seeing is[n’t] believing

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Food is still all over the news… “The NSW Food Authority has found the batch of John Bull Tuna linked to the Soul Origin tuna salad food poisoning scare in Sydney to be safe but found the salad to contain nearly 20 times the safe levels of scombroid histamine“, Red Rooster food chain claims of “nothing artificial” have been challenged and supermarket giant “Coles was ordered to cough up a $2.5 million penalty in the Federal Court on Friday afternoon, ending a two-year battle with the consumer watchdog over the false and misleading claims it made about its “freshly baked” bread.”

Out of the berry fiasco came a market opportunity for local frozen berries that may not have had impetus otherwise, with Australia’s first commercial frozen berries, Matilda’s, set to be on the shelves by June.

It’s about time we paid attention the food we’re spending our hard-earned cash on. With businesses citing costs as the reason for pro-imports and anti-labelling consumers can exert influence via their spending behaviours. Regardless of their talk, if it means changing to stay in business, they’ll walk the walk.

The demand for transparent information is evidenced by new smartphone apps… “a new wave of barcode-scanning ones are giving consumers increasing power and intensifying pressure on companies to provide more information at a level never seen before“.

There’s no doubt from a consumer’s point of view full disclosure in food production and labelling is necessary. But for that to happen… and it will happen… it’s up to consumers. What we spend money on is a direct message.

Genuine Grower from Bob's FarmMy favoured option is farmers market for fresh food. Ask questions of the people selling it. Where does it come from, how was it grown, when was it picked… just have a chat. Go back the next week, they’ll probably remember you and continue the conversation… walking talking food labels.Label

If like me you can’t always get to a farmers market… food shopping gets trickier. It’s more than likely we’ll end up in a supermarket wondering about the merits of label statements & ingredients and supermarket organic-free range-pasture raised. What goes on the checkout docket is my opportunity to make a statement about the sorts of product I will buy.

Is organic worth it? I think so. Regardless of where you live the Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen fruits and vegetables designated by the U.S. Environmental Working Group is a good guideline.

“EWG singles out produce with the highest pesticide loads for its Dirty Dozen™ list. This year, it is comprised of apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes…

EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ list of produce least likely to hold pesticide residues consists of avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides on them.”

I do better when I have a checklist -mental or otherwise- of good products I’ve researched. Flavour Crusader is great for reference checking local, free-range and organic produce in Australia. If I find a good product, I keep buying it. If the selections are unfamiliar I consider alternatives but leave empty-handed if I’m not happy with the offerings.

Details details… one small independent supermarket near me promotes itself as selling “certified organic groceries, fresh fruit, market-fresh vegetables, artisan breads, fresh meat, gourmet brands, fresh & frozen meals and specialized products”. Sounds good, except when it first opened the blackboard at the door advertised “fresh produce daily”; now it advises “produce checked daily for freshness”.

“Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn’t believing.
It’s where belief stops, because it isn’t needed any more.”
Terry Pratchett

Note: Every day I eat. Every now and then I blog about food: I thought it only fair on occasion to share what passes as a recipe for something I’ve made. We’re a 2 person household. All quantities and times are approximate. Additions and substitutions may be made according to preference, taste and availability. Where possible I use pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand.

Easy weeknight food: Pork Meatballs made with farmers market produce and ingredients to hand.

Combine by hand 500 grams of free range ground pork mince with a finely chopped sourdough bread roll and small onion, an egg, a dollop of oyster sauce and a pinch each of ginger & white pepper.

Free range pork meatballs, baked potatoes and Asian style veges from farmers market
Free range pork meatballs, baked potatoes and Asian style veges from farmers market

Toss quartered potatoes and golden beetroot in canola oil and salt. Bake in hot oven.

Top and tail snowpeas and blanche with boiling water. Run under cold water, then drain. Add to bowl with sliced red bull pepper and slices of baked golden beetroot. Toss with crunchy noodles and dressing made from Chinese black vinegar, sesame oil and honey.

The G.O. loves sausages. With few exceptions I’m not a fan. We compromise with meatballs aka rissoles… and given my stepmother’s renditions comprising only a ball of overcooked unseasoned minced meat, I wasn’t a fan of them either until I made my own.

