Entries from June 2008 ↓
June 30th, 2008 — Food photography
A friend of some friends has the curious habit of taking a photograph of every meal he eats. Whether he is at home or dining out, no matter the occasion, he takes out his camera and makes a record of that which he is about to eat.
Our mutual friends discuss this individual’s practice as part of a continuum of OCD behaviour on his part, but I can’t recall their deliberations ever extending to reveal what he does with the photos he produces.
On my own, I have contemplated his apparently obsessive desire to take photos of his meals.
First of all I wonder about the logistics of taking the photos. What kind of camera does he have? Or does he use a mobile phone? When he’s in public or dining at a friend’s is he concerned that he might be breaching social etiquette by producing his camera at an inopportune moment? At home, does he have to contend with irritated loved ones who just want to start eating before the meal goes cold?
Perhaps the meal doesn’t have a chance to go cold. That possibility would suggest he cared about the quality of the photo he was producing due either to another dimension of his already compulsive behaviour or the knowledge that the photos would be seen by others, who might bring some understanding of ‘quality’ to their judgement of them.
As someone who occasionally blogs about my own meal experiences and who likes to accompany any rumination on culinary feats (either shopping, cooking or eating) with pictorial evidence, I’ll admit that I’m slightly intrigued by the proposition of taking a photo of every meal I eat. As a study in the everyday it appeals to me. What kind of picture would emerge over time? What narratives would be wrought?
Here, I’m reminded of the Paul Auster/Wayne Wang film, Smoke, where a tobacconist, Augie, takes a photo of the corner outside of his shop at the same time everyday. He places them in an album and looks through them from time to time, observing the shifts of people and seasons just outside his door.
Doing a similar project with meals would, in an affluent country such as Australia, lend occasion for more variation in the photographs taken than those in the Auster/Wang film. And, since the advent of blogging, the impulse to post the photographs online would be overwhelming; it’s the stuff of those 365 Blogs whose authors seek to self-impose discipline and post everyday for a year.
Imagine the stories, not of culinary or photographic expertise, but of meals prepared and eaten: shared and alone, on holidays, remembered from childhood, exotic and plain, old favourites and new discoveries, experiments and failures, for comfort, health, and taste, and, indeed, for very much more.
June 22nd, 2008 — Eating local, Food for Babies and Children, Lunch, One Dish Meals, Recipes, Salads and Veg, Veganisable
Five weeks now without a car, although the insurance company promises me it’ll be fixed on Wednesday. Promises, promises.
Having no car, even in Canberra, even in winter, has been absolutely fine until this last week when I’d already been sick for a week when both the kids got really crook. Bit of a bugger walking a five year old home from the doctor and having to wait while he vomits because he’s been coughing so hard. Could be worse, of course, as no-one has cancer (we hope) and everyone has all their limbs, but I felt sorry for the little bugger all the same.
So on Saturday morning I pounced on my dear friend Steevy when he dropped by IN HIS CAR and inveigled him into taking us to Choku Bai Jo. It was lovely to see Cristy, Paul and Lily there, even though I had to confess that I was buying a bunch of baby turnips just because they were tiny! (the largest nearly an inch wide) and cute! although I had no idea what I was going to do with them.
Pasta with baby turnips, bacon and turnip greens
This needs about 10 minutes preparation time and up to 15 minutes to cook, depending on the pasta you choose (wholemeal spirals for us). Will serve 3 adults or 2 adults and two kids.
1 bunch baby turnips, washed thoroughly with the greens cut into 3-4 cm lengths.
2 rashers bacon
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
toasted walnut fragments
romano cheese, grated finely
a sturdy pasta that you like
Put on a big pot of water to boil.
I’d planned to leave a little of the stems on the turnip bulbs, Japanese-style but was defeated by the tiny grit filled folds of stem and cleanly beheaded them before slicing each one into two or three thick slices. Go with whatever you’ve got the patience for.
Parboil the turnips for a minute or so and retrieve them. Add the turnip greens to the pot for just a minute and drain them, then add salt and the pasta to the pot.
Chop the bacon into 1 cm slices and fry gently. I only had that poxy flabby packet bacon – thanks, Dad – so cooked it veerrrrrrry slowly until it had crisped gently and then splashed on some some Camellia Oil. I have fallen in love with Camellia Oil thanks (again) to Fuchsia Dunlop – it’s earthy, peppery and delicious. Add in the crushed garlic and turnips and after a few minutes stir through the greens. In just a minute the pasta will be ready, and you can throw some in the pan.
