Diggings 8 March 2021

Toxic blooms and local fury: what’s going on at Menindee Lakes?

The pool behind weir 32 that provides water to the township of 600 turned green in January and a thick slime now covers up to a third of its surface. WaterNSW has declared a red alert for toxic blue-green algae blooms at the weir, and for the lower Darling/Baarka for the 400km to its junction with the Murray. The warnings advise people to avoid contact with the water. While the town has some filtration on its town water, it still smells bad. Those on properties and in small towns further south cannot safely drink the water, and there are warnings to monitor livestock.

The ongoing failure to address water supply in the Murray-Darling is a scandal.


And in other news of things not animal nor vegetable …

Researchers find a single-celled slime mold with no nervous system that remembers food locations.

To find out what is going on, the researchers combine microscopic observations of the adaption of the tubular network with theoretical modeling. An encounter with food triggers the release of a chemical that travels from the location where food was found throughout the organism and softens the tubes in the network, making the whole organism reorient its migration towards the food.

I hesitate from suggesting that many of my friends now appear in a quite different light.


How early humans’ quest for food stoked the flames of evolution.

To replicate the eating habits of prehistoric humans, the book, published later this month, details how one scientist dropped a horse who had just died into a pond and assessed how it fermented over time. “He would sample some meat to see if it was safe to eat. He described it as delicious – a little bit like a blue cheese,” said Dunn.

I can’t tell you pleased I am that someone did this and it didn’t have to be me. An article that certainly hit my ‘delicious reading’ sensors and which will get me using that internet tool to access the book.


Thousands of people have fallen in love with Sydney dad’s devon creations after becoming a TikTok hit.

Nathan Lyons Photo: Jack Fisher, ABC

He hopes to capture these memories in his latest venture, a new cookbook which he says will be filled with “Indigenous soul food”. But the thought of a published book is something that’s still sinking in. “I barely passed English in high school and yet here we are. It’s just mind-blowing. “I’m just a dad making devon.”

That has got to be one of my favourite lines so far for 2021.


Alexis Nicole Nelson. Photo: Getty Images

This TikTok star makes foraging a fun — and revolutionary — practice.

After the Civil War, it became apparent that it would become harder to keep Black people on plantations as cheap labor. Folks realized that one way of denying Black people other options was to deny them the food ways they could use not only to sustain themselves but to prepare and sell food to others as a way of building wealth — not just surviving, but thriving. That’s when we saw the nation’s first round of laws barring foraging in public spaces. Doing so was a civil offense everywhere in the South until after the Civil War, when it became a criminal offense. That affected Indigenous people, who suddenly had their access to food ways taken away. The law also impacted a lot of poor white people. For me, being a person of color out in the world foraging is super revolutionary, because it was something that was very intentionally taken out of my ancestors’ hands.

It never ceases to amaze me how the production and consumption of food is a weapon of control.  Resonances here also with the loss of food knowledge among Aboriginal peoples within the space of a couple of generations.

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A Restaurant’s Quest to Preserve Indigenous Food

Often what would happen is that the generations before, they would Ohlone-ize these dishes that were brought here. For example, there’s the stew called albondigas, which is a meatball stew that also came during the Mission times. In Louis’s families, indigenous to Carmel, there’s a very clear recording from the 1920s about how, whenever there would be deer meat, venison, an older Ohlone woman would make albondigas. But she would make it with venison instead of the typical cow meat, which is beef. So we look to that as the idea of presenting that as an Ohlone albondigas. We serve ground venison bound with amaranth seeds, which are native, with ground porcini and really wonderful seasonal greens, like watercress or blanched dandelion and yellowfoot mushrooms and chanterelles. So this dish has the basis of something that was brought here during the Mission times, but the ingredients changed to reflect our taste and flavors.

Strong parallels and telling contrasts here between the development of Ohlone cuisine over the centuries of colonisation and that of Australian Indigenous foods.


Photo: Taste

Tapi Tapi Ice Cream Is a Sweet Education on African Liberation

Guzha created four flavors based on nostalgic snacks: Mazoe Orange, a local and beloved fruit juice concentrate; Maputi, a popular snack of popped maize kernels (different from typical popcorn); masawu, a local fruit also known as jujube dates; and mawuyu: baobab seeds. After he tasted his first creations, he felt something profound. “I realized all the food I make doesn’t reflect my food history,” he says. He had perfected making noodles and pasta from scratch and many mainstream ice cream flavors, but hadn’t given the same level of attention to the foods from his upbringing. “Then you look around and notice, in general this place [South Africa] doesn’t reflect its food history. It’s not even like a fusion, it’s pure eradication of what was here before.” He says the same can be said for the continent to varying extents. Even in African countries with strong pride in their food cultures, people still turn to Western foods when they want to impress.

Okay, I’ll admit that some of the flavours discussed in this article are … challenging.


A No-Recipe Recipe Manifesto

I’ve discovered that cooking without recipes is a kitchen skill, no different from dicing vegetables or flipping an omelet. It’s a proficiency to develop, a way to improve your confidence in the kitchen. It can also make the time spent there feel more like fun when it can occasionally seem like a chore. You begin with a prompt — like the one I offer below, or the inspiration that comes from simply staring into your refrigerator until the muse alights on your shoulder — and then proceed to make a meal out of what you have or what you desire, guided by your experience with actual recipes. This is improvisation, not unlike what jazz musicians and jam bands do. They know the scales. They know the rules. And knowing them, they can let the music take them where it takes them.

Hmmmm … he says this and then gives people a recipe for what looks like a really really boring meal.

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