My usual method for meatballs is to bake them as it enables me to quickly make enough for 2 night’s dinners and 2 freezer containers, but my last couple of efforts have been so-so.

This time I enlisted the assistance of the G.O. who other than being the Mashed Potato King prefers to exercise his culinary expertise via the outdoor barbeque at Taylors Arm leaving city-weeknight-kitchen food to me. He took the bait! shaped the meatballs and set them into a frypan with a little canola oil. We had a glass of wine while they sizzled, remarking how the comforting sound took us back to our childhoods. The taste of the food did too.

The G.O. is a generous meatball maker and eater but there was enough for 2 night’s of dinners.

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31 thoughts on “seeing is[n’t] believing

    roughseasinthemed said:
    April 15, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    The problem with living in an agricultural area is that you get to see first hand all the prsticide spraying that goes on. Usually brassicas and lettuces. One woman we know lives opposite the crop firlds and said she has to keep the windows closed when they are spraying be ause of the smell and the drift. And we eat that food? I think it’s beyond belied that it’s legal to jeopardise people’s health with essential food items being covered in chemicals for greater profits. Well, it’s not beyond belief of course and that’s the problem.

    We do buy organic when we can, and otherwise I just have to peel/wash whatever we eat. But it’s not ideal.

    Like

    ardysez said:
    April 15, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    I try to buy organic-free range-pasture raised everything as often as is possible. In Alice that is a very relative thing. I wash everything, peel a lot of things, and really only have Coles and Woolies from which to choose. Our health food store tries, but their produce is always very tired looking when I am there. I think the organic choices are good, if for no other reason, someone has more thoughtfully produced them. It is not easy, but I’m not complaining about the price, we are only a two person household as well, and we don’t eat as much as we used to, so I opt for quality. I can smell the aroma of the grass fed beef from Francis Valley Station, emanating from my crockpot as I write. It makes me feel good. A very thoughtful and informative post, Dale, many thanks.

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      EllaDee responded:
      April 15, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      Snap… we are having grass fed beef tonight too. Just a small piece that’s been slow cooking in a cast iron pot in the oven but it’s from my hometown of Scone, NSW which makes a mid week dinner a bit special 🙂
      With it are roasted veges -potatoes, carrots & onion, and green beans all organic- purchased from Woolworths as that’s what I could manage on Saturday. Giving credit where it’s due, the quality has been fantastic and the spuds a bargain at 80c per pack as they were near their best by date. But generally I can accept if the price is slightly higher for organic, pasture finished as the veges keep better & longer and the meat has more flavor + substance and we eat less.
      I often wonder about health food store ‘fresh’ organic veges, they do tend to look very sad…

      Like

    katechiconi said:
    April 15, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Great, informative post. Scary stuff. And I like the sound of your meatballs: I’m a great believer in pork for meatballs as it stays juicy longer. My favourite version is with garlic and fennel, browned off and then braised in a chunky tomato sauce and served over pasta. Better the next day, too, when the flavours have had a chance to get to know each other properly!

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      EllaDee responded:
      April 15, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      Pork meatballs are my favourite but on Monday I made some from Moorland lamb mince and they were excellent. Regardless always better the next day and I make extras to have with pasta & tomato sauce. Garlic & fennel… just a little fennel for us but yum 🙂

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        katechiconi said:
        April 15, 2015 at 9:29 pm

        Classic Italian seasoning… you could use just a tiny bit of fennel, but up the flavour complex with some oregano instead. The lamb ones sound yummy!

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          EllaDee responded:
          April 16, 2015 at 11:03 am

          The lamb meatballs were simply seasoned with a pinch each of cumin, coriander powder, ginger, white pepper, sweet paprika, dried onion. My Sunbeam Oskar chopper (aged 29 years!) died at the crucial moment so the usual chopped onion was wanting.