Serve in a nice deep bowl, and sprinkle generously with parsley and walnuts and a bit less generously with cheese and pepper. The turnips are mellow and subtle, the greens are zingy and delicious and the pasta gives you enough energy to chase children all afternoon. Ann, you may omit the bacon, but then you’d want to add some salt.
So now I have to work out what to do with the cavolo nero (aka Tuscan kale, black kale or dinosaur kale) that was the other thing I couldn’t resist …
June 20th, 2008 — Dinner, Feeding people, Food for Babies and Children, Hunger
I’ve been sick for nearly two weeks (I’m never sick!) and both the kids are feverish snot covered whirlwinds. So yeah, not cooking much.
Thank God for my friends Nigel and Willa. Nigel turned up early yesterday morning bearing his mother’s heirloom casserole dish full of a beautiful tomato and silverbeet soup (with cinnamon) made by Willa.
Some cous cous to improve the child spoonability factor, and lots of pepper and a squeeze of one neighbour Billy’s Meyer lemons for the grown ups. Wonderful.
Giving food is a beautiful gift, particularly for new parents or single parents. Don’t be shy, just make up a big tray of something delicious and take it around. This is the one situation where I think disposable foil cooking trays can be a Good Thing, because the new parents feel no obligation to clean and return other people’s cooking equipment. (I prefer the beautiful dish this came in and will enjoy returning it, but I don’t have a newborn. Which is also a Good Thing.)
When my dear friend Jude had her second child, her neighbour arranged seven households into a roster, and for one night a week for six weeks, we cooked for the enlarged family. It was such a wonderful thing to turn up, drop off the food and see the relieved faces. Sometimes I would stay for a glass of wine, but usually I would just scoot off after no more than ten minutes or so. And how I loved cooking for them! I would turn up with things like a big bowl of washed and picked over leaves, a little bag of really good vinaigrette and a container of marinated and grilled chicken, baked sweet potato and very fresh nuts. And always a dessert. Breastfeeding women need sweets.
There’s a simpler way we can give food too, by just clicking at the hunger site.
June 19th, 2008 — Drink and Drunk, Notices and Announcements
Thanks this week go to the National Health And Medical Research Council, who have tentatively brought forward the deliciously ridiculous proposal to redefine binge drinking. Three glasses of wine or four middies a day puts you, reader, into the apparent same health category as trans-continental tinny-sinking legend David Boon. We can expect the legally defined binge to be separated from the capital-B Binge only by degree.
Drinking is a hobby engaged in by far more adult Australians than difficult, inconvenient and potentially dangerous sporting activity. Certainly Aussies might not know that much about health limits, but they know what they like. If Aussie-bender-friendliness wasn’t already a self-evident proposition, there’s evidence this week in the questions put to your Adversarial correspondent, largely having to do with gin, gin-based drinks and sex: all three the most popular historical pastimes of your national antecedents. I’d like to start here the people’s campaign against the NHMRC’s replacing the perjorative term “binge drinker” with the totally awesome phrase “elite drinker”. Get up off your couches, sedentary Norms of Australia, and life be in it! Get a cold can from the fridge, and c’mon Aussie!
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June 13th, 2008 — One Dish Meals, Recipes, Salads and Veg, Vegetarian and Vegan
From epicurious, via the best-named food blog evah, Rachel’s Thus Bakes Zarathustra, a slightly spooky salad for Owy to take to the school fundraiser trivia night. (I was going, but have got an evil lurgy and instead I am going to bed with a pile of magazines. There is no need to feel sorry for me as I have been doing a very good job of that myself. But thank you.)
I hate it when “bring food to share” turns into six kinds of dip and two kinds of biscuits, so the plan is to take some trimmed up corn mountain bread and let people make little wrappy things with this rather lurid beetroot pesto from stone soup and the salad.
I used tinned black beans, which Rachel found impossible to find. I’ve only found organic ones, which suits me fine. I used a little hack picked up from another outspoken female (I think) and briefly boiled the tinned beans to remove any metallic flavour. Because I am undeniably poncy, and because it is Friday the 13th, I used black quinoa.
Who knew there was such a world of quinoa? I’ve seen the white and red varieties before, but the health food store at the local shops has a new owner and she’s really expanded their product range. She didn’t know much about it, other than it was organic, and she suggested that you could cook all three kinds together. Not sure about that, as the black to me is a little toothier than the white or red. I boiled then steamed it as per the epicurous method and I’m a convert. The little white rings so characteristic of quinoa become more apparent after cooking, so you lose some of the intensity of the colour, but it has that lovely quinoa nuttiness. The salad dressing features melted butter and lime juice so of course it’s excellent.
