Diggings 16 August 2020

Matt Golding, August 2020, on the abattoir COVID-19 cluster in Victoria neatly references the characterising of Australian home meals well into the latter decades of the 20th C as ‘meat and three veg’

Matt Golding is a favourite editorial cartoonist of mine particularly when he uses food and this edition of Diggings features three about COVID-19 as experienced in Australia.

Indigenous banana cultivation dates back over 2,000 years

ANU Archaeologists have found the earliest evidence of Indigenous communities cultivating bananas more than 2,000 years ago. The evidence of cultivation and plant management dates back 2,145 years and was found at Wagadagam on the tiny island of Mabuyag in the western Torres Strait.


America has corn and Asia has rice. It’s time Australia had a native staple food

Australia’s total agricultural production is currently worth about A$60.8 billion a year, and we export about 65% of what we produce. A staple Australian food might not contribute directly to the value of our agricultural exports, at least in the short term. But it may reduce the cost of pest control by increasing habitat for beneficial predators. It also represents a low-risk venture that provides returns to growers who want to increase the native vegetation on their properties. We are not advocating the wholesale adoption of native grasses as a staple food crop in Australia. But it would be prudent to investigate how native grasses grow and produce seed, to better understand how current farming practices might be improved.

Looking at how to grow native grasses at scale has been an opportunity lost since the first sod was turned for wheat in the Sydney basin. I don’t see evidence of a will to invest in doing so now and I can just hear the cawing from the wheat lobby if any government moved that way. As the authors point out, there is also the question who will benefit. What may happen is only and extension of the practice of appropriating Indigenous knowledge without any benefit accruing to the knowledge holders.


Who will win Adam Liaw’s Australian food State of Origin?

No country with a great food culture has a single, homogenous cuisine. Travel just a few kilometres in France, Italy, China or Japan and the food changes enormously. In Australia our short history has meant that our regional cuisines are perhaps less distinct than those in older countries. Local cuisines don’t always develop organically. Sometimes they need a bit of help. 

And Adam Liaw is here to kick start it.


In defence of durians

Lee Tran Lam, food writer and presenter of The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry podcast speaks with ABC Blueprint presenter Jonathon Green about the group Diversity in Food Media in Australia and what it aims to do.


The Battle to Invent the Automatic Rice Cooker

Fumiko tirelessly tested the prototypes. She cooked rice on the roof, in the sun, and outside during cold mornings. Keeping the pot from releasing heat proved a challenge, until Yamada recalled that in the state of Hokkaido, where winters are brutal, cooking pots were heavily insulated. The final product consisted of two cooking pots, one inside the other, covered in three layers of iron. Toshiba’s automatic rice cooker was finally ready for action.

For small numbers of people – say up to 6 – I use the on-the-stove evaporation method but my very old rice cooker does the job for large numbers. A terrific article both explaining why the cooker was developed and the elegant and simple technology that makes it work so well, but also for highlighting the work of Fumiko Minami in developing the first successful model.


Matt Golding, August 2020 riffing on the age old question of which came first

‘It Was a Losing Fight to Write Anything That Wasn’t “Ethnic”’

Often, the addition of a “cultural slant” to stories leads to one of the more egregious ways that nonwhite food is pigeonholed and othered — through what writer Isabel Quintero calls a lust for “Abuelita longing.” The term speaks to the way immigrant and diasporic writers (both within and outside food media) are frequently expected to add a dash of trauma or ancestral belonging to anything they write. As a Trinidadian-Iranian chef, Ganeshram finds this association particularly limiting. “When I’ve tried to write stories about my Iranian heritage, not being a recent Iranian immigrant or the child of a post-revolution immigrant has been an issue,” she says. “The editors I dealt with only wanted a refugee/escaping the Islamic Republic story. They decided what constituted an ‘authentic’ Iranian story, and that story was based in strife and hardship only.” These markers of authenticity can only come from the wholesome domesticity presumed of the ethnic other.’

I don’t do heaps of food writing that’s published but I am glad that those who have accepted for publication what I have written haven’t wanted me to stick to being an ethnic.


Sensory scientists and taste testers create world’s first wagyu flavour wheel

Roasted, caramelised, brassica, barnyard, white pepper, cheesy and fresh bread crust are [just some] of the flavours we can sense in the beef.

Just when I thought it was safe to read a menu at a high-end dining restaurant …


‘Reclaim the streets’: push to overhaul Sydney’s night-time economy

In June, the council approved a 12-month trial that allows Kensington Street in Chippendale to be closed to traffic from Thursday to Sunday to allow its restaurants to spill out onto the road. Kensington Street is home to a range of restaurants, bars and galleries, as well as the popular Spice Alley, an Asian-style hawker strip. A spokeswoman for the Kensington Street precinct, Daria Grove, said closing the street to traffic from 11am four days a week was a lifeline for many restaurants on the street.

A solution only for areas where restaurants and cafes are on less through-traffic streets. I can’t see anyone closing off the King Street-Enmore Road thoroughfare any time soon.


Global Quinoa and Andean Foodways (In two parts)

Some North American consumers are concerned about that the global appetite for quinoa is taking it away from campesinos who grow it, but the shifts in dietary patterns in Andean communities are not new. Rather, changes in eating habits result from decades of changes in land tenure and the local economy: the breakup of hacienda system, rural-urban migration, wage-labor, and food aid programs have all affected the consumption of traditional foods. Over time, campesinos have transitioned from a diet based on what was produced on the land to one that incorporates foods from the market.

An interesting article that eschews simplistic cause and effect for a more nuanced telling of the impact of a number of forces, market included, on quinoa campesinos diet.



Matt Golding, August 2020 with perhaps the last word on COVID-19 panic buying


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