Fun Sameness

"When you buy a box of Cheerios in New York and one in Champaign, Illinois, you know they are going to be the same. By shortening the genetic pool using clones, you can do a similar thing."

- JON FISHER, president and owner of Prairie State Semen in Illinois, after the F.D.A. declared cloned animals safe for the food
supply: NY Times.

Is it true that most (American) consumers prioritise predictability above all else?
Will we see same-tasting name-brand tomatoes and pork chitlins uniting the palates of the world like McFish burgers and Krispy Kreme?
Seems to me it's easier to make stuff taste the same by adding low-cost soy meal, corn products and artificial additives. Who cares what the cow tastes like in the first place?

As the NY Times reported (see below), of course those same-tasting Mac n Cheese boxes are not the be all and end all for lower income American consumers. Farmer's markets need not be the preserve of the middle classes. If only they weren't so damn expensive.

Vouchers that permit low-income women to shop at a local farmers’ market increase fruit and vegetable consumption in poor families, a new study shows.

The research, published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, comes just as states are making important changes to national nutrition programs. For years, the federally-funded Women, Infants and Children (W.I.C.) program, which subsidizes food purchases for low-income women and young children, hasn’t included fruits and vegetables, except for fruit juice and carrots for breastfeeding women. After a push by health groups and a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, the United States Department of Agriculture in December revised W.I.C. to include monthly subsidies for fruits and vegetables. States will begin implementing the new rules in February.

While this latest report shows that subsidizing fruit and vegetable purchases can make a big difference in eating habits among low-income people, it also suggests that the new amounts recently approved for W.I.C. fall far short of what is needed. The U.C.L.A. study gave women $10 a week, while the W.I.C. program will provide monthly vouchers worth $8 to each recipient and $6 to each child. Breastfeeding women will receive just $10 a month toward fruits and vegetables.


Chewing the fat, thoughts on lard

The link between cell phones and the price of fish

Pasta - the new rice

Songkran - Canberra

Songkran or Thai New Year in Thailand equals five fun filled days of extreme heat, water fights and general tom foolery

Songkran in Canberra however is a much more sober affair, which involves cold weather, some dodgy food stalls with some not so tasty hoy tod, chanting monks and the ubiquitous fruit carving

Hoy Tod


New Mandala details allegations of slavery in Thailand's shrimp industry.

Workers said that if they made a mistake on the shrimp peeling line, asked for sick leave, or tried to escape, they could expect to be beaten, sexually molested, or publicly tortured. After interviewing more than 280 workers, police took 63 women and three men to a shelter, suspecting that they had been trafficked and/or forced to work against their will. Another 22 were deported; nearly 80 returned to work at the factory, which remains in operation. Despite widespread worker rights abuses, including child labor and human trafficking, the owner was charged only with employing children under 15 and failing to provide holidays and time off. Though these charges are serious, they were treated as first-time labor code violations. The owner initially only paid a fine of about $2,100 and has returned to work.

Dreaming of Dim Sum


Well, my yum cha experiences are somewhat limited. I haven't been to the excellent-sounding East Ocean in Sydney, let alone Hong Kong. I spent six weeks staying in Melbourne's Chinatown, but found the yum cha there to be on the flabby side (at its best when scooped out of the deep frier), and wasn't impressed by the yum cha in New York's Chinatown either (I have read that dedicated yum cha hunters there go to New Jersey). I enjoyed the expensive dim sum at London's celebrity joint Hakkasan, but seriously, with those prices, who are they kidding? I found the great blogger Chubby Hubby's recommended yum cha spot in Singapore to be ridiculously cheap - and not outstandingly deliciously so. (The steamed carrot cake and custard buns were OK...A moot point since, for me, the top priority is non-gluggy dim sum, and a great variety thereof.)

