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Ah, the long stretches of yellow fields that have come to seem normal in springtime in the British countryside.  When I posted this picture on Instagram, I got lots of likes that I sensed might be approving of beauty, and an idea of pastoral, productive bloom.  Me, I see monoculture and pesticides and the economic restructuring of landscape and our relationship to it. I think about the battles between farmers (as represented by the NFU) and environmentalists about many issues, and neonicotinoids in particular, and just how complicated everything is.

To be fair, I also see Oil Seed Rape (OSR) for Rapeseed Oil as a rural, agricultural industry that has marketed its product very appealingly as local, gourmet, and of a terroir– as British “olive oil” in a foodscape in which most dietary fats are problematic in some (social, environmental, nutritional) way, and in which “British” and “local” represent virtues. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s voting time again, until the end of August, for Saveur Blog Awards 2016.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if Michael Twitty were to win, in the category of Food and Culture, for his website Afroculinaria which takes as its subject the history, pain and possibility of food, race, power and identity.  If the world of food blogging is so often superficial and sybaritic, his writing is deep and important, and I always learn so much from his completely original ways of thinking.

The film above is also nominated in the Food Video category.  You could vote in both categories every day until the 31st of August.  Do it!  And share share share. Let’s have someone great win this award.

I’ve just come across the fascinating art practice of Amanda Couch who works in animal innards, pastry, divination and performance. At the recent Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking she enacted “a divination ritual based on ancient Mesopotamian and Greek extispicy methods” enquiring “Will the UK would invoke article 50?” The answer was no!
I am so looking forward to learning more about her work, thus sharing one post here from her blog as a link for all of us to much more.

Amanda Couch

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This year I have been making pastry interpretations of ancient divination models using shortbread biscuit dough, and rough, puff and hot water crust pastry, for the lids of pies with various fillings.

Whilst visiting the Vorderasiatische Museum in Berlin in February, I came across a clay tablet from Babylon from the 12th-11th century BC, with multiple representations of extispicy models. In order to understand these images, I have  been incising the forms onto the lids of the small pies. The original tablet contains 14 diagrams, some whole, some fragmentary,  which represent the various configurations of the entrails of sacrificial sheep, and what they might mean to diviners.[1]

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Examples of these models were also incised into the lids of the Andouilette pies, which were served as part of the ‘Intestines’ course of my recent Reflection on Digestion performance dinner at LIBRARY London. In the chapter, I was connecting the intestines to…

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Stephanie Sarley is a contemporary American artist who makes these brave Fruit Art Videos.  I think they are challenging and fun to watch, as well as having the effect of making people laugh– should you want or need that pleasure.

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My son is lying in bed home from school with severe intermittent cramping, and of course my first thought as always is to try to get some fermented food into him. (Pretty sure it’s not his appendix.) I know that fighting bacteria with bacteria is effective, and that probiotic, bacterial-rich ferments, even small spoonfuls of “pickle juice” (brine), support a rebalance.  So I’m relieved when he requests “one of [my] homemade fizzy drinks”  — some version of water kefir.

There is continuously new research emerging about the microorganisms in our digestive systems and relationship to disease, including dementia, autoimmune disorders, and diabetes.  Yesterday I read about research concerning Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in this regard, and an interesting summation of positive and negative aspects of antibiotics.  And there have been absolutely fantastic episodes on BBC Radio 4 on the Food Programme, if you are lucky enough to have access to these links:  That Gut Feeling Part One and That Gut Feeling Part Two.  Since listening to these radio docs, I have been thinking of my own microbiome as an organ I can easily make healthier by daily dietary choices, such as increasing fibre, variety and of course including raw and unpasteurised and fermented foods, as well as reducing processed foods. Read the rest of this entry »

Nessie Reid is a creative food activist working on issues of waste, access to land, and as the film above shows, on the political ecology of the dairy industry through a project called The Milking Parlour.

Recently she arrived in a public space in the city of Bristol with two cows.  We can read about her mission, and the agricultural and environmental issues she raised, here.

Tulips! Edible! A wonderful piece on the beautiful blog The Botanical Kitchen. Includes an excerpt from a book about eating and hunger in wartime Holland, to keep it real, and lots of lovely culinary inspiration, to keep it magical…

The Botanical Kitchen

Have you noticed that tulips are everywhere at the moment?  I’ve been about and about today and noticed all sorts of different varieties.  They are about the only plants that have come up at my allotment too.

Copyright Urvashi Roe_amsterdam-22Beautiful tulips blooming everywhere this Spring in London

TulipsHundreds of varieties at the flower markets

The first thought that has come to mind has been to wonder if they are an edible variety. Many varieties are edible.  There’s a great list in this article by a fellow Great British Bake Off Alumni, Lucy Bellamy.

Leaves or bulbs? 

Well the truth is they are both edible BUT you need to have the right variety and prepare them in the right way.  Otherwise you could get serious food poisoning!

The bulbs were a staple for the Dutch during the second world war as there were so many and Office for Food Supply  pronounced them fit for consumption and…

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IMG_20160522_183615.jpgMy son and husband write a film blog for fun, and sometimes my daughter and I join them watching the classics. Recently we all were swept away by Satyajit Ray’s trilogy, “The World of Apu.”  They are soon to post a joint review on their blog, and I felt called to join in.  This is what I wrote: not quite a proper film review, not quite a proper food blog.  Something in between, with a culinary record of how I wanted to celebrate the beauty of this stunning work.

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“Pather Panchali” is a transfixing film with a plot that unfolds around carefully revealed characters and personalities, and big themes like love, loss, kindness and pettiness , meanness and generosity, being young and growing old. The Ravi Shankar soundtrack gives constant goosebumps; the cinematography is both sweeping -exploring landscapes, monsoons, the rural industry of electricity and railroads – and intimate: an old woman’s skin, domestic architecture, facial expressions of joy, anxiety, and grief.  The acting never feels like acting, the plotlines never scripted, the observations never didactic.  It feels to me the most perfect film ever, not least for how I wept towards the end in a state of total lack of separation from the fact of watching a film: I was there, I was “her” in this scene, feeling a mother’s despair at the loss of a child, in this case Djurga, whom the film viewer has watched grow and come to love.

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Because the film observes life so carefully and directly, food culture of course becomes central, and I enjoyed this aspect very much.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Not the prettiest pictures; actually they are so unappealing to look at, I take a certain contrarian pleasure posting them on a food blog where there’s the expectation that food needs to be beautiful.  (The reality is ferments often lose a lot of their initial vivid colour.)

Even if visually not so lovely, fermented Snippled Beans are an easy and delicious side dish. Read the rest of this entry »

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