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          katechiconi said:
          April 16, 2015 at 11:18 am

          You need a Zyliss Auto Chop. No electricity involved, just some whacking with the palm of your hand. I had one for over 20 years but eventually the plastic bit around the bottom broke and I couldn’t replace it. Now, I chop by hand…

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          EllaDee responded:
          April 16, 2015 at 11:32 am

          When my TA chopper that attached to the slender blender died (I’ve since found a freebie replacement) I tried something like the Zyliss AutoChop but it or my skills were inferior as it wasn’t a success so I chucked it. The Zyliss Auto Chop (like my Oskar) appears to be available in vintage only. The G.O. has now confessed to being a proficient dicer so I may delay…

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          katechiconi said:
          April 16, 2015 at 4:45 pm

          Yes, mine’s rather handy with a small sharp knife too…. To the extent where I get dice when I wanted chunky slices!

          Like

    davidprosser said:
    April 15, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    I find it hard to believe that Monsanto are still in the business of poisoning people with their insecticides and that they hold,such sway in the US. After all the things I’ve read about their practices in S.America like poisoning the water table with such high concentrations of their products, strong arm tactics to make farmers buy their product and then suing farmers who don’t have their product if any blows over and grows on their land. Mutant strains created for longevity on the shelves may cause many problems down the line but it seems we must have them.
    Yet years ago we didn’t have all these things and survived well on the natural bounty the good earth provided.You and the GO.O. have the right idea with your organic food not treated with phosphates of any kind and farmers market meats grown by the natural methods and not force fed the remains of other animals to fatten them up.
    Keep on reminding people of the benefits and soon enough people may buy nothing else thus forcing the major supermarkets o change their policies over what they sell and how accurately things are labelled.Either that or go out of business because they fail to see what customers want.
    I hope Taylors Arms is getting closer.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

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      EllaDee responded:
      April 15, 2015 at 7:56 pm

      I have seen things changing… initially for the worse… negative changes that slipped under consumer radar. Now the information tide is turning it. TV cooking shows and celebrity chefs are one of the reasons. They place an emphasis on good food, quality ingredients, cooking skills and just having a go… what I love about it is the sponsors… Big Supermarkets. Consumers are responding by demanding better practices.
      I believe this, media & public interest will mean there are less places to hide for Monsanto and their ilk.

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    memoirsofahusk said:
    April 15, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    You don’t like sausages??? We had Cumberland sausages (83% pork, well seasoned, very tasty) last night with lentils, tomatoes, and ratouille all mixed together and cooked in red wine. Delish!

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      EllaDee responded:
      April 16, 2015 at 6:25 am

      There are sausage exceptions but they have to be really good. At Taylors Arm we buy amazing sausages from the local butcher and cook extras. We slice them to eat cold with cheese, biscuits etc, in frittata or as they are straight out of the fridge. The UK is fortunate they value their sausage heritage. Australia is rethinking it after years of commodification; good sausages are making a comeback.

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    Gerlinde@sunnycovechef said:
    April 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Farmer’s markets are also my first choice but I’m lucky to have some good supermarkets that have good and clean food, one used to be a Coop and now is a big supermarket with 6 different stores.
    I just read a fascinating article by Mr. Schatzker about his new book soon to be published ” The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor.” His argument is that as food grew blander, it also became less nutritious. As our crops and life-stock become more productive , affordable and disease-resistant , they keep loosing flavor. Tomatoes, strawberries, tasting like cardboard. He links flavor to the nutritional makeup of foods.
    ElleDee, thank you for keeping us informed, your meatballs look good.

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      EllaDee responded:
      April 16, 2015 at 6:38 am

      I prefer farmers market too for the food, and the vibe… no better way to spend a couple of hours shopping but I’m getting better at extracting from supermarkets the food I want, and as more people do the same, the pressure is on them to fulfil demand… which gives me great satisfaction.
      I bought organic veges from the local Big Supermarket last weekend and they were as good as farmers market offerings; they can do it when they want to!

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    Gerlinde said:
    April 15, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-flavor-drives-nutrition-1428596326
    I tried to copy a link to the article from Mark Schatzker, I hope it works!

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      EllaDee responded:
      April 16, 2015 at 6:31 am

      The link worked 🙂 Good article, I’d heard about the The Dorito Effect, and will be interested to read it. Last night as we ate our delicious dinner of slow cooked grass fed roast beef; a very small piece with organic roasted veg and green beans we commented the same: the food tasted better and we were quite satisfied with a very reasonable size serving. The G.O. took the leftovers for lunch.

