opinion

I asked my neighbour about its life . . .

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Man and Tree
Convenient apartment living… to bins, front door and garage entry.

Another ‘branching out’ story inspired by comments to my Out on a Limb post, our city apartment’s leafy neighbours and the article Erskineville’s newest housing project. Dedicated to the G.O. for whom the big eucalypt tree neighbouring our balcony is a balm to city life.

“I’m a relative newcomer to what they call this now… the neighbourhood. A remnant from what it was two centuries of human time ago, a natural habitat abundant with my kind. I was here when the changes began and we trees gave way, were taken away, made way for Buildings and Roads… and People, as is the humans’ want to call themselves. But not here by the end.

The Outsiders came with plans and tools and cleared the Land. They said they paid for it with Money, or the Government gave it to them. I still don’t understand about the Money or the Government. They aren’t part of the Creation. Where did they come from?

The Outsiders undid some of the work of the Creation. They called it Construction, it made the Buildings go up and in an instant that’s all there was. No trees, grasses or blossoms. No wild animals, birds or insects. The Outsiders didn’t put them back. If they had thought of it anyway they had no time for Preservation. Instead, with pieces of trees they felled, the Outsiders confined spaces around the Buildings, dug the soil, set their beasts to graze and planted seeds they’d brought with them.

How do I know this? After I was there, before I came again, my Spirit, at one with All, was part of the Witnessing of what ensued. Nothing happens that isn’t observed and recorded in The Annals of Time. Of the Spirits of the Land, some travelled Home, some necessarily remained behind as Guardians. As Keepers of the Earth we do not give up our place lightly.

The Outsiders desired autonomy, opportunity to create their humanmade objects. They wanted more than the Creation could provide. To have their own powers of creation pleased the Outsiders. They were clever, strong and capable, no longer believing they needed to rely on offerings and appeasements to the Creation, subject to its caprices. They were proud.

Before the Outsiders there were the Old Ones. Nomads, they used only what the Creation offered, and in exchange were caretakers of the Land. The Outsiders had no place for the Old Ones either. Now they don’t come any more.

In the beginning there weren’t so many Outsiders. The climate suited to my kind was harsh for Outsiders, and the work of changing things was harsher. They brought more Outsiders from far away. Their dreams and schemes and talk spread like fire-stick burns of the Old Ones. But where from fires and ashes commanded by the Old Ones our kind regenerated, the all-consuming visions of the Outsiders doomed us.

For a while the Outsiders were grateful for the gifts of our kind. We were useful to them. By our bodies they kept warm and built shelter. As part of the Creation this was our calling. For all time we have provided Protection. To surrender ourselves to the Outsiders was a Sacrifice of Honour. Once the Outsiders would have honoured it in return by cultivating and nurturing our kind.

All beings are bound by the Creation and its three Pacts. The foremost Pact is Equality. As part of All no one being is more important than another. The second is Perpetuity. We are part of an endless nurturing cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth. And, finally what we give we get back. What we take we give back. That is the Pact of Stability.

There were Outsiders who remembered the Creation and understood the importance of its Pacts. However, unlike the Old Ones the Outsiders didn’t roam the Land accepting what the Earth offered up. The Government and the Money claimed they ruled the Land. To get shelter and food the Outsiders needed pieces of the Money. The Money would only yield pieces if the Outsiders exchanged time and toil for them. And so the Outsiders worked to live, and called it Industry.

But as I said, the Outsiders wanted more than the Creation entitled them to. More Outsiders came and believed and laboured pursuing the possibilities and successes of their own toil. They made a new pact amongst themselves. They called it Profitability. Profitability was acquiring lots of pieces of the Money. The more they thought about Profitability, the less important Equality, Perpetuity and Stability seemed. It became harder to live by the Pacts of the Creation. Everyone was busy pursuing Profitability. Profitability was time-consuming.

Profitability was also successful. The People wanted more. They exchanged the Money with each other in return for trinkets. Industry began to make all manner of trinkets they called Product. The People worked even harder to get pieces of money to swap for Product. They believed many pieces of the Money and beautiful, numerous or newest Product gave them special powers of Status as well.

