Category Archives: Food News

Frozen Foreshadowing?

I LOL’d when I pulled this out of the freezer at my parents’ house tonight.  Could any product have a name that better fits the current state of the food industry than this?  Not unless it was bagged spinach called “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Lethal”.

Thankfully, Blue Bunny’s Peanut Butter Panic hadn’t done the complicated food chain tango with the Peanut Corporation of America so we could eat it without wondering if we should also be making funeral plans.  And it tasted pretty good, too.

Not the same

Girl Guide Biscuits in Australia

Girl Guide Biscuits in Australia

We’re in the thick of Girl Scout cookie season in the U.S. In fact, my article about them ran in today’s San Jose Mercury News food section along with the orginal Girl Scout cookie recipe.
I spent six months of my life researching Girl Scout cookies for my Masters of Gastronomy dissertation, and during that time I never got to eat a Girl Scout cookie for inspiration since I was in Australia and no one, not even my own mother, was kind enough to send a box to me. 
My husband did bring home two packages of  Girl Guide biscuits which just aren’t the same.  They’re good, they’re just not Girl Scout cookies.  There are only two kinds, shortbread and shortbread with a chocolate coated bottom and Australians aren’t barking mad for them like we Americans are for Girl Scout cookies.  In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any mention of them anywhere in newspapers, on TV, or in general conversation.  I was as shocked as anyone to see this display– with nary a Girl Guide in sight–outside of a store in Glenelg last winter.
So America, don’t get complacent about your cookies.  Don’t let them become just another lame fundraiser kids have to do so that they wind up on the sidewalk outside of a tourist trap store next to a bin of koala and kangaroo socks.  Girl Scout cookies deserve better than that.

Food Allergies: The truth is out there

I’ve seen a couple of really interesting things about food allergies in the past 24 hours (in the NY Times and on Ruhlman’s blog) which confirm the sneaking suspicion I’ve had about them for a few years now: that they are often misdiagnosed and have something to do with our ridiculous standards of cleanliness.

I certainly would never deny that food allergies exist and can be dangerous– even deadly.  But I feel like, as a society, we’re out there almost looking for something to be wrong with our kids.  In the ’90s it was ADHD. In the ’00s it’s food allergies.  When kids go to school, the essential supplies have become backpack, pencils, crayons and a list of foods they can’t have.  It’s crazy.

I just hope these two articles are the start of something bigger– a wake up call to parents who are doing their kids more harm than good by trying to keep them excessively germ free and who go looking for trouble at the allergist because everybody else is doing it.

Migration at the table

Today is International Migrants Day, and while it’s mainly a day set aside to create awareness about the difficult and complicated issues migrants deal with, according to a paragraph on a U.N. website it’s also a day of celebration:

“Migrants contribute greatly to the sense of cultural diversity in modern societies, and to our appreciation of the oneness of the human spirit. They give us the experience of living in a global neighbourhood.”

Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the food we eat.  Immigration is partially responsible for introducing us to so many wonderful new cuisines.  My current obsession is with pho, which is the heart and soul of Vietnam in a soup bowl.  Pho (pronounced “fuh” with a bit of an upward lilt to the end of the word– like you’re saying it as a question) is  beef and noodles in a rich, complex beef broth seasoned with star anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and fish sauce.  Pho is typically garnished with bean sprouts, cilantro (coriander leaves), thai basil and chiles. 

Pho at the Vietnamese restaurant in Virgina, SA

Pho at the Vietnamese restaurant in Virgina, SA

There is no shortage of places to find pho in Adelaide, but my favorite discovery this year was in a little community near where I live about 45 minutes outside of the city.  Virginia, South Australia is pretty rural and home to many immigrant families who are market gardeners.  In the past, market gardening was the domain of Italian and Greek immigrants, and still is to some degree, but the new generation of market gardeners are typically Vietnamese.  So, tiny Virginia has a pho shop (right next to the bahn mi shop) where you can find workers taking a late morning break and enjoying steaming hot bowls of pho.

When I’m in there, I think about immigrants and the food traditions they bring with them.  Certainly when immigrants open restaurants it’s often a means of helping others like them feel connected to their homeland and the culture they left behind.  Some people might see an ethnic restaurant as a refusal to assimilate.  But I see it as a way of sharing their culture with their adopted country and as a means to gain acceptance.  When we eat that food, we are experiencing a culture in a very intimate way. Food is the only part of a culture that we physically ingest and make  part of our being.  So by eating the food of another culture, either conciously or unconciously, we are sending a message that we think they’re okay; that they are one of us and we are one of them.

