples in  production for market and so provide a hopefully longer term sustainable income are a great way forward for food justice in these situations.

Space salad days

New Scientist  10 December, 2016 reports: " NASA astronauts on the International Space Station have reaped their first harvest: red romaine lettuces.  They first ate space lettuce in August 2015, but that was just a taste. On 2 december, they cut enough for a whole salad. The plants grow in a microgravity farm system called Veggie, installed in 2014.'

But nothing said about what it tasted like, disappointingly.

Meat and potato pie 'sent into space' from Wigan

And in  other space news - 

"The pioneering delicacy was launched from Roby Mill, Wigan, at about 11:30 GMT ahead of the World Pie Eating Championship next week.
The aim is to see if its journey up to 100,000ft (30km) changes the molecular structure of the pie making it quicker to eat.
It is believed this is the first pie to be launched into the stratosphere."
But again I ask - what will it taste like :(

The futuristic utensils designed to help you eat bugs

'By now, you’ve probably heard that eating bugs is in your future. Insects are protein-rich and efficient to farm, and the UN has predicted we’ll largely be surviving off of beetle bites and caterpillar consommé by 2050. Chefs are already whipping up recipes for curried grasshoppers, buffalo worm nuggets, and chocolate mealworm spread—although, of course, the easiest way of tucking in to these delicacies is just eating the insects whole. So what’s stopping you?
Maybe your tongue has a few questions. But if it’s merely the lack of an appropriate utensil that is holding you back, designer Wataru Kobayashi has you covered. In his new project, BUGBUG, Kobayashi introduces a set of cutlery that’ll have you gleefully crunching exoskeletons, scooping scorpions, and sinking your teeth into a different style of wing.'
Unfortunately they can't be bought yet so I will still have to use my fingers on my upcoming entomophagic trip to Cambodia in Feb 2016

How to make spaghetti bolognese on Future Tense

I really like this approach to discussing the impact of climate change on foodways.

The surprising botany of ice cream

'As food historian Mary Işin mentions in her book on Turkish sweets, the history of salep in ice cream making was never documented, so we have only speculation and legend to turn to. Regrettably, the future of salep-yielding orchids is both less uncertain and more disturbing: increasing demand and unsustainable harvesting practices have endangered wild orchid populations. Over 40 million orchids are estimated to be annually harvested and ground to salep only in Turkey. The numbers are far from palatable."

No wonder my home efforts are less than fabulousness incarnate - carob flour, eh. 
Thanks to Barbara Sweeney for putting me onto Georgina Reid and The Planthunter from which this article comes via this year's Food and Words event. 

Paleo diet was a veggie feast with a side of meat

"Today's Paleo diet cookbooks might be missing a few pages. It seems out early ancestors were more adventurous with their plant foods than we might expect, with roasted acorns, sedges and water lily seeds on the menu, along with fish and meat."

Yes, in another blow to Pete Evans and his ilk Homo erectus guys and gals living at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov back in 780,000 ate no less than 55 kinds of plant, even if some of their choices may no longer be on the middle astern menu  according to this article in New Scientist 10 Dec 2016.

I have the article scanned for those who may be interested.

The Business of Eating: Entrepreneurship and Cultural Politics - Call for Papers 

"The sale of food is simultaneously the world’s biggest business and a site of innumerable micro-level transactions in which itinerant street vendors compete, albeit on an unequal basis, with transnational giants like McDonald’s and Walmart. This special issue will further our understanding of these complex markets by encouraging conversations across disciplinary and national boundaries between scholars of management, social sciences and humanities in the global North and South. We seek a robust understanding of the possibilities and restraints on culinary entrepreneurship. We build on the concept of “culinary infrastructure” to highlight linkages between the material nature of food systems and production, on the one hand, and the symbolic and social realm of culinary cultures. We encourage theoretical and empirical studies that illuminate the myriad networks connecting high and low cuisine."

And to end on a festive note

Monday, December 12, 2016

As some of you know I attended the 21st Symposium of Australian Gastronomy 2 - 5 December 2016. I presented a paper on Doris Lessing's writings on food security and war via the lens of her Canopus in Argos: Archives quintet. Happy to send it on to anyone interested.

