Poor Hansel and Gretel! Abused in their home, abandoned in the forest, kidnapped by a witch who planned on eating them. Both tormented by the witch, who kept Hansel in a cage and forced Gretel to take him food to fatten him up.
This horrific story is often told to children and, in fact, the very first theatre experience I ever had was a touring pantomime of Hansel and Gretel. I must have been about 4 or 5.
Television hadn’t yet arrived in our Far North Queensland village, so it was an especially glamourous treat for my family to travel to the small town nearly to watch a matinee performance.
And as my first experience of the power of live theatre, it overwhelmed me. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t entertaining. It was just terrifying, and I simply had no faith that any child could display the power of thought and action necessary to defeat an adult—as Gretel does, by shoving the witch into her own oven.
Now—decades later—I’m thinking of the role played by food in this story, collected by the Grimm Brothers and first published in 1812. Continue reading
March 28, 2017 in Cannibal, Food in Fiction
Tagged bread, Cannibal, death, famine, food, gingerbread, Hansel and Gretel, starve, sweet
Since I tried the varieties of Tim Tams originating from Arnott’s collaboration with Gelato Messina, I’ve been obsessing over the whole new-flavours-for-old-products thing.
For those who can’t guess, Gelato Messina is an ice-cream company. The business has grown from their first store in Darlinghurst, Sydney—est. 2002—to Las Vegas. And although Messina hasn’t arrived in regional Australia, they do have a Queensland foothold at Coolangatta. Messina’s 2014 hardcover recipe book laid the foundation for national recognition, but the Tim Tams venture provides an opportunity to reach far-flung supermarket shoppers for whom the book is invisible.
But what does Arnott’s—now owned by giant American company Campbell Soup Company—get out of the deal?
March 15, 2017 in In the Supermarket
Tagged Arnott's, artificial flavours, biscuit, experience, food, ice cream, industrial food system, Joanna Blythman, Messina, natural flavours, profit pressure, sweet, Tim Tam
Dan Barber: “How had I assumed all those years that polenta smelled of nothing more than dried meal?”
Dan Barber is chef/co-owner of the Michelin-starred, farm-to-table New York restaurant Blue Hill, and also Blue Hill at Stone Barns (in upstate New York), where organic produce for the two restaurants is grown.
In addition, Barber is a man who knows how to tell a good story—a skill he puts to good use in The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, published in 2014. (Acclaimed journalist Ira Glass, of This American Life, professes envy of Barber’s writing skills when he introduces him in the YouTube clip Beyond Farm-to-Table.)
Barber’s book opens with a yarn:
A corncob, dried and slightly shriveled, arrived in the mail […] Along with the cob was a check for $1,000.
It turns out that a seed collector had sent the cob, an heirloom corn dating back to the 1600s. Native Americans had cultivated that particular variety because of its flavour, and it was then adopted and enjoyed by colonists. But the frigid winter of 1816 killed the American plants; starving animals and people ate the harvested barn-stored cobs. The variety disappeared altogether from New England.
But in the 21st century, the seed collector traced this corn to a rare crop in Italy. That is the cob Barber now holds in his hand, along with a plea to grow it—and $1,000 to persuade him to accept the challenge.
January 3, 2016 in Books, Future Food, Spiritual Sustenance
Tagged Blue Hill, Dan Barber, experience, farm to plate, flavour, food, health, industrial food system, local, organic, pleasure, Slow Food, sustainable, taste
The taste test. Inconclusive verdict. More testing needed.
Surely nothing could be easier than making toast. In these modern times, all you have to do is drop sliced bread into the toaster slots, push the lever down, and toast will pop right up when it’s done.
It was much trickier in my childhood. Our toasters were primitive appliances, with fold-down doors on either side. They demanded vigilance and patience, with disastrous consequences if we wandered away. These were the days before fire alarms, so burnt toast could be very burnt before the smell roused our attention.
My family also had a camping toaster, a simple wire mesh contraption held over a flame. I remember the toast it made was particularly delicious—very crisp on the outside and somehow fluffier and moister inside.
Either way, there was nothing difficult or complex about toast. Or so it seemed.
December 16, 2015 in Family Food, Memoir and Food, Taste
Tagged artisan, butter, eat, Elizabeth David, emotion, Giulietta Carreli, John Gravois, Michael Procopio, Muriel Barbery, Nigel Slater, sensation, taste, texture, toast
Salty, sweet and delicious: salted caramel Zumbarons.
I searched for Australia’s favourite yeast extract on the Cadbury website and this was the response:
You are searching for: Vegemite
There are no pages that contain the search term “Vegemite”
I was surprised. It was only four months since Cadbury had launched its milk chocolate block filled with Vegemite-flavoured caramel, and there was no mention of it. (However, there is still plenty of evidence on the Cadbury Facebook page to confirm the product did exist.)
During the period when the Vegemite chocolate block was still around, I was never able to find it in my local supermarket. I admit that I didn’t venture further afield but, knowing the popularity of salty-plus-sweet, I imagined this new confectionary line would be highly successful.
After all, the salted caramel flavour is everywhere. Back in December 2008, writer Kim Severson labelled it “the flavour of the year” and traced its history in a New York Times article, “How Caramel Developed a Taste for Salt”.
-Continue reading …>
October 11, 2015 in Taste
Tagged bacon, Cadbury, experience, flavour, guilty pleasure, macaron, pleasure, salted caramel, salty, sweet, taste, Vegemite
Truffle butter under the breast skin, grated truffle added during cooking.
One wintery evening in Canberra, I tried a beer brewed with truffles and spices. It tasted like a gorgeous big slice of Christmas cake but, amid the other flavours, I couldn’t find the truffles.
But, up to then, I had never tasted the mysterious fungus. Of course, I had been reading about it for years. But no description was able to convey to me what truffles smelled like, or what they tasted like. Ultimately, language—no matter how subtle and dexterous—cannot capture an experience accurately enough to allow someone else to live it.
So, during winter 2013, I went on-line and ordered a truffle. Yes, it was expensive, but when compared to a truffle dinner at a restaurant, it was affordable.