Of course, it’s a big leap from acceptance of immigrant food traditions to acceptance of people, but coming to the migrant’s table is a good place to start.

Of Camels and Quandongs

Some Australian scientists are freaking out about camels and say we’ve got to start eating them.  Apparently, there are about a million feral camels living in the middle of this sunburnt country and they’re wreaking environmental and all other kinds of havock.

I’ve done my part to help the cause this year, if purely for selfish reasons since I get perverse pleasure in trying new and somewhat shocking foods.  At the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna, South Australia (a full review is coming one of these days) I sampled camel mettwurst on a pizza, and a camel sausage from the so-called Feral Mixed Grill Platter.

Let’s just say that both the camel mettwurst and camel sausage had an interesting texture– not quite as toothsome as I’d like.  I asked the woman serving us about the camel and she told me it’s a very lean meat (i.e. tends to be tough and somewhat lacking in flavor), which is probably why it ends up ground into mince and stuffed into a sausage casing with some added fat and seasoning.   From what I’ve had so far, I wouldn’t line up for more. 

But here’s the rub.  These feral camels could cause quandongs to become extinct!  They’re out there in the desert eating this beautiful, tart red fruit and I’ll be damned if they’re going to deprive me of the pleasure of a this quandong pie from the Stone Hut Bakery when I want one:

Oh. That. Pie. 

The quandong filling is really tart on its own, but with a bite of that shortcrust pastry and the cream– it’s a taste trifecta. 

So feral camels take notice.*  Quandong-loving Aussies have put a bounty on your head.  We’re going to find a way to cook you so you’re palatable, and then we’ll chase that camel steak or roast or sausage or whatever we turn you into with a quandong pie.  Now that would be a just dessert.

 

* Note: I realize that this issue is not the camels’ fault. The shortsighted people who brought them to Australia back in the 1800s without realizing the environmental impact they could have are the ones to blame.  I blame the camels merely as a literary device, so please, no one accuse me of not understanding the issue or hating animals.  I’m fully aware of the nuances of this problem.  Thanks.

Obama scorns the much maligned beet

Because Americans are obsessed with the everyday minutiae of our Commanders-in-Chief, today we get this report detailing Barack Obama’s– and the Obama family’s– eating habits.  A quick summation of the article: they dig Rick Bayless’ Mexican food, pizza, handmade pastas, and kicking back with some wine or maybe a margarita.  Much to my annoyance, the article also mentioned Obama eats “boutique salad greens” — a fact that was used in an attempt to brand him an elitist, which is so ridiculous I posted about that a few months ago.  You can’t even go to an Applebee’s these days and not find arugula on the menu.  But I digress.

But the one thing the Pres-elect reportedly won’t touch:  beets.  I know, I know.  Everyone has foods they don’t like.  But beets really aren’t that bad.  

 I think a visit to Australia might be just the thing to get Mr. Obama over his repulsion.  You see, beets (or beetroot as it is known here) are put on the delicacy known as the Aussie Burger w/the Lot.  “The Lot” is shorthand for all the other food they put on the burger which includes the aforementioned beetroot, pineapple, a fried egg, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion.  They are a big, sloppy, burgery mess and they are GREAT! Plus, they’re the gateway food to more general beet eating.

So can Australia change Obama’s mind about beets?  YES WE CAN!!

P.S. I’m endeavouring to get a photo of a burger w/the lot.  Please stand by.

A victory for ugly veggies (and fruit)!

I’ve written about the plight of less-than aesthetically pleasing produce before here and here.  Finally, curvy cucumbers and contorted carrots are getting their comeuppance.  Well, in Europe anyway.  The EU has taken the bold step to relax rules put in place 20 years ago that banned the sale of blemished fruit and vegetables.

Personally, I love oddly-shaped specimens.  When I see them at the store, I’ll buy them.  I’m sort of like Charlie Brown when he gets the loser Christmas tree– everything deserves a chance.  Sometimes I’m a bit mean and will laugh at the them, like I did with this eggplant:

Is that a protusion on your eggplant or are you just happy to see me?

Is that a protusion on your eggplant or are you just happy to see me?

Other times I just marvel at their fabulous freakishness, like these webbed bananas:

Fuh-reaks!

Fuh-reaks!

But ultimately, I think the produce is just happy that someone picked it up, took it home and thought it was special enough to take a picture of it before gobbling it all up.

Who else out there buys ugly produce?  Take this poll:

Then, send me your photos of warped watermelons, bulbous brussels sprouts or squirrely squash (ooh, double points for that alliteration) and I’ll post them.  Because every fruit needs to feel good about itself.