Bite-Sized No. 5 - Long weekend longreads edition

Hello eaters and happy Easter (or Passover, or just plain ol' happy long weekend!) 

I've got another draft ready to go for you but its full of doom and gloom and thought maybe you'd prefer some holiday longreads to chew on over the four-day weekend. I've gathered up some of the weird and wonderful articles I've come across in the last little while. Devour very very expensive muskmelons, the history of atomic age bread and cultish tea to stories about food and memory and exposés about conditions for farmworkers. 

On a side note if you happen to be in Sydney around ANZAC day come along to Sydney university for 'Cultivating our Campus', I'll be speaking alongside Dr Sinead Boylan and Tracey Ho with Dr Alana Mann moderating on transforming campus food environments. It's on 5pm, Wednesday 26th of April at the University of Sydney law school. 

 An attendant shows of a luxury apple at Sembikiya fruit boutique. From  'Why Should a Melon Cost as Much as a Car'  by Bianca Boskey for Roads and Kingdoms. Photo by Alex Thomas

An attendant shows of a luxury apple at Sembikiya fruit boutique. From 'Why Should a Melon Cost as Much as a Car' by Bianca Boskey for Roads and Kingdoms. Photo by Alex Thomas

Settle in with a cuppa and a hot cross bun and sink your teeth into one, or all of these great pieces of longform food writing. 

Atomic Bread Baking at Home - this article might be the best thing since sliced bread, a fascinating look at how industrial food took over the world. 

And so, in 1952, hoping to offset possible declines in bread consumption, the U.S. Department of Agriculture teamed up with baking-industry scientists to launch the Manhattan Project of bread. Conceived as an intensive panoramic investigation of the country's bread-eating habits, the project had ambitious goals: First, gain a precise, scientific understanding of exactly how much and what kind of bread Americans ate, when and why they ate it, and what they thought about it. Second, use that information to engineer the perfect loaf of white bread—a model for all industrial white bread to come.

Remembrance of tastes past: Syria’s disappearing food culture - tracing the foodways of the Syrian diaspora 

Once, when talking to refugees in one of the camps in the Bekaa Valley, I asked a group of women if they made pickles and jams. The young chef Dima Chaar had told me that preparing mouneh (pickles) was a communal activity, part of the social fabric of Syria. “My mother used to get together with her neighbours in Damascus,” she said. “In artichoke season for example, my dad would go to the market and buy kilos of artichokes and then all the women would gather and clean them and cook them and prepare them, making preserves or freezing. Mounie is the tradition of preserving. ... Twenty or more refugee women in the Bekaa Valley sat around me in a big circle. Almost every one of them had a baby or a small child on their lap. Many of them had been living in tents for five years, since the beginning of the war. Mouneh? They shrugged. No, not really. Making pickles is a statement of settlement, it embodies the idea of a future of planning and looking forward: in six months, we will be here, in the same place. “We just live day to day,” one of the women said. “We buy what we need and we eat it.”

Inside the Box The Not-So-Wholesome Reality Behind The Making of Your Meal Ki - An investigation into the food chain behind the ever-growing industry of home delivered meal kits.

In the 38 months since Blue Apron's facility opened, the Richmond Police Department has received calls from there twice because of weapons, three times for bomb threats, and seven times because of assault. Police captains have met twice with Blue Apron to discuss the frequency of calls to the police. At least four arrests have been made due to violence on the premises, or threats of it. Employees have reported being punched in the face, choked, groped, pushed, pulled, and even bitten by each other on the job, according to police reports. Employees recalled bomb scares, brandished kitchen knives, and talk of guns. All told, interviews with 14 former employees describe a chaotic, stressful environment where employees work long days for wages starting at $12 an hour bagging cilantro or assembling boxes in a warehouse kept at a temperature below 40 degrees.

Why Should a Melon Cost as Much as a Car? - A exploration of Japan's luxury fruit trade - would you pay nearly $100 for strawberries or several thousand dollars for a melon?

