Fuck You Winter

You know, I love scarves. And coats. And gloves with bows on them. And I like it when your breath fogs in the cold, and you can pretend you're a smoker (you may also like to pretend you work with Donald Draper). I love frost that lasts until midday, air that tastes like snow, and the fog on Lake Burley Griffin.

I like winter. But you know what? I am tired of being freezing cold all the time. If you live in Canberra you're probably going to work while the temperature is below zero. That's just not right. I don't think the work day should begin until the temperature's back in the pluses. Just a suggestion, Stanhope.

But I write (sitting on top of the heater in my lounge room) with an idea: eat soup all the time. I admit it's nothing revolutionary. People have been fighting winter with soup since the dawn of time. Or at least the dawn of soup. But if you're yet to break out the soup pot, here's a recipe to get you started. It's adapted from the wonderful cook book Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. The Moosewood Restaurant is a New York State based collective, with an emphasis on organic, vegetarian, wholesome food. Read more about them here. This soup reminds me of the best of winter: home, hearth and heart.

Tomato, Barley and Spinach Soup

The original recipe calls for kale and sun-dried tomatoes not packed in oil. I couldn't find either, so I used spinach and roasted some fresh tomatoes. It turned out rather lovely.

What You Will Need

1/3 cup pearl barley
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
7 large fresh tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1 red onion, diced
2 400ml tins of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 generous pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cups of fresh, washed spinach or kale

What you will need to do

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C.

Halve the fresh tomatoes, and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a lightly oiled baking tray, and then put into the oven. Roast for 30 minutes minimum (there really isn't a maximum when it comes to roasting tomatoes).

Combine water, bay leaves and barley in a soup pot (non-reactive is best) and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.

In a separate pan, fry onion and garlic until soft and translucent, 10 - 15 minutes.

When the barley is cooked remove the bay leaves and add cooked onion and garlic, tinned tomatoes, rosemary, and cayenne.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, and slip the skins off. Discard the skins. Roughly chop or break up the tomatoes, and add to the soup.

Simmer for a further 10 minutes, or until soup is the desired thickness.

Add the spinach or kale, and stir through until wilted.

Serve with some bread, some wine, some friends, and a finger raised to the heavens.

The Package Project

About two months ago I signed up to participate in a lovely little blog initiative called The Package Project. The Project - created over at Cupcake Couture - pairs package partners and fellow bloggers, who swap pretty packages and handmade delights from different corners of the globe.

I have happily been paired up with Tonia over at The Fairly Constant Reader, and after much agnoising, rummaging through stuffed full craft drawers and trawling through local markets and charity shops, I have finally put together my package and posted it off to England. I will share a little more about my package once I'm assured of its safe arrival in the English countryside, and I'm definitely looking forward to unwrapping what is currently on its way to me.

I urge any and all of you fellow bloggers to take part in The Package Project's next run. I've enjoyed putting together my little parcel almost as much as I've enjoyed corresponding with its recipient. I've been getting to know her through stalking her online perusing her blog, and browsing her online store too - just gorgeous. Brown paper packages tied up with string really do make my list of favourite things, and sending one to a near complete stranger has been a pleasure.

Oh, and just as a complete aside (I cannot think of a natural segue between mailing gifts and the musical stylings of Colin Meloy.) I cannot. stop. listening. to his cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case Of You". I fell into The Decemberists' hipster trap some years ago, and if he keeps covering the likes of Joni, I'll be happily trapped forever.

Food, Glorious Food

The Bouillabaisse - John Olsen

Do you like food? I do. I love food, in fact. I love it so much that it inspires me to pen the odd few words about it in this here blog. I love food so much that the promise of breakfast is what gets me out of bed in the morning, and the anticipation of a delicious dinner is often what gets me through my work day. My love of food explains why, when day after day I watch a co-worker lunch on a tin of tuna in brine and two plain ryvita crackers, I leave our office kitchenette feeling more than a little sad. Food sustains me in more ways than one; it is fuel for my body, a comfort, a creative outlet, a sort of science experiment, and an opportunity for generosity all rolled into one.

I know that Masterchef has laid it on a bit thick with the "food is my passion, my happiness, my LIFE" shtick this year. I know that people get a little sick of Jamie Oliver's ceaseless enthusiasm, Nigella Lawson's coquettish licking of spoons and Gordon Ramsay's... let's call it passion? Passion and swears. I fear that the food-as-entertainment phenomenon is going to run its course in a few years, or worse - reach critical mass until we're chowing down on tuna and ryvitas three meals a day in an act of rebellion against cooking as pop-culture. But food can be so enriching - so elevating, it is so much more to me than an evening of reality television and a glossy recipe book. Here are a few bits and pieces that have broadened my appreciation of food in unexpected, wonderful ways. I hope they do the same for you.

Squid With Its Own Ink - John Olsen

- John Olsen's fantastic new exhibition, Culinaria. Colour and humour and plenty of fishy eyes and squiddy bits. I love John Olsen, I find his combining of abstract and organic very beautiful indeed, and this collection in particular has earned a special place in my heart. From the mouth of the man himself: "Culinaria - The Cuisine Of The Sun. How the sentence excites, rays of optimism, cornucopia and bringing together family and friends, wine and spirited conversation." Just lovely.

- Kumiko
Michishita's gorgeous patterns. Peruse her blog. The above is titled "Watermelon and Carrot Juice" and I feel thirsty just looking at it.

- Natalia Hernandez's fantastic new design project, Concoct. Her honours project is all about how we interpret and interact with food. Log in to Facebook to become a fan of Concoct and follow her progress.

- For the Melbournites: The Farm, a community garden over in Brunswick. There are a multitude of community gardens springing up all over Melbourne, even one small one on a patch of median strip just around the corner from my place. There is something quietly revolutionary about urban farming.

- Zingara
Cucina, Melbourne's guerrilla restaurant. Read about it here, and catch it if you can.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go set the VCR for Masterchef...

Food Inc.

I love hearing about what people do. I like knowing how things work. I love the first day of a new job, where they show you how the mailroom operates, and what kind of email tagging system people use, and how to order stationary. (Stationary is the best.) I’m not sure if it’s a talent or a tragedy to find the mundane interesting, but I do.

And yet, I am generally clueless when it comes to how food is grown - my own failed attempts attest to that. The idea of farming seems kind of magical to me. You put seeds in the ground and they turn into food. Food that you can eat. I have a lot in common with this guy, I think…

As much as we like to think all farmers are cheerful fellas with sideburns, milking their own cows and occasionally offing a lamb for a special Sunday dinner, it isn’t really like that. Food Inc is a very important film that answers a very important question – how does food work today?

It’s fascinating, powerful and very well made. It examines the intersection of food, technology and humanity. It’s an American film, investigating an American system. But the model of factory farming has been taken up here (on a smaller scale, but to many of the same specifications), and much of it is pertinent to us.

One of the things I love about food is how intimate it can be. Our eating habits are our lives. Our stories, our idiosyncrasies, our heritage. Our pleasure to cook for other people, and our comfort to eat with them. It sustains us, so of course it's personal. It's easy to forget that we engage with food on just about every other level - globally, economically, and medically. And the ramifications of what we eat, and how our food is produced is felt on every level, too. Food Inc is a timely reminder of that bigger picture.

There are many people who will not see this film. Not because they think the information is wrong, but because they suspect it is right. I think that is extraordinarily telling. If we are scared of learning how our food is produced, why are we happy to eat it?

Food Inc is showing at Australian cinemas now. Check out the website here.