I found the Symp structurally unwieldy - 4 full on days, the first of which was very loooooong a set of panel sessions tracing the Melbourne history of high end restaurant dining and one on a proposed Manifesto for Utopian Food Futures: Towards a Gastronomic Commons about which the less said the better and which went no further than this panel session, and then three days of plenaries and triple concurrent sessions, the latter being a substantial break from Symps of the past and not to my liking as you have the usual problem of having sessions you are interested in up against each other.

Another break that did not go down well with some of we oldies was commercial sponsorship by a frying pan maker including a presentation by him at the Saturday dinner (tho I did win one such frypan for having - ironically - a white serviette whereas others had black and blue ones).

There were other glitches which niggled but for all of that the papers I went to were generally interesting and thought provoking. Particular faves were three papers on waste, a terrific paper by Gay Bilson which to be frank ought to have been a plenary paper,  Juan-Carlo Tomas's memory piece on his grandmother's pancit molo, Jacqui Newling's on the early days of the Norfolk Island Settlement, and Charmaine O'Brien's paper challenging the common view of colonial food as dire, and visiting scholar Darra Goldstein's plenary paper on food in the early days of the Russian Soviet which was nicely complemented by Maria Emanovskaya's paper looking at contemporary Russian foodways through the lens of two dystopian novels.

I also liked the slightly overlong Boozy Botanicals session on booze makers using Australian indigenous leaves and barks in locally made gin and vermouth at the end of which we had fun making negronis and getting mildly tipsy.

Learned a new phrase - 'plate diving' i.e. eating food off a plate when someone else has finished and left edibles - and put it into practice at the Symp dinner where I enjoyed the outer ring of crumbed deep fried trip my dining companion had left choosing only to eat the chicken mousse inside, and baby radish leaves that she ditto spurned.

Phrases of the Symp for me:
"Utopia is not a pop-up" - Jane Levi talking about her project on temporarily at least re-greening parts of Somerset House.

"Order is not benign" - Lily Cleary in a paper critical of the certainty of the positions of Michael Symons, Charles Fourier and Roland Barthes she sees as a 'shared conviction in gastronomic pleasures as pivotal to creating a better society, girded by a shared passion for systematic organisations and tendency to proselytise' and arguing that gastronomy should instead embrace disorder, to be "both situated and a wanderer".

"Foraging should never be safe." Cameron Russell in an entrancing session on the creation of an enclosed but wild mushroom foraging space with architect Simon Whibley.

"To shift to the chef is to ignore the whole for the part" - Gay Bilson on part of the modern malaise. She also said "Plated food is exclusive and guarded" and that "food pages [in print media] are segregated from what matters in food today' and 'unexpected excellence in the wrong place is the best dining of all' that 'we have lost the commentary on the domestic table' and made a plea for the restaurant to return to a place of restoration. You can see why I think she ought to have been a plenary speaker.

The pic at the top of this Compost is of the elegant presentation of two kinds of sweet balls made from byproducts - the green ones are balls of almond pulp left post making almond milk and covered in matcha, the black ones are beetroot pulp post juicing mixed with cacao and rolled in sesame seeds. Spearmint leaves and pansy flowers also of course edible. This was the first morning tea at the Symposium but the make is uncredited in the program, but I think is one of the cooks/chefs from William Angliss.

Meet all The Archibull Prize 2016 Artwork Finalists
 I wish they gave us more info about each of the school’s projects.

 Virtual food tech adds bit to VR
 ‘Many people cannot eat food satisfactorily because of weak jaws, allergies and diet.’

I woud add cause the food tastes like shit. My mum is in a  nursing home and it is so hit and miss as to whether what she is served up, especially on weekends, taste’s at all interesting let alone looks like food on the plate. Of course we ought to be agitating for food in these places to be...well, food. At the same time I know the issues with having to provide institutional meals and of trying to get people nutritious, life saving food when they cannot chew, are increasingly unable to taste anything but the strongest flavours and so just reject the food. So, I applaud anything that may get someone like my mum to eat.

This is an article from New Scientist about some experiments in high tech solutions to help people eat. I have a scanned copy I am happy to send to those who are interested.

