Sunday, March 29, 2009

The problem with packaging

It's been a bit easy for most of us growing up.

We've come to know food in cities as packages on the supermarket shelves. We've lost touch with the earth under our feet.

I thank my lucky stars that I spent some time on family farms seeing, feeling, touching, smelling the produce growing, and eating it fresh from the soil on the day it was picked. This is what taught me to appreciate freshness and flavour as well as gain an understanding of the seasons of food.

My first food memories are of a large walk in pantry on Aunty Dossie's farm. The shelves were lined with vacola (preserving) jars taking the excess of each season and stored for later use. I still remember the taste of icecream that came fresh from the cream of her cows. The icecream was lovingly beaten by hand every 20 minutes (no churn no icecream machine) throughout freezing to stop crystals forming.

The chickens produce eggs that were gathered warm each day and used in the kitchen on the same day they were laid. They had bright yellow yolks from the corn they were fed. The corn itself was fresh from the farm and I rubbed my knuckles close to raw rubbing the kernels from the cobs to feed the chickens.

We all thought it was a blessing when the first processed foods arrived on the shelves. Well, the women of that era did, and thought that freedom was bought with time saving. Has the cost been more than the gain?

Have you ever thought about the amount of energy that goes into the processed food in the supermarket? Its not just the from farm to shop transport cost, but also the energy in processing and packaging, the cost of energy to wholesale and stock the supermarket shelves, and the cost of the waste (and unused food that we use). Household food waste alone is estimated to be 5% of our energy consumption (sobering thought).

I am reminded of this all year, as one who has held fast to cooking with fresh seasonal food. I'm driven mostly by a need to retain optimum flavour and freshness. And, the cook's need to use everything, the onion skins, tomato peelings, and celery tops are kept for the stock pot, has driven me to think about rotating food and utilising everything in my pantry. I even learnt a new tasty dish to use every part of the tomato. Previously I had discarded skins now I know to dry the tomato skins slowly in the retained heat of the oven (in dry conditions they can just be dried over a few days in the kitchen): very tasty.

I am particularly reminded of this today as we have just turned out the lights for an hour to demonstrate our stance against climate change.

Our ancestors used everything that they hunted gathered and cultivated. It would be good practice if we went back to basics and tried to do the same.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

FOOD on FILM - the best from Twitter

During the week I posted a list of 5 favourite food films.

Mostly Martha (Bella Martha)
Babette's Feast
Like Water For Chocolate
My Dinner with Andre

Discussion followed online as I was searching out those I'd forgotten, and those I had yet to discover.

Here's a sample of the best of the rest... Happy viewing...

The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover

The Flavor of Happiness
Le Grande Bouffe

as well as...

American Pie
Baby Boom

Big Night
Blueberry Nights
Brown Sugar
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Chicken Rice Wars
Chicken and Duck Talk
Chungking Express
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Eating Raoul
Fried Green Tomatoes

Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers
God of Crockery
The Godfather
Hunting and Gathering
Kitchen Stories

The Meaning of Life

Mouse Hunt
Mystic Pizza
No Reservations (note the original German movie Mostly Martha above)
Politiki Kouzina

Under the Tuscan Sun

The Wedding Banquet
Woman On Top
Not quite food on film, more like food habits, eating attitudes (and disorders) but some great food scenes I've just added Malos habitos (Bad Habits)

@vizzz I've just remembered a non-food movie which actually is a food movie. My Blueberry Nights. Love, romance, tears, pies and coffee.