These remaining muskmelons each get an outfit: a string tied around their stems to prevent them from falling as they ripen, plus their signature “hat”—black, cone-shaped—to prevent sunburn. As the melon grows, cracks develop in its exterior—think melon stretch marks, caused by insides expanding faster than the skin—and sugary juices flow into the cracks, creating elegant reticulation that makes it look as though the fruit has been caught in a khaki-colored net. (The finer the reticulation, the sweeter and juicier the melon, experts say.) To make the melons even sweeter, farmers don white cotton gloves and give each individual fruit a vigorous “melon massage”—what Sembikiya’s website refers to as a “ball wiping”—by rubbing the outside of the fruit. (Champion growers are so enthusiastic with this “ball wiping” they get holes in their gloves and go through multiple pairs per crop.)

Cults, Conspiracies and the Twisted History of Sleepytime Tea - I probably haven't a cup of sleepy time tea for well over a decade, but I know I have had it - who knew it had such a weird and racist history?

Siegel discloses that the ideals he gathered from The Urantia Book guided how he ran Celestial Seasonings from the beginning and provided a moral compass for himself and his employees. “I had wanted bold; I found bold,” he wrote. “I wanted spiritual adventure, and I was on the ride of my life. I was searching for truth and the book was loaded with it.”

Raped, beaten, exploited: the 21st-century slavery propping up Sicilian farming - a grim look into the Romanian women who work in terrible conditions to keep Europe in fresh vegetables.

Working conditions are in some cases highly dangerous. One young Romanian woman told us that she became sick when she was forced to handle and work with agricultural chemicals without protective clothing. “I had to handle foods covered in pesticides and it made me really sick. I was coughing and I couldn’t breathe,” she says. “I was pregnant and I started to feel sick and then I gave birth to my baby when I was only five months’ pregnant. The doctors said she was premature because of the work and that she is probably going to have brain damage because of the chemicals.”

How paella got punked – and the Valencian chefs trying to save it - one man's search for a proper paella and the story of crowd-sourcing cultural memory through wikipaella 

 The mission was to protect what’s served. A 10-point manifesto on the site lays out the fundamental beliefs that unite this cabal of writers, chefs and enthusiasts. A few of the highlights: authentic paella has its origin in the Comunidad Valenciana; we publicly denounce transgressions committed against paella, especially in the Comunidad Valenciana; we carry paella in our hearts and travel with it as far as possible … Rice is the star of this story, its entire place in paella a paradox: toothsome yet tender, independent but inexorably bound to the larger whole, swollen with the flavour of everything that came before it in the pan.


All You Have Eaten: On Keeping a Perfect Record -  an experiment on food as a mnemonic device - a weird and wonderful meditation on how the food we eat helps us remember the past, it goes from past relationships to interviewing members of a study on how people would eat on a Mars mission. It's hard to adequately represent this one - just read it. 

Getting to Mars will take roughly six to nine months each way, depending on trajectory; the mission itself will likely span years. So the question becomes: How do you feed astronauts for so long? On “Mars,” the HI-SEAS crew alternated between two days of pre-prepared meals and two days of dome-cooked meals of shelf-stable ingredients. Researchers were interested in the answers to a number of behavioral issues: among them, the well-documented phenomenon of menu fatigue (when International Space Station astronauts grow weary of their packeted meals, they tend to lose weight). They wanted to see what patterns would evolve over time if a crew’s members were allowed dietary autonomy, and given the opportunity to cook for themselves (“an alternative approach to feeding crews of long term planetary outposts,” read the open call). 

Escaping the Restaurant Industry's Motherhood Tra - a look at what could help women get ahead in hospitality. 

After six years, she learned she was pregnant, and worked all the way through to her delivery date, in her final month scaling back what had previously been a 60-hour-a-week job to 50 hours, before taking an agreed-upon ten weeks of unpaid leave. Just before the end of those ten weeks, she found out — via a customer — that in her absence, the restaurant had given her position, permanently, to someone else.... Why aren't more women running kitchens and restaurants across all tiers of the industry, especially at the top? People point to all sorts of things: discrimination in hiring and promotion practices, the aggressive environments and hours of restaurant work, the self-fulfilling prophecy of media coverage, the differing ambitions of women, the differing style of their cooking.