The key to future food supply is sitting on our cities’ doorsteps
 ‘City foodbowls are increasingly at risk. Our project has previously highlighted risks from urban sprawlclimate changewater scarcity and high levels of food waste. Melbourne’s foodbowl currently supplies 41% of the city’s total food needs. But growing population and less land means this could fall to 18% by 2050. Australia’s other city foodbowls face similar pressures. For example, between 2000 and 2005, Brisbane’s land available for vegetable crops reduced by 28%, and Sydney may lose 90% of its vegetable-growing landby 2031 if its current growth rate continues.’

My first home in Australia was on an orchard in Arcadia, then in the outermost ring of Sydney suburbs. No more orchards out there. The flood plain between Windsor and the mountains where I used to see fields and fields of corn as we drove between Sydney and Singleton are increasingly becomine turf farms. The iconic Aisan market garden in West Botany Road continue to be threatened by development. ‘Nothing but acres of tar and cement’ as a fave song of old goes.

Rise of the purists. Is chocolate the new coffee?
‘Although this price premium is positive for cocoa growers, the beans remain a raw material export. The chocolate is then manufactured in Europe or North America, with ingredients (cocoa butter, milk, sugar) sourced elsewhere. Most of the costs are added outside the country of origin; typically, raw ingredients only make up about 3% of a bar’s price. Some chocolate producers are therefore pushing the concept of single origin further. And it is this that offers the potential for even more of the value of the lucrative chocolate trade to be kept in countries such as Ivory Coast and Madagascar. The new idea of single-origin chocolate means that all the ingredients in the couverture (the wholesale/bulk cocoa used by chefs, chocolatiers etc) must come from the same country and be processed locally.’

At the purchaser end, of course, it will all still be in who in the country of sale sells it and how. I can still see the unscrupulous adding a further premium that doesn’t get back into the growers’ hands and I bet there will remain a scandal or two that uncovers product where all ingredients have in fact not been sourced in the home country nor processed locally. Or am I just too old and cyncial these days.

From grain to beer glass – tracing the journey of Ethiopian barley, in pictures.
Just to show I am not inveterately cynical.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Compost November 2016

Sorry about the long time between newsletters. I could say I have been busy putting together my paper on Doris Lessing's take on war and food security in her sci-fi works for the Aus Gastronomy Symposium coming up in December, which is true. But also there has been a dearth of anything worth the adding to the compost bin.

Anyhoo, here's some orts.

Click plate: how Instagram is changing the way we eat
 ‘Once these Instagram-friendly foods go viral, they can completely change the way we eat. Breakfast, for example, has shifted from a decidedly unphotogenic cereal or marmalade on toast to the bright hues of avocado toast (there are nearly 250,000 #avocadotoast hashtagged photos on Instagram) and smoothie bowls.’

Really? It’s the sort of article that begs the question of who the ‘we’ is that is being spoken of here and how you judge when something is completely changed or is just a fad or the result of clever marketing. It’s annoying that the article cites no research for its heftier claims like the following:

‘Posting food on social media can reframe the ways that we interact with food on a fundamental level. When we document the food we eat, taking time to relish, share and even be proud of it, we also destigmatise it. Although #cleaneating, weight loss and #cleanse food photographs on Instagram have created a shaming, toxic subculture of foodphobia and guilt, there is a still greater faction of foodie social media that rallies against that nastiness. People in recovery from eating disorders are able to chronicle their recovery and celebrate each morsel of food that they are able to eat. In the absence of positive depictions of plus-size people in the mainstream media, social media affords fat people a place where they can subvert the expectations of embarrassment, shyness and prescribed dieting foisted upon them by a fatphobic world. Posting your meals online – whether they are healthy, unhealthy or none of your goddamn business – can be a freeing act.’

Reducing food waste could put birds and animals at risk
 “So what is the implication of removing that waste from the system?” he said. “There may be some species then that face a significant decline in their populations.”

No, but really, some days you just feel like giving up. Nothing anyone does can do anything but screw up something so why bother, eh.