@figandcherry Chungking Express by Wong Kar Wai - Hong Kong Cinema :)
@ruthreichl The Flavor of Happiness. Watched it on a plane. Has anyone else seen this Japanese movie about Chinese food? Quite lovely; stays with me.
@epicurienne ref: food on film how about Under the Tuscan Sun? Or Mystic Pizza? Or Moonstruck? Or The Wedding Banquet? Love your post.
@nekkidchef: @frombecca A few more Asian food films worth findin..These have English subtitles: Chicken Rice Wars (Singapore) & Chicken And Duck Talk.
@Vinyldesign @frombecca you forgot to add "Eat, drink, man, woman" it's a great movie!
@greenmeup: #foodfilm Swedish film: Kitchen Stories. Others I love all mentioned!
@tobiasruss: my favourite #foodfilm is: La grande bouffe (1973) directed by Marco Ferreri
@handstandpants @_mel_ Waitress - I love the "I Don't Wanna Have Earls Baby Pie"
@DiscoDaveUK: Fried Green Tomatos #foodfilm
@_mel_ oh and 2 more: Eat Drink Man Woman - for chinese banquet dishes, and Babette's Feast (amazing French dishes)
@GourmetTweets @SavoryTv a food movie? Try 'Tampopo' - the racy hotel scene with the egg yolk and the live prawn is worth the price of admission alone.
@babydoll20 america pie ? =P
@babydoll20 i DID watch the waitress that was indeed a great movie
@_mel_ : Waitress (with Keri Russell) she makes some amazing pies in that movie! #foodfilm
@astarteny: @frombecca #foodfilm do u have Vatel in your list?
@BigBlackDogs: @Bridget_CooKs Baby Boom = chick flick about the baby food industry #foodfilm
@handstandpants: @frombecca #foodfilm Hunting and Gathering. Audrey Tatou, Some French dude cooking food for her
@To_The_Moon: has Delicatessen been mentioned yet? ;o) #foodfilm
@tomatom Tampopo? (yes got that on the extended Twitter suggestions list) #foodfilm thank you
@MsMarmitelover: @frombecca #foodfilm was telling @ollyf all about Babettes feast last week. 1 of my fave films.
@abstractg: @Bridget_CooKs You missed Politiki Kouzina, excellent Greek foodie movie. #foodfilm
@judecee: @Bridget_CooKs God of Cookery. More of a comedy and meant to be really REALLY silly, though. #foodfilm
@judecee: @bridget_cooks eat drink man woman. tampopo close second. being asian certainly has something to do with choices :) #foodfilm
@a_web_designer: @Bridget_CooKs YES The Waitress by Keri Russell. Do you cook/bake like her? LOL #foodfilm
@a_web_designer: @Bridget_CooKs No Reservations - Catheryn Zeta Jones. Pop-Corn No Salt Please and Mineral Water. #foodfilm
@tomatom: @Bridget_CooKs Easy: Tampopo although I just downloaded Babette's feast from the itunes store to watch on my iPhone #foodfilm
@LaurieSoileau Babbette's Feast- One of *my* favorite films as well, for a number of reasons.
@howardt: @Bridget_CooKs Charlie and the Chocolate Factory :) #foodfilm
@BigBlackDogs: @Bridget_CooKs Baby Boom, loved the kitchen too. Annie Hall scene in the kitchen with the lobsters. #foodfilm
@nrdavey: @Bridget_CooKs My vote would go to Big Night or Babette's Feast - though Tampopo is a lot of fun as well. #foodfilm
@Bridget_CooKs: Craziest food movie of all time " Le Grande Bouffe" #foodfilm
@Bridget_CooKs: #foodfilm best ever food film of all time.... "Women on top" Penelope Cruz is such the culinary seductress.. Wish I had her power. Hehe
@Bridget_CooKs: @ocean Tampopo is a fantastic #foodfilm ... agreed. but is it the best??????????
@To_The_Moon rock on! Charlie & the Chocolate Factory counts as two, as long as we discount the Oompa Loompa songs from the Depp remake! urgh!
@lady09: Brown Sugar #foodfilm
@Bartzturkeymom: #foodfilm - Like Water for Chocolate, No Reservations, Moonstruck
@prmuse: Babette's Feast, Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat, and Big Night~ loved them all! #foodfilm
@vizzz #foodfilm: Volver, Almodovar
@NoCrowds #food film Like Water for Chocolates, The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie, Sideways, Fried Green Tomatoes, Babettes Feast
@mquiz: @frombecca "Big Night" is one of my alltime fave food films. #foodfilm
@kenwoo: @shanncg I forgot about Tampopo. Great movie. And I'm a noodle addict too #foodfilm
@kenwoo: Another favorite #foodfilm of mine is Eat Drink Man Woman Damn, now i'm really hungry
@kenwoo: One of my favorite #foodfilm is Big Night
@shanncg: How about Tampopo #foodfilm
@foodieguide: #foodfilm Eat Drink Man Woman, Mostly Martha, Big Night.
@slasser: def add like water for chocolate to #foodfilm
@mikepetrucelli Garlic Is As Good As 10 Mothers. If you're into long pork: Eating Raoul + Ravenous. #foodfilm
@ellerylong: #foodfilm, not really a true food film, but lots of great meals: The Godfather
@mikepetrucelli Mouse Hunt has some funny food scenes (plus Christoper Walken). And let's not forget Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life.
@mikepetrucelli Don't forget Chocolat, Tampopo and, seriously, Ratatouille.
@HarpArora Fried Green Tomatoes is one of my all time faves.
@mcogdill: Babette's Feast & Big Night #foodfilm
@foodgeek14: How about The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover? #foodfilm
@gonzogastronomy: "Like Water For Chocolate" was fantastic #foodfilm
@greenmeup: Favourite food films: "eat, drink, man, woman" and "Babette's feast" come to mind immediately. #foodfilm
@DiscoDaveUK: Delicatessen & The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover #foodfilm
@SuButcher Tampopo #foodfilm
@paradisetossed Definitely The Godfather Part 1 for both the tomato sauce lesson and the legendary cannoli reference.
@frombecca: COMMENTS tweet your favourite food films with #foodfilm and I'll list next week SUGGESTIONS

