[Pic: Invasion of the Omega Fatty Acids 2015 52×42 cm paper collage, pencil, ink. Max Dingle]
This edition of Compost has several articles I have come across in the last month that talk about the lack of diversity in food writing and dining.
I haven’t put my usual commentary with them because I find the area both confronting and problematic to discuss. What they say has long been something I also see and feel. They speak to something deep within the structures of, for want of a better word, Anglo foodways which cannot but help replicate the deep discriminatory structures within Anglo cultures. So, redressing what these writers observe is not as simple as having diverse voices in the food media or diversity in more than the dish pig end of the kitchen. It involves deep questioning of the ways we construct our worlds and complex strategies at the personal and the structural level to reconstruct those worlds.
King Lear is the play above plays for me full of insights and challenges. One the comes to mind, and the word ‘insight’ is apposite to what I have been saying. The play is very much about seeing, with a beautiful pairing of Gloucester’s physical blindness and Lear’s more troubling psychological and moral blindness. In Act 1, soon after Lear has exiled Cordelia, Kent urges: ‘See better, Lear’. I think this is the challenge in its deepest meaning that these articles ask of us, and by seeing better to act, to be better.
Eat insects and fake meat to cut impact of livestock on the planet – study
‘Globally, twice as much land is used to raise cattle, pigs and other animals than is used to grow crops. Furthermore, a third of those crops harvested are fed back to livestock. The new research is the first systematic comparison of the environmental impact of various sources of food, and found that imitation meat and insects are vastly more efficient than raising livestock.
The work, published in the journal Global Food Security, found that if half of traditional animal products were replaced by imitation meat or insects the land required to produce the world’s food would be slashed by a third.’
It’s ironic that the very diets that many of those in African and Asian countries are moving away from are those that are being promoted as important components of sustainable foodways for the future.
The Struggles of Writing about Chinese Food as a Chinese Person
“Of the 263 entries under the “Chinese” recipe filter on the New York Times food section, almost 90 percent have a white person listed as author in the by-line. Only 10 percent of the recipes are authored by Chinese writers.”
This article raises many of the dilemmas and frustrations I face as someone who writes about South Asian cuisine in Australia. I don’t hold that only South Asians can write about South Asian food, as Wei also does not hold that only Chinese can write about Chinese food. But I reckon if I did a count of who gets their recipes for South Asian food into mainstream food media in Australia, I’d find an analogous situation. The non-Anglo-Australia voice does not get heard outside of a very small number of exceptions. But lest this sound like wog pleading, as I was working on this Compost I chanced to see a promo for Gardening Australia where Costa said that next week, he would be showing how to use native produce. Now, I haven’t seen the ep yet, and I trust Costa will have an Indigenous provider or cook on as well, but he gave no indication of that.
Highlights From Our Interview with Kusuma Rao of Ruchikala
‘So when I see other people that don’t have that moral conflict of selling something they didn’t have a lot of personal experience with, or marketing for food businesses that use a lot of religious imagery of brown people to sell businesses…it makes me wonder what it would have been like for them to have had the experience of being the “other,” and how that would changed how they market what they do.’
The Calls Are Coming From Inside The House
‘This post reminded me of a conversation that I had at a dinner with a manager of one of the top restaurants in Boston. I mentioned that I would love to see more people of color at hospitality events. He responded with, ‘well, maybe those kinds of people don’t care about hospitality.” My jaw dropped. Then I felt angry. Then I felt embarrassed as I looked around at my fellow restaurant workers, managers, chefs, all of whom were white, and realized that none of them were challenging him in this assertion.’
BD Wong teaches you how to eat a chicken wing
And here I thought all I had to do was put it in my mouth and scrape it against my teeth ?
Which oils are best to cook with?
‘He thinks the ideal “compromise” oil for cooking purposes is olive oil, “because it is about 76% monounsaturates, 14% saturates and only 10% polyunsaturates – monounsaturates and saturates are much more resistant to oxidation than polyunsaturates”.’
Has this mob ever tasted a Sri Lankan curry cooked with olive oil? It’s shite. Can we just get on with using oils appropriate to the cuisine the oils are supposed to serve and stop endlessly imposing a problem which developed within a – I hate to use the term but I can’t find another – Western, market driven high fat content per se diet and the neo-liberal individualistic solutions that this article and others like it promotes?
Plot 29: A Memoir by Allan Jenkins review – childhood trauma and the solace of gardening
‘The garden cannot cure Jenkins’s fragile state of mind, nor stop him having vicious dreams of men with knives, but it does at least allow him a space to breathe, a “chemical-free” form of medicine. When he buys seed packets, he feels he is “collecting hope – at £2 a packet”. Those of us who are not so green-fingered sometimes make the mistake of thinking that gardening is a bland activity, but Jenkins shows that it can be a meaningful and muddy sort of stoicism: an acceptance of the way things are. This haunting memoir offers a reminder that after the digging, sometimes all you can do is plant.’
Thanks Helen for putting me on to (a) this review and so (b) the book which I look forward to reading.
What comes first: the free-range chicken or the free-range egg?
‘When we asked shoppers what they look for in terms of products that promote animal welfare, the most common answers involved free-range or cage-free eggs. We then asked people why they chose these products. A strong theme emerged: many shoppers preferred these types of eggs because they viewed them as higher quality, having better taste and colour, more nutritious, and safer than eggs produced using other methods such as barn systems.’
I’ve just finished Dan Jurafsky’s the Language of Food and this is an excellent example of what he discusses so genially and powerfully – the persuasive power of words.
War on waste: Recycling shells from your plate to benefit the ocean
‘But for the last two years, restaurants and seafood wholesalers in Geelong, south-west of Melbourne, have been donating their shells to a local shell recycling program.
The donated mussel, oyster and scallop shells are then used to form a reef foundation, in the hope of restoring the once abundant shellfish reefs of Port Phillip Bay.’
I love a good food waste recycling venture and this one is a beauty which not only does good by waster but also by a social enterprise.