The week that was (16 April 2017)

- Let’s start with the past, and this article reporting on the Vic Govt changing Mt Eccles National Park to Budj Bim National Park. The name change “… acknowledges the cultural importance of the Budj Bim area, which is regarded as the world’s first engineering project, dating back at least 6600 years and preceding Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Egypt … an extensive and elaborate system of channels and dam walls which were used predominately for catching eels.” Wonderful. There’s so much we don’t know regarding how Australian land was managed before white settlement and any steps taken to bring respect and awareness of that are fundamental.
- To the present: I was interested to read an article in The Land questioning the viability of only chasing efficiencies of scale in agriculture. The op. ed. piece argues that the get-big-or-get-out model of the ‘80s, while in some cases still valid, should not be the only solution. Instead, we need to encourage small and medium farms in order to ensure our rural communities thrive. “Don’t write off family farms. Rural Australia needs them. And there is plenty of space for them to be successful alongside the corporate outfits.”
- Following a similar vein, or perhaps presenting one solution, SA butcher Trevor Hill is arguing for fostering direct relationships between butchers and farmers in order to create a model to take on the supermarkets and thus nurture the smaller players across the board. His argument is that by banding together there would be better use of the whole animal, better quality, and more options for everyone. It’s interesting to note that for both ideals it may be the much maligned marketing department that is the missing piece of the puzzle. 
- And into the future, where Bestie had an amusing, if rather depressing, crack at what lies ahead for Hospitality Mag this month. “By 2067 … the process of commoditisation of all aspects of the dining process will continue. The supermarket will devolve even further (if that particular horror can be imagined) with more products based on fewer basic commodity ingredients … The super rich will eat in restaurants owned by ‘Restaurant Corp’ … the vast middle class will be eating protein bars from vending machines … The rest will be eating each other on a self serve basis.”
- Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are plenty of baby steps in the other direction: this week we had news that Kris Lloyd has legally made Australia’s first raw milk soft cheese. Of course people have been toying with raw milk cheeses for personal consumption, and this is how all cheese was made back in the day, but this, a raw milk soft cheese made for commercial sale, is a big deal in our currently tightly regulated world.

- There are parallels to be seen in the steadfast angst about natural wine. This commentary, a couple of weeks old now, by Jamie Goode made me chuckle: “So you don’t like natural wine? I sense your pain, and I am here for you. Here to help. I can understand how distressing it must be to see other people enjoying wines that you don’t like … It’s clearly a fringe movement of lunatics. Like a religious cult. You have been wise not to try too many of the wines.” 

It was in response to an article in the NYTimes entitled: Ignore the snobs, drink the cheap, delicious wine. In a prelude to her book, Bosker argues we need to learn to love unnatural wine: “Like the Swedish Fish Oreos or Dinamita Doritos engineered by flavor experts at snack food companies, many mass-market wines are designed by sensory scientists with the help of data-driven focus groups and dozens of additives that can, say, enhance a wine’s purple hue or add a mocha taste. The goal is to turn wine into an everyday beverage with the broad appeal of beer or soda.” She goes on (and yes, this is in effort to strengthen her case) “More than 60 additives can legally be added to wine, and aside from the preservative sulfur dioxide, winemakers aren’t required to disclose any of them.”

There were, of course, a number of responses, including this from Marko Kovac. I'm not wishing to attack the other, particularly when there are so many shades of grey in between, but come on, what is natural must come first, minimal intervention must come first. It remains astounding to me that the onus remains on the most base preparation to add labelling or categorisation to their product - 'natural' wine, 'organic' vegetables. Shouldn't it be the other way around??
- Looking back to look forward, I'm leaving the last word to Fuchsia Dunlop. In the tradition of many wonderful cookbook writers over the past century, who are often women and not necessarily chefs, Fuchsia has a depth of understanding and diligence when it comes to extracting the essence of a culinary culture. I loved her article in Lucky Peach, carefully taking one chicken into nine different directions, using the Chinese model, a “combination of careful economy and deranged imagination.” 
“The bony head, feet, and wings have what my father would call a “high grapple factor”: the kind of intricacy of cartilage and bones that the Chinese adore, so they are simply boiled and dressed, so they can be gnawed and chewed and enjoyed in all their textural complexity. The succulent flesh of the thighs is showcased by a quick velveting and stir-frying, while the smooth, boneless breast meat is both stir-fried and, in two other dishes, magicked into a silken paste. And because any Chinese chef knows that viscera such as gizzard and liver become leathery when overcooked, they are thinly sliced and swiftly flash-fried, with seasonings that smooth away any coarseness of flavor. The intestines are only fleetingly scalded, to preserve their sprightly slipperiness. The result of such thoughtful cooking is a whole meal of dazzling beauty and variety.” It's a great read if you're looking for something beyond sunshine, food and wine to accompany your Sunday afternoon.
There is so much to be found in history, in tradition, in terroir and in simplicity - Maria was right, the beginning, it's a very good place to start.*