After a while there were so many Buildings, Roads, Product and People, the Government and Money weren’t able to maintain Order needed to control Profitability. They appointed Politicians who were Outsiders that made rules for the People which they called Laws. The Politicians were busy making Laws so they chose other Outsiders to be Police to make sure the People obeyed the Laws. Because the Politicians and Police were busy with Laws and didn’t have time for Industry the Government decreed they could take some of the Peoples’ pieces of the Money which they called Taxes.

Rather than calling it the old name Order, the Government gave it a new name Community, which was better for Profitability. People toiled harder when they believed they were doing it for the Greater Good. A portion of their Taxes were returned to them in kind in the form of Services for the Greater Good and Benevolence for the unfortunate who didn’t have many pieces of the Money. The People were proud of what they created, their Industry and Benevolence. They worked harder, building more and better, earning more pieces of the Money.

Some time ago, one of the first Outsiders, among the last who remembered the Creation and its Pacts was approaching the end of his physical life, preparing to rejoin Spirit. He’d kept all these years a single gumnut pocketed in the first days of the Construction. After the woman he’d passed this life with returned to Spirit, he carried out one last act for the Creation to redress the balance of Stability. He planted the seeds from the gumnut in a crock the day they returned her body to the Earth.

While nine moons passed the issue of gumnut rose from the soil into two young saplings. The day after the young man returned the old man’s body to the Earth, he planted the saplings outside his Building of Industry where he would pass them each day. The tears he shed over the green shoots and into the soil summoned my Spirit and that of my twin, to dwell on the Earth once again, as patient observers.

The young man stopped by each morning and evening as we grew taller than him, then taller than the Buildings. At midday he brought food and sat beneath us sheltering from the weather. Many turns of the Earth were passed like this until the young man came to resemble the old man, and didn’t come as often. For many moons no People came at all. But the birds returned and we offered them shelter.

The young man, now old, came and last stood with us as we watched the Machines bring down the Buildings. Once again Construction emptied the Land before it made more, bigger Buildings go up, higher than our reach. The People came back but different, among them women and children. The Buildings are called Real Estate, shelter for the People.

We trees are few in number but stand here strong, Guardians yet, waiting still.”

​”It’s one of the most important sites there and is a major project in moving from a former workers’ precinct with brick-making and a tannery to a new residential masterplanned community with new street blocks and pedestrian laneways.”​
Erskineville’s newest housing project

 

 

 

 

carved in stone

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Each workday from my desk (courtesy of a recent fortuitous reshuffle) I now gaze at a reminder of the way my and the G.O.’s  ancestors arrived in this country. By ship. Through Sydney Heads. For me it’s a reminder of how fortunate he and I are that they did.

Sydney Harbour, and Heads in the distance... vista through glass which at 29 floors up gets a little grimy in between window cleaner visits!
Sydney Harbour, and Heads in the distance… vista through glass which at 29 floors up gets a little grimy in between window cleaner visits!

Four of the G.O.’s ancestors came on convict ships of the Second and Fourth Fleet, and were part of the very early settling of Australia. For several generations there was an inclination for people to overlook or hide their convict heritage. Fortunately, no longer, as evidenced by an intrepid stonemason Ray Collins who with ancestors on both the First Fleet and Second, created the monuments and the First and Second Fleet Memorial Gardens at Wallabadah in country NSW.

“The First Fleet Memorial Gardens consist of eleven circular gardens, representing the ships of the First Fleet approaching a large garden in the shape of Australia. A winding cobblestone path connects the Gardens, each of which has a number of surrounding sandstone tablets inscribed with the names of the persons who sailed on that ship.

Within each garden is a stone tablet featuring the name and a pictorial sketch of that particular ship. The Second Fleet Gardens consist of two gardens with stone tablets arranged by ship. Both gardens have interpretative signage largely drawn from the logs and memoirs of the participants.

These gardens are dedicated to the sailors, marines, spouses, children, convicts and free men of the First & Second Fleets. The Gardens tell the story of both these voyages and the early settlement of Sydney largely in the words of those who participated.

The interpretative signs and the content were done by Neil McGarry & Associates.”

I encountered a link to information on these gardens late last year when dabbling in some Google based family history research, shared it with the G.O. and promptly forgot about it, until en route to Tamworth late in August to celebrate our anniversary. As part of our scenic route roadtrip along the New England Highway we were approaching the village of Wallabadah both of us reminiscing about other times we’d passed through. Bing! I remembered the gardens just as we were coming up to the turn off. The G.O. obviously having paid little attention earlier, had no idea of why I was asking him to turn off but accommodating adventurous as he is, he did.

