Eating ethically.

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**Heads up! – The following post is a bit of a ramble on the ethics of food. If you’re just keen to see some pictures of delicious food, scroll to the bottom! (I won’t judge you).

So I did have a huge, in depth post about the philosophies I follow around food, but it got deleted. Looking on the positive side, this is probably good, as you now don’t have to endure such a ramble about food ethics. Nevertheless, I shall recap a little of what I had, so I don’t feel like I wasted hours thinking about this.

The other day, I went to lunch at one of my favourite vegan eateries in Adelaide. My friend pointed out a delicious-sounding dish on the menu. Being 100% organic (and of course vegan), eating at this particular place is usually so simple, because you don’t have to consider each item on the menu for its suitability to your diet. However on this occasion, something really struck me about this dish. Eggplant and tomato. Had it been summer, I would definitely have gone for this delectable curry, however standing there in my scarf and jacket, I couldn’t help but feel something was wrong. I couldn’t possibly choose to eat this curry when eggplants and tomatoes are summer fruits.

So here’s the thing. Joe and I are house-sitting at the moment. We decided that this would be a great opportunity to actively pursue food choices that fit with our ideals around eating as ethically as possible. What does this look like? Mostly fruit and vegetables grown in our own or our friends’ gardens, and trying to get everything else locally from farmers markets. To ensure we were still eating a nutritionally balanced diet, we also allowed organic legumes (namely lentils and chickpeas) grown within 500km. Challenging? It sounds like it, but actually, it’s been a brilliant insight into eating seasonally, and being creative in the kitchen using ingredients that are available.

Everyone values different things when it comes to food. Some people will prioritise convenience, price, flavour, or preferred brand, while others with consider things like brand ethics, seasonality, the environment, or production method. Each person’s “rules” around food are different, and that’s okay! Diversity is wonderful, and conversations about food are a great way of challenging your own ideas and philosophies.

So here are mine. They are very much a work in progress, and constantly being challenged. ‘Tis quite the journey.

I eat a predominantly vegan diet, due mainly to the ethical/environmental problems associated with industrial production. I don’t eat meat, dairy, or other animal products (such as gelatine). I do, however eat eggs if they are from happy chickens (store bought eggs are not happy eggs). This means chickens that are valued as part of a greater system (eg contributing to fertility and pest/weed control in a vegetable garden). I avoid eating honey unless it is from happy bees (similar philosophy) – lucky my friends produce honey in their backyards!

In the past year or so, I’ve also become very aware of the ethics of vegetables and other food products too. To me, there is not much use in avoiding meat and dairy due to their environmental implications, without also considering the vast distances much of our food travels to get to us. Where possible, I am now trying to only eat food that is in season, and produced locally. I prefer organic, but also recognise that organic certification certainly doesn’t indicate that the food has been produced in a sustainable way. On a predominantly vegan diet, soy products have also started to ring alarm bells. Would it be better for me to get my calcium from fortified soy made from beans grown as a monoculture in Switzerland? Or would finding a system I am comfortable with involving a local with a cow, farming Joel Salatin style be better? I’m still working on this one.

I do think it’s important to be flexible. If I am a guest at someone’s house, and they offer me a cheesy veg lasagne, I will hardly decline. I also ate goats cheese, milk and yoghurt while wwoofing recently. It made sense. Likewise, I am very open to the idea of eating meat and dairy, if I were to find a system I was okay with. At the moment, this would probably be home-produced dairy animals (eg cow or goat), and either roadkill or elimination of pest species (eg rabbits, fish). I would also need to be okay with butchering the animal though, and I’m definitely not there yet. To me, it comes down to knowing how my food is produced, and being okay with it.

