The week that was (18 August 2016)

- There was a rather fascinating article in the Oz about the future of farming in Australia. They profile a "farm" in SA, where farm = thousands of mirrors directing the sun’s heat back to a central pole designed to capture energy, used to power their massive hydroponic tomato plant. “The energy is used to heat seawater in vast boilers, generating electricity from the resulting steam and thermal heating for the hothouses. The steam-generated power drives a large desalination plant, turning constantly circulating seawater from the nearby Spencer Gulf into fresh water. In the glasshouses, 750,000 tomato plants dangle their roots into hydroponic pipes.” Incredible, kind of scary (I can’t kick the 1984 vibes), but incredible. It’s a shame hydroponic tomatoes taste so insipid (and this solution means one central depot in Port Augusta is now producing 10 - 15% of Australian tomatoes that are subsequently trucked to the Coles’ supermarkets all around Australia).
- There are other ways to gather produce and this lovely story on Alex Elliot-Howery at Cornersmith shares some of them. "[Marrickville] was an old Greek neighbourhood," she says. "Families often had one or two food-bearing trees." Fruit and olive trees had been planted and tended by past owners but their fruit was now going to waste. Alex started knocking on front doors ... "I taught myself; and if it worked well, I dropped a jar off to the people." She began to recognise a real need for knowledge in the community about what to do with surplus produce. "Thirty-seven per cent of rubbish in this area is food waste," she says.” She's changing that. What a woman!

(For more on community gardens and urban vegetable farming check out this story on Buderim's kerbside community. For more on the art of preservation check out this beautiful mag, Cured, that will be released in October in the states.) 
- This week, Christian Puglisi announced his farm of ideas in Copenhagen. He's doing a lot on the sustainability and there is no question Denmark is a pretty good place to incite change regarding food and agriculture. In fact, last month, the Danish government released their two-pronged plan to double the country’s organic agriculture by 2020.

“Not only will land belonging to the government be cultivated using organic and biodynamic methods, but the government will support and finance those working and investing in this sector, to develop new technologies and ideas that help promote growth. And we're not just talking about fruits and vegetables, but also livestock - particularly pigs ... The ministry, regions and cities have joined forces, and all institutions must lead by example: the first organic target is 60% of food served to the public. Schools - starting from nursery schools - as well as hospitals and non-privatized cafeterias must respect it. National public institutions serve approximately 800,000 meals a day, that will be increasingly "green".”

There is also an educational aspect: “Children and teens will learn about the importance of organic farming in school ... A whole country and all of its institutions are marching together to build an organic future.” Brilliant.

- There is lots in this for us to consider. The question of "what next" was raised in conversation at that Time Out talk on Monday (massive props to Jake Smyth, who rocked the panel with his eloquent and thoughtful understanding of Australia’s agriculture and food culture). I've been thinking about it, particularly through the prism of an article I am writing for Selector on mentors.

My article looks at those revolutionary years (from a culinary point of view) of the late '70s and early '80s: Tony and Gay Bilson (I have delved back into Plenty with the context provided by Symons’s One Continuous Picnic), some email banter with Pignolet and a wonderful trip down a friend’s memory lane and her tales of Phillip Searle's cooking. What an era. 

Of course, there is so much to learn from those days and those chefs, a thought that was exacerbated by a chance encounter with a gorgeous couple in my street, that led me to this fascinating article about mentors and menopause (did you know only three species go through menopause, a previously unexplained hitch in Darwin’s evolutionary tale – the inference is that by stopping the ability to procreate, women concentrate on passing down their knowledge).

And so we return to the idea of a community drowning in information but starving for wisdom and I can’t help but think that by drawing knowledge from those who came before, with a little help from our government, we could make some fantastic campaigns to share that knowledge before it's too late.
There is a precedent for this - did you know the British came out of WWII, in spite of the rationing and their isolated island nation, healthier than when they went into it? This was not because the rations were prescribed, but because the government launched a massive marketing campaign (via the Ministry of Food and Lord Woolton) that taught the Brits how to eat - focusing on eating more vegetables, using waste, eating the whole animal and planting urban gardens. 
The impact of their campaign was so great it is often said that this actually paved the way for food writers such as Grigson and Elizabeth David. A nice little segue into these fabulous stories from Jill Norman (ED’s editor) regarding her time with ED. In particular she recounts a trip to the library where ED had taken a picnic for post-research satiation (apparently she loved a picnic). On arrival at the library ED slipped a bottle of wine into the fountain out the front (attached by a piece of string) so it would remain cool for the few hours before they needed the lunch. The lessons from the past don't need to be all pickling and preserves ...