Other of my and the G.O.’s ancestors came to Australia as free settlers and assisted migration via ships from the United Kingdom and Europe; precursors to what has become known as the Fifth Fleet fleeing post-war Europe and Asia, and ongoing immigration and seeking of asylum. All of which contributes to the legacy of our wonderful multicultural country, so with due and fair process we can share and share it again.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now”
Martin Luther king, Jr

whatshername…

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When the G.O. and I eloped last year, once we’d weathered the gamut of welcome congratulations and not-so-welcome “unflattering amazement” as Kate so aptly described it, the next assumption we dealt with, after reassuring my new mother-in-law the absence of a big to-do wedding wasn’t because I was pregnant, and I wasn’t planning on -at 48 and childless- becoming pregnant… was about what I should thereon be called.P1010860

The answer for me was easy. My name. The one my parents gave me in 1965. Twice in my life I changed it, and was sorry both times. The first time at age twenty I was trying to do as many of the correct newly-married things possible. The second time I was nearly thirty, knew my mind and should have known better. I did make a stand, hyphenating the old and new surnames to begin with before conceding to husbandly expectations, lingering societal norms and laziness.

Like a boomerang, my own name -the one my parents gave me in 1965- kept coming back. And this -third time lucky- I was determined to hang onto it. We sensibly discussed it early in the proceedings before settling on wedding plans, and the big day. The G.O. was unconcerned; we’d been referring to each other by our respective surnames for more than two decades. I was who I was. So long as he didn’t have to take my name. Okaaayy, I could live with that.

Married for the first and hopefully only time several months before us, for my younger sister changing her name was a rite of passage. She assumed I’d be just as keen. And was somewhat nonplussed while understanding its place in her marriage & children plans, I rejected the idea for myself. No small practical consideration being the amount of necessary paperwork I wished to circumvent also.

For our Dad it’s plain confusing. My sister’s married name is Wells, and mine if I used it would be Welsh. For our husbands, Dad uses the surnames interchangeably.

Next came well-meaning reminders, from certain recipients of the note the G.O. and I mailed out sharing the happy news of our marriage, prompting us to procure return address labels updated with Mr & Mrs to supersede those featuring both our names that had been -in their view injudiciously- applied to the backs of the envelopes.

Regardless, several items of congratulatory mail came addressed to the new Mr & Mrs, and continue to do so. No problem. I’m happy to be the other half of Mr & Mrs and it’s never occurred to me to direct people’s preferences one way or another. I have no issue with their naming protocol even if I don’t refer to myself as such, and remain Ms. by my own hand. Although the G.O. sometimes refers to me as “The Missus”. Which he did even before we were legally married.

Very occasionally, usually in the vicinity of Taylors Arm where the G.O.’s family name abounds, if there’s a form to be filled in or a name to be offered up I opportunistically hyphenate our last names to put me in a local context. I’m not above a double standard when it suits me.

Coming up to a year of married life with the G.O. nothing has changed. We simply “put a ring on it” and carried on with our lives. We’re no less married than we would be if I had adopted his surname.

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” ~ W.C. Fields

Note: From mid next week I’ll be offline until early the following week, as we’re taking a few days away to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

things have changed . . .

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I wished I’d kept a food journal, but now I’ve thought about it; a consumer journal. What I supposed were lifelong constants are no longer. I was willing to be faithful so long as manufacturers were true. I wanted them to care about the things I did. They offered more products and promises to get my money. I ditched them. But it took many years to get to that point. Back to the less-is-more world I grew up in.

During my rural small town 1970’s childhood brands didn’t map my life. My earliest memories are of Mr Sheen, the timber furniture polish and Fabulon ironing aid. The overspray from both made our timber floor fantastically slippery… great fun for a 4 year old wearing socks. I can’t remember what kind of washing detergent my mother used but a vague memory of the fragrance of Handy Andy mopped floors. At my grandparents’ farm I can remember only Sunlight soap and Phenyle.