With the familiar cavendish banana in dnage can science help it survive?
 ‘Virtually all the bananas sold across the Western world belong to the so-called Cavendish subgroup of the species and are genetically nearly identical. These bananas are sterile and dependent on propagation via cloning, either by using suckers and cuttings taken from the underground stem or through modern tissue culture.
The familiar bright yellow Cavendish banana is ubiquitous in supermarkets and fruit bowls, but it is in imminent danger. The vast worldwide monoculture of genetically identical plants leaves the Cavendish intensely vulnerable to disease outbreaks.’
Again, really, do we want to protect a monocultural market bonanza or would be rather get other varieties to market and increase the genetic pool and hence the capacity for fighting diseases without the intervention of expensive Big Science solutions.

“Silvia’s Italian Table” is a 30 mintues instruction in self-hatred
 ‘When Silvia isn’t wearing a garland in her long, amazing hair or sensually kneading dough-penises that recall the idyll of a bullshit peasant past, she is talking with Australians of note to a weekly theme. The format, which borrows as copiously from Annabel Crabb’s Kitchen Cabinet as it does Nigella Bites, might work to provoke conversation if anyone was permitted to say anything other than “I prefer the simple things” and “I believe in being true to myself”.

One of Helen Razer’s more bust-my-side-laughing sprays where I could have grabbed any para and posted it. But I must get nback to sensually kneading dough penises.

Why can’t Australians cope with a British Empire themed restaurant
‘Great Britain has on its history the indelible blot of not only having had an empire like the Germans and Japanese, but of having had an empire that – thanks to two generations of Marxist-derived indoctrination in schools and universities – is now known to have been just about the greatest force of evil in the history of the universe. There’s no point in saying other empires have been worse. Australians can’t argue rationally where the British are concerned. Of course many British loathe their empire as well. But in Australia the hatred instilled by post-colonialist history courses is compounded by the chippy republican anti-Britishness long present in this country, inherited from Irish immigrants of the nineteenth century.’

And speaking of hilarious sprays...though I don’t think the writer would see it that wat.

My question, which Charmaine and I will resolve, is whether the food is any good. I know, I know, shallow bloody crypto Marxist foodie that I am.

Liquid assets: how the business of bottled water went mad
 There was Life, Volvic, Ugly, Sibberi (birch or maple), Plenish, What A Melon watermelon water, Vita Coco, Coco Pro, Coco Zumi, Chi 100% Pure Coconut Water, Rebel Kitchen Coconut Water and coconut water straight from the nut (“you have to make the hole yourself”, explained a shop assistant). Also: an electrolyte-enhanced water pledging to hydrate you with 40% less fluid than ordinary water (Overly Fitness), a birch water offering “a natural source of anti-oxidising manganese” (Tapped) and an alternative birch water promising to “eliminate cellulite” (Buddha). There was also a “water bar” – a tap in the corner of the shop – that, according to the large sign hanging from the ceiling, offered, for free, the “cleanest drinking water on the planet”, thanks to a four-stage process conducted by a “reverse osmosis deionising water filter”.

Squid’s out – are there any you can still eat?
 ‘Despite a growth in popularity, squid is classified as an unprotected species and is not currently subject to quota restrictions – but the methods used to catch it can have an impact on other species. New ratings produced by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide suggest that some species should be eaten either rarely or not at all. So which squid is the most sustainable? Here is our guide to the calamari to consume ...’

Anyone know which species are mainly consumed here in Oz?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Compost 8 October 2016

Some of us went to the Time Out forum on The politics of bush food now and were underwhelmed. A read of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu and John Newton’s The Oldest Foods on Earth had way more to say about the politics and placed the debate in its historic context which, it may come as a surprise to some of the other panellists at that session, did not begin with Rene Noma.

I shouldn’t go to those events. I am clearly not the demographic of ‘cool’ that wants to have a feel good night about how ethically aware they are...well at least till the next food ethical cool thang comes along.

On to happier fields:

Super Size. The dizzying grandeur of 21st century agriculture.

‘Our industrialized food system nourishes more people, at lower cost, than any comparable system in history. It also exerts a terrifyingly massive influence on our health and our environment. Photographer George Steinmetz spent nearly a year travelling the country to capture that system, in all its scope, grandeur and dizzying scale. His photographs are all the more remarkable for the fact that so few large food producers are willing to open themselves to this sort of public view.’

Startling and sobering. The vid of harvesting organic baby beans is a salutary reminder that demand even here leads to extraordinary scale.