I'm under no delusions that it's the world's best, but I must say a cracking yum cha spot remains Auckland's Grand Harbour restaurant down at the Viaduct. For taste & value for money, it's probably the best overall experience I've had. (Of course I do have greater ambitions: some day i hope to eat waves of dim sum made by a top Hong Kong or Singapore chef until I start to hallucinate). But here, for roughly eight euros p/p you can enjoy a veritable feast of dumplings, proffered by tolerant servers in a restaurant that is clean and comfy, carpeted wall-to-wall and bedecked with Ming-style vases filled with flowers. Seafood fans can enjoy a serving of NZ green-lipped mussels from a steaming cart, and the beef shu-mai are enormous - and juicy, not fatty. Judicious use of herbs, sweet corn, water chestnut, peanuts or brown vermicelli noodles is found in many of the dumpling treasures that end up on your plate - and the prawns and seafood elements are plentiful and fresh. The rice paper wrappers are never gummy. Those green beans in chilli oil were yummy, too.


I drove to Ayuthaya last weekend with Austin to eat amongst other things boat noodles and that fish again at Baan Wacharachai.

Even with Austins mastery of the Thai language and my (ahem) charm we were stopped from getting any closer to what looked like a serious smoking device.


This dark image is all that I could capture. While the massive security guard warned us not to get any closer, his vicious guard dog snarled at us both and we finally got the message. I guess the high security surrounding the cooker was for fear of revealing the secrets of the fish.

Earlier in the day we visited a local market and sure enough we found an abundance of roti sai mai and these particularly happy roti sai mai makers. As usual Austin scored several free samples, this I have to say has happened on more than one occasion and I guess is a just reward for studying the Thai language for so long.

Speaking of ducks, we of course had to have an Empress Garden Peking Duck back in AK. I've been around the world (well Asia anyway) and I've never found a better duck meal, despite once being told by a Chinese concierge in Beijing that "duck meal is duck meal" when we enquired where to get the best duck in Beijing. How wrong she was.

In my books, Empress Garden still cooks up the best duck meal I've ever had, despite being a million miles away from Beijing. There are several notable qualities that I especially like about the Empress Garden duck. First is that they cut the skin and a little of the moist and tender flesh for the peking rolls. Most places around Asia, including Beijing, cut only the crispy skin, but having a small slither of duck meat accompany the skin into the pancake and down your gullet is much more satisfying.

In addition, the following duck creations made from the left over flesh and bones are excellent, so good that they definitely compete with the first succulent pancake offering. Although there are several options for the two other duck dishes that follow from the pancakes, we always order the sang choi bao option (duck mince with crispy iceberg lettuce leaves) and the salt and pepper fried bones. The salt and pepper fried bones are one of life's true pleasures. I'm not shitting you. Think crispy kentucky fried duck with asian flavours but yummier and you're on the right track.


pre roll


Chinese restaurant syndrome


After a good "hour" of fishing off the rocks of Huia situated in the now not so polluted Manukau Harbour we called it quits and went and ordered way too many fried things: fish and chips and fried oysters and fried scallops and fried potato cakes (unfortunately no french fry hotdog mashups ) from the 120 year old Huia store. The wait was long and the fry up was mediocre or as my sister-in-law put it "It wouldn't be NZ if it wasn't slightly disappointing". Its one of the most annoying paradoxes of NZ that no matter how close to the ocean you are, or how many fishing boats you see dotted in the harbour you can only ever seem to get seafood covered in batter and deep fried.

Ok Fush chups


A flock of ducks hang out near the Huia Fish and Chips store and seem to make a comfortable living from being fed left over fried things. I am sure that the ducks also have plump little foie like livers and would be much tastier than your average wild duck, but because they are so domesticated by their daily chip feed and it is illiegal in NZ to shoot a "sitting duck", I guess they sit in the same category as the NZ wood pigeon.

F Pot

As far as fried fish goes, we faired much better on Auckland's other harbour the Waitemata , we ordered from the Fish Pot Cafe a "light snack" of Tarakihi and fried pacific oysters which I personally don't care for but these were simply delicious, just barely cooked but with a very crispy batter yum!

Good Fush Chups


Asian Babies

Oh, and instead of fat ducks and westies there were cute little naked asian babies swimming in Trevor Moss Davis Memorial Fountain.

Chef's Suggestion


Another Friday night in Canberra, another cheap meal with PhD students who refuse to pay more than $25 for a meal including wine....choices are obviously some what limited

I staged a protest over eating another shitty "asian" meal

We ended up at the abomination that is The Australian Pizza Kitchen

We knew it would be bad....someone complained about the size/price ratio of their "individually sized pizza"

Waitresses snarled back

I suggested that we consider the "Chef's Suggestions". It seems that although they are a pizza restaurant the "chef" recommends the chips, accompanied by a side of something fried.

True Cost of Beer

Put a money value on time, and the cost of a can of beer looks academic

Date: April 19 2008
by Marcus Padley

The average wage in Australia for a full-time working adult was $64,844 a year, at last count. That is $1247 a week, about $31 an hour or 52c a minute.

That is earnings. But when it comes to spending, you have the Australian Tax Office in the middle. It will take $14,803. Now you are earning $24 an hour or 40c a minute.

In finance we constantly talk about the time value of money. But in life we now have the basis for calculating the money value of time. A minute is worth 40c in cash and 52c in earning capacity. Brushing your teeth (three minutes) costs the average man $1.20 in cash and $1.56 in lost earning capacity.

More seriously, a can of VB appears to cost $1.66. But under the money value of time formula, a can of VB costs you 4.15 minutes of your life, and if you take more than 4.15 minutes to drink it the cost doubles. So drink fast. Take this a bit further and a slab of VB costs you 1 hour 40 minutes of life. On top of that if you go to a bachelors' and spinsters' ball and drink the whole slab it will cost you another 24 hours of lost earning capacity.

Put like that, a single can of VB can, if drunk in the company of 23 of its closest mates, will cost you 4.15 minutes plus one hour of incapacitation. That is 64.15 minutes of life lost per can. Or put another way, $1.66 plus $24 in money value of time; $25.66 a can. If you earn more than the average wage then VB becomes more expensive. For someone on $100,000 a year, a minute of life is worth 58c cash; on $150,000 it is 82c, and for someone earning $200,000 a minute of life is worth $1.04. Of course earning $200,000 is great, but it does mean you only have 1.6 minutes to drink a VB before the price doubles, and if you go to a B&S ball the price of VB escalates to a heady $64.06 a can.


The great NZ beer review apparently cost you more than you thought

NZ beers '08

Being white means that I like difficult beer. Really hard to find beers rank highly on my list mainly so I can impress the likes of Phil and Austin when we sit around and talk beer.

Below are most of the beers that I drank while back in NZ, each comes with a fancy tasting note stolen from Rate beer of course.

Emerson's Organic Oatmeal Stout

Here is what NoiZe from Zeist, Netherlands has to say
"I’ve had this one in New Zealand on my honeymoon. I was looking forward to this one, but it turned out to be a decent, but avarage stout."

If Noize was in front of me I would punch him in his newly married mouth, for me this beer is rated in the "fucking great" category. Shouldn't you be looking forward to something else on your honeymoon, nod nod wink wink, aye.

Emerson's 1812 India Pale Ale

Grandmaster from, Auckland, NZ offers
"Bottle, a clear orange copper, carbonation and a bubbly head. A juicy hop aroma thats good, but good (sic) (I think Grandmaster has had few) be stronger. Deliciously fruity (fruit salad) at first, but then becomes more bitter and malty (piney) through the swallow. The finish is long, but too dry. A well balanced and subtle IPA - the type I like to drink."

What are you drunk Grandmaster? The late Michael Jackson has a picture of this IPA in his beer bible of what he considers to be one the best IPAs EVER crafted! (note capitals) I don't get this review Grandmaster sort of slags the beer but kinda likes it. Personally this is one of my favourite beers to swallow.

Emerson's Weiss Bier

Austinpowers from New York, New york writes
"If you stir the annoying fizz out of it, it’s a really good Weisse - on par with the German ones. Light and herbal with some spice. Enjoyed at Plato in Dunedin, NZ."

I say
"What would the Germans know."

Emerson's Pilsner

Madquacker of Canberra, ACT, Australia is full of praise with
"Truely glorious. A head of epic proportion. Balanced citrus and ale flavours. Not sure where the pils was though. Brilliant."

You're not so mad Madquacker 'cause I like this too.

Emerson's Taieri George

Kempicus from Wellington, NZ writes
"I was surprised by this, i’m not a big fan of spiced ales, if i want to drink christmas cake i’ll liquidise one but this was good, it’s definately a ’mood’ beer and i was in the right mood for it. It’s spicy but not over the top spicy and instead of a harshness that sometimes comes through with less accomplished examples this is deliciously smooth. my only minor critisism is that it could possibly do with more body but other than that a great beer."

Kempicus reminds me of Phil..."Liquidised Christmas cake" possibly on a stick?

Epic - Award Winning Pale Ale

TimE from Tokyo, Japan slurs
"Light amber color. Very fragerant nose of peaches and apples with a solid caramel malt profile. Beautifully balaned with malty front to the mouth and then hops tickling the back of the throat. Moderately bitter finish. Well done."

Well done indeed for writing that after obviously knocking back one to many Epics.

Munchner Dunkel

Sully, Stanmore , NSW, Austalia
"Interesting label with a jolly aviator there, having absolutely no connection with the beer as far as I can discern. This is a malty sweet style of dunkel with toffee and hazelnuttiness and a muted hop presence. It drinks pretty well and certainly caals for another"

Sully Sully Sully you drunk bastard.

Founder's Organic "Long Black"

NoiZe again
"I’ve had this one in New Zealand on my honeymoon.
Black of course ;) Smooth roasted flavor. Nice."

Wink wink alright.

Elemental Porter Ale

Cconners, Tauranga, NZ says
"This is my favourite beer style ,what a great 4 pack from this brewery. The bottle poured an inky black with a fluffy tan head, very tight bubbles. The scent of this beer was coffeeish and chocolaty with hints of ripe plums. The creamy rich head was followed by an intense flavour dominated by roasted notes and sweet caramel, finishing with a lovely chocolate sensation. The lingering flavour was still around well after the bottle was gone. This beer is truely a stand out in their range and accordingly this is the brewers favourite style."

This is New Zealand's highest rated beer on Ratebeer, it really was a special beer.


No rating on these Bluff oysters other than please leave them in the shell (I hate NZ baby boomers and their acceptance of poorly shipped seafood), they went really well with the beer none the less.


One particular sunny NZ day while Maytel was whacking out her phd, I went for a walk down to the Macs brewery flagship pub to get a little bit of a buzz on. It was great to drink their selection on tap, but for me the Macs gold (not pictured) still tasted like crap, Top Notch their seasonal offering rocked (even for a low alcohol beer).

Top notch


Great White

mac 2
MySpace Codes

Anyone who follows food writer Jeffrey Steingarten's columns in American Vogue will have often remarked on how odd it is to be reading about his cheese fondue experiments in a magazine that is a pillar of an industry that (whether consciously or not) by promulgating certain body types, implies a much less voluptuous version of what and how much we should be eating.

Last year the New Yorker magazine noted on its website "how bizarre it is that the dean of American food writers should be publishing his scientific food forays amid images of Caroline Trentini jumping in Prada and furs", for a piece about burger science and Heston Blumenthal. (see picture above).

The sometimes gothic or even horrific relationship between fashion and food was highlighted again this week when France's lower house of parliament adopted a measure that makes it illegal to "incite extreme thinness." The law will apply across all media, including magazines, websites and advertising.

The law was supposedly in part a reaction to the recent death of a Brazilian model of anorexia - and by all accounts is largely aimed at the extremely disturbing trend of 'pro ana mia' websites. Ana and Mia are shorthand for anorexia and bulimia respectively. The French Federation of Couture responded defensively, deriding a law that would allow the goverment to decide 'who is skinny and who is not'.

When it comes to the eating disorder websites, health experts say a crackdown will be hard to enforce as well as not necessarily having much effect on preventing the eating disorders.

So, having read this, I naturally went to one of those websites out of curiosity. Blech.... of course, it was disturbing, to say the least. The hints for distraction, deception and purging, were just too pitiful to be repeated here, involving talk of stomach-acid bursts, pretending to be vegetarian, and mind-controlling mechanisms involving food and repulsive visual stimuli.

In general I think mental illness as a whole deserves more sympathy and understanding from society - but these types of eating disorders are somehow much harder to feel sympathetic towards. At once deeply narcissistic and nihilistic: they are a scary reminder of how twisted the human mind can become...

So Coco Chanel isn't directly responsible for eating disorders that are far more complicated than simply feeling guilty for having eaten one too many strawberry-lavendar muffins or a boxful of chocolate eclairs from Laduree in Paris.