My own first household brand choice was clothes washing detergent. My sister once remarked about our joint and ongoing dedication to Cussons Radiant washing detergent as we collaborated on bargains. It’s been around for over 25 years, and I’d been loyally using it the entire time until almost 4 years ago when a move to an apartment with a front load washer rather than top loader made me take another look, and opened up the world of eco brands.

"I pressed the fire control... and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky..." Once I started changing I couldn't stop!
“I pressed the fire control… and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky…” Once I started changing I couldn’t stop!

Light turned on, I made the switch to eco not only clothes washing detergent but everything I could get: dishwashing detergent and tablets, paper towel and toilet paper. Not only changing brands but decreasing consumption.

I swapped out half washing powder scoops for bicarb soda and ditched cleaning products except eco glass spray and bleach of which we use less than a bottle per year. I substituted vinegar as laundry rinse, adding lavender and eucalyptus oils to make sprays for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. Reusable cleaning cloths and tea towels go into the daily wash. This, in the city by choice… But in the country by necessity because we have a septic tank for sewerage and otherwise our grey water runs into the garden.

No not-so-plastic-fantastic bottled water for us. In the city we boil & filter tap water kept chilled in the fridge or taken with us in stainless steel water bottles, and we use a Soda Stream to make carbonated-aka-fizzy water. In the country at Taylors Arm we employ an old-fashioned soda syphon and drink rainwater collected on the roof into tanks straight from the tap. For the G.O. and I, both coming from farming backgrounds drinking tank water is back where we began.

Coffee has been a lifelong journey from the instant powder of my early teen years to a grown up penchant for takeaway large soy lattes.  About 4 years ago we went with straight blacks and invested in a Jura Ena 5 coffee machine which has more than paid for itself. I buy bags of organic fair trade coffee and we use our own cups at home or KeepCups for DIY takeaway. At Taylors Arm we make pour over coffee using a Hario drip decanter and unbleached paper filters.

Occasionally I encounter the G.O. shuffling jars around the tea shelf hoping, in vain, for a glimpse of a yellow Lipton’s teabag label therein. Left to his own devices he is a creature of habit. I offer to swap out another of his indulgences. Coke or Cadbury? No. He was just hoping but he’s fine with Daintree or herbal tea. He’ll have a Lipton’s at his mother’s.

I feel that same way about personal products as I do about food labels, if I don’t know what it is I don’t want it as an ingredient. It didn’t make sense to go to the effort and expense of pursuing clean and home cooked food while undermining the effects by applying goodness-knows-what to our persons.

Seduced by product claims, marketing and colours I have a drawer full of accumulated lotions and potions. Now, I wear less makeup, perfume, nail or skincare products and look for brands that are safe-ethical-eco-organic such as Natio. I’m fond of Clarins and OPI which are apparently ok but could do better. We use locally made lemon myrtle products and oral care products such as Grants.

Of course, it’s all work-in-progress. Ongoing changes come about as I continue to research and discover good products. I’ve checked my habit of impulse buying fragrant candles replacing them with beeswax, essential oils and incense. Magazines also are a treat rather than a regular purchase. I find more than enough inspiration via the blog-world, Facebook Pages Feed, Pinterest and free online subscriptions to websites that interest me.

On my to-do list is make my own washing powder and skin moisturisers. On my to-do-better list are clothes and household items. Possibly the most complicated and expensive exercise. The best we manage at the moment is to limit consumption, buy Australian Made where possible, get value from wear and reuse-recycle.

A daunting and recent change is abstinence from hair colour. As a kid my fair hair was naturally blonde due to the time I spent outdoors. In my late teen years it darkened to mouse with increased time spent indoors at a desk studying, then working. It’s been lightened unnaturally for just over 30 years. Now I’m turning 50 and my hair is turning silver, I’ve decided to embrace it.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does.”
William James

no hard feelings . . .

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I’m not one to hold a grudge… fortunately, in regard to chickens. Despite an indelible experience I had as a kid with a rooster I still admire their kind. And care about what manner of lives they have before they grace my table.

I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm up until age 9. One of my favourite things to do was collect the eggs. The chook yard was down the back away from the house near the gully. It was something I could manage myself but usually my Pa tagged along. Encountering a opportunistic snake or cranky hen was possible.

