Thursday, July 22, 2010

Curtis Stone, you bastard

It has been a glorious Thursday morning for market shopping. Lovely and drizzly, hardly anyone at Queen Victoria Market, plenty of parking spots (for free till 10am) and your pick of the produce. Perfect weather for strolling around with Wolf cuddled up in a sling, sipping hot chocolate with doughnuts from the American doughnut van whose queue usually spans half a city block but we didn't have to wait a second. 
Wolf adores the market; he rarely gets grizzly and usually receives so many snack gifts from vendors that you hardly need to feed him any lunch. There's just such a wonderful atmosphere about the market; everyone there definitely loves and cares about food.
Inevitably you can't buy everything at the market - I'm yet to find a stall that sells flour tortillas or recycled toilet paper - so eventually we headed to the big shiny new Coles in Flemington, right next to the racecourse. This gleaming store is so unlike their old ones with wide aisles, a cavernous ceiling and pyramid piles of gleaming fruits and veggies in wooden boxes. It attempts to suggest itself as a modern market with purchased character, but a floor free from fallen outer cabbage leaves and stray citrus and smelling as ever of pine cleaning fluid. Watching Masterchef (like every other bloody person) I have endured so many Coles endorsements per minute that the logo feels burnt onto my retinas and am haunted by Curtis Stone's rictus grin. It turns out they film those Coles advertisements at that very store. We had a sneaking suspicion. It's too shiny by half. There on an elevated set with a fake kitchen not attached to any power source was the man himself, who could be best described as orange, with a 'mother' who could be best described as looking shell-shocked, despite her efforts. I had to resist the urge to lob some reduced price fruit bread at him. He has so many minders, I'd be tackled within seconds. Don't want to smudge that fake tan now.

Curtis's parsley crusted chicken schnitzel with sweet and sour cabbage. A family meal for four, under $10. When I purchased three free range chicken breasts at the market today, it cost me $9.90. How exactly then does one afford the oil, onion, garlic, cabbage, red wine vinegar, sugar, carrot, white bread, parsley, flour and egg listed in the recipe? Only battery farmed hens jacked full of steroids, blown up like balloons within a matter of weeks, could be so cheap. What a life; valued no more than it's pale and tasteless flesh. There was a huge furor over Curtis's Coles recipe cards specifically listed 'Coles cage eggs' as ingredients. In a blog entry for Channel 7's Sunrise program, Curtis stated that:

'this error was identified after the recipe had been publicly released and at that time I immediately contacted Coles and instructed the removal and reference to the caged egg as I do not support this ingredient in any shape or form. I have always been interested in how ingredients are sourced and produced and am a firm believer that the key to great cuisine starts with great ingredients - it has always been my philosophy to only use free range eggs. Eggs are a delicious and nutritious ingredient, and if you have happy chickens you have tasty eggs.'

The new recipes following this issue do specifically list the eggs as free-range. Happy chickens, really? How happy are battery raised chickens? Never seeing the sun, never walking on real dirt and grass, with hardly any room to breath, occasionally trampled by your fellows. I imagine having your growth a accelerated by hormones might hurt a bit. 

I can't stand this. Who could? What this man is saying on these bleached clean advertisements is 'Hey middle-class families driving your kids the three kilometre trip to school in four wheel drives earning five times more than your average line cook by pushing other people's money around, you don't have to fork out anything to feed your family. You don't have to give a shit about the farmers who grow and raise the ingredients, the animals that end up on your plate, the cost-cutting non-sustainable practices employed by everyone straight down the line, because I don't give a shit either! I'm Curtis Stone and I have a big shiny smile that I get bleached once a week and I'm really rich and and have an enormous cock and Oprah loves me.'
More or less.
I just left my job at a place that supposedly prided itself on turning fantastic produce into beautiful international food. I'll try not to get started on that place. But how many different names could we come up with for something that is more or less a pastie? How many patrons of middle-eastern decent would genuinely recognise any of that food as that of their home country? Aioli is not mayonnaise blended with Greek yoghurt. It's just not. And we used boxes full of cage eggs and around 10 kilograms per day of battery raised chicken. That last one I didn't know till near the end. A customer asked if the chicken in our tagine was free range and I said 'Of course'. Then I returned to the kitchen to confirm this with the other cooks and no one said anything, which was all the answer I needed. Now I work in a beautiful store full of amazing ingredients that are green, sustainable, humane, healthy and delicious. Sure people spend more money there, and admittedly most of our customers purchase these products to alleviate their guilt over their not so environmentally friendly practices. But at least they're trying.
People in a position of power or influence have the responsibility to use their powers for good. Celebrity chefs have the responsibility to try and change the greater public's perspective on food, to encourage the purchasing of sustainable, humane produce and how to use it.
And Curtis Stone, two chicken breasts on a pile of cabbage and carrot would not feed a family of four. Where are the carbs? Those bread crumbs don't count. Those kids would be right into the chips and chocolate post-dinner, watching TV and playing video games till the sugar and fat rush subsides. You freaking idiot.

