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.

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