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