Have a great weekend

Eat well and read widely until next time


Bite-Sized No. 4 - A long time between drinks: Cheeto-in-Chief | Cultural appropriation in food | Indigenous food access, health and political art

Happy new year eaters, 

Apologies for my tardiness in getting around to this edition. The last stretch of 2016 was madness and by its end it was all I could do to be as far away from my computer as possible. In the meantime I've been settling back down and begun my PhD. I'll share more about that in due time but for now I've got a round up of my summer reading and some political art. I hope you've all had a lovely summer and are gearing up for a stellar 2017, no matter how uncertain the world might feel right now. 

Tasty Morsels 

If you're back and work and ready to procrastinate start with Civil Eats best food justice stories of last year, and then move on the Food Tanks 117 organisations to watch in 2017. If your new years resolution is to learn more about the food system sign up to UC Berkley's live-streamed edible education series. Or maybe get 2017 off to a good start with The New York Times' new years gut makeover. If that’s your kind of thing and you’re in Melbourne you should come see Guilia Enders (author of Gutspeak at the Melbourne Town Hall. Exciting new enterprises to watch out for this year include this massive food redistribution hub in New York and a new crowd-funded union for Australian retail and fast food workers

  The Cheeto-In-Chief 

 The Cheeto-In-Chief 

 The time has come for the 'sentient cheeto' to assume office - and lots of people are speculating what the impact of the new American administration will be on food policy. Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Olivier de Schutter and Ricardo Salvador have put forth a call to action to expand the food movement in the Trump era. Some are wondering how the new first family will follow up Michelle Obama's strong Whitehouse food game.
Early signs suggest that the new administration will be bad news for food chain workersfood safety and the environment, even Big Food brands got messily entangled in Trump's insane twitter electioneering. A sense of foreboding is settling in as political art from the Bush era starts to resurface:

 Lauren Garfinkel,  Potatoes Abu Ghraib, (Feast for Bush),   2009 - posted by  Edible Government   in response to the news that Trump has drafted an executive order to reinstate CIA black site prisons notorious for their practice of torture. 

Lauren Garfinkel, Potatoes Abu Ghraib, (Feast for Bush), 2009 - posted by Edible Government in response to the news that Trump has drafted an executive order to reinstate CIA black site prisons notorious for their practice of torture. 

Cue the Imperial March theme music while catching up on the background to the merger, and histories, of Bayer & Monsanto – two of the world’s largest agro-chemical and pharma companies. The merger has massive potential to impact the global food system, the new company could control 25% of the world’s seeds. While there was some speculation the merger might have been experiencing turbulence, the CEOs of both companies chummily met with Trump before his inauguration and he is set to clear away anti-trust concerns ASAP. Meanwhile the merger of Dow and DuPont (Big players in Agrochemicals) is hitting regulatory stumbling blocks. If all this consolidation worries you read this great essay from Felicity Lawrence in the Guardian and this think piece from Anne Lappé about the dangers of concentration in the food industry.

A succulent, iron rich, juicy meatless meat patty is getting closer than ever, while scientists are working with supermarkets to redesign the shopping experience to encourage consumers to buy less meat and more veg. Dairy farmers are getting cranky about rising sales of plant milks. Meanwhile millennials dietary preferences might be slowly reshaping the food system - and hopefully for the better.

In the face of growing social division there are increasing conversations about intersectionality, not least concerning food. From analysis of the cultural significance of hot sauce to contemplations on decolonising diets, the cultural politics of inducting new emoji and how we can work to achieve food justice. In a recent episode of The Secret Ingredient Krishnendu Ray takes listeners on a journey through the history of immigrant contributions to America’s food culture. His historical lens informs his opinion that we should deal with power in food relations while maintaining the ability to share between cultures and allow foodways to evolve as they always have. I’ve probably shared it before but it is worth returning to Soleil Ho’s Craving the Other, if you haven’t read it yet, do. Rachel Kuo and Lorraine Chuen offer their own perspectives on cultural appropriation. If you're keen to explore these issues in more depth Bitch Media have put together a great list of resources.

A mysterious carpet of skittles spreading across the state of Wisconsin in the US set people wondering, until someone worked out that they were spilled from a truck en route to become farm feed for cows. This sparked a flurry of conversation about feeding industrial food waste to livestock including marshmallows and gummy worms, a practice that became more widespread after a feed price shock in 2012. Yet another perverse symptom of a failing food system. Dan Barber has some slightly more intelligent suggestions about how we can fix food waste by making better choices about what we plant and produce in the first place. More on his vision for the food system here.  

