I begin and end this edition of Diggings with a good news story totally unrelated to COVID-19
Bruce Pascoe sitting in the mandadyan nalluk on the hill above his property. Photograph: Isabella Moore/The Guardian
‘It’s time to embrace the history of the country’: first harvest of dancing grass in 200 years.
A most welcome non-covid story.
On the hill above Bruce Pascoe’s farm near Mallacoota in Victoria’s east Gippsland, there’s a sea of mandadyan nalluk. Translated from Yuin, the language of the country, it means “dancing grass”. Pascoe and his small team of Yuin coworkers have never done a harvest like this before. There’s so much grass that both sheds are full, and Pascoe says they are “racing against the clock to refine our methods so we can extract the seed and make the flour. We have got to get this done in two or three weeks before the seed completely drops.”
‘Chaotic and crazy’: meat plants around the world struggle with virus outbreaks
“We are seeing the results of years of meat industry consolidation and vertical integration aimed at increasing profits through efficiency and low wages,” Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and global health at New York University told the Guardian, “regardless of effects on animals, workers, and the environment. Covid-19 reveals the costs to workers crowded together under already dangerous working conditions in jobs that often lacked sick leave and healthcare benefits. These are all problems dating from the early 1980s when the shareholder value movement forced corporations to have profit as their sole goal.”
Coronavirus has made home delivery the new normal, but how long can it last?
“I think businesses are going to have to think about what they want to do in conjunction with their shops, their physical retail space,” she said. “I think some shops are going to have to think about a hybrid model and I think it is going to be an opportunity for some businesses to think about, ‘Well, do I need the space I have always occupied?'”
Should we re-open pubs next week? The benefits seem to exceed the costs
A separate guideline used by Australian governments to assess regulations and infrastructure projects puts the value of a statistical life year at $200,389 in today’s dollars. This suggests that by keeping bars and restaurants closed the government is paying 60 times more than it would usually pay to save a life. It’s why we think governments should reopen them, next week.
‘It’s just not worth opening’: restaurants in Australia can trade again, but will they?
Step one will allow small restaurants and cafes to reopen with 10 patrons at a time. Step two will welcome gatherings of 20, and step three, 100. But the limited short- and medium-term capacities have hospitality professionals fearing that some venues won’t reopen for months.
Australian restaurants and cafes present plans to come out of coronavirus shutdown
Last week the Australian Hotels Association, essentially the nation’s pubs lobby, and Restaurant and Catering Association Australia presented the national cabinet with suggested “practical, low-cost measures” to help restaurants reopen their dining rooms safely. But the AHA now claims the recovery plan announced is inconsistent with social distancing rules, and many venues will be forced to remain closed until phase three, or shut down permanently. “We are told only 10 people can sit and have a meal in a pub restaurant area even if that area could safely socially distance 50 or 100,” AHA chief executive Stephen Ferguson said on Friday.
Some Restaurants Are Making Permanent Pivots to Adapt to a New Normal
As many states discuss and even implement “reopenings” following weeks of shelter in place, some restaurant owners have decided to permanently change their business model, regardless of what the reopening timeline is. In Chicago, the James Beard Award-winning chef-owners of Fat Rice revealed plans to become a general store selling upscale meal kits. In Portland, Oregon, the 100-seat bar and restaurant Clyde Common will permanently turn into a market and to-go operation, hopefully with a cocktail bar at some point.
Foodie Culture as We Know It Is Over
In recent weeks, you may have seen YouTube clips of the Bon Appétit chefs fancifying boxed mac and cheese. Or a viral recipe for an easy shallot-pasta dish. Or Ina Garten getting real on Instagram about what her freezer looks like. Food media during the pandemic have, sometimes surreally, seemed to abandon elitism in favor of a less ostentatious approach to cooking. These cultural products don’t just emphasize accessible ingredients and techniques. They also present an inclusive vision of foodie culture that’s refreshing all on its own, especially at a moment when audiences are craving programming that cares about their daily realities.
Farmers are destroying mountains of food. Here’s what to do about it
There are few winners (corporate executives and major shareholders) and many losers (consumers, farmworkers, meatpacking workers, farmers, and our environment) in this monopolistic corporate food system that’s designed for profit and market control, not for sustainable or equitable farming and eating. While there’s no single, magic-bullet solution, there are clear and urgently needed policy fixes that would make our food and farming system far more balanced, sustainable, and resilient to crises – whether it be the Covid-19 pandemic or intensifying climate havoc.
Food security: Tuck in but stay alert
In a report released last month, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences dismisses the local panic buying of food in blunt terms: “Australia is one of the most food secure countries in the world, with ample supplies of safe, healthy food”. But it goes on to detail how the biggest risk for Australia – which exports agriculture products valued at about A$50 billion a year – is from supply chain and logistical disruptions due to COVID-19 lockdowns and government interventions.
Alison Roman, the Colonization of Spices, and the Exhausting Prevalence of Ethnic Erasure in Popular Food Culture
The only pushback to Roman before she went after Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo for the gall to have careers, how dare they, seemed to be from certain corners of Food Twitter, and from certain voices. Non-white voices. POC voices who saw Alison Roman using ingredients like cardamom and harissa, kimchi and turmeric, labneh and tahini, and wondered why Roman acted as if those components didn’t come with certain cultural traditions attached. Wondered why she didn’t seem to mention those cultural traditions very often. Wondered why she would list a Middle Eastern grocery store founded by a Lebanese family as her favorite grocery store, but not follow that up with something like, “Shopping there has really expanded my cadre of spices and my understanding of the world.” Why so mum on the cultures she’s mimicking on her path to overwhelming success?
And to end this edition, an irreverent map of Common Foods courtesy of foodrepublic by way of Helen Greenwood