The week that was (3 December 2015)

Soapbox (a Rootstock wrap-up):

Last weekend was Rootstock Sydney, a festival on all things sustainable and artisan. I told you to go. A few of my highlights (and learnings) below.

On understanding Aboriginal agriculture: 
The more I read about indigenous ingredients and Aboriginal agriculture, the more I believe we are (finally) on the brink of a massive cultural revolution. The interest could, and should, result in respect for the things we don’t yet know about Australia's culinary past and respect for a culture we know way too little about.

Meeting Bruce Pascoe was the highlight I expected it to be. His book Dark Emu is important (“I write books because I can’t find books that tell the history of our country. If we want to close the gap we have to close the gap in our history”), the work he is doing to bring these practices to light is even more important. I have mentioned the Gurandgi Munjie Pozible campaign in previous weeks (Sow the seed: Aboriginal agriculture). It is aimed at bringing the yam daisy back into commercial cultivation. "We have to give our culture away to save it. We have to share. But I would like people to say this is an aboriginal plant, I am lucky enough to live in a country where it grows, I am lucky enough to grow it. This is about teaching soft history. You can eat the history. You take it in to you." 

Did you know the first bread is traced back to Australian Aboriginals some 32,000 years ago? That’s 15,000 years earlier than first thought (by the Egyptians). It was made using native grasses and seeds. These plants are adapted to our harsh environment. Norman Tindale, an American, observed a native grass wheat belt that cut a swathe through the centre of our country, arid land that we currently ignore (“It seems that all the people who are interested in Australian agriculture have come from somewhere else.”) These native plants have water requirements and require less pesticides. We must learn more about them and encourage people to use them. We must cut through government red tape and get this happening.

“What I have experienced out here in the room has been extraordinary. There are so many people in this building today who have a very unusual look in life, talk to Christoph and he talks about his cows and grass [not just making cheese], talk to the bee man and he tells you about wax ... I think we're on the brink of something happening in Australia. We're going to have a conversation. That conversation has been impossible until now.”

On natural wine:
"Natural wine is not the end, what is most important in the end is for the wine to be good, the natural process can help you get there ... But if you make wine with a little bit of character don't get too upset if not everyone likes it." - Thierry Puzelat

"It's [natural wine] a bottom up system, not necessarily a movement but a set of shared values, grown by contagion, by relationships ..." - Jamie Goode 

"The problem is too many don't look to beauty or deliciousness, they look to faults." - Mike Bennie 

On raw milk cheese:
We got an insight into the work ASCA (via Holy Goat and other artisan cheese makers) have been doing with scientist Ian Powell to extract native microbes from raw milk (whether native to a region/terroir or to a specific dairy) and use these to inject flavour back into their pasteurised cheeses. This allows the cheese makers to create cheeses with a taste of place (Australian cheesemakers have traditionally been limited to a small handful of commercial starters). We were lucky enough to taste some of the spoils. It’s a fascinating process with amazing potential for the industry. We are one of only three countries currently working on a project like this … You can read a little background here and read the results of the blind tasting here