Archive for August, 2009

New season’s olive oil

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

RESEARCH demonstrates that a Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest to eat. The basis for much of this type of eating is olive oil.

Now there are good oils and not-so-good oils, so you should be discerning about what you buy. In addition, oils don’t last forever so like any food, it’s better when oils are fresh. That’s why we’re so excited to offer new season 2009, fresh, 100 per cent Australian, 100 per cent pure, extra virgin olive oils from both South Australia and the Hunter Valley.

If you’ve looked through Maggie Beer’s latest magnificent cookbook Maggie’s Harvest, you’ll find in the entry under ‘Extra virgin olive oil’ a glowing description about Dr Rod Mailer, principal research scientist with the NSW Department of Primary Industries. ‘At the forefront of olive oil industry research, he has worked for many years to define the right harvest times and the best storage conditions to produce optimum-quality olive oil,’ Maggie writes.

I’m very pleased to say that the two oils we’re stocking at Granny Smith Natural Food Market have both been personally recommended to me by Dr Mailer, so you know they represent the best in terms of quality, genuine provenance and flavour.

The Bunna Bunoo olive oil from the Hunter Valley is made by Chris and Irma Iacono from their olive vineyard at Vacy. It is delicious, grassy and deliciously flavoured. Our own brand oil comes from the Limestone Coast of South Australia. Its perfect Mediterranean climate has imbued this expertly blended oil with a mild yet distinctively olive flavour you can use on everything.

We want you to enjoy olive oils as part of your day-to-day eating so we’ve worked hard to offer these premium products at an everyday price. Come on in and ask to taste one!

Provenance

Saturday, August 15th, 2009
San Francisco store window

San Francisco store window

Same nutrition as squeezed from your own garden's oranges!

Same nutrition as squeezed from your own garden's oranges!

Three continents of growers, another continent to pack it

Three continents of growers, another continent to pack it

prov.e.nance

noun

the place of origin or earliest known history of something: a carpet of Persian provenance

  • the beginning of something’s existence: something’s origin: they try to understand the whole universe, its provenance and fate.
  • a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality: the manuscript has a distinguished provenance.

Provenance refers to the important element of recognising something’s origins as a distinct value. There are many works of art that have been copied all over the place; it’s the original, with an attested provenance that has true value. So too with food. Merely looking at food as a collection of measurable nutritional values assumes several things:

1. that we are clever enough to measure everything that is of nutritional value. Given that nutrition is an ever-developing science, this assumption is clearly not correct. There are nutritional elements that have only been discovered in the last few years, take GI value, for example. A human requires much more than merely a collection of vitamins, minerals, fibre and so on to maintain health.

2. that we ignore entirely the greater values embodied in food, values we all recognise that may not be scientifically “measurable”. You’re in hospital, for example, and your elderly granny, at great personal effort, bakes your favourite cake for the first time in years and brings it in to you, beautifully wrapped and with a card wishing you a speedy recovery. Someone else brings you in a sponge roll from the supermarket. Granny may never have even been the best cook but which cake means more to you in your recovery? They’re both identical in terms of fibre (probably nil) and other scientific nutrients but if you’re talking about what’s going to make you get better, it’s obvious.

Sunday lunch surrounded by your favourite family and friends, looking out at a beautiful view, sun shining … or the exact equal nutritional values manifested in a frozen, reheated meal cramped alone on board an aeroplane? Food is obviously so much more than just a collection of nutrients and many of us value quite highly the values of how a food is grown (organic or biodynamic over conventional) and where it’s from (my backyard or Peru).

Following a questionable study on organic food out of the UK last week, the report of which had the flippant headline “Organic food is no better – but at least it’s expensive” (Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 31st July, 2009), I wrote a published reply:

Once again, a study reduces organic food to a measurable collection of nutrients with a high price tag. Such studies miss the vital point: organic food is a farming and food production method, not a nutritional value. The nutrient outcome may or may not be higher, but the values that food represents are equally important.

Organic food supports production methods that put soil health and land-care methods centre stage. With salinity and with rivers bled dry to produce cheap food and fibre, land health is vital to our long-term ability to feed ourselves. For many organic food supporters (I am a certified organic retailer), the amount of vitamin A in different units of food is irrelevant.

Society devalues food as we allocate less and less of our budget to it. This puts producers in the difficult position of producing similar ‘‘output’’ under constant pressure. Cramming more chickens into sheds leads to equal nutritional output, at better value to the consumer, but does nothing for the chickens, or for our sense of living reasonably and humanely. Such examples permeate our expectations of ‘‘cheap’’ food and explain why topsoil is rapidly disappearing while food insecurity rises for billions.

How I buy everything determines how I want society to be. Do I buy the cheapest clothes, knowing they come from sweat shops in Asia, or do I seek out more expensive, Australian-made clothes, knowing that keeps a fellow Australian employed? Do I buy Chinese pet food (much better value) or seek an Australian product?

If food is merely combinations of vitamins, minerals, fibre, GI value and so on, wrapped up in kilojoules, you might as well swallow a pill. For those of us who value food, such studies are odious. The implicit reasoning behind them suggests that obtaining daily nutrition should be run only through the filter of ‘‘economic value’’.

Peter Kenyon Turramurra (SMH, Saturday, 1st August)

The SMH summarized my letter with yet another flippant headline: “Organic food a lifestyle, not nutritional, choice”. Well at least they published it. The person who came up with the headline would seem to have not read my letter at all. “Lifestyle choice” is generally used in a pretty disparaging way to describe someone’s unjustifiable excesses which can’t be sustained with any logical explanation. It reveals, yet again, the mindset of the person for whom food is merely a collection of nutrients obtained at cheapest personal financial cost. There’s a distinct tendency (for some Australians in particular?) to want to “save” those of us into “organic lifestyles” from ourselves by pointing out that we’re being ripped off.

I wonder why those same people don’t run up at the traffic lights to every driver of a Mercedes, BMW or other luxury car and tell them that they’re also being ripped off. After all, a Merc costs considerably more than a Daihatsu and they can both get you reliably from A to B. What about a home with a view compared to a home without one? An iPhone over the cheapest mobile phone? It’s very likely those of you reading this already value food highly. Thanks.

Spring is springing!

Friday, August 14th, 2009

More about food miles and food expectations …

After months of saying “Grrrr” as I walk past boxes of Peruvian (yes! Peruvian) asparagus in the Sydney Markets, I’m delighted to announce that OUR spring asparagus is now flowing out of SE Queensland. It may not last long and the organic variety is not likely to appear for a while yet, but it’s Australian, it’s fresh and the food miles aren’t up there with the Apollo space missions. Look for it on our shelves now and enjoy that lovely flavour of spring.

On the subject of food miles, North American cherries should soon be coming to an end. It’s the height of summer now in North America and even in places like Washington state, spring and early summer are now far behind us. I’ve nothing against North American cherries but let’s just hold out for the lovely early summer fruit that comes from Young, NSW (376 kilometres) and not expect year-round produce from wherever-may-be.

So if you’re concerned about food miles, then things to avoid in the market at present are: Thai mangosteens, Californian grapes and Peruvian asparagus, amongst others.

As an aside, if you’re interested in knowing more about cherry growing and some of the difficulties faced by growers (in this case, those same Washington cherry growers) take a look at the link below. One more example of the clash of food logic with “market expectations”.

http://www.tri-cityherald.com/901/story/643498.html

[end August: Organic asparagus now flowing freely! And from Australia, no less! Buy up! Buy up! Buy up!]

The Real Granny Smith