Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chewing Thoughtfully

Despite my eclectic and occasionally odd up-bring there is no escaping that I am firmly middle class. I work an office job, have a university education, live in a lovely inner city apartment, drink caffe lattes and travel to exotic locations. I have the luxury of dining out, choosing between Asian-European fusion or traditional French or molecular gastronomy or Italian bistro or high-end hawker food or the local Vietnamese noodle dive. I am, by any measure, a privileged person.

This privilege is multiple – I have the resources and time to eat out. I can afford to be discerning about the quality of the ingredients I buy. I have easy access to speciality and hard to find tasty items. My pantry includes no fewer than seven different vinegars, handmade orecchiette, two kinds of polenta, unbleached organic flour, vino-cotto and verjuice, wakame, miso paste, 37 different jars of whole and ground spices*, three different types of salt, and my fridge has preserved lemons and Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh yoghurt.

I have time to source produce, to shop and to cook. Pork belly and fresh scallops and imported cheese and fresh, local organic vegetables are all within walking distance.

I have the experience and education – both formal and informal – to feel confident to explore different flavours, different food cultures and difference methods of cooking. I have the luxury to be passionate.

More often that not, I take all this for granted.

Eating well should not be difficult, I think, for anyone. Eating as well as I do? I am lucky.

And it is, I think, mostly a matter of luck.

According to the United Nations, 1.02 billion people do not have enough to eat. This includes millions of people whose lives are disrupted by war, drought, environmental and natural disaster. Who are homeless, landless, state-less, jobless and moneyless. According to the World Health Organisation, 1 billion people are overweight, with an estimated 300 million considered obese – the other end of the spectrum of malnutrition. Increasingly it is apparent that there is a connection between obesity and socioeconomic status – unsurprisingly, the higher your socio economic status the better your access to a fresher, wider variety of food. The more likely you are to be physically active and healthy. Eating well is political.

In developed and developing countries people are under-nourished and poorly nourished - not just because of reasons of starvation, but malnourished because of poor diet, underweight or overweight, healthy eating and eating well are, statistically speaking, the domain of the privileged.

Not only the ‘rich’ deserve to eat well. Everyone deserves to eat well. To know the pleasure of a meal, and not just hunger or necessity. Food is something fundamental about our humanity – not just as fuel, but as fulfilment. Feasting and fasting are central to so much religious practice, eating and drinking are so much a part of our cultural and secular celebrations (the Thanksgiving Turkey, the Christmas Ham, the birthday and wedding cake, the celebratory toast, the Burns’ Night Haggis, mooncakes). Food as symbolism - not always accessible to so many.

Fair-trade, organic farming, slow food, artisan produce, local sourcing, farmers’ markets – the domain of the wealthy. These same luxuries – small pieces of a movement toward more equitable access to resources. Which isn’t to diminish the role that large multinationals have in supplying and supporting the billions of the world’s hungry – but to acknowledge the importance of developing a structure whereby people cease to live hand to mouth and live, as it were, land to mouth. Sustainable living.

Yes, it is a little more complicated and a little bigger than this. International relations, trade policy, national economies, world peace. Options: do nothing or do something.

I am grateful for what I have.

I want the world to be different.

* Slight exaggeration (cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon, cloves, all-spice, coriander, cumin, cardamom, whole and ground nutmeg, mace, paprika, smoked paprika, saffron, ginger, juniper berries, star anise, nigella seeds, chilli flakes and ground chilli, pepper, turmeric, mustard seeds, caraway seeds, Chinese five spice, sumac and fennel seeds).

Chickpeas and silverbeet

Fancy food isn’t always the food that is nourishing for the soul.

1 tin or 1 cup dried organic chickpeas
6 cloves locally grown garlic, finely minced
1 brown onion, diced
1 bunch fresh silverbeet, thinly shredded
I lemon
Salt pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
If using dried chickpeas, soak overnight. Add chickpeas to a saucepan of boiling water and cook until tender. Drain.

For tinned chickpeas, drain and rub to remove the thin skin.
Heat olive oil in a large fry pan and sauté the onion and garlic until it starts to soften. Add chickpeas and cook for ten minutes, taking care not to brown the onion and garlic.

Add shredded silverbeet, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the silverbeet is soft, and starting to crisp at some edges. Squeeze over the juice of one lemon.
Serve hot or at room temperature with bread or brown rice.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! I was delighted to find this recipe here a mere few hours after enjoying it at your house. Can't wait to try it myself!
    It is so refreshing to read someone putting these upper-middle class practices of ours into a wider context too!
    And thanks again for dinner. xx