And apologies if I have forgotten anybody in my search for this week's #foodfilm tweets. Just @me and I'll update if I have accidentally left you out.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Generosity of Food


When I was a little girl, everyone around me could cook. It may not have been with the sophistication that is sometimes expected today. It may not have been with the variety of produce that we can access today. But the food we ate, was always cooked and served with love.

It was often homegrown, or windfall, and nearly always from produce of the season.

The neighbours swapped backyard produce, swapped gossip, and swapped recipes.

I was reminded of backyard swaps, only this afternoon. I stopped the car to pick up a bag of fresh limes. There was a handwritten poster at the side of the road: "Limes $2 a bag". The two young boys, young entreprenuers were selling the limes from their overladen backyard tree. The limes look delightful as they adorn my dining table, and the aroma permeates. They'll later be used for a range of delicious treats.

When I was a little girl, of seven turning eight, my grandmother died. She died the day before my eight birthday, and my birthday party. I did not realise what that meant. Nanna lived just down the road and I saw her everyday. The party went ahead as planned. The party was still filled with joy, and family, and neighbours, and friends. The party was complete, with happy homebaked party food of cupcakes, and chocolate crackles, of fairy bread, and home made sausage rolls. Nanna wasn't there. All of the neighbours had rallied round to make sure that my party was well catered.

I miss those days sometimes, more innocent, more honest days, when neighbours swapped hand written recipes over the back fence, or over a cup of tea. The hand written recipes in mum's cupboard have little notes on the pages of her book, along with the stains from many kitchen uses, and inside the cover, more recipes on loose pieces of paper of the neighbours' hand writings. "I'd cook an extra ten minutes." "Add less sugar". "Lemon rind is a delicious extra".

I learnt to cook at the apron of other women. My mum could bake. So could her sister my Aunty Dossie. My love of cooking did not come from TV celebrity chefs. I'd look forward to the letters from the country that contained a hand written recipe to add to my collection. My Aunty Mona was also a good cook. She had worked in a cake shop and taught me the work ethic of always leaving a kitchen clean and tidy when you are finished. That is part of the job!

My brother and I played restaurants at home. Rodney went on to cook professionally for all of his working life. I just cooked professionally in the middle of my career. In truth, I was disappointed with the attitude, of some, that business brings to food. I had entered cooking with a belief that food is nurturing and loving and generous. There are many who have that belief and I always enjoy their company. There are some, a disappointing few, however, that have the attitude that food is elite, pretentious and arrogant. Food is none of these things. Good food is above all honest!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


What a wonderful world of travel has unfolded before me.

My wonderful world is the world that the online communities and user generated journalism provide to me, to us.

My latest trip included Barcelona. There wasn't much preparation to find the accommodation. Still in Australia, with some months before travelling, I went straight to the TripAdvisor website and picked the top of their list: all 5 star ratings, all excellent comments. And, I was not disappointed. This information was from a trusted source. It was not from the advertisements, sponsored links or hotel listings. My selection was from the ratings of my fellow travellers, from their reviews. Destination BCN was top of the list, and did not disappoint on arrival.