Maybe I sound like the fun-police here, and you are wondering how anyone could live on such a boring and strict diet – no meat or dairy, minimal soy and rice, no tomatoes or eggplants in winter, and never shopping at Woolworths and Coles (did I mention I loathe them?)…

I do want to just point out that eating ethically (whatever that means to you), doesn’t need to be a drag. In the past few weeks of house-sitting, I have eaten so incredibly well, and the kitchen has seen a lot of exciting food being prepared. There is something quite wonderful about coming up with a meal based on what you have, rather than nipping down to the shops to get the ingredients you need for a recipe you had in mind.

Agree or disagree, I think it’s always good to have conversations about where our food comes from. If you like, leave a comment below about your food philosophy. I would love to hear what you think! For more info, you might like to check out some writings by Michael Pollan, watch some episodes of River Cottage on ABC iview (love Hugh!), or maybe even have a listen to the annoying vegetarian debating the much more convincing meat-eater on last week’s Triple J Hack program.

And so, I will leave you with some pictures of the things we’ve been eating on our as-ethical-as-possible diet. Yes, it does help that Joe’s family produces wheat on their farm (hello bread and pasta!)

Food!

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Taro week – adventures with a tuber.

It’s taro week!

No, not officially. You won’t find it printed in your diaries or yearly planners. I have declared it taro week because I have been saving up some stories about my adventures with taro.

So what even is taro? I know, right. That’s what I asked too, when I was offered some taro to cook with:

Do you want some taro?
What for?
For using.
What even is taro?
It’s a tuber.
Right…
So do you want some taro?
I don’t know.
Okay, no then.

Hey I know you said you didn’t want taro, but are you sure? I can get you some from somewhere else…

Okay. I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

So here we go. Taro is native to southeast Asia, and is a starchy root vegetable, which also has edible foliage. Not raw though. It’s toxic raw. Turned off yet? Stay with me.
It is thought to be one of the earliest cultivated plants, it has a low glycemic index, and is apparently an excellent source of potassium. Taro is used widely in many cultures around the world.

And so began the taro experimentation. It doesn’t have a terribly strong flavour, and it’s point of difference comes more from it’s texture – a bit like potato, but a bit tougher, like a jerusalem artichoke. The first dish I made using taro was Chamadumpa Pulusu. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to take a photo, but it looked and tasted pretty fabulous. I suggest you give it a go, even if you substitute the taro for potato.

At this point, I naturally started to query whether taro was used in sweet dishes. I was not disappointed. It seems that taro is often made into desserts – a fact which pleased me immensely.

Now I feel as though, because I didn’t come up with these recipes myself – sharing them is less important than the story behind it, and the pictures of the products. Stay tuned for an exciting taro dessert though…

In the mean time. Have a look at the fun taro sweeties I made this afternoon: taro cupcakes, and raspberry taro bites.

Taro cupcakes

Pretty amazingly, these taste just like vanilla cupcakes with a hint of something you can’t quite put your finger on. I was hoping the cupcake would be more purple (like I was promised), but I guess that’s what’s happens when you refuse to use artificial colouring.

All in all, they’re okay. I’ve definitely come across cupcakes with a nicer consistency, but the novelty of these is still fun. Sadly, I had about a tablespoon of icing sugar at my disposal, so I couldn’t ice them all. But happily, I used blueberries to achieve the pink colour. Hurrah!

You can find the recipe here, but feel free to halve the sugar. It still tastes sweet.

Raspberry taro bites

These are winners. Seriously. Whoever thought to introduce these to the McDonald’s menu in various foreign countries, was evidently a genius.
I made some modifications to the recipe, because what on earth is Purple Yam Jam?! Well, I know now, but didn’t have any at my disposal, nor any purple yams with which to make my own. So I just used raspberry jam. Definitely not the same, but they taste great!

Check out the recipe here, and if, like me you decide to substitute the Purple Yam Jam, try out some other jam flavours I say! Taro is so non-descript that it would lend itself to any number of fruity conserves (fig and ginger anyone?) These are also vegan. Yay!

Happy taro-experimenting… or not… it is kind of obscure…