Diggings 23 November 2019

The Instant Pot Understands. The History of Women’s Labor In The Kitchen

I have bought more gadgets than I care to remember that promised to make me a better cook, a faster cook, a healthier cook. I own other devices — the microwave being the most obvious — that assume I don’t want to touch or handle food at all. The Instant Pot, by contrast, seems to understand I do want to eat and serve home-cooked food, but it also tactfully relieves me of most of the stirring and switches itself to “keep warm” mode without being asked to save me from burning dinner. It is that rare thing: a labor-saving device that factors in what a cook needs and feels.

Bee Wilson takes us through the history of ‘labor-saving’ devices in the kitchen and argues that what most have done is to hide the amount of labour that goes into putting a meal on the table, and that ‘The whole concept of “labor-saving” assumes that the work of cooking is something that needs to be canceled out, or mitigated, or forgotten.‘ rather than acknowledged and celebrated.


seville marmalade in kelly pan nov 2019

My fave new kitchen pan

This is the kind of equipment that while it doesn’t save labour is perfectly fit-for-purpose: a spout to make the pouring out easy; a handle to assist with pouring which can be set to stand upright while cooking so it stays cool; it’s thick sided to distribute the heat perfectly. Ta to my mates Ross and Maria Kelly for this object of beauty and functionality – and also for the oranges.

You can find the first result of jam-making in the pan at my revamped food site Buth Kuddeh

How Stalin and the Soviet Union Created a Champagne for the Working Class

 In the early 1930s a catastrophic famine swept across the Soviet Union. The chaos of collectivization, combined with poor harvests and brutal socio-economic policies, devastated the country’s grain-growing regions. Millions died of starvation, and corpses accumulated along railway tracks and roads, filling the air with the sour stench of decomposition. Hordes of hungry peasants roamed the countryside, desperately searching for work or anything remotely edible: corncobs, acorns, grass, cats, dogs, and, most horrifically, even each other. Just three years later, while basic necessities were still scarce, the Kremlin turned its attention to another shortage: the lack of champagne. In 1936, the Soviet government passed a resolution to dramatically increase the production of sparkling wine, setting an ambitious goal of producing millions of bottles over the following years.

A quirky and fascinating look at the operation of the Stalinist state through the lens of a champagne flute.


lucy hughes and bioplastic - credit dyson

Plastic substitute from fish waste hauls in Dyson award for UK designer

A bioplastic made of organic fish waste that would otherwise end up in landfill – with the potential to replace plastic in food and drink packaging – has landed its UK designer a prestigious international award and £30,000 prize.

The article is short on detail about just how it is made, but I’m a fan already.


Australian federal authorities probing alleged exploitation of Fijian villagers on Victorian farms

Australian authorities are investigating whether dozens of workers from small, remote Fijian villages may be victims of labour exploitation after allegedly being deceptively recruited to work on farms in north-west Victoria.

Blackbirding, as it was called in the late 19 century, is alive and well in 21 century Australia.


To feed the world in 2050 we need to build the plants that evolution didn’t

For example, breathing can work in several different ways, and some of these are much more efficient than our lungs. Evolution doesn’t necessarily deliver the best solution to a problem – it just delivers one that lets an organism survive in a given niche. So, for any given problem, better solutions may exist than the ones already available in biology. Synthetic biology lets us explore this untested “solution space” much more quickly than evolution – on a timescale of weeks or months, rather than years or millennia. Synthetic biology therefore allows us to explore places where evolution has never gone – and in some cases, probably never would go. It means we can reach outcomes chosen to meet human needs, instead of evolutionary pressures.

It’s those last sentences that worry me. Humans are not the only beings on the planet with needs.  What is being argued for here just seems  – all the ethical caveats flagged in the article notwithstanding – another example of human triumphalism that is willing to put a global ecosystem out of whack.


Overseas Australian cafes are selling an empty fantasy, but it’s nice to get a decent flat white

More obviously, the laid-back Australian cafe was never going to survive contact with the North American workplace. Australia might not be a workers’ paradise, but many Australians make a living wage in hospitality. That economic fact changes the relationship between customer and server. It’s a lot harder to pretend the barista is your mate when she earns barely enough to keep her head above the poverty line and could be fired at any moment for the most trivial infraction.

Hmmmm…I know more than a few hospos who would find the idea that they making a living wage laughable.


Fig 82. Flat white coffee


%d bloggers like this: