The week that was (8 September 2016)

The New Yorker published a fabulous profile of Pete Wells, the NYT restaurant critic. There is so much to love about this article. I strongly recommend you read it yourself. The context of the article is around Wells' Nishi review (in fact, the Chang vs Wells take on that review is a worthy read in and of itself, scroll all the way to the bottom - "Wells thrives on discovery, Chang said, but he’s looking in the wrong places. “We live in a digital world, and Pete still lives in an analog world,” he said. “He wants the new, but he’s still in love with the fucking old. And I don’t think he has reconciled that with himself. I think Pete Wells reviews on nostalgia."").

They also discuss the fallout from the Per Se review, that tenuous line between criticism and bullying, the challenge of writing something original and engaging each week ("Wells, following his paper’s tradition, won’t file a review before he’s eaten somewhere at least three times, he’ll sometimes make one or two visits and then put the place aside, for reasons that are, essentially, literary”), the curse of the two-star bubble (the NYT version of a 14/20) and the difficulty of any star/rating system. “No one likes one-star reviews … The restaurants don’t like them, and the readers don’t like them. It’s very tricky to explain why this place is good enough to deserve a review but not quite good enough to get up to the next level.” He [Wells] added, “I’m looking for places that I can be enthusiastic about. Like a golden retriever, I would like to drop a ball at the feet of the reader every week and say, ‘Here!’”
I was equally enthralled by this interview with Annabel Walsh regarding her remote family property, Moorna Station (where NSW meets Vic, meets SA). It’s an incredible story involving tragedy, strength, intelligence and inquisitiveness; following a tragic accident that nearly took her husband’s life (after lying in a coma for eight months he woke, but had suffered severe brain damage and remains in hospitalised care, 23 years later, still unable to walk or talk), Annabel was left to manage the property and raise their three boys, essentially alone.
Researching the rapid decline in stocking densities on their property she decided she needed to change their agricultural systems. In the interview she explains the importance of native perennials (“leave the weed and let it seed”), managing salinity and erosion, and how the earth’s natural cycles can be used to help the carbon cycle, water cycle and microbial activity (“the plants are my teachers”). She talks of a system that must be first regenerated before we can even think to use the word sustainable, noting we have lost 80% of our natural capital.
Widely travelled, Annabel has studied rotational grazing in Africa, the shepherding traditions in Mongolia and the training schools they are now running to encourage more shepherding in France and Spain. Working with the suggestion that it takes more than 10 tonnes of microbial activity under the soil to grow one tonne above it, and that our food is only as good as our soil (and suggesting that you may have to eat 5 or 6 apples to get the nutrients that one used to provide), Annabel argues for the removal of mono-cropping systems and the importance of putting animals back into the cycle of the land. She also suggests we need to build bridges between the practitioners and the science.
Pictured by her aga, with beautiful rides d'expression carved on her face, I can't help but feel we may have just found an Australian Elizabeth David/Lulu Peyraud. That is a huge call, but I think she has that magic. (Do listen as well as read the article, Annabel has a lovely voice). 
- You will have all seen the tragic earthquake in Amatrice, Italy. You may not have connected the tragedy with the classic pasta, Amatriciana, but many chefs have. In the beautiful tradition of Massimo's cacio e pepe, Slow Food’s Carlo Petrini has called for chefs around Italy, and indeed the world, to donate 2 euros from the sales of the Amatriciana pasta to the relief effort for the Amartrice earthquake. There are chefs all over the globe cooking the pasta, including many here: you can order yours at Pilu, Osteria Balla, Via Alta and Rosetta, among others. 
- The dilemma of a decent diet is back in the papers. Perhaps spurred by Pete Evans, who a couple of weeks back suggested that milk should be cut from the diet of an osteoporosis sufferer, we are back debating who (if anyone) knows anything about what we should be eating. Of course, I vote Med, but The Huffington Post had a surprisingly interesting story on the five ‘diets’ that do you well. I mention it, because it is a study in common sense: local, seasonal, meals as part of the lovely convivial ritual of sitting together, sharing wine and getting a little walk into every day. Yep.