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    Bill said:
    April 16, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    I second your recommendation to talk to the farmers at the farmers market. Ethical farmers are happy to talk about their practices and the food they produce!

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      EllaDee responded:
      April 17, 2015 at 6:10 am

      I never hurry my farmers markets visits… the exchange of information is enjoyable, and I’ve met some lovely, passionate people. Even buying mushrooms is interesting! And always a great community vibe.

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    Kourtney Heintz said:
    April 17, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Thanks for sharing this info on the best fruits to buy organic. I’m hoping to do some berry picking this summer. We get our apples from a great local orchard. Trying to shift more towards healthier options especially as things are ripening all around us.

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      EllaDee responded:
      April 17, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      More worrying articles on effects of toxins in foods. Picking your own is wonderful. We used to do when I was a kid living in the country. The fragrance of a strawberry patch and apricot orchard is unforgettable 🙂

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        Kourtney Heintz said:
        April 23, 2015 at 7:24 am

        We have short berry seasons but I’m going to get on it this year. 🙂 I love berries and I don’t want to eat all those chemicals.

        Liked by 1 person

    Francesca said:
    April 17, 2015 at 9:33 am

    We need more transparency from our supermarkets as most working folk, not to mention families with children who may be struggling to make ends meet, can get to Farmers Markets. I have the time and luxury to grow food and shop where i want, but this isn’t the case for many. More and more we find out about all sorts of issues affecting our food: sulphates used in most coconut goods, inaccurate descriptions of fats and the oils used in biscuits, not to mention the outright lying by Coles and their bread fiasco. It all makes me cross!!!

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      EllaDee responded:
      April 17, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      I’m fortunate to now have access to farmers markets but it may not always be the case, and even I can’t get there every week. When I’m in the supermarket I get satisfaction from buying what I want not just what they have strategically placed & priced.

      Liked by 1 person

    sara said:
    April 18, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Checked daily for freshness? Guffaw 🙂
    I love hand made rissoles – simple is the best I think.
    We can tie ourselves in such knits about food. I hardly ever get to go to a farmers market – the nearest one in Bellingen is over an hour away, and I just don’t want to drive that far away to buy my food. Soo… I just buy as local as I can, in season and organic if it’s there, which it often isn’t. I love it when my gardening friends have surplus to give away, or when we have our own garden bounty. I had to relax about it all though – I was so uptight about it for years. Anyway 🙂 Here’s to being educated about what you eat and working with what you have 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      EllaDee responded:
      April 18, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      There’s an economy of scale with everything, it’s all about finding the right balance… Having to drive great distances to get organic food defeats some of the benefit, and comes under nice to do but not necessary. It’s possible to buy good food from local shops and supermarkets but takes a degree of awareness & education, which shouldn’t be the case, we should be able to shop with confidence in the products.
      We shopped at the shop with the sign today, which has now changed to wise quotes etc, and everything we bought was farmers market quality. But it’s good they had that sign for a while, as at one stage a couple of things I bought were dodgy, so I’m careful to check for freshness, use-by dates and pricing, they are a bit slack at register scanning and with shelf price vs register price. Handy though as it’s walking distance.

      Liked by 1 person

        sara said:
        April 18, 2015 at 7:49 pm

        Shopping well does take time and education – and not the way most people educate themselves either, which seems to be through advertisements OMG. In an ideal world that would not be the case…and farmers would get paid properly to produce the highest quality food in a way that is gentle on the land and kind to animals. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

          EllaDee responded:
          April 20, 2015 at 4:39 pm

          I just mentioned your comment to Bill of Practicing Resurrection blog, who posted about The Revolution is Delicious. He responded “Advertising isn’t educational. Great point. Reminds me of the reaction I get sometimes when I tell people that television doesn’t exist to entertain them–it exists as a platform for advertising. If they’re entertained, that’s just to keep their attention until the next advertisement.”

          Liked by 1 person

          sara said:
          April 20, 2015 at 8:11 pm

          Ha! Nice one 🙂
          Bill is right – advertising is not education…but it serves that purpose for surprisingly many 😳

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