The olive

The whole Mediterranean, the sculpture, the palms, the gold beads, the bearded heroes, the wine, the ideas, the ships, the moonlight, the winged gorgons, the bronze men, the philosophers — all of it seems to rise in the sour, pungent smell of these black olives between the teeth. A taste older than meat, older than…

Food: the time of our lives

‘Foods and the meals we make of them are our clocks. They are our faithful calendars. In a real sense, they are the time of our life.’ Jeremy MacClancy This morning I drank coffee with my beloved. Then there was breakfast. At midday, or thereabouts, I’ll eat lunch and tonight I’ll make dinner for my…

Writing about food: celebrating the trivial

I am a glutton for good food writing. At its best it can transport me to far-away tables, tempt me with new tastes, prod my memories of heritage and family, confront prejudices and sharpen my sense of justice. With nothing but words, my imagination is fed and my living is challenged. I am richer for…

Slater on what makes food good

“And don’t let anyone tell you that the food is the only thing that matters. That’s rubbish. Where you eat something, who you eat it with and what you do afterwards is just as important. Eating is a whole package, not just what is on the plate. Food always tastes better in the right place,…

A bellyful of oysters

In 1798 I was at Versailles as a commissioner of the Directory, and had fairly frequent dealings with Monsieur Laperte, who was secretary to the tribunal of the department. He was extremely fond of oysters and used to complain of having never eaten enough of them, or, as he put it, ‘had his bellyful of…

Gopnik on eating

” … gastronomy is the great adventure of desire. Its subject is simple: the table is the place where a need becomes a want. Something we have to do — eat — becomes something we care to do — dine — and then something we care to do becomes something we try to do with…

MasterChef and the kitchen table

Gay Bilson knows a thing or two about food. As a professional cook and restaurateur, she understands the world of fine dining and the sensibilities that drive those who cook for the top end of town. Her Sydney restaurants Bon Gout and Berowra Waters Inn are still remembered with acclaim. Now retired from the professional…

Turkey

“What a shocking fraud the turkey is. In life, preposterous, insulting — that foolish noise they make. In death, unpalatable — practically no taste except a dry fibrous flavour reminiscent of a mixture of warmed up plaster-of-paris and horsehair. The texture is like wet sawdust and the whole vast feathered swindle has the piquancy of…

In defence of the epicure

“The epicure is not a man who thinks of, and lives for, his belly alone; he is not a sensualist for whom dinner is merely an elaborate prelude to sexual passion; he is not a hedonist who sees life as a succession of pleasurable sensations obtained by hook, crook, or levitation … He is simply…

Raymond Tallis on hunger

“The complex history of humanity and of our individual lives is most essentially the history of our hungers, and our endeavours to satisfy them. Our accidental and accident-prone lives begin not with a cry of joy, or surprise at our existence, but of need. From our first breath to our last we are enclosed in…

A monk and a pig

The 18th century Frenchman Grimod de La Reynière is said to be the father of modern food journalism. He certainly told a good story. He had one about the “subtle Capuchin”, a monk with a quick but less-than-subtle wit. He was taunted by a group of youthful rascals who provided a spit-roasted suckling pig, warning that whatever…

Johnson on his belly

“Some people… have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it that he that does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else.” Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was an English poet, essayist,…

Memory in the kitchen

In the most recent issue of the wonderful Bread Wine & Thou is a beautifully written piece by Melbourne writer Ramona Barry. In it she recounts her journey with cancer and its impact upon her family’s life at the table.  It is an extraordinarily moving piece, and there is really nothing to do but go…

Gopnik on taste

‘None of us can escape the web of competitive, cyclical, counterintuitive, imitative relations that shape the social role of taste. There is no privileged space from which we can look down and say, Your tastes are trends, my tastes are truths. All taste effects depend on contexts. The smell in our nose changes the taste…

Cicero in favour of dinner parties

“Really Paetus, I implore you to spend time in honest, pleasant and friendly company. … I am not thinking of the physical pleasure, but of community life and habit, and of mental recreation, of which familiar conversation is the most effective agent; and conversation is at its most agreeable at dinner parties. In this respect…

Visser on food and civilisation

“Food is ‘everyday’ — it has to be, or we would not survive for long. But food is never just something to eat. It is something to find or hunt or cultivate first of all; for most of human history we have spent a much longer portion of our lives worrying about food, and plotting,…

McDonald’s and religious ritual?

I’m no fan of Macca’s. Frankly, I would rather go without than line up for a Big Mac. But with close to a thousand outlets around Australia, I’m sure management is not overly concerned with my indifference. What’s more, my son has worked at a local franchise for the past couple of years. Likely he’s…

Poole’s ‘You Aren’t What You Eat’

Not long ago I read Stephen Poole’s biting little book You Aren’t What You Eat: Fed Up with Gastroculture. In the final chapter I scrawled in the margins ‘I am drenched with sarcasm’. Truly, it drips from every page. Still, despite the lasting damp, Poole’s critique should be heard. Poole takes aim at the current cultural obsessions with…

Southern Fare III

With my beloved far away in rural Texas, I’ve been re-reading Michael Lee West’s Consuming Passions, a delightfully written memoir of food and family in the South. It makes me wish even more I was there with her. West’s personal observations about gender in the kitchens of her Tennessee childhood illustrate how much has changed in…

Barbecue: Heaven in the South

I’ve confessed already, I’m a lover of meat.  Given my natural preference for the finer things, it’s a crass confession.  But there it is. One of my enduring memories of Texas, the home state of my beloved, is of the great Southern tradition of barbecue.  Not the backyard variety of charred sausages, sauce and bad coleslaw…