Archive for April, 2009

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Fat for the love of food

April 18, 2009

From the Jeffrey Masson end of the extreme to the other, today’s Australian mag reprints this Observer article by food mag editor Lucy Cavendish (by the way do Australian weekend newspapers actually commission local writers to write anything anymore?) about having to lose weight. So far, so boring – but she is refreshingly frank about her eating “problem”, and her suspicion of thin people: Read the rest of this entry ?

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Raising the steaks

April 18, 2009

steakWas discussing with a similarly red-blooded friend yesterday how we could each happily go vegetarian if it weren’t for the love of a bloody good steak. Or a good bloody steak, more to the point.

Even so, it behoves us to continue to consider the ecological and moral impact of eating meat, I think.

So I read this Salon article with interest, an interview with Jeffrey Masson, the author of “The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food“.

He’s rather more emphatic than the omnivore-friendly Michael Pollan, and certainly more in-your-face than David Foster Wallace (whose essay on the lobster I love precisely because of the way he canvasses his own uncertainty about these matters).

Rather, Masson takes the Peter Singer approach of total veganism as the only moral way to live.  I’ve only read this one interview with Masson, and already find his voice deeply irritating (elsewhere I see that he is the kind of person who says things like “When I was teaching Sanskrit at the University of Toronoto in the 1970s …”of course he was teaching Sanskrit…)

But sad to say, I can’t find much fault with his logic. It seems pretty basic – and like Foster Wallace, he’s convincing about carnivores’ denial being the only thing that allows us to keep chowing down on cow:

… so many more people now want to eat organic and local and fresh, and that’s all to the good. However, I notice, and what I find wonderful is in these organic farmers markets sprouting up all over the country, you rarely see animals.

I think part of the reason for that is people don’t want to see it. It’s not like a market in France where you can go and choose a chicken, and they kill it for you right there. We do not like to be reminded of where our meat comes from.

Later, he elaborates on this denial:

What is the difference between a pig and a dog in terms of cognitive abilities, ability to be clean and affectionate? Pigs would sleep at the foot of your bed if you allowed them. They’re very clean. They love to be stroked. They’re affectionate. The difference between a pig and a dog in terms of their emotion, not at all. In terms of their willingness to accept us as a kind of co-species, also nothing. In fact, they’re closer to us in a way than cats. You can call the pig, and the pig will come.

The only difference is that we have decided, in our great wisdom, that we are going to eat them, and we’re not going to treat them as pets. We’re not going to name them. They’re going to grow on farms. They’re a commodity for us. They’re not a living, sentient being. We don’t see them, we don’t look into the eye of a pig and see another being there.

Where do you think that this denial comes from?

I think that every society has always had a certain amount of guilt when it comes to killing an animal. Look at indigenous Americans. They used to do ceremonies. They took it very seriously. It was not something that they engaged in lightly. And I think that the explanation for that is not a religious explanation. It’s because they felt bad about killing them.

Anybody with any kind of feelings, with any kinds of sentiment, goes out and if they have to kill an animal, they feel bad about it.

For most of us, the experience of eating meat is pretty sanitized. We don’t have to kill the animal, and as you say we don’t have to call it what it is when we eat it.

We change the name. We call it “hamburger.” What kind or resonance does the word “hamburger” have for you? None. They don’t say: “Give me the cow.” They don’t say: “Pass the pig.” They say: “Give me bacon.” “Veal,” even.

This last bit reminds me of a friend’s shamefaced guilt a few years ago in allowing her small daughter to go on believing that ham “comes from” pigs in the way that eggs come from chickens, or milk from cows. Not that Mr Masson lets us get away with thinking milk or eggs are okay, either, damn it all.  

Oh lord. What’s there to say, if you don’t want to join the ranks of hippie-hating Shooters Party types but still want to eat steak? Think I’ll go running back to Michael Pollan …

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Pharmacy in a bowl – lentil soup

April 17, 2009

soup2

So, I have had a vile cold all week. And for three days I ate this, noon and night. And now I’m better. Only thing is, I think it needs a little zing at the end – some pistou, maybe? a round or two of grilled chorizo? Any other suggestions for good soup bling? (Hamish, where are you …)

Ingredients

Olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small red chillies, finely chopped
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
¼ white cabbage, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 litres chicken stock
1 head broccoli, roughly chopped
1 can tomatoes in juice
1 cup French-style (‘blue’) lentils
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated

Method
1. Fry the garlic, onion, chilli, celery, leek, cabbage, capsicum and carrots in batches until well browned.
2. Put the chicken stock in a big pot on the stove and bring to the boil, tossing in all the sautéed ingredients.
3. Add broccoli and tomatoes, and simmer till all vegetables are tender.
4. Retaining stock, remove vegetables with a slotted spoon and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth (or roughly blended, depending on how rustic you like your texture).
5. Return pureed vegetables to stock and add lentils. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes or until lentils are tender (more if you want them falling apart). Season well with salt and pepper.
6. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Or other bling…

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Quince prince

April 17, 2009

gardenamateurFenella’s food feature has led me in a roundabout way to her friend Jamie’s garden blog, Garden Amateur – well worth checking out right this minute for his beautiful quince photos and prep & cooking tips.