It’s the taste we’ve been missing

‘Every culture has a major source of complex can’t taste carbohydrate. The idea that we what we’re eating doesn’t make sense’.

A terrifically interesting article on our ability to taste starch as a flavour in its own right. I’ve often wondered about how I could fit some of what I taste into the Holy Four + One, particularly some spices I am sometimes reduced to having to describe as tasting musty. So it’s exciting to see a breakthrough into a possible official designation of a sixth and perhaps more.

The article is in New Scientist 10 September 2016. I have a scanned copy I can send on to anyone interested.

Sifting through LAC’s Cookbook Collection

‘In this episode, we sit down with Erika Reinhardt, archivist at Library and Archives Canada, to discuss LAC’s cookbook collection. We discuss how culture and technology have shaped these books and recipes over time, and the impact they have had on our relationship with food and cooking throughout our history.’

Thanks to my librarian mate Julie for finding this.

Seed: the untold story
‘The Untold Story follows passionate seed keepers protecting our 12,000 year-old food legacy. In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared. As biotech chemical companies control the majority of our seeds, farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers fight a David and Goliath battle to defend the future of our food. In a harrowing and heartening story, these reluctant heroes rekindle a lost connection to our most treasured resource and revive a culture connected to seeds.’

One to look out for I reckon.

‘ The gay restaurant is a throwback to that time long ago before the American palate had been Bourdained’.
The Death and Life of America’s Gay Restaurants
Mike Albo

‘Jarry  is a print magazine that explores where food and gay culture intersect. More than just a magazine, Jarry brings together a community of gay chefs, eaters, artisans, writers, photographers, artists, and industry influencers, and celebrates the art of gay domesticity’

Colin S got me on to this journal which had first ish in Sept 2015 naturally I had to subscribe ‘for the stories’ I can only wonder why it took so long J

Cacao Biology. Chocolate Culture and Superfood
‘Only the merchants’ fear of losing  cacao was greater than their fear of the potentially dangerous newcomers, triggering a panicked recovery of what the strangers so thoughtlessly fumbled. It was the first lesson in what cacao was worth.’

Kathryn Sampeck in her arcticle in Revista, the Harvard Review of Latin America, Fall 2016 focussing on ‘the biology of culture’.

Courtesy of John N.

Is Colonialism the Worst Restaurant trend of 2016

As the Guardian reports, a recently opened restaurant in Brisbane, Australia has sparked outrage with its bizarre marketing push. Called British Colonial Co., its website originally explained the concept as “inspired by the stylish days of the empirical push into the developing cultures of the world, with the promise of adventure and modern refinement in a safari style setting.’

There is a branch in Darlinghurst which I have to confess I have been interested to sample – both for the food and the context. I also am not sure three restaurants makes for a trend. However, Helen or anyone else who wants to have a colonial adventure...please email me surreptitiously.

Review: Bugs on the Menu at the Environmental Film Festival

‘Bugs are on the menu in Canadian filmmaker Ian Toews’ documentary screening at the Environmental Film Festival Australia this month. The film promotes that the view that bugs can provide a more sustainable way of food (particularly protein) production for an expanding human population.’

You know me well enough by now to know that I take this kind of statement with several handfuls of salt. Hey, I want to eat bugs along with the rest of em and am looking forward to Cambodia in February with just that in mind. But simplistic solutions like this I reckon will the sound of millions of cricket in their urban farms in the streets of Petersham.

Australian food history timeline

Ta to Jacqui Newling for alerting me to Jan O’Connell’s time line. A great place to fossick in. I am a tad disappointed that Jan hasn’t used Aussie cookbooks as source material tho – or at least hasn’t listed them.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Apologies for the slackness in getting this edition out - PNG and other things got in the way and there has also been something of a dearth of interesting stories from my usual sources (not the human ones, I rush to say).

The pic is of my Dad's Day brekkie of charcoal bread soldiers, eggs (which were too hard for dipping) and some sides  - posted here as it has sparked a tad of discussion about the point of charcoal bread. For my money (and I didn't pay anyway) as a look it's fun, as a taste it was meh.

And a last minute reminder that Food and Words 2016 approacheth rapidamente. I am looking forward to being the interlocutor of Biota's James Viles on his bow and arrow hunting for the private table.

