The week that was (29 October 2015)

The soap box:

- Is bacon killing you? God I hope not. This week the International Agency for Research on Cancerreport categorised processed meat (meaning not fresh, including cured, cultured, smoked etc) as a group 1 carcinogen (cancer causing), while red meat was categorised as a group 2 carcinogen (probable cancer causing). Of course there has been uproar (and an infestation of bacon loving memes). I found the most sensible explanation at the Cancer Research UK site: “The results showed that those who ate the most processed meat had around a 17 per cent higher risk of developing bowel cancer, compared to those who ate the least.” They stress this is a relative risk, with the article continuing to say “WCRF’s analysis suggests that, among 1000 people who eat the most processed meat, you’d expect 66 to develop bowel cancer at some point in their lives – 10 more than the group who eat the least processed meat.” As you were.

Good Food Month hosted a talk with Jonathan Gold, the only food critic to have been awarded a Pulitzer and Chris Ying, co-editor of Lucky Peach last Sunday. Myffy was (rather nervously) hosting, while Tezza was also on the panel. A few take outs:

Gold talked about the weight of responsibility of (potentially) putting 40 or 50 people out of a job for aesthetic issues or issues of personal taste. He noted that while you have to be able to stab friends in the back to be a good critic, it's dreadfully unfair to review a restaurant in its first few weeks. His rule is never before 2 or 3 months, while also visiting up to 4 times. Cue squirming from the SMH representatives.  

Chris didn't get much time with the mic, but when he did showed a different perspective, “we're the dick and fart magazine of the food world. I cooked in restaurant and am running a mag, but that doesn't give me the level of experience. I like hanging out with chefs and them sending me stuff, but I'm not qualified to be a professional critic.” He noted his ideal “review” is to ask an expert on the topic to profile (not review) his favourites. 

So what makes a professional (Pulitzer prize winning) critic? They screened City of Gold (Jonathan's new doco), looking at how Gold has used his food writing/restaurant critiques to articulate the tapestry of LA's society, essentially looking at his role as cultural commentator. For Gold it's about context, where food fits and how it's moving the culture forward or not. Gold does write beautifully, his focus largely on the ethnic, low-key restaurants of LA, from taco truck to Thai restaurant. His writing is considered and well-researched. The impact of a good writer to plot the culinary lay of the land (I'm thinking Brillat-Savarin or Elizabeth David) is hugely valuable and should be revered. 
- Looking at the role of food and place, Magnus Nilsson’s new book is out and garnering a lot of attention. Two years in the making (Nilsson also took the photographs) the book is designed for the domestic kitchen. In contrast to his first book, that chronicled his restaurant FavikenThe Nordic Cookbook chronicles the culinary heritage of Sweden. “Eighty percent of the recipes are very approachable for a home cook, and the remaining 20 percent are totally unapproachable because you’ll never find a puffin at Whole Foods,” says Nilsson. No, no you won't, nor will you find pilot whale meat, “I fought very hard to include those pictures of bloody whales to the point I would not submit the book if I didn’t get them in, because I don’t think it’s right to censor culture,” says Nilsson. “I could have made the book look like a fairy-tale version of Nordic cooking, but what point would that be?” This NY Times Style Mag article provides a nice insight into the man and his reasons behind the book.

Still not sure if this has relevance to your kitchen? Magnus will be here next month to launch his book on our shores. Barbara Sweeney of Food and Words will be chatting to him on the evening of the 26th November ($85 including the book (RRP $60), see more details here). While at Rootstock Sydney they are hosting a breakfast with Magnus (with David Moyle cooking a dish in line with Nilsson's local philosophy) on Saturday morning (the 28th). Tickets are $50 without the book and $80 with. They’reavailable here and while you're at it check out the rest of the Rootstock Sydney program here.

- I have never understood why someone would want to look in someone else’s medicine cabinet ... fridges on the other hand (and book shelves) I get. Thus I loved this peak into the fridge of five great European chefs: Bo BechMassimo Bottura, Hélène Daroze, Sven Elverfield and Magnus Nilsson. Of particular interest to me was the fermented lupin paste at the bottom of Nilsson's fridge. Lupins, a commodity rotation crop, seem to be everywhere at the moment. My sister and her husband, who are sheep farmers, grow them to ferment, turn to silage and feed to the sheep. In contrast last week Peter Gilmore posted a precious little pile of lupin beans in the kitchen at Quay. A little cursory research suggests they are commonly brined and served as a snack, primarily around the Med and South America.