One day aged around 6, I tagged along with Pa as he checked the cows’ water reservoir halfway up the hill to the dairy. I wandered down toward the chook yard on my own. The chooks were let out, next thing I know there’s a feathered devil on my back and I’m running up the hill towards Pa screaming at the top of my little lungs. My hero grabbed the damned rooster by its scrawny neck, laid it on the nearby wood heap chopping block and took off its head with the axe. At which point the rest of it ran in circles before it dropped momentarily. Fascination quickly erased the terror I’d felt.

Like other chooks for the table the rooster was duly dunked in a kerosene tin of scalding water and plucked. I still remember the distinctive, not pleasant smell of scalded chicken feathers and guts. The rooster had a good long life so he was old and tough but waste not, edible enough. He was dinner.

Now that’s not so awful when you consider what goes on in a factory farm or CAFO. CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. Call me a coward but frankly I don’t want to see it. Even passing trucks packed with chickens and trailing white feathers along the highway, something that makes my sister cry, evidences the dreadful commodification of poultry and that’s why I buy ethically produced free range poultry and eggs.

Just because I can’t bear to see it doesn’t mean I don’t care. Factory farming makes me angry because how our food gets to us shouldn’t be shrouded, dependent on interpretation of the word ‘adequate’ or haggling over free range standards and scruples of a few with vested interests.

It might look like a roast chicken but it’s far more. I’d like us to do better but a properly free range life it’s the very least chickens are entitled to. It’s the very least we’re entitled to when we shop. Worth thinking about when buying poultry products or eggs.

Celia and I are very excited about ethical poultry farmers from the Mid North Coast of NSW Burrawong Gaian Poultry’s first appearance at my local Eveleigh Farmers Market on Saturday 20 June 2015, and won’t miss the opportunity to cheer them on in person.

Easy weekend food: Roast Free Range Thirlmere Chicken from Eveleigh Farmers Market


Despite food safety warnings I rinse whole raw chicken inside and out using cold water and paper towel to dry, then wash sink and hands with hot soapy water and wipe out with paper towel and vinegar spray. It’s up to you if you do this or not.

The G.O. loves stuffing. My usual recipe is: roughly chop several of slices of sourdough bread and a large onion. Combine in a bowl with an egg, ginger powder, salt and pepper, adding milk to moisten. In this case there was no milk so I substituted plain full fat homemade yoghurt which gave the stuffing a lovely rich slightly tart flavour. I have also been known to use sage, rosemary, hazelnut meal, chopped dried figs, garlic, lemon zest, a whole lemon or onion… none of which are favoured by the G.O.

If you make extra stuffing mixture, put it in a oiled small loaf pan sealed with foil or wrap it in oiled foil and bake for an hour or so.

After stuffing the bread mixture into the chicken, massage the outside with butter. Sit on a rack in a deep cast iron pot with lid over a bath of chicken stock and Malmsey (or other Madeira type wine) and slow roast on 150 – 160 degrees Celsius for about double the time you would pan roast. Turn up the heat to 180 C and take the lid off for the last 15 minutes. Remove the chicken to rest covered and cook the pan juices down on the stove top to make gravy.

Sometimes I put potatoes, onions and carrots in the roasting pan as well and they bake to a lovely tenderness.

This reasonable size chicken, 1.7 kg, gives us 2 nights of dinners, several lunches and chicken stock from the bones.

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.

the rebellion of a couch tomato

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I’d never thought of myself as a rebel. I’m a mutable Sagittarius. A fitter-inner. The G.O. looks sceptical when I say “I liked school”. The closest I came was my bestie Mrs S. says she thought I was cool when we met age 16 back in the early 1980’s because I wore desert boots. My stepmother certainly expressed her opinion that I wore too much eyeliner, and Dad considered I wore too much black. But that was fashion, not rebellion.

I never had reason to rebel. I grew up in a family, country and era where I had freedom to make my own choices, for better or worse. I chose to work, marry & divorce, repeat, not have children, buy a home and so on. My sister was the first rebel in our family, when she decided age 14 to become vegan. It rocked my family but for me it wasn’t an issue, whenever she spent time in my household, the food on our table was vegan too.

My particular rebellion came on slowly after I realized the most basic of my choices was being made for me in an artful manner by people I didn’t know. The food of my grandparents’ and parents’ kitchens was disappearing.

