Reality Check!!!

One of the motivators behind this blog was to cut through the crap - to get real!

In a country where our standard of living is high, what we eat is not just a matter of subsistence, but is treated as a form of entertainment (more on that another time, perhaps). As a result, competition for the consumer dollar keeps advertising executives and "marketeers" (yes, that's deliberate) cleverly buzzing about. The result? A mal-informed, mis-educated and confused audience frequently overwhelmed at the simple task of cooking dinner.

"Celebrity Chefs" have done a lot to bring food entertainment to the masses, and many of them have been great advocates of getting people to cook at home - an irony when you consider they come from the restaurant game. Yet even these guys can send off some mixed messages.

Take Jamie Oliver for example. Love him or not, he has inspired a nation not known for great cooking to get up and have a go. His recipes are frequently conversational (think, two lugs of olive oil) yet structured enough to be able to glean the requirements without going through it with a fluoro highlighter. However when I see Jamie Oliver on television, I can't help but think "and who is going to clean that up?" - he's here and there and everywhere with a bit of this and a splash of that.

Bill Granger on the other hand comes across as very organised. His recipes are pretty good, but after a while seem all too sanitised. I dare say there are women across the country wondering how on earth someone can spend a day in the kitchen with children all dressed in white and remaining that way.

From time to time newspaper and magazine writers depart economic reality when dreaming up their contributions. A case in point popped up on my screen just the other day - a recipe for beef stroganoff as I was browsing the morning news with the caption,

“Once considered a fashionable dinner party dish in the 1970s, we take another look at this old favourite.”
The recipe is by Cindy Sargon, published in Epicure last year. I had never heard of this person but via google I am informed she is a "celebrity chef". One thing I know for sure is that she looks a lot better naked than I do these days!
This casserole is a saute rather than a braise, and using eye fillet makes this a quick dish to cook as the tenderness of the cut reduces cooking time...
get real! With beef fillet costing upwards of $40/kg these days, who on Earth can afford to cook like this? And even if you've got the dosh, wouldn't you... I don't know... think of something else to do with it?

You see, I can understand people not having time to braise a stroganoff, and a quick sautee is just the ticket - agreed. Where I differ (apart from finding use of words like caramalise in the context of sealing beef stupid), is that I want people to find cooking approachable, and throwing $40 worth of steak into a quick dinner is, for most people, unfathomable.

Coincidentally, days before, I had prepared my own contemporary and accelerated version of stroganoff, that had been designed to use up left overs from various bits and pieces. Unlike Sargon, my fledgling business does not afford me to fritter away money (not just yet anyhow - order up folks!).

Instead of beef, I used a pack of veal scallopine ($14.50), tender owing to the youth of the beast, cut into thin strips and quickly seared.

In a mixing bowl I threw together roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, 2 lightly beaten eggs, a splash of cream, garlic, some finely grated parmigiano, salt & pepper.

Once the veal strips had cooled (we don't want scrambled egg-coated veal strips on this occasion) these went into the mixing bowl as well. By this stage it looks a bit like chunder, but stick with me...

All of this is then tossed through cooked pasta and (if not warm enough) lightly heated before serving.

It might not be authentic, and I won't be posing in Black and White anytime soon, but this was delicious, quick, easy and relatively cheap meal to cook - it's the kind of thing I hope will relay what can be done at home by an untrained cook with good produce, a little creativity and a slap of commonsense.

Things that make you go hmmmmmm...?

EIGHT out of 10 parents want the Government to regulate the marketing of junk food to children, a survey released by the consumer group Choice has found.

Nearly nine out of 10 respondents said junk food ads made it harder for them to promote healthy eating in the home.

However, the survey failed to unearth whether parents would support a total ban on junk food advertising during children's television hours, an outcome Choice has been pushing for, or whether they had alternative suggestions.
Conversely, Collin Segelov, executive director of the Australian Association of National Advertisers says his organisation's research had found that parents blame themselves first for not being strong enough, followed in descending order by schools, government and food manufacturers.

Clearly both parties have vested interests in the debate and are going to push the story most suitable to their needs.

A tidal wave of thoughts ensues. Many of them I know will not be shared by the community at large, some of them are without the experience of raising children, yet I cannot accede to such broad-stroke reports.

I could debate for and against the above, which means that clearly some middle ground needs to be found. But for me, the most important thing is for parents to undertake the responsibility of parenting. Health initiatives, advertising guidelines and school breakfast programmes our nanny state adopts are only knee jerk fix to the absolution of responsibility by the great unwashed.

First things first - how much television do kids watch these days and what are they permitted to watch? As a child, my access to television was restricted by my mother, particularly during the week. The little television we did watch was primarily on the ABC. Instead of watching TV our recreational time was spent playing with toys and/or siblings and friends, riding bikes, kicking footballs, ballet, music lessons, and at the neighbourhood park. In the evenings after dinner and before lights out we read or were read to, and on occasions a made up (or real) story might get told.

It's amazing what is learned and absorbed at this age. I have never read any of the old testament of the bible for example, yet in the final years of school I attended a Church of England and one day the reverend delivered one of his spiels which was all-so-familiar. At home that evening I asked mum and she laughed, "Oh I used to read the bible stories to you as a kid, I thought they were fun!"

Even if times have changed, even if parents aren't always available to supervise the outdoor activities, even if recreation time for children is more dominated by technology than ever before, surely parents have a role in determining what kind of media their children are tuning in to? Whilst I am not in favour of hours in front of the TV, wouldn't it be better to sign up for cable and get the kids in front of the discovery channel and other factual but interesting material, or invest edutainment DVDs?

The second thing that grabs my attention is the content of food advertising across the board - not just that leveled at children. Marketers with linguistics degrees cleverly use a variety of means to lead the viewer to infer the desired message - a message the brand and advertising gurus have decided will sell the product, such as "with all the goodness you add" which in isolation means there's very little goodness in it at all. Convenience food is more con than food!

Regardless of advertising guidelines there is already significant legislation in place to curb advertising claims under the Fair Trade Acts of the states and the Trade Practices Act at a federal level. To date, the ACCC sits on its hands for the most part.

The incidence of cross marketing, FMCG aligning with entertainment and cult childrens' items, is certainly a challenge for parents to navigate. But is reeling that in without addressing the issues mentioned above putting the cart before the horse?

view the full article at SMH

other posts on this topic:

idiot box, idiot jar

what's in a name

edutainment - you'll never look at slugs the same way ever again!

fussy eaters

Do you have fussy eaters in residence? We do! The little creatures have been brought in by hubby. They were supposed to come to eat our organic scraps. I am starting to suspect that they are here as hubby has aspirations to be a farmer, and in our inner city apartment a worm farm is as good as it's going to get!
The little creatures are the fussiest eaters in the household! We eat a healthy amount of fruit and vegetables, purchased fresh in minimal packaging so I would have thought the worms would fit in with our culinary habits.

It turns out that the vast majority of our organic scraps are not liked by the worms - onion and garlic peel, the eyes of potatoes, anything citrus peel. They don't mind tea bags, are partial to the odd egg shell and apparently love melon (wtf?). They also like leafy greens, but they get through it a lot easier if it's chopped up I am informed.

Since getting the worm farm I have two extra jobs - sort the organic waste into worm friendly and not, and then chopping the worm friendly food into worm bite-sized portions. Does this strike anyone else as a little... ironic?