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
Dashi, seaweed, fish sauce, cooked tomatoes … and especially Vegemite.
All are rich in umami flavours.
(Originally posted on Sensorium, July 9 2014)
While sweet-sour-bitter-salty flavours were identified as basic flavours thousand of years ago, writes Larissa Dubecki, umami was not identified until 1909.
The person who identified and named the flavour was Japanese professor Kikunae Ikeda, who then turned entrepreneur, establishing a factory producing monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a concentrated crystalline extract of one type of glutamate and is widely used as a flavour booster in food. (See this link to the Japanese Patent Office.)
Even though the flavour was identified over 100 years ago, it is only now widely coming into public recognition in the West. In fact, Dubecki, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, announced that 2014 is the “year of umami”.
What exactly is umami?
Posted in Science
Tagged Barb Stuckey, culture, dashi, experience, flavour, food, glutamate, hamburger, ketchup, miso, MSG, mushroom, pleasure, receptor, salty, senses, soy, taste, umami
So many kinds of textures in this dessert–
whipped cream, melting ice cream, jelly, kiwi fruit and crispy biscuit.
(Originally posted on Sensorium, February 3 2014)
“Most people wildly underappreciate how much their sense of touch influences what they eat”, claims Barb Stuckey in Taste: What You’re Missing (p. 82).
“Mouthfeel” is the word for the touch sensations generated when we eat.
The earlier post “SWEETNESS (AND DEATH)” notes that our sense of taste isn’t confined to our mouth. We also have taste receptors in our pancreas and intestines, for instance.
Similarly, our sense of touch is very diffuse, registering on the surface of our bodies as well as deep within—and often in tandem with other senses.
Posted in Science
Tagged astringent, Barb Stuckey, contrast, culture, Diane Ackerman, eat, experience, fatty, flavour, food, mouthfeel, nerve, perception, pleasure, receptor, response, sensation, senses, sight, smell, taste, texture, tongue, touch
Breakfast with Hemingway.
Ernest Hemingway published his first novel, The Sun also Rises, in 1926, when he was 27 years old and living in Paris. A fictionalised autobiography, it is based on events that took place in France and Spain—bullfighting, complicated love affairs, fights, fishing trips. And eating and drinking.
Hemingway was, writes Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan in the Paris Review, a man with “immense appetites—for life, adventure, drink, and a good meal”. Patrizia Sanvitale describes him as “the kind of man who liked to live dangerously—hunting and fishing, smoking, travelling, eating and drinking with largesse.”
When you start to look for food references in The Sun also Rises, it soon becomes evident that the narrative is based on a series of meals. The story almost staggers from one bar or restaurant to another.
Posted in Food in Fiction
Tagged appetite, Botin, emotion, food, France, Hemingway, hunger, James R Mellow, Le Select, Moveable Feast, Paris, Rendezvous-des-Mariniers, sad, Spain, Sun also Rises
Many different kinds of salt are sold at the supermarket these days. Which is kind of strange, given salt’s bad reputation.
(Originally posted in Sensorium, March 10 2014.)
The labels are everywhere on supermarket products. “No added salt”. Or “Reduced salt”. And it’s common knowledge why that is.
Salt—which used to be so highly prized—is now considered mighty unhealthy.
So why does my small and limited local supermarket stock a whole range of different kinds of salt? I can buy the regular iodised kind, sea salt flakes, and preloaded grinders filled with exotic varieties including pink Himalayan, blue Persian, smoked Cyprus and black Cyprus. That’s a lot of choices of something as elemental as salt.
-Continue reading …>
Posted in Food and Health, Science
Tagged bacon, Barb Stuckey, experience, fatty, flavour, food, health, salty, sour, taste