Love the Fig

‘For the wasp mother, however, devotion to the fig plant soon turns tragic. A fig’s entranceway is booby-trapped to destroy her wings, so that she can never visit another plant. When you eat a dried fig, you’re probably chewing fig-wasp mummies, too.’

Helen Campbell as right, of course I enjoyed this article: a model of writing for me, packing a heap of fascinating info in a coupla thousand words with just the right touch of lightness and fancy.

Dinner, Disrupted

The site won’t let me copy and paste an excerpt for you but I recommend reading for its parallels with somewhere not too far from where you a reading this enewsletter. Ta Helen Greenwood for the lead.

The Movement to Define Native American Cooking

Another article I will just have to recommend as I can’t cut and paste a tidbit for you. Ta John Newton for this one. I found it fascinating to compare the indigenous foods descibed here with those in Oz. John will kill me for saying this but the berries look a whole lot more appetising than wattle seed J

Instagram and the Pornification of Food

‘Food and cooking were popular long before the internet, and remain as much in legacy media, especially TV. But there is no American cooking show that doesn’t have at least a whiff of narrative, the pretense of an ongoing relationship between the host and the audience as the former introduces old recipes, develops new ones, pits contestants against one another in a battle of skill, or explores the local color that informs this or that regional cuisine. With food porn, especially as found on Instagram, the cuisine is stripped of narrative and reduced to the visual, and then reduced again — like a hearty consommé — by repetition, including subsequent, nearly identical images. Although there are plenty of visual recipes for classic dishes or old standbys, there are just as many that function as filler, in which the food being “made” can only be described as such by its loosest definition (Can slathering a store-bought cookie in Jif creamy peanut butter actually be termed “making food”?).’

As a soft core food pornographer this article of course appeals to me. I had no idea that the sites mentioned existed and am not particularly tempted to head for them now if for no other reason that I would feel downright prurient if not just plain grubby. I’m not sure he’s decided where he stand on porn porn though for all his defence of whoredom, and I think that leads to confusing and unsatisfying conclusions to the article.

The wastefulness of modern dining as performance art

‘No matter where Honey and Bunny work, though, there’s always the possibility that audience members will pause, smile, and then go home and forget the whole thing. The problem with being a clown is that “nobody has to take me seriously,” Hablesreiter says.’

The title is a misnomer as there is nothing in the article that is about waste. It’s about a couple who perform ‘food design’, some of which  I find fun or quirky but some of which I find (on the basis of the videos embedded in the article) banal. The quote I have above sums up the problem for me in what is reported. If there is nothing that leads people to interrogate what they have been surprised, shocked, intrigued, horrified by, then is what they do just a wank? For example the performance they did where they re-arranged supermarket food shelves in terms of food miles: the article doesn’t indicate if there was any discussion with the customers about what food miles meant. Am I being a grouch? Very well the, I am a grouch.

Ta to Colin Sherringham for the opportunity for me to grouch.

Monday, July 25, 2016


A Whole New Kind Of Grocery Store Is Coming To The U.S.

‘ The popularity of food startups isn't exactly helping. Take the meal kit delivery service Blue Apron: By sending exactly what you need directly to your door, the startup in theory helps cut down on wasted groceries. But as BuzzFeed points out, nearly every ingredient comes in its own little pouch, generating an insane amount of packaging waste for just a two-person dinner. (Blue Apron said in email that all of its packaging is recyclable or biodegradable.)

I pulled this quote out of this article sent to me by Helen because I think it identifies part of the problem with the bring your own container push. I love that it’s being done, but all the studies show that it is further up the chain or in the sidebar outlets that the change has to happen for there to be an appreciable difference.

The origins of the neenish tart: A sweet mystery and a little scandal

‘The most popular tale is that the neenish tart was invented  by a woman called Ruby Neenish in the New South Wales Riverina town of Grong Grong in 1913. The story goes something like this – Ruby was baking for a shower tea when she ran out of cocoa. Thinking on her feet, she iced her tarts with half chocolate, half white icing and they were known forever more as neenish tarts.’

And it’s such a great story why spoil it by casting nasturtiums at Ruby !

Taste-Testing the History of the Hamburger

‘As the patties sizzled on the pan, they smelled like burgers cooking. Leni, myself and Mary simultaneously took a bite. “It's like a gourmet burger,” said Mary. “It's absolutely a burger. There is no doubt in my mind.”