You’d think that realising how much of my thinking about what to have for dinner comes from food blogs might stop me buying cookbooks, wouldn’t you?
June 12th, 2008 — Drink and Drunk
I have received, with thanks, all of your many interesting questions.
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June 9th, 2008 — Contributors, Notices and Announcements
Ampersand Duck is a book lover, book maker, book designer, artist and letterpress printer. Her beautiful website is here and her personal blog here. She also writes for Sarsaparilla.
She is my dear friend and close neighbour – exactly the kind of person you want living around the corner. Although she is a very good cook, she sadly cannot hold her piss.
June 9th, 2008 — Dinner, Entertaining, Notices and Announcements, Recipes, Vegetarian and Vegan
Nothing like inviting people around for soup on a chill Autumnal evening. Knowing that you’ve invited foodies adds a bit of pressure, but I chose soups that had been tried and praised before, so the only pressure was to cook them well: Lamb Shank & Penne Soup, and Spinach & Dahl Soup.
The Lamb Shank soup comes from one of those generic newsagent cookbooks: the Family Circle Pasta & Noodles Book. I’ve been trying to remember when I got this, and whether I inherited it from my mother when she had a clean-out, or whether I bought it from a garage sale. It’s quite a dull book, but there’s a couple of winner recipes that I’ve discovered and treasured. This is one of them.
The Spinach & Dahl soup was bought as a packet mix of spices produced by a fab little family company called The Saucy Spice Co., based in Pambula on the Far South Coast of NSW. They peddle online, but also have a stall at the Canberra Bus Depot Markets every Sunday. I highly recommend their spice mixes. They buy fresh supplies, and their simple packages are always marked with a use-by date so that they are never stale (unless you stash them in the back of a cupboard and forget them).
They sell packages of spice mixes for specific recipes, and you provide the rest of the ingredients. The ingredients needed are listed on the label, but the actual recipe is inside the packet. Their curries and soups are superb. I can’t include the recipe for the Dahl soup here, mainly because they tell you which spices they’ve used, but not the quantities, so I encourage you to buy a packet or two of their wares and enjoy. The heat of each recipe is always indicated, and they have some fantastic mild recipes that kids will love. I highly recommend their Javanese Chicken, my son loves it.
The Dahl soup needed blending at the 2/3 point of cooking, and I’d given my stab blender away to my mother years ago, once I’d stopped making my own baby food. I just never seem to need one. So I asked Zoe to bring hers… talk about the awesome power of the blend! It had a life of its own, with scary suction action…
I forgot to take a photo of the finished soup on the night, but I managed to catch one of the bowls when we had leftovers a couple of nights later:
Yum! Coriander garnish, and we added yogurt on the leftover bowl (both of which, stupidly, I forgot to offer during the dinner party. Sorry guys.) There’s a drip on the bowl, too, for which you can mentally slap me on the wrist.
Now, the Lamb Shank Soup. I’ve been promising Zoe this recipe for years. Here it is.
PENNE, PEA AND LAMB SHANK SOUP
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour, 15 mins
Serves 6 (just)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 lamb shanks (about 1 kg), well trimmed of fat
2 medium onions, cut into strips
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 dried bayleaf (I used fresh)
4 cups water (I added more later)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup penne pasta
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen broad beans
1 clove garlic, crushed
1. Heat oil in pan. Add lamb, cook over high heat for about 3 minutes each side or until well browned. Remove from pan, drain on absorbent paper.
2. Add onions to pan, cook over medium heat for about 3 mins or until well browned.
(This browning of meat and onion is essential, because it dictates the colour of the soup. It becomes a lovely rich brown soup instead of a pale broth.)
2 (cont) Return lamb to pan, add wine, peppercorns, cumin, cinnamon, bay leaf and water; bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer covered, 1 hour or until lamb is tender.
3. Remove lamb from pan, discard bay leaf and cinnamon stick from stock. Add soy sauce and tomato paste to pan, stir until combined. Bring to boil, add pasta, simmer, covered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. meanwhile, cut lamb into bite-sized pieces; discard bones. Return lamb, peas and broad beans to pan, simmer, covered, a further 5 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Stir in crushed garlic just before serving.
Yum! I forgot to photograph this one before serving as well, so here is the cookbook version, followed by the result of happy eating: