Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Foodie or a Food Snob?

The term Foodie means different things to different people. Some wear it as a badge of honour, others consider it code for a food snob and then there is the idea that it is just a term for someone who loves all thing food related.

The other day younger sister called me a food snob. I had said that I wouldn’t be happy eating tinned baked beans for dinner every night for the rest of my life. Since then I have spent some time thinking about it and I still refuse to accept that makes me a food snob. I need variety and simply put, I love food! While I enjoy fine dining as much as the next person but I don’t believe it is all about fine dining and am more than happy to have cheese on toast for dinner on occasion.

I accept that there is just as much merit in the array cheap eats to be found around Melbourne as at our top end restaurants, not to mention market shopping and a home cooked meals- it about quality and circumstance, that is the right quality & price for the situation. I resent paying top dollar for a middle of the road suburban restaurant that serves diner quality meals, I enjoy my local fish ‘n chip shop but I don’t want to pay as if I have had a night out at Vue de Monde. Does that make me a food snob or a discerning spender?

Watching a few reality TV food shows recently (particularly the promos for Channel 7) I have noticed a worrying thing- the rise of a bitchy competitiveness that is creeping its way into the foodie’s real world. Recently out to dinner with friends and one diner ( & new foodies convert) announced she had discovered a great new restaurant. The restaurant was not really new and the reaction was disappointing- many of our fellow diners’ just half nodded and started new conversations, some barley acknowledged her- we may as well have said “sweetie that place is so last season” and turned to walk away. The restaurant in question has been around for more than ten years but they still serve great food, it was new to her and she should have been listened to and engaged.

I heard about an uncomfortable dining experience: one diner was openly and publicly humiliated by another diner- chastising them for breaking some obscure dining etiquette from the 1800’s. The evening became one where tension was the main course rather than the enjoyment of good food, wine and of course company. We have all been out with that obnoxious person who is rude to the wait staff and it is never enjoyable. You could “shout” me dinner at elBulli or Fat Duck but if that was the environment I had to endure (poor company), I would prefer baked beans on toast - good food is nothing without good people to enjoy and share it with.

So when did the “Foodie World” become so competitive and bitchy? I thought that a love of food, being willing to try new things and having a desire to learn was all I needed to be part of the foodie movement. I believed these values tied us together. I seemed to have missed the memo explaining that I have to have eaten at all the top restaurants (both local & global), have an encyclopaedic knowledge culinary methods and obscured ingredients and that every meal (including vegemite toast) had to be a restaurant quality experience complete with plating & garnish.

The food world seems to have it own set of cool kids, with the rest of use just pressing our faces up against the glass or trying not to get noticed, so they won’t steal our lunch money. Mocking amateur enthusiasts because they made mistakes or lack knowledge is not nurturing and does nothing to entice new blood into the industry.

Professional chefs will be the first to admit they are always learning, the best ones are enthusiastic teachers who passionately share their knowledge. As an amateur enthusiast (or as one dear friend put it amateur cook but a professional eater) I refused to be intimidated by people who know more than me, rather see them as an opportunity to learn. Likewise I try not to intimidate those who can learn from me. After all the more people who love food and have that interest nurtured, the more great chefs we might get and the fewer crappy meals we will have to endure and pay for in the future....

Are you a foodie or a food snob?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One a penny, two a penny....

This year to my despair I saw my first buns in stores back on December 27th, the first trading day after Christmas!!!!! Don’t be mistaken I love a hot cross bun, hot from the oven ”a la natural” or toasted with lashings of butter. However, Hot Cross buns have become for me a symbol of retail greed.

Placing Hot Cross Buns and chocolate eggs on the shelves in December (even in January & February) takes the unique & special feeling out of the celebration. Easter, like Christmas has all ready had its religious significance diminished for some of us even removed, for me the tradition is more about spending time with family. How many of us actually know someone observing lent? Now, not only are we not observing the many of the tradtions we can indulge in those that we do for three month before hand! What to we have to look forward to?

Innovation can be a wonderful thing & I have sung the praises of industry innovators in a previous blog. However, like cover versions of hit songs I believe the innovation has to at least equal too if not surpassed by the original to be worthy. The recent trend of chocolate hot cross buns has managed to take hold despite been far from a worthy cover version of the original.

I love a light yeasty bun, which is generously spiced and packed with fruit (peel optional) – this is the style I grew up with. There is no right or wrong here just a preference- many people like a heavy (almost bready dough) to support lots of fruit and spice; it is a matter of taste.

Do you like the chocolate buns? Do you buy them in January?
Here is the recipe for the Easter buns which make my heart sing... as long as you don’t break it out in January!


Ingredients – makes 1.5kg of dough (approx 30 x 55g buns)

Use of mixer with a dough hook highly recommended due to the amount of required kneading

Zest of ½ a lemon
Zest of ½ an orange
760g strong bake flour
125g sugar
11g milk powder
11g salt
11g malt powder
20g bread improver
70g butter
425ml water
75g yeast (fresh)

320g sultanas
95g currants
74ml orange juice

Spice for Dough
 30g mixed dutch spice

350ml milk
20ml oil
40g melted butter
20g sugar
200g plain flour
100g self raising flour
Pinch salt

15g gelatine soaked in 250ml of water
Bring to the boil.....

500ml water
170g sugar
Juice & Zest of a lemon
Juice & Zest of an orange
8 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
Add the gelatine & water it is soaking in to the boiled mixture, return to the boil and it is ready to use.

Soak Sultana’s & Currants in the orange juice over night.

Take the temperature of the flour and note it down.
Combine all the ingredients (except the yeast, water, fruit & spice)

Dissolve the yeast in the water-

The temperature of the water should be 60°C MINUS the temperature of the flour (so if the flour is 24°C then the water should be 36°C) If it is too hot you will kill the yeast.
And add to the other ingredients and mix until the dough is “clear”- meaning it doesn’t stick to the dough hook, sides or bottom of the bowl

Add the fruit and carefully incorporate into the dough. When the fruit has been incorporated you can finally add the spice-

Do not mix very much once the spice is in as it will kill the yeast
Do not be tempted to add spice at the start as it will kill the yeast
Leave the dough to rest covered and at room temperature (not warm & not cool) until it stars to rise (approx 30-40mins)

Cut in to 55g size pieces (or to the size you want) and roll into shape, place in straight lines (makes piping the crosses much easier) on baking trays

Leave to stand in a warm place until they are at least double their size, then pipe crosses on top using a piping bag.

Bake in a hot (210°C - 220°C) oven until cooked – approx 20-25minutes

Remove from oven and brush with spiced wash


Thursday, March 11, 2010


Floods at work 6th March 2010