Another quite delightful origins story.

One-World Menu

‘From Scientific American July 2016:
Back in 1961, residents of far flung countries are very different mixes of crops. By 1985 the disparities worldwide had shrunk and daily fare became even more homogeneous by 2009. In nearly 50 years the differences in foods eaten narrowed by 68%. Prevalent staples such as wheat have become more dominant, and oil crops such a soybean, palm and sunflower have risen sharply.’

Apologies: there is a diagram in the mag that sort of shows this shift but is a tad incomprehensible and not very worth the reproducing. However, it does highlight some startling shifts such as the United Arab Emirates zooming in from the outer reaches in 1961 to the virtual centre of the action in 2009, and Nepal coming in from the cold too.

Why Do Some Plants Become Food Crops and Others Not? And What Does That Tell Us?

As serendipity would have it, just as I added the above this newsletter, Jacqui alerted me to this paper which cited two other papers looking at the homogenising of the world diet from a different perspective. The Lauden and the two Khoury articles cited in it are well worth the read.

Slice, Dice, Chop Or Julienne: Does The Cut Change The Flavor?

Without enzymes, onions and garlic also wouldn't be nearly as flavorful. "If you cut an onion or garlic, you release an enzyme called alliinase that produces the typical pungency or onion or garlic aroma, which really isn't there when it's intact," explains Forney. "The enzymatic reaction forms the flavor — so the more finely it's cut, the more flavor that will be released."

And the more tears you’re gonna cry too, I reckon. Quite an intriguing article (thanks Helen), though I reckon sometimes the direction to cut things particular ways are just to irritate you and rub your nose in it that you will never be a chef.

The real two cultures

The vocabulary of farming is a constant indicator of the divide, but there are many other landmarks. Separate calendars, for example: academics measure their year by semester and holiday breaks, farmers measure theirs by season — planting, haying, breeding, birthing, harvesting. Or even by weather report. If it’s going to rain tomorrow, there will be no mowing of standing hay today because it won’t dry, but class will still be held. And the seasons are likely to be delimited by events that most indoor-bound workers fail to notice. My sister text-messaged me one late April to say that the barn swallows had returned that very afternoon.’

Just one of many pars I could have cited from this terrific thoughtful article.

Arctic 'Doomsday Vault' opens to retrieve vital seeds for Syria

ICARDA and others know that the past could very well contain the key to our future, though no one thought they would see such a mass withdrawal in their lifetime.’

I missed this depressing story when it was first published.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Compost 18 June 2016

This weeks image is my new acquisition - Finger Food by Aysa Vaughan.

Cask from the past: archaeologists find 5000 year old beer recipe
Their analysis revealed that broomcorn millet, Job’s tears, lily, yam, barley and even snake gourd root (Trichosanthes pilosa) went into the beer. What’s more, they say, the type of damage to the starch grains, together with chemical analysis of the residues, suggests the drink was produced by methods familiar to modern brewers. “The beer was made by going through three processes, including malting, mashing, and fermentation,” said Wang.
But despite cracking the beer’s recipe, the archaeologists admit they can’t say how its flavour would measure up to a modern pint. “I really have no idea,” said Wang. “That is beyond our research methods.”
Not the kind of archaeologists I went to uni with then, more’s the pity. And they don’t reproduce the recipe.

Welcome Dinners project: ‘We would have no wars if we had more of these dinners’

"There are lots of reasons why Australians aren't connecting," Elsley says. "We believe it's not so much about racism but that people worried about doing the wrong thing by each other. Like, what if I don't cook the right thing, what if it's not halal. So what we do is make people feel safe about coming together by getting our volunteer facilitators to help unpack some of that. We help people connect through their food."’

Sure, the idea that having dinner together ever stops wars is hyperbole. But I think those of us in this Compost bulletin list would applaud this project and its capacity for the enactment of everyday multiculturalism. And at a time when the Ministers of the current Government make extraordinary statements and get away with them by and large, a project that refuses to accept that xenophobia should be our default option is worth supporting and promoting.