Closer to the time of my holiday, I used the Internet to research what to see and do in Barcelona. Of course I'd heard of Gaudi. I did not however know much about him, and used the time of mounting excitement, to research, read, learn. I stood before Sagrada Familia. I embraced Gaudi's dream. When I finally arrived at Casa Bastlo I was entranced. No photo could do this amazing beauty justice. It was the embodiment of all that appeals to me. (A metamorphisis of my favourite Belle Epoque or Arts & Crafts periods, with a rawer edge, and yet in the same breath more refined). A later visit to Casa Misa and I learnt more about all of Gaudi's work at the attic museum. A note to self (for later uploading to TripAdvisor): advise fellow travellers to start the Gaudi tour of Barcelona at Casa Misa. All will be more greatly appreciated in this order. I'd spent the best part of half a day at each of these masterpieces and now, at home in Australia, and a few months on, I am still warmed through to my heart by the beauty of his work and the inspiration he took from nature.

I used the old-fashioned trust source, advice from food friends, to learn of the market. La Boqueria was definitely on my agenda, as was within the market, the DO Jamon Iberico. The other food star of Barcelona was another Internet find. This time found through Google. I found a fantastic cooking course. I checked the options, the photos, the recipes. This looked of quality. The Destination BCN people concurred. I checked the reviews on TripAdvisor. Yes all good reviews, and so I booked online.

The cooking course had the option to go to the market beforehand, to shop for the class. The tour was hosted by a local, and the market was more greatly appreciated.

Thank you my fellow travellers for your honest advice and for creating our online community. Of course karmic law requires reciprocation. I posted a couple of reviews on TripAdvisor after my holiday. Honest reviews with the kind of advice I'd like to receive next time I travel.

And, now my fellow travellers post questions to me on TripAdvisor on what to do and see before their trips to Barcelona.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Twitter is my new guide!

When I first started travelling it was not at all daunting. Travel was accompanied by parents, teachers and other adult supervisors. At 15 I vowed to travel every year for the rest of my life. That didn't quite happen.

It was some years on, before I first ventured overseas. I was up for it! My first expedition was to Scotland, safe with a common language and similar cultural background. I read every book I could. Bought each of the travel guides on the bookstore shelf. (I had not yet discovered travel narratives.) I searched the 'net relentlessly and bravely booked from Australia just my first night of accommodation.

We prepared by watching Billy Connelly's World Tour of Scotland. In fact, it drafted a guideline route to be taken by hire car. The 'video' was played over and over again. So excited was I when in (the former royal burgh of) Arbroath that I told the 'Smokey House' that I had travelled especially to see them after watching their (artisan) smoked haddock on Billy Connelly. I told them that I had worked, smoking salmon in Australia. They refused to take my money. I have never eaten better than watching the ocean, while eating my smokie, in the blistering gale of sea spray of that day.

The travel continued with as-you-go, on-paper, Scottish Tourist Board B&B recommendations. I phone ahead for each following day.

More travel guides were purchased. More countries were travelled. I travelled with the DK series as my companion and guide. Then somewhere in the midst I was enlightened by the travel narrative. Mostly the books that entranced me were stories of Paris and of France. I'd already discovered some of France through cooking at home, through recipes, through being delighted by Elizabeth David. My favourites were those stories related by Australians. I related to the foundation of their cultural understanding.

Most recently I've embraced Twitter. It's now my preferred 'net search tool and guide. Twitter has also become my travel guide.

My 'community' of friends (followers and following) have been selected through mostly common interest: food, travel, spiritual, techie. I read the tweets of other travellers. I (use a keyword) search to find more information on my travel destinations of choice. I get current local real-time advice from people just like me on, where to go, what to do, where to stay, what to eat. I read what's already written and I seek advice from people with similar tastes. On Twitter I'm learning every day too about new techie tools that will help me in planning and travelling. Currently, one brave traveller is on a 30 day journey across Europe sponsored exclusively by the recommendations and assistance of others on Twitter. And, I'm just about to explore a new travel map tool that I found on Twitter while I was (multi-tasking) writing this.