So armed with a nanna shopping trolley, most weekends I walk the walk of my rebellion to the farmers market. In supermarkets I opt for free range-organic-ethical-local. I wield the weapon of a wooden spoon with my shield the mixing bowl and bake biscuits. Of an evening, knife in hand I go into combat armed with pastured raised meat and organic veges for dinner. In the mornings I crack the shells of ethically produced eggs.

The other weapons in my arsenal are information and communication. I took the affront to my food rights quite personally. How dare they. I’m just one of many food rebels. Many who generously share their time, efforts and knowledge. They farm, garden, shop with awareness, cook, appear on TV, write articles, blogs & books.

Although I’m currently limited to espousing rebellion from my living room via a keyboard while sitting on the couch. I consider growing your food to be the ultimate act of rebellion. Living in a tiny apartment redeemed by a large a sunny balcony I’d love to grow tubs of vegetables as many apartment dwellers do. But it is in direct proximity to a grimy train line; only the hardiest of geraniums and succulents survive. The edible plants & herbs I attempt to grow exposed to railway track ballast struggle, and eating them doesn’t seem safe. I feel blessed when we receive a gift of tomatoes from a gardening friend and find basil growing in the apartment complex’s small herb garden down the back away from the tracks.

Easy weeknight food: Rebel garden sauce, meatballs and pasta ribbons

The rebellion of a couch tomato

Chop 4 large tomatoes such as those grown by the G.O.’s mate Trojan, with handful of basil leaves and 2 small sweet onions. Sauté using macadamia (or other nut/vegetable) oil. Add chopped leftover organic green beans, baked red capsicum, golden beetroot, black olives and beef meatballs from the freezer. Serve over left over strips of pasta made from leftover fresh lasagne sheets from the freezer, and top with grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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.

I want to go back to Brazil, get married, have lots of kids, and just be a couch tomato. Ana Beatriz Barros

biggered

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Until a few years ago my food belief systems were stuck in the late 1960’s, where as a pre-schooler I shopped at the small country grocery store with my mother. There were only a few varieties of breakfast cereal. My grandparents provided us with milk and eggs. Fresh bread was delivered via a horse and cart. The modest amounts of cordial, ice-cream, packaged products bought were made by local companies not global conglomerates.

Baked Snow Gem potatoes
Baked Snow Gem potatoes

It became apparent things had changed. Food didn’t taste the way I remembered, and I’d begun experiencing health issues related to sugars, refined carbohydrates and additives. I considered what I was spending, and the value I was getting. I compared the taste of corporate-industrial products to quality fresh produce; and health, ethical and environmental costs vs. benefits.

Extracting myself from today’s food complex was daunting. I made the change gradually, exchanging bad for good; fresh white bread is still a treat, from a bakery not a supermarket. I found better options… I can take or leave supermarket potatoes but I love potatoes from the farmers market which when baked go crisp & caramelised, and taste so much better. Before I discovered farmers market potatoes I just thought I was terrible at baking potatoes.

And it seems I’ve come back to where I was in the late 1960’s. I manage by sticking to favourite products, buying in season, a stocked pantry, smaller portions of better quality, planning meals, cooking food at home rather than dining out or buying takeaway, taking homemade lunches to work, making meals from leftovers and putting them in the freezer… using every last skerrick.

Leftovers/freezer meals have increasingly become our equivalent of takeaway; quick & easy. Home cooked dinner made from good farmers market produce is better than a lot of restaurant offerings I’ve encountered… and I’m a simple everyday cook!

While we live in a small city apartment I’m unable to grow food but I am growing awareness. Akin to my passion for family history research I read books and blogs on food topics, Google search and follow a treasure map of links. It takes time and thought but it’s nothing compared with what consumers are against when it comes to marketing efforts by Big Food.

To give you an idea the top 3 companies of 2013 Food Sales from Food Processing’s Top 100 – 2014 are:

  1. Pepsico Inc.
  2. Tyson Foods Inc.
  3. Nestle

The world’s largest snack-food maker [Pepsico] may boost the advertising and marketing budget for its namesake cola and other drinks by as much as $600 million, or 50 percent, to $1.7 billion when it announces the results of a year-long business review Feb. 9, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg”

In 2012, Tyson Foods’ ad spend amounted to approximately 496 million U.S. dollars. Tyson Foods is a manufacturer of food products, mostly chicken, beef, and pork products.”

