Diggings 3 March 2020

The bánh mì thịt from the Marrickville ‘hole in the wall’

An ode to bánh mi

In the west, we’re most familiar with bánh mì thịt nguội or bánh mì thịt (pork roll). Textural and full of punchy tastes, each bite is crunchy, meaty, tangy and fresh. The sambo starts with crusty baguette made of flour and, traditionally, a touch of rice flour. Next, the bun is moistened with mayonnaise, then layered with pork, pâté, crisp pickled vegetables – usually carrot and daikon – and sprigs of coriander, cucumber sticks and spring onion. Oh, and the daring always order chilli. 

I can still recall the first time I munched down on one and marvelled and the range of flavours and textures my mouth sense with each bite, and the intoxicating scents of coriander, pork and chili in vinegar.


Australia’s favourite pizza – and least favourite topping

No longer do you need to have well thought-out opinions on current affairs or politics – all you need is a yes or no when it comes to fruit on savoury items. It’s the new coriander. Apparently, pineapple haters are in the minority. To celebrate World Pizza Day on Sunday (yeah, it’s a thing), new research reveals pineapple is in fact the most added-on pizza topping. Poor olives, however, are the most removed.

Me, I am interested in a pizza with pineapple AND coriander


Christofano Gherardi, Palazzo Vitelli fresco

Almonds are out. Dairy is a disaster. So what milk should we drink?

Meet the winner: the unassuming oat.

“I’m excited about the surge in oat milk popularity,” says Liz Specht, associate director of science and technology for the Good Food Institute, a not-for-profit that promotes plant-based diets. “Oat milk performs very well on all sustainability metrics.” Also: “I highly doubt there will be unintended environmental consequences that might emerge when the scale of oat milk use gets larger.”

Never having taken to almond milk I am glad it has been named and shamed. I only use coconut milk in my Sri Lankan food, so I am going to feel okay about continuing to use it – a lad has to have some suss practices now homsex is sooooo popular.


All these celebrity restaurant wage-theft scandals point to an industry norm

Since mid-2018 we’ve interviewed 180 culinary students, apprentice chefs and mature chefs as part of an ongoing study into mental health and wellbeing in the hospitality industry.

What they’ve told us confirms worker exploitation is institutionalised. In particular it takes three forms: unpaid overtime; not paying correct penalty rates; and making those looking for jobs do free work trials.

Our provisional findings confirm those of the 2018 Senate inquiry into corporate avoidance of the Fair Work Act. The inquiry’s final report cited Victorian estimates that 79% of hospitality employers did not comply with the national award wage system.

Colambaris and Perry are only the celebrity cheaters it appears. And don’t get me started no caferistas and restaurateurs whingeing about how the award is too high and too complicated and is ruining them.


Francesco Squarcione, The virgin and child

How Ancient Tooth Plaque Solved the Mystery of the Banana’s Trans-Pacific Journey

Tromp and her team have used banana microparticles, preserved in teeth from a 3,000-year-old human burial site, to show that bananas began their trans-Pacific journey with Oceania’s earliest settlers. Their find supports the theory that early settlers traveled with a floating plant and animal menagerie. It also adds credence to the increasingly accepted idea that indigenous people across the world actively shaped rainforest ecosystems once assumed to be largely untouched by humans.

The hidden message here is of course – stop getting your plaque scraped off your teeth, you are ruining future food research 🙂



Buzz off honey industry, our national parks shouldn’t be milked for money

Since the fires, Australia’s beekeeping industry has been pushing for access to national parks and other unburned public land. This would give introduced pollinators such as the European honeybee, (Apis mellifera) access to floral resources.

But our native pollinators badly need these resources – and the recovery of our landscapes depends on them. While we acknowledge the losses sustained by the honey industry, authorities should not jeopardise our native species to protect commercial interests.

I was talking with an apiarist couple at the local farmers’ market about this and they were entirely on-side with criticising this practice. They also pointed out that non-native bees often make their hives in holes in the trunks of forest trees further adding to their negative footprint by taking up areas that native birds and wildlife would usually nest and sleep in.


Melbourne dubbed ‘food swamp’ as density of ‘unhealthy’ outlets soars, Deakin Academics

Deakin University researchers are labelling Melbourne an unhealthy ‘food swamp’, after recording a dramatic rise in unhealthy food outlets opening across the city, particularly on the urban fringe where obesity rates are already at their highest.

In a “first-of-its-kind” study, Deakin tracked Melbourne’s food retail environment over the past decade, showing residents in some growth suburbs now walk or drive past an average of nine takeaway shops to reach just one healthy food outlet.

And I have seen other studies that point to the prevalence of fast food advertising hear schools and school bus stops, clearly targeted at the after-school munchers.


The Archaeobotanist Searching Art for Lost Fruit

Sometimes, looking at works of art can lead to new discoveries. That happened with an apple-like pear that she rediscovered, thanks to a painting by Renaissance artist Francesco Squarcione. In “The Virgin and the Child,” a 1460 painting held at the Berlin State Museum in Germany, the artist painted a fruit to the right of Jesus’s feet. “Most art historians refer to this fruit as an apple,” Dalla Ragione says. “But I wasn’t convinced.”

She searched for references to a “flat apple” in old manuscripts, but soon realized that what Squarcione depicted was in fact a “pera verdacchia,” a variety of pear once commonly used in Umbria to make baked pears and crostatas. After a hunt across abandoned the farmsteads and monastic gardens of the Upper Tiber valley, Dalla Ragione eventually found a pera verdacchia in a field near Arezzo, Tuscany.

Makes me want to go to art galleries in Australia and find what fruit and veg feature in both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and the Anglo art therein.

Images in this Diggings are of paintings mentioned in the article


Albrecht Durer, Madonna and Child with a Pear

And in other news of reviving old strains of fruit New Scientist 13 February 2020 reports that seven specimens of an extinct date palm have been grown from 2000-year-old seeds found in the Judean desert near Jerusalem.

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