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Inappropriate Obsessions #1: Yo Gabba Gabba!

    I know Wolf isn't supposed to be watching a lot of TV yet. He's been pretty good about it; he actually often turns the TV off himself, but then again that might just be his obsession with pushing buttons. Ah, true in so many ways. I've been determined to avoid anything Wiggles related, none of that new-age Teletubbies-like In The Night Garden stuff and I have to admit I really hate Hi-5. Mostly because of re-casting. I hate recasting. I don't care how many of the girls decided to do bikini shoots for FHM, they were the originals. Very good looking originals. 

    I love Yo Gabba Gabba! More than Wolf, who paid close attention to the first couple of episodes but now tends to wander off by the time the Super Music Friends Show comes on in the middle. Which is of course my favourite part. This is not entirely my fault. This show is designed to appeal to Gen Y parents and Gen X parents to some degree as well. 

    The star line ups are as good as Sesame Street's, with Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, Mark Mothersbaugh, Tony Hawk, Elijah Wood and Amy Sedaris.

    Even Anthony Bourdain, of No Reservations and Kitchen Confidential fame appeared in one episode as a Doctor. Amazing. He was admittedly sort of awkward and it felt like any minute now he would drop the kindly facade and start swearing like a maniac. Still, having a daughter must have tenderised him A LOT. There was a spoof of Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic. There are occasional beat-boxing lessons. Segments are divided with animations of the child guests as avatars in 8-bit video games.

    Favourite bands like Of Montreal, Band of Horses, Hot Hot Heat, Datarock, The Ting Tings, MGMT, The Shins and the Little Ones have performed on the Super Music Friends Show. They're not even all well-known bands; most are sort of pushing the mainstream side of Indie music. And they're actually good songs by great bands with interesting riffs and not naff lyrics that don't make blood pour out of your ears. A truly amazing thing when it comes to kids shows.
    I'm both amazed and terrified at how this show is specifically marketed to parents like me. I'm not sure I've ever felt the glare of targeted demographic so much in my life; even the TV toy advertisements that brought immediate greed into my eyes as a child have nothing on this show. 
    Call me a hipster parent if you want. I don't care!

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    The zoo

    Melbourne Zoo is possibly the most pram friendly place I've ever been to. Even on a Monday the school holiday crowds push their strollers through the lovely grounds, and never find a tricky spot to narrow or too rough to navigate. You can take your strollers to the underground seal enclosure, through the butterfly house, the aviary and even the reptile house. Very impressive. Our strider DLX tends to be a bit fat in the wheels too, so we were very impressed. 
    I'd mostly visited the zoo on school trips and only remember one other childhood visit and another adolescent visit (a not very successful date) in my life. Filling out questionnaires on obscure animal facts and the awkwardness of teenage romance meant that I've never really appreciated the really lovely grounds of the zoo and it's impressive layout. Visiting the zoo had to be one of the best family trips we've ever had!

    Wolf seeing a pelican for the first time. I forgot how massive they were.

    Josh and Wolf checking out some interesting looking monkeys.

    That much talked about baby elephant that everyone wants to see. Very cute. Chased some pigeons.
    I love hearing every possible pronunciation of 'elephant' from all the kids. Nothing gets kids excited like elephants! Wolf just stared open-mouthed. The biggest living creature he has ever encountered! 
    It must be so amazing for little minds to realise that there are animals other than birds and domesticated pets out there.

    Wolf posed briefly on this elephant statue before he tried to fall off. The elephant enclosure is all Thai themed, and walking into the dense foliage it's actually quite believable. There are signs and banners and little Thai style huts scattered all along the trail, looking very authentic. Even the kiosk serves curries and stir fries!

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