In 2013, Nestle spent 30.6 million U.S. dollars on internet advertising in the U.S.”

“I meant no harm I most truly did not, but I had to grow bigger so bigger I got.
I biggered my factory, I biggered my roads, I biggered the wagons,
I biggered the loads, of the Thneeds I shipped out
I was shipping them forth from the South, to the East, to the West.
To the North, I went right on biggering selling more thneeds.
And I biggered my money which everyone needs.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

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: Enchiladas made from freezer, pantry and fridge contents.

Combine in saucepan and heat through 1 medium size container of defrosted savoury ground beef mince* with 2 cans of drained & rinsed red kidney beans and a sachet of tomato paste (approx. 2 tablespoons).

Defrost small tub of chopped sautéed tomatoes and add approx. 3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce.

Spray or brush a large shallow ovenproof dish with canola oil.

Spoon a line of the mince-bean mixture along the centre of 6 tortillas, folding and placing each in ovenproof dish.

Spoon tomato-sweet chilli sauce mix over the top.

Top with grated cheese.

Beef and Bean Enchiladas with Corn Salsa and Spiced Persian Yoghurt
Beef and Bean Enchiladas with Corn Salsa and Spiced Persian Yoghurt

Cover with foil and bake in pre-heated 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6 oven for 20 to 30 minutes, removing foil for last 5 to 10 minutes.

To make salsa combine 1 cup sweet corn kernels with 2 chopped tomatoes, a small red onion chopped, chopped red bull pepper, a handful of fresh basil, a drizzle each of olive oil and sweet chilli sauce.

Serve warm enchiladas with corn salsa and Spiced Persian Yoghurt -yoghurt, feta and fresh herbs, Greek yoghurt/crème fraiche/sour cream.

This is the first time I’ve made enchiladas but it won’t be the last. The G.O. said they were better than lasagne… but I’m not sure I agree but they’re as good as.

It made 2 night’s dinners and leftovers the G.O. took to work for lunch.

When I began incorporating beans into the savoury ground beef mince the G.O. wasn’t too keen but he’s become accustomed (it’s change he doesn’t like, I think) and enjoyed lasagne I made with beef & beans and layers of veges.

*There are always a few containers of savoury beef mince in our freezer. We eat it on toast, with mashed potato and veges, in spaghetti bolognaise, lasagne, nachos…

To make 4 containers of savoury beef mince for the freezer, in a large frypan saute 4 large chopped onions in canola oil with a sprinkle of white pepper. When translucent, add 1 kg ground beef mince stirring & breaking up until browned. Add a cup of beef stock, 2 tins chopped tomatoes, 1 sachet of tomato paste (approx. 2 tablespoons), a pinch each of dried rosemary & nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon juice. Simmer for approx. 15 minutes. Add 2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs and simmer for approx. 15 minutes. Can also be slow cooked in the oven in a heavy based casserole dish or using an electric slow cooker.

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.

fair suck of the sav . . .

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Food fight: Big Food vs Good Food. Home-made work lunch made from Good Fish tuna, farmers market salad selections, free range egg, Bulgarian sheeps milk feta, Spanish [naturally] green olives stuffed with almonds.
Food fight: Big Food vs Good Food. Home-made work lunch made from Good Fish tuna, farmers market salad selections, free range egg, Bulgarian sheeps milk feta, Spanish [naturally] green olives stuffed with almonds.
When I spend the cash I worked hard to earn on food that disappoints I get angry… When I realised the pretty green hue of the olives I had been buying was fake I thought “fair suck of the sav“… “sav” being short for saveloy, a type of sausage. And it’s not rude. It’s an Australian saying that means “give us a fair go”.

It reminded me of the importance of continuing my ongoing food due diligence, and led me to spend some time in that playground of information: Google, where I do regular home schooling in what’s good to eat.

Why do I care about good food? Because Big Food and Supermarkets no matter how high their profits are this year, aim to make higher profits next year, the year after and so on. Where do the profits come from? The money we spend. I don’t know about you but my income is modest and I don’t earn more and more money each year.

It’s gratifying to see food issues get airtime. In Australia there’s been a egg campaign (“that ain’t no way to treat a lady”, pork & bacon awareness (“consumers are unaware more than 75 per cent of bacon sold in Australia is made from imported product”), seafood labelling, as well as the packaged food labelling campaign that’s ramped up since the frozen berries recall of Creative Gourmet and Nanna’s frozen berries from China putting consumers at risk of contracting Hepatitis A and John Bull tinned tuna imported from Thailand linked with suspected Scromboid poisoning.

