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,…

Nigel Slater on cooking

“As I said, you don’t have to cook. You can get through life perfectly comfortably without lifting so much as a wooden spoon. Fine. Do that. What I want to say is that if you decide to go through life without cooking you are missing something very, very special. You are losing out on one…

Food as biography

Laura Shapiro’s book What She Ate demonstrates a fact: food provides a window into our lives. Indeed, food can shed light on issues of identity, longing, fear, and need. While biography may traditionally treat what’s on the plate as incidental, Shapiro’s work does not. “Food happens every day,” she argues. “It’s intimately associated with all…

Feast•Pray•Love 2018

Next week, here in my home city of Melbourne, is the opening of Feast•Pray•Love, an annual art prize and exhibition hosted by the church I serve as pastor. It’s an exhibition that invites artists to explore the deeper meanings evident in the sharing of food. This year’s theme is ‘a place at the table’ and has attracted…

Chocolate chiffon tart with macerated strawberries

My brother has hit the mid 40s. It’s hard to believe. Ben and I are the youngest of six boys and a more than a decade apart. I remember the day of his birth and those that followed like yesterday. I would hover outside the newborns viewing room at the Dandenong Hospital for hours at a time, staring…

Feast•Pray•Love

This week is the final week of the 2017 Feast•Pray•Love art prize and exhibition hosted by the Collins Street Baptist Church. It’s an exhibition that invites artists to explore the deeper meanings evident in our life at the table. Now in its fifth year, the exhibition is one I feel especially connected to, not only because it arises out of my…

‘Meredith’s’ ode to cooks

We may live without poetry, music, and art; We may live without conscience, and live without heart; We may live without friends; we may live without books; But civilised man cannot live without cooks. He may live without books — what is knowledge but grieving? He may live without hope — what is hope but…

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…

Empanadas

I’ve never been to South America, nor to Spain. My first encounter with an empanada (from the Spanish verb empanar: to wrap or coat in bread) happened when I was living in Los Angeles twenty years ago. I bought one from a street vendor at Venice Beach. While the memory of the vendor is cemented…

Pear cake

I love pears. They are an elegant fruit, and can add a sense of class to a fruit bowl, or to a meal for that matter. The right pear is a perfect accompaniment for a slow roasted pork, a fine match with ricotta, caramelised onion or balsamic. At the sweet end of things they make…

a steamy pentecost

In Eating Heaven, I tried to say something about the café and the role its tables play in our cities and our lives. Then I find the collected poems of Irish poet Michael O’Siadhail, and discover he says it with more beauty and fewer words. I tip my hat. Lunchtime in a London Café Table by…

Dad’s lamb stew

My dad came for dinner tonight. He’s not fussy, but he’s proud — a meat-and-potatoes man. No pastas or risottos for him, and certainly no ancient grain salads. Dad likes it simple: a good roast dinner with crispy spuds and gravy, or a slow-cooked lamb stew. His taste for lamb is no surprise. Raised on…

Nancy Willard on how to stuff a pepper

An award winning writer of children’s books, American Nancy Willard is also a novelist, poet and an observer of ordinary things. Even better, she writes recipes … my kind of recipes. I’m a cook who doesn’t like to be told. Entice me with visions then leave the rest to them. Thank you Nancy. I’m headed home to stuff…

Basque Pear Tart

My only brush with the great Paul Bocuse was via the short-lived Melbourne outpost of his nouvelle cuisine empire. It was the early 90s in an uber cool space of whites and ivories attached to the now defunct Daimaru department store in Melbourne Central. Though I didn’t get to meet the man himself, I did meet his protege Philippe…

A review from the UK

It’s encouraging to see another review of Eating Heaven all the way from Bristol in the UK. Helen Pears writes as part of Urban Life, a teaching and research institute associated with the Bristol Baptist College and Trinity College Bristol. You can read the review here.

A ‘grace’ from Chief Dan George

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass,   speaks to me. The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea,   speaks to me. The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun, and the life…

A prayer as we set the table

Setting the table As I lay a fork near a plate, let me remember this is Your table, not mine. As I set the water glasses down and fold the napkins, let me be reminded that every setting at this table is Yours, not mine. Each one who will partake of this meal is a…