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Eye Candy 

 Leonie Lane & Peter Curtis with Redback Graphix,   Eat Good Food,  1987, Screenprint 

Leonie Lane & Peter Curtis with Redback Graphix,  Eat Good Food, 1987, Screenprint 

his morning I was hunting for the iconic 'You Are on Aboriginal Land' poster by Marie McMahon to share in support of the #changethedate campaign. While looking around I was reminded of how much great work came out of Redback Graphix and found this public health poster from the eighties. Redback was set up in 1979 by Michael Callaghan in Brisbane to allow artists to make a living while producing politically charged art.  The studio produced everything from public health posters, including the famous Condoman to protest posters, to flyers about benefits and gigs for socially progressive causes. Originally meant for the street these posters are now highly collectable. 

 Posters from Redback Graphix

Posters from Redback Graphix

Eat Good Food was designed by Leonie Lane for the Nganampa Health Council, an Aboriginal owned and controlled health organisation operating on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the far north west of South Australia. Home to 3000 residents who speak Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara as their first language and celebrate the Ananou culture. The poster shows a young boy holding a coolamon full of honey ants and surrounded by fruits, vegetables and bush tucker encouraging healthy eating and traditional food practices. The sentiment is as important today as it was three decades ago. Aboriginal people have life-expectancy a full decade shorter than their white counterparts, largely attributable to preventable, diet-related diseases. Many communities and people struggle with a lack of access to fresh, affordable and healthy produce, don't have sovereignty over their own food supply and Indigenous Australians face food insecurity at a higher rate than all other groups.  

Posters and their visual language has an important role in Australian social history and in some ways was a vector through which new vocabularies came into popular conversation. As explained by artist Julia Church

Community-based organisations have carried new ideas across Australia, introducing concepts like disarmament, human rights, aboriginal land rights, feminism and gay rights into the vernacular. Cooperative presses have acted as a mouth-piece for these issues and they have been vital to the development of Australian literature and art, publishing the work of experimental writers and artists when commercial printers and publishing houses refused to do so. The presses have championed the right of people to shape their world.

Posters of the 70s and 80s segued into the street art of the 90s and 2000s, a practice that has in part, come to define Melbourne as a city and had a huge impact on Australian art. In the current shifting social landscape maybe its time to bring back the political power of graphic design, if nothing else at least to save us from the banal visual language of current government public health messages. 

Until next time, read widely and eat well friends, 




Bite-Sized No. 3: Collaboration | The Gut | Radical Transparency | Sculptural Salt

Welcome to Bite-Sized number 3: Tasty Morsels, Collaboration and the Wonderful Work of Ken and Julia Yonetani

Tasty Morsels 

I was glad to wake up to the news that the Victorian government is moving to ban exploration and development of unconventional gas. A hopeful step in protecting our agricultural land.

This month I've been reading Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture of Accident? by Bruce Pascoe. Pascoe argues for a radical revision of indigenous history and consideration of how indigenous Australians managed and cultivated land and resources. I am only a few pages in but I am loving it and am having lots of great discussions with fellow readers. If you're interested you can read and hear a little about it here

Some of you have probably heard me wax lyrical about Giulia Enders book Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ. Not only is it a great work of science communication (I love that she collaborated with her sister, an illustrator, to tell the story) it is a genuinely informative tour of our marvellous digestive systems.

         Gut Microbiota  by Micah Lidberg via  this article  about our wonderful internal ecosystems

       Gut Microbiota by Micah Lidberg via this article about our wonderful internal ecosystems

I'm also loving the CSIROs Hungry Microbiome project and this study, showing that outdoor play is linked to gut health and immunity. It makes me think of my mum who has spent years trying to convince me that being a little bit dirty is very good for you. 