The call for fairer food is gaining momentum. Particularly when people are getting sick. While in Australia there is outrage and call for food labelling reform as industry, government and lobbyist are fighting over what’s appropriate & fair, consumers can make a big difference with very slight changes in their thought processes and behaviours.

Food fight: Big Food vs Good Food. Home-made yoghurt, home-made muesli, Omaha Organic NZ frozen blueberries, peach from Sariwa farmers market stall who sourced them from the grower at Orange, NSW.
Food fight: Big Food vs Good Food. Home-made yoghurt, home-made muesli, Omaha Organic NZ frozen blueberries, peach from Sariwa farmers market stall who sourced them from the grower at Orange, NSW.

Big companies spend more money to make more money. Their profits and executive salaries take them out of the real world realms of their target consumers. Wiki states Pepsico’s gross profit for 2014 at US$38.33 billion and “while CEO of PepsiCo in 2011, [Indra] Nooyi earned a total compensation of $17 million which included a base salary of $1.6 million, a cash bonus of $2.5 million, pension value and deferred compensation of $3 million“.

Big Food and Supermarkets don’t care about us. They want our dollars, and they spend millions to get them. Small food producers also want us to buy their product but those sellers at the farmers markets who have often made a 10 hour round trip to be there are more likely to be doing it for love as well as money.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

olives ain’t olives

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I didn’t get caught up the recent Australian food debacles: recall of Creative Gourmet and Nanna’s frozen berries from China putting consumers at risk of contracting Hepatitis A; nor the John Bull tinned tuna imported from Thailand linked with suspected Scromboid poisoning.

I’ve seen recent comments on social media such as Definitely worth reminding ourselves…Aussie barcode is 93. However a quick Google search clears that up… “The first two or three digits of an EAN-13 barcode identify the country in which the manufacturer’s identification code was assigned. They do not necessarily indicate the country in which the goods were manufactured”. Nor does it necessarily indicate the country origin for the ingredients. Australia’s barcode begins with a 93 but it’s no guarantee the product is Australian sourced.

When I couldn’t purchase fresh local berries I’d been buying frozen but because of an earlier recall I switched last year to Omaha organic blueberries grown in New Zealand. Scattering a small handful of berries into yoghurt each weekday means they last months. Tuna & salad from home has long been my standby work-day lunch but after the usual supermarket tinned tuna offerings began to smell like cat food I changed to Good Fish Tuna in Olive Oil. It’s pricey so I restrict myself to one tin per week and split it over 2 days, supplementing with tofu, goats cheese, nuts, olives…

From left to right: Good – Best – Read The Label

Do you prefer black or green olives? At Chez EllaDee & the G.O. any olive is a good olive. We love them: black, green, Kalamata, Spanish, pitted, stuffed, organic… We eat them alone, with cheese, in salad, in casseroles & pasta, on pizza. We buy them in tubs, jars and loose.

My latest food revelation was about olives. I’ve far too had many of these revelations… because I assume everyone has my best interests at heart. They don’t. Assumptions are the boon of food manufacturers and marketers who want to influence our purchases.

There was a recent SMH newspaper article Things you didn’t know about your food I just had to read.

“Black olives aren’t ripened the way you think
Black and green olives aren’t different varieties. Green olives are the more unripe version of black olives. Olives can age on the tree, and will shrink and become darker, however commercially produced olives are not harvested like that. Instead they are picked green, treated with caustic soda and spun in oxidised water to speed ripening. Once they’re shiny and black, a black substance called ferrous gluconate is added to make sure they stay that way.”

Curious, I began reading olive jar labels at the local supermarkets. They are reminiscent of the Castrol GTX advertisement of the 70 & 80’s promoting ‘man made’ synthetic motor oils…The tag line “oils ain’t oils, Sol” has become part of the Australian vernacular. Fine for motor oils, not for olives.

Turns out one of our go-to salad olive selections [on the right in the photo above] are that lovely shade of green courtesy of food colouring… well of course now I see it now but I trusted they were natural… how naive did I feel!

If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.