But I guess we all know women who never eat a full meal: who often have nothing to eat all day except for one slice of cake and one piece of toast, and temper their moodswings with anti-depressants, cups of tea and/or shopping on their credit card. Or boys who complained when you ate your whole plate full, because they are used to girls who left half their portion for them to consume? And what of Karl Lagerfeld, who reportedly stays trim by simply chewing things up and spitting them out?

Whether you think predigestive regurgitation is sexy or not. The relationship between fashion and food is pretty fucked up.

Girls, will you please just eat your granola?

Or even turn all those obsessive-compulsive controlling impulses into something useful like creating your own sourdough starters from the natural yeasts that hide on freshly milled flour?

Basically, just behave more like Jeffrey Steingarten. As if he was on a south beach diet. - Watch more free videos

Home Made Pasta

It was a lovely warm easter weekend in New Zealand, and out in West Auckland an informal home made pasta lesson took place. "It's easy" said Hock in the kind of way that Jaimie Oliver says things are easy and really they are time consuming and difficult.

pasta rolla

With Hock over seeing, G&G rolled it and folded it and rolled it again, and when at first they failed...they tried again

pasta don't panic

First homemade pasta dish of the weekend involved our dead easter bunny....Hock and Ginny took charge of this. First they pan fried the loin and the kidneys, then they made a stew of rabbit, bacon and tuber veges with a light white wine and sage sauce. They served it with fresh "beginners home made pasta" parpadelle

Rabit loin

Braised rabbit pasta

And we drunk it with some damn good NZ wine.

More crap wine

Later that weekend the lesson continued and G&G graduated onto the ever tricky ravioli, stuffed with chicken. Hock pronounced, as resident chef, that the "ravioli must be sealed properly with no air bubbles otherwise it would split and we'll end up with a gruesome bowl of boiling water with bits of broken up pasta and poached mince meat."...He said and everyone looked horrified and set about double checking the ravioli for air bubbles and broken seals.

"Ravioli is difficult, that's why in the 1990s there was that time when everyone made one big ravioli, because making small ones is annoying and often disasterous".

pasta gnocchi

But of course, it's not exactly rocket science either
pasta gnocchi good

We put basil, roasted tomato, mozzerlla and parmasan on top, well they did...I watched and drunk wine and complained about being hungry. Then they heated it in the oven, just enough for the cheese to go gooey.
gnocchi moz

Someone set the table
table set

And we treated ourselves to another damn good bottle of NZ wine, a well earned bottle of Mt Difficulty. I love my sister and her wine cellar.

crap wine

Papadelle hanging out to dry
hanging out the pasta

Black Coffee

Somewhere along the line, somewhere at the time when espresso machines and whole coffee beans landed on NZ shores in the late 1980s early 1990s, budding new coffee roasters and their espresso pulling co-conspirators decided upon a meme that has spread like a terrible virus throughout NZ. That meme goes as follows "the stronger and darker and over extracted you like your coffee the more manly you are". This being a country where cauliflower eared rugby playing men are like demi-gods, people all seemed to agree and this dark and henious style of coffee quickly spread. It's rare to meet an short espresso drinker in NZ, most people drink flat whites (cafe au lait) because to drink it without milk usually entails having to suffer through drinking a thick black gunge that is so over-extracted it will instantly give you the shits. Those that do order short espressos (or short blacks as they are known in NZ, not small blacks...Austin) are quietly viewed by kiwi barristers as "tough".

It's time to call a spade a spade. Its not tough or macho and does not signal a sophisticated palate to drink a cup of undrinkable black bitter coffee.

I mentioned this to a roaster in NZ and all the kiwis smiled in embarrasment by my forwardness on the coffee subject

But really....isn't it at least supposed to be.....ummmm....drinkable?

It probably suits the dairy farmers that it isn't.....and I have to say, even though the few NZers reading this post will roll their eyes and think me an insufferable snob (as if that hadn't been established already)....but when I went to Rome I could drink and even enjoy an espresso...there in the home of espresso


more burnt

even more burnt

My advice when in Auckland, don't do as the Roman's do and get your coffee with milk even if it's past breakfast time...although you might get someone fucking with the froth, trying to write your name for half an hour, believe need the froth.


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