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
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.
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.
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