Sean and I picked some quinces in Bathurst on the weekend, in the garden of a friend, and the weekend will see S doing some quincy magic with them, I hope – specifically, an orange cake with quinces that Steph alerted us to, from Jared Ingersoll’s book, I think?

Will show you the results, if they happen …

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Under pressure

April 16, 2009
I'm told they don't look like this anymore ...

I'm told they don't look like this anymore ...

I read with great interest this article by Suzanne Gibbs on pressure cookers  in last week’s Good Living section of the Sydney Morning Herald, primarily because my friend Steph (aka the Empress of the Chick Pea) is always banging on about how she just whipped up this or that traditional nine-hour confit/chick peas/cassoulet in her trusty pressure cooker in a matter of seconds. Well, almost.

Anyway I have always been terrified of the things, even though our mum cooked half our childhood meals (the half of our diet that wasn’t cooked in the electric frypan) in a pressure cooker without incident. I can’t actually remember what she cooked in it now, but I can still recall exactly the sound of the little jiggling whatsit on the top and the slowly rising whistle of building steam … eeek!

But my fear of pressure cookers isn’t just about explosions – it’s possibly more the idea of having to adjust cooking times for every damn thing – I’m soooooo bad at numbers (ask anyone) I can barely double a recipe, let alone do whatever might be required to cook a chick pea in half a minute rather than two hours, or whatever it is.

The other thing is my reluctance to have yet another giant (and heavy?) appliance taking up kitchen cupboard space – but perhaps in my gleaming new kitchen-to-come there will be room for such a thing.

But I’ve only just embraced the diametrically opposed slow cooker last year – clearly I need convincing. But the experts don’t – Suzanne Gibbs even scoffs at the slow cooker revival, saying of her trusty pressure pot:

“To me, it works better than a crockpot because you don’t have to do it all before going to work and have it cooking all day,” she says.

Hmm. Anyone else have experience with the fancy, funky modern numbers that have replaced the terrifying old steel buckets with the tinkling toppers?

Empress, I await your argument …

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Voyage round Fenella’s kitchen

April 15, 2009

peter-jugs-bowl1A couple of years ago I read a wonderful feature in the Good Weekend about cooking – it seemed to capture everything I felt about the pleasures of cooking – aside from the actual eating, that is!

The article, Voyage Round my Kitchen was by one of that mag’s star writers, Fenella Souter, and she has very kindly given me permission to reproduce it here. It’s a witty, moving and beautifully written exploration of the pleasures and consolations of cooking, and as a piece of food writing it’s gloriously untainted by the stink of fashion or snobbery or celebrity – depressingly common in Australian food writing I reckon (the Empress’s regular SMH Three of a Kind column excepted, I hasten to add!). The article is in a PDF file here that takes a little while to download, but be patient, it’s worth it.

A little taste:

As anyone who likes to cook knows, the kitchen is full of therapeutic pleasures. The familiar swift and competent movements of hand and knife; the invigorating beauty of a group of plump aubergines or elegant artichokes or voluptuous yellow quinces; the reassuring smell of frying onions or the yearning fragrance of poached peaches; the zen-like calm that descends as the cook oversees some delicate operation, for nothing focuses the mind like watching a custard thicken or caramel brown; the feeling of accomplishment, indeed of love, when all is done and the meal is laid on the table for the pleasure of others, or oneself.

I realise I’m painting a rather rosy picture here – relieved of such kitchen staples as boredom and resentment, griping children, grated fingers and burnt potatoes – but you get the drift. While cooking is not principally a cure for misery, it can cheer you up wonderfully. The Joy of Sex was a bestseller, but so was The Joy of Cooking. Ideally, one experiences both, but we may have underestimated the second as a helpful tool in life and marriage, even if the first is lacking. It’s surprising the subject doesn’t come up more in marriage counselling.

There’s lots more – just read it. You’ll love it.

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Finally…

April 10, 2009

I know drugs aren’t strictly food, but it’s really time someone came up with a solution for this affliction so I will do anything I can to help promote it.