Eight Days (10 May 2018)

 - Amsterdam have opened the first plastic-free supermarket. What appears to be plastic on the shelves is actually a biodegradable vegetable matter that will decompose over 12 weeks in a composter. Brilliant.

The Parabere Forum was held in Malmo in March, listen to these five stories on BBC Radio, to have a little taste of how excellent this program is. Speakers include Ronni Kahn, Indira Naidoo, Rene Redzepi and Lara Gilmore ... There's a lot to be inspired by.

- The James Beard awards were announced over the past fortnight, with both the media winners and restaurant/chef winners now released. There is always so much great fodder in the media list, I have included a few of my favourites below:
- The Chef’s Table ep on Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan. If for nothing else, for this:
“Soy beans, salt and water, in harmony, through time. It is the basis of seasonings, the foundation. There are sauces aged five years, ten years, aged for one hundred years. These kinds of soy sauces are passed down for generations. They are heirlooms. If you look into yourself, you see past, present, and future. You see that time revolves endlessly. You can see past from the present. By looking into myself, I see my grandmother, my mother, the elders in the temple, and me. As a result, by making soy sauce, I am reliving the wisdom of my ancestors. I am reliving them. It’s not important who or when. What is important is that I’m doing it in the present.”

- For more on the importance of ingredients at their source, read The Fight for a Flower - looking at the political fight over plant Akoub, known in English as Gundelia and said to taste like a cross between asparagus and artichoke, in Palestine. You should also take a look at this article on the complicated history of Carolina Gold rice.
Barbecue won the doco category: from the alchemy of binchotan and sake to the connection between sunshine and engangsgrill in Sweden and a healthy dose of 'straya. It was good, but if you're looking for something a little grittier, you may like to watch Todo Sobre El Asado - beautifully shot, a little crazy, certainly controversial and thought provoking. 
- On a scientific note, The Great Nutrient Collapse gave me goosebumps. The article looks specifically at the relationship between increased levels of CO2 in the environment and decreasing nutrient levels in our food. While the argument focuses on that one causal relationship, it’s not hard to extrapolate the idea to include other inputs.  

“The increased light was making the algae grow faster, but they ended up containing fewer of the nutrients the zooplankton needed to thrive. By speeding up their growth, the researchers had essentially turned the algae into junk food. The zooplankton had plenty to eat, but their food was less nutritious, and so they were starving ... Across nearly 130 varieties of plants and more than 15,000 samples collected from experiments over the past three decades, the overall concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron had dropped by 8 percent on average. The ratio of carbohydrates to minerals was going up. The plants, like the algae, were becoming junk food.”
We need more science, more studies, more focus on this. I loved that when the paper was finally published Loladze listed his grant rejections in the acknowledgements. Sometimes (often) you have to fight for what's good and important. Bravo.
- And while we’re looking at the environment, spare a thought (and help where you can) for those in drought in our sunburnt country. John Fairley's impassioned plea for help at Country Valley will give you a little of the story. He's asking for help with the $1350 he requires to feed each cow to get them through to spring. Read his post and do what you can …

If you have the strength, also read on the vicious attacks on his post and his work at the bottom of the post. What is with people? I am so sick of reading this self-righteous diatribe about the benefits of veganism on the world. Their choice is their choice, but, really, what on earth do they think those huge soya monocultures are doing to animals? To the field mice, the birds, the cycle? And since when could the soil live without a cycle of plants, animals, insects? Again, more words, more smarts, more conversation ... 
Postcards from my bookshelf
This will be the year of reading. At the moment I am dipping in and out of Patience Gray’s Honey From a Weed. I’m ashamed to say it’s the first time I am reading this exquisite book – it was a gift from a beautiful, softly-spoken, wild-haired philosopher I met on my travels in France. The book and its spirit are now inextricably linked with her’s. This week’s take-out came while reading about sauces – PG suggests soaking old bread or breadcrumbs in vinegar, then squeezing it out before using the bread as the base for the aioli. Clever. (I also liked the use of a soda syphon, to spray calamari before adding a little flour and frying, a little as it is with tempura - I love the way different cultures find their own solution to the same problem.)