Did you know there's a Bledisloe Cup for horticulture? Read about the recent winners, the incredible Mr and Mrs. Gock who saved the kumara and definitely watch the great mini-doco about their efforts. If you liked that you might also enjoy this piece on why farming bananas is a political statement in Hong Kong or this clip on the mesmerising process of making Nanshan Noodles

I was slightly irked but also pretty amazed by this video of Japanese high school biology students growing a chicken from an egg without a shell so they could see the chick develop. I enjoyed the graphics in this visual project to simplify nutrition labels, but then got frustrated by it's advertorial undertones. It'd be great to see the same tech employed for something a little less corporate. 

Saying supermarkets will be obsolete in ten years seems like a big claim, I'll leave that for you to make up your own mind. Meanwhile this slaughterhouse in Vermont is practising radical transparency and invites you to tour the facility and enjoy its 'glass wall' policy. That reminds me, I still haven't read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair which has been on my reading list for far too long. 

It's encouraging to see more investment in food system jobs and start-ups. Read this article from Civil Eats about the rise of food system roles in local government and this one about Elon Musk's bro starting an urban ag accelerator. If you like that you might also be interested in the conversion of an old pfizer factory into a food business start-up hub that happened in Brooklyn in 2012.


It has been a busy month and recently I've been marvelling at the wonders of collaboration. In the last few weeks I have had the privilege of being part of some incredible events with some incredible people. A few weeks ago I spent two days with some very bright young people and over two days wrote 15, 000 words that contributed to Australia's first student-led co-designed food policy for universities for the Fair Food Challenge. Within ten days we drafted a report and presented it to stakeholders from nine universities. You can read our draft report here. Exciting times!

 Smart babes hard at work at What Could A Fair Food University Look Like & The Fair Food Writeshop

Smart babes hard at work at What Could A Fair Food University Look Like & The Fair Food Writeshop

Meanwhile, the wonderful Cip from Melbourne Farmers' Markets and I have been working together in the Local Food Launchpad program to develop an affordable and fair fresh fruit and veg supply chain for students and university communities. I'm excited to see what comes out of the next few months and have an absolute conviction that I'm in the exact right place at the exact right time to see a great community work together on novel solutions for food system challenges. In other news I've signed up to a PhD so watch this space for more pondering of food and nutrition politics.  

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Eye Candy

 Ken and Julia Yonetani,  Still Life: the food bowl , 2001, Murray River Salt

Ken and Julia Yonetani, Still Life: the food bowl, 2001, Murray River Salt

The Australian / Japanese duo Ken and Julia Yonetani make collaborative artworks about social and environmental challenges. I first saw their work many years ago when I came across a gallery of glowing uranium glass chandeliers made in response to the Fukushima crisis. They came up in conversation the other day when a long-lost relative told me of the magical work she had seen in a regional gallery. Still Life: the food bowl is made from salt pumped out of the Murray Darling basin. Each year 550 000 tonnes is pumped out in an attempt to reduce the rising salinity of one of Australia's most important food bowls. The artists have carved an elaborate still life from the substance, recalling luscious Dutch still lifes. Food often featured in Dutch still life painting. The genre, known as Vanitas is derived from the  biblical phrase 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.' The style reminds viewers that all earthly pursuits are temporary indulgences. The works burst with symbolism and allegory. If you look closely at the Dutch works you can see that all is not as it seems: frequently fruit is blemished, flowers are wilting and the setting is infested with insects.

The Yonetani's version echoes this opulence but is desiccated, devoid of the fecundity of its antecedents. Their work is a warning of a dystopian future in which we render our productive land useless. The artists' practice is deeply located in research and the pair spent three months at the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre in Mildura, Victoria. To learn more about how they made the sculptures you can watch this short video about their work. If you're after something sweeter check out their barrier reef made of sugar

Craving some more salt? Listen to this great podcast about its history and some contemporary controversies. Did you know the word salary comes from a time when soldiers were paid in the then-precious substance? 

Until next time, read widely and eat well friends



Bite-Sized No. 2: The First Course - Partnerships for Public Health | Bananas in Suitcases | Eggless Meringues

subscribe to my monthly newsletter Bite-Sized by clicking here

Dear eaters, 

You are among the lucky few to have the very first taste of this newsletter, thanks for signing up. I hope you find what you came looking for, or if not, something curious and delightful. 

