Given the lead digging in this edition, how could I resist posting this image of Hillevi Rombin, Miss Universe 1955, promoting National Kraut and Frankfurter Week in Chicago.
Berlin 24/7 What’s the currywrust cult all about?
‘Poor currywurst. So small and wrinkled. And everyone’s making such a big fuss about you. We couldn’t imagine Berlin’s cityscape without its many currywurst joints – there’s practically one at every corner. You even have your own day: September 4 is the Day of the Currywurst, marking the anniversary of when you are believed to have been created in 1949 by Berlin street food stall owner Herta Heuwer.’
You just KNOW I want to try this. I am distrait that the one reason that may have taken me to Berlin has never before been brought to my attention.
Sacrifice and Hope on Eid al-Adha
‘Sacrifice, no matter how painful, must be endured for true love — whether it’s the prophet Ibrahim for Allah, my uncle and father for their country, or my mother for me. The gift of Eid is its aspirational simplicity. It tries to cut through complexity — of politics, of hopefulness, of disappointment. Once a year, we gather around a table, eat grilled meat, and for a few hours, sacrifice can be just a freshly cooked meal.’
A terrific article that tells you as much about modern Turkish history as it does about food practices at Eid, thoughtfully exploring the idea of sacrifice for individuals, families and a nation.
Native bush food demand outstripping supply says industry as more growers encouraged
‘The demand for Australian native foods across the country is by far exceeding supply, according to the industry’s peak body. Australian Native Food and Botanicals (ANFAB) is trying to encourage new producers in the industry and existing growers to plant more crops. ANFAB chair Amanda Garner said demand for native foods far outstripped supply. “We’re a really supply-poor industry at the moment,” she said.
The question of scalability is one that I have been thinking about since hearing Bruce Pascoe talk about the work he is doing with flour from native grasses. How are native food producers not only meeting the demand at the high dining end, but produce enough to bring the price point to where native food products can compete for the dollar of the domestic consumer outside of the cashed up ethically committed.
Should vegans eat palm oil?
‘There’s an ongoing debate in the vegan community, with people saying they’re not going to buy products from animals but then they switch to products that include palm oil, which is a paradox [because] in a way they’re part of destroying the rainforests where orangutans and other animals are living,” says Levy.’
Unfortunately, what this article completely misses is that palm oily production in places like Papua New Guinea also uses child labour and that the young girls who are involved in the oil seed collecting are often subject to sexual abuse. So it’s not just vegans who should give up palm oil based products.
The Honey Makers (and Bee Lovers) of Tasmania
‘As beekeepers they wouldn’t dream of disrespecting their bees. “It’s really about trying to get them to accept us,” says Tristan. “To let them know we’re not there to cause harm.” The beekeeper and honey producer says he won’t even wear gloves when handling his bees. “I try not to wear a veil through most of the spring and early summer work,” he says. “It comes back to my philosophy of how I try to teach the bees. I really get a minimal amount of stings from them.’
Of course, Indigenous honey gatherers across the world having been and continue to do their collecting direct from the hive sans gloves, sans veils, sans all, but they don’t make good copy, I guess. I admit I had to put my prejudices about this kind of privileged psychobabble – ‘teach the bees’? please! acclimatise perhaps but I suppose that doesn’t sound so clickbait – to read this article which I found fascinating more for the discussion of leatherwood honey, which I have always been fond of while apparently many are not. And I am sure Tristan and Rebecca Campbell are very nice people whose company (as in human type) I would enjoy. The writer Tim Grey, on the other hand…
The Wastefulness of Modern Dining, as Performance Art
‘Like farmers’ markets and organic grocery stores, museums and design conferences tend to attract a narrow slice of the world. Stummerer and Hablesreiter are aware of the limitations of enacting food reform through performance art. Hablesreiter was excited to tell me about a recent event staged in a supermarket in a Vienna suburb. They rearranged the shelves according to how much water was required to manufacture each item, or the distance it had travelled to reach Austrian plates. Shoppers told Hablesreiter that the reordered shelves looked “ugly”—a sign, he hopes, that they’d felt rankled enough to stop and think.’