Dude food versus superfood: we’re all cultural omnivores

The attributes that omnivorous foodies look for in lowbrow cuisine are “quality, rarity, locality, organic, hand-made, creativity, and simplicity.” Therefore, a freakshake and a green smoothie can both be valued in the eyes of foodies as they are hand-made, creative (in the case of the freakshake), and organic as well as simple (the green smoothie).’
This article annoys me, not least for its throwing around of key terms that remain unhelpfully undefined – high brow, low brow in particular – but also because it fails to suggest why people engage in the behaviour it sets out to identify (and I don’t think it does that well at all) apart from the pretty meaningless statement that ‘The culinary elite are keen to shrug-off the “food snob” tag, showing that they appreciate inexpensive foods that are in some cases ethnic, but authentically so.’

A Melbourne Love Affair

‘The arrival of American troops in Australia during World War II heralded a marked increase in the quality of Melbourne’s local coffee brew. Melbourne’s coffee companies were unable to keep up with demand, so the American military imported modern roasting, grinding and packaging machinery to Australia.’

I refuse to believe that Americans had anything to offer coffeewise.

Which thought led me to wonder about the origin of the term ‘java’ for coffee.

Does anyone in this ebulletin list know whether ‘java’ referred to in US slang was in fact ‘strong, black and very sweet’?

Certainly the Java Jive singer wants the coffee hot and sweet...

...but also seems to want a ‘slice of onion’..and then it becomes really weird with the seemingly outré introduction of soya Boston beans, soy beans
Green beans, cabbage and greens’. Or am I just not getting the sexual references?

'Deconstructed coffee' served at Melbourne cafe to Jamila Rizvi sparks social media storm

"I walked into a new cafe in inner north Melbourne, and ordered a flat white without looking at the menu," she told 774 ABC Melbourne. "What showed up was a little chopping board with three miniature beakers, like you would have in a science class, one with boiling water, one with frothy milk and one with a shot of espresso in it." She said she waited for 20 minutes for a cup to arrive before realising it was not going to come.
One of my all time fave coffees was in Mexico City where when I order a cafe con leche they served me a glass of hot milk and a hot glass of black coffee which I then dropped into the milk and watched mesmerised as the coffee swirled up through the milk and finally diffused all the way through. The was in 1988 - well before anyone had heard of deconstruction

Tastes like moral superiority: what makes food ‘good’?

In similar ways, our snobbery toward frozen and processed foods may well be blinding us to their potential advantages. Depending on issues like season and storage and transport methods, some frozen foods might in fact be more nutritious (as well as more convenient) than their fresh counterparts. As the food historian Rachel Laudan argues, processed and industrialised foods are not automatically bad, although quality matters:’
I have happily given in on this one. Frozen peas are fab – I use them extensively in things like a pea, cashew and cauliflower curry, or in my vegie mix for Sri Lankan patties. Frozen grated coconut is this housecooks saviour; do you know how hard it is in Aus (a) to find coconuts for fresh grating and (b) finding said ‘fresh’ coconuts that are not seriously on the turn; the frozen works very well in a mallung or coconut roti, though it has to be admitted that it does not make for a perfect pol sambol.

Delusion at the gastropub
‘Food is personal. It’s sensual, it’s nostalgic, it’s political. But contrary to the slogans of our officious foodie overlords, food is not everything. Viewing our foodie status as a badge of honor makes sense only if we’re prioritizing food advocacy—from promoting sustainable farming practices to reducing food waste to embracing and popularizing more sustainable crops to making healthy food more affordable to the poor—over our indulgence in wildly expensive plates of exotic fare. Before we dive into another dish of bluefin or veal brains or carrots with a 15.2 Brix reading, we should consider how we’ll look fifty years from now to the inhabitants of an overfished, polluted planet: decadent, callous, delusional, and above all, deeply unsavory.’
Maybe it’s just me, but this article strikes me more as a predictable cheap shot dummy spit than anything else. Maybe it’s just that I think she takes a very old and clichéd view of what a foodie is – wealthy, fad following, frivolous. Sure, capitalism knows a buck-making zeitgeist when it sees it, but to dump on all artisanal food makers or the homey doing what they can to counter Big Food as being schmucks without considering whether said artisans and homeys also engage in the wider issues she bandwagons in that last sentence is shallow journalism.