I saw this on the corner of my street today and was surprised to have never noticed it before

t's a statement I can get behind and one that seems timely in a year rolling along with one bad news headline after another (are they all this bad? I seem to remember 2011 as an annus horribilis but 2016 is beginning to feel worse). It seemed an auspicious sign to see while contemplating starting this newsletter, so friends I am sharing it with you.

In this first full edition there are some thoughts on the dangers of food corporations as education providers, a round-up of links including an Italian mayor who has set out a manifesto for a vegetarian city, the benefits of cockroach milk and the many wonders of mushrooms. For Feast For Your Eyes we'll be devouring bananas and geopolitics (two of my favourite things) and for dessert we'll be sharing aquafaba wattleseed meringues.

Food for Thought


Public Private Partnerships in the face of the obesity crisis: promoting public health or potential risk?

Globally, obesity rates have doubled since 1980. Recent estimates count 41 million children under the age of five and 9.1 billion adults as overweight or obese. While obesity is often framed as a first world problem, rates are rapidly growing in low and middle-income countries. Overweight and obesity has doubled in Africa since 1990 and Asia is home to half the overweight and obese children in the world . We’re expecting to see 60 million obese children by 2020. In 2010, a Lancet Global Burden of Disease Study declared that for the first time, overweight and obesity was a bigger problem than malnutrition. Childhood obesity is of particular concern, not only for its impact on children’s lives but as an indicator of co-morbiditieslater in life including heart disease, cognitive impairment, diabetes, asthma, cancer and respiratory diseases, as well as mental diseases and reproductive disorders later in life. Aside from the human impact this rise in disease comes at massive cost with the World Economic Forum estimating an economic impact of 2 trillion dollars a year.


Media Morsels


I've been thinking again about Malcolm Knox's 2014 Supermarket Monsters in light of Woolworth's recent announcements that they're slashing jobs and closing stores. The link is to the original essay in The Monthly, but I highly recommend the book it later became. It will be interesting to see how the news unfolds, in the short-term Woolworths shares are up after the announcement. 

Did you hear that the Mayor of Turin, the capital of Piemonte in Italy, has released a manifesto with the intent of encouraging Turin to be the world's first vegetarian city? The manifesto proceeds the implementation of an education program in which 'leading medical, nutritional, and political experts will help promote a culture of respect in our schools, teaching children how to eat well while protecting the earth and animal rights'. Seems like an interesting idea but a hard sell in a region known for its cheese, cured meat and wild boar. 

Australian native truffles taste pretty gross (apparently) but we need to protect them as a vital part of our ecosystem. This reminds me of this great article about mighty mushrooms as bioremediation wonders (thanks Jen!). Climate change sucks but speaking of mushrooms, they might do ok in a warmer world. If you're curious about mycology Gastropod have a great episode featuring the world's largest fungi (spoiler: It's several kilometres wide). 

I'm a big advocate for entomophagy but I do wonder what my limits are. While I can attest to the edibility of ants, mealworms and crickets I'm sure my arachnophobia would preclude me from eating a spider without freaking out. I don't know where on the spectrum between taste and disgust cockroach milk falls - scientists are promoting roach milk as a 'fantastic protein supplement'. I don't think I'm there yet. However, here's a more compelling argument for eating insects

Scientists are speculating that your Grandfather's diet might affect your own ability to stay trim. Given that my grandfather lived on a solid diet of ham, white bread, steak, chips and whiskey, I might be in trouble. 

The other day I was contemplating whether I like or loathe Jamie Oliver. I did make a great grape pizza (it's better than it sounds) from one of his recipes which endeared me to him slightly but then I read this and I remembered why he makes my eyes roll. He maintains that signing a deal with one of the largest intensive chicken processors in the world gives him a chance to effect large-scale change. I wonder about this line of logic often, and for him it has failed before. On one hand I think using such an platform to advocate a sugar tax is great, on the other partnering with intensive agricultural processors and deals which mean farmers have to pay a levy for your presence seems pretty irksome. 

The New York Times did a good piece on the slow devolution on the term CSA. Like everything in the food system nothing is what it seems once you dig beneath the surface of popular terminology.