But…what did they think? My issue is with their work is that it doesn’t appear to have an opportunity for dialogue with the audience and without that I find the work interesting but sterile.
The Japanese Origins of Modern Fine Dining
‘Beyond questions of credit and fairness, digging into the philosophy of kaiseki can save globalized fine dining from its worst excesses. Those tiny yet elaborate courses of peak-season perfect ingredients are ripe for both the fetishizing gaze of Chef’s Table and the snarky eye-roll of diners weary of cliché. Too often these meals feel like a copy of a copy of a copy, a flower here and a sprig of moss there because that’s what looks cool, rather than conveying depth beyond the spectacle. Kaiseki is not just pretty or challenging — it is a meal full of jokes, references, and stories that play on the tradition’s formalized structure or the time of year. The level of thought and care that goes into kaiseki is also universal among the world’s best chefs; conceptual rigor and narrative, not unique ingredients or technical skill, are what can make this omnipresent style of dining transcendent.’
Not having read deeply into the development of nouvelle cuisine/cuisine minceur the extent of interchange between French and Japanese chefs of that time came as a surprise. But more than that, this article raises again an ongoing theme of the last several Composts, of what is and is not cultural appropriation, who does or does not benefit from it, and in this case raises the question of what happens when the outer form – in this case the quick cooking, the delicacy of the presentation, the visual delight – obscures the philosophy/ world view that underpins the it, in this case at its simplest kaiseki as a stimulus to reflecting on impermanence, which granted diners of cuisine minceur may have experienced more corporeally.
The evolution of Australian dinner parties
‘The most popular topic of conversation at dinner parties for Millennials is gossip with 54 per cent listing it as the ‘hottest topic of discussion’. The favourite discussion point for Generation X is their children, while Baby Boomers like talking about travel.’
Obviously, this survey was not done in Sydney where for all three groups the most popular conversation can only be property property and property.
Celery was the avocado toast of the Victorian era
“Celery was once a great luxury – one of the most fashionable foods to grace the table. The wealthy served it as the centerpiece of every dinner, while the average middle-class family reserved it for the conclusion of holiday meals. No Victorian household was complete without a glass celery vase – a tall, tulip-shaped bowl atop a pedestal – to prominently display the vegetable. Love it or loathe it, celery was once as fashionable as today’s dry-aged rib eye or avocado toast.”
But did it also serve time as a signifier in the housing affordability market?
The mystery of the lost Roman herb
‘He may have been onto something. Scientists now think that, like asafoetida, silphium may have belonged to a group of fennel-like plants, the Ferula. They are actually related to carrots and grow wild as weeds across North Africa and the Mediterranean. Incredibly, two of these plants – giant Tangier fennel and giant fennel – still exist in Libya today. It’s possible that one of these is silphium.’
Given that silphium was described as having a long black covered root, I would have thought that yanking the suggested fennels would have been…well…revelatory and decisive. No suggestion that anyone has done that. Which is not to disparage the article which I found fascinating, much like articles I have read in other places on just what on earth was garum.
All that glitters: why our obsession with putting gold on food is nothing new
‘One could be forgiven for thinking that gold is the latest must-have ingredient in the world of haute cuisine. In fact, the history of ornamenting food with gold goes back at least to medieval Europe.’
I still can see him, sitting in a small open cubicle on the main road in Jaipur, hammering away at what looked like a leather sole but proved to be leather sheets within which he was pounding fine gold leaf. I bought a book of it – the gold leaf between tissue paper – and for a year after would ostentatiously dab gold leaf on biriyanis, entranced by how the leaves would lift and wave with the heat of the rice.
Santich doesn’t mention it, but gold also has a long history of use in ayurvedic medicine – don’t try this at home kids https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNo9NeMFAzc
Instagram your leftovers: History depends on it
‘There will always be room for adorable cupcakes and whole roast pigs, but if you’re a food lover with a smartphone, don’t limit yourself to these social media classics. Do a favour for culinary historians and offer us a glimpse of the ordinary.
Shapiro has a point. We do now have the capacity for recording everyday eating vividly. But is Instagram ready for my ordinary? Only one way to find out I guess…