Feast For Your Eyes

Cooking Sections, Cases of Confusion, Installation, 2015

A couple of months ago I went with amazing babes Luci, Catherine and Ailie to see Cooking Sections talk at RMIT. Cooking Sections comprises Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe who first met at Goldsmith's at the University of London and they self-describe their practice as spatial practitioners who practice  geopolitical cooking.

Cases of Confusion is a homage to the 'transnational bananization of the world'. Most bananas we eat in the world today are descendants of a single plant grown in the British greenhouse of William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, nearly two centuries ago. The plant was imported from Mauritius and after successful propagation found its way along the Empire's trade routes to spawn lucrative banana industries around the world. The Cavendish banana ascended to global dominance when Panama disease wiped out its sweeter rival the Gros Michel. Now the disease is threatening the banana we've come to know and love, and unlike in the 1950s when the Gros Michel was lost there is no secondary cultivar available suitable for global market. 

The artists ask: 'Did the travelling of the Cavendish bananas save or undermine indigenous species?' The work questions whether regulations against the smuggling of soil and seeds are really meant for environmental security or are actually driven by economic protectionism.

The form is part Wardian Case part Samsonite fusing the Victorian obsession with collecting with today's hungry globalisation, both in their own way, important factors to the ever increasing homogenisation of our food supply. 

Cooking sections have also put on performative dinners to contemplate climate change, speculatively invented The Plant That Ate Britain Ice-Cream to meditate on the tension between native and invasive plant species, made guests negotiate increasingly awkward dinner tables to understand the impact of geopolitics on natural resources and designed an entire store to trace the colonial lineages of Britain's food culture. 

The BBC has a great write-up on the history of the Cavendish Banana and the disease that's likely to wipe it out if you want to know more about the saga that inspired this edition's Feast For Your Eyes. 



When I put on my apocalyptic feasts I get really excited about talking about food and climate change, the potential impacts of the loss of bees on our food supply and what's going to happen to the oceans if we don't take serious action soon. But do you know what the conversation comes back to most often? Vegan meringues. These delicious treats are bloody show-stealers. I'm going to share this recipe with you so you too can discuss the wonders of aquafaba with your duly impressed dinner guests. 

Aquafaba sounds so fancy and exotic until you explain that it means 'bean water'. More precisely its the bit you've been chucking out of chick-pea cans all these years. Once you take to it with beaters it performs exactly like egg-white and makes incredible meringues. I've experimented with mixing in a few different flavours and have taken to making wattleseed aquafaba bites - the wattleseed gives them a delightfully nutty undertone. (Hint: attempting to add tumeric leads to disappointment and failure).


The liquid from one tin of unsalted chickpeas (save the peas for something else)
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of wattleseeds (I buy mine from Gewurzhaus)  


  • Put chickpea water in bowl and stare at it skeptically 
  • Beat with electric handbeaters until it starts to get foamy
  • Slowly add in sugar and keep beating 
  • Marvel as sticky yellow water turns into glossy white magic 
  • Continue beating (between 6 and 12 minutes depending on how furiously your beaters beat) until you have stiff peaks (no really, you'll want to stop before they're ready, keep going)
  • Fold in wattleseeds gently (less is more, too many and they'll collect in a sticky mess on the bottom of your meringue)
  • Dollop mixture on to baking-paper-lined tray with a teaspoon in even rows (if you're feeling fancy you can bust out a piping bag and pipe them onto the tray) 
  • Cooking time is a bit touch-and-go - the longer you leave them the drier your meringue will be so it depends on your preference. I've found between 60 and 90 minutes works well (but if you've spread your mixture thinly, less will do). It's best to test one and take them out when they've cooked to a consistency that suits. 
  strange yellow foamy liquid | glos  sy white magic |   eggless meringues that will make you feel like a wizard

strange yellow foamy liquid | glossy white magic | eggless meringues that will make you feel like a wizard

These are best eaten on the day they're cooked - otherwise they tend to go a bit oozy and sticky. If yours have come out a bit gooey try cooking them for longer or using less wattleseeds (or forego the seeds entirely for plain meringues). They're nice on their own but I've been using them in desserts, so far they seem to go well with ginger, coconut yoghurt, black sea salt and sweet root vegetables.

Let me know if you experiment with aquafaba and what you come up with. 

Until next time, read widely and eat well friends