Landing in San Francisco always makes me feel like I’m emerging from the Australian Stone Age as suddenly we are encompassed by a proliferation of high tech, and even more so as I wonder in slack-jawed awe at the hilly city’s incredible green consciousness.
This year’s arrival included a slightly negative carbon offset thanks to the sleek black limo my darling brother sent to pick us up. Nine-year-old Antigone, grinning madly next to me, exclaimed, “I never thought I’d be in one of these before I’m even famous!” A very luxurious ride to Noe Valley, although unusual, was welcome after 20 hours travel, especially facing the TSA (shoeless) at LAX alone with the brood.
As we commence RoadTripUSA, I’m thinking a lot about food. Okay, I always think a lot about food, but there’s something quite specific I’m thinking about and it’s around ‘ecotarianism’, pleasure and conviviality…
In America we’ll eat a lot of good food and a bit of bad food. To judge good and bad I weigh up flavour, texture, ‘wholeness’, seasonality, regionality, sustainability, animal husbandry, workers’ rights, and to some degree, health (though food that’s ‘bad’ for you because it’s fatty, etc, is something I don’t spend much time thinking about regarding our family as our lifestyle of predominantly whole foods nearly always ensures a well-balanced diet – but that’s another post). Making choices that ‘tread lightly’ and treat food and producers respectfully is what I understand by ‘ecotarian’, a fairly new term, discussed on the ABC recently by Cristy Clark.
Like most people, sometimes we compromise our usual principles and eat what we consider ‘bad food’ to greater or lesser extents. Road trips inevitably include some potato chips and sometimes a meal from Subway or a local takeaway, and on Friday nights at home we’ll occasionally order pizza or pick up fish and chips. When we make these choices, we’re still able to avoid factory-farmed pork and chicken rather easily.
When travelling, we usually let our standards slide on ethical meat – we tend to just eat everything as a way of understanding culture better – and that includes pork and chicken that is most likely factory farmed. The traceability issues we face at home are compounded overseas where we’re even less certain of our food’s origins. We continue with our usual habits of not eating too much meat generally, but we do like to try all the local specialties. In America, we’re usually with my family or friends, so keeping to ecotarian principles is pretty easy as we generally know the provenance of the food. However, eating out presents a greater challenge unless dining in one of America’s many wonderful SOLE (Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical) focused restaurants and cafes.
This trip to America is different to a visit ‘home’. We’ll be driving through a number of unfamiliar regions, and there’s a world of interesting local dishes I can’t wait to sample, including such nommish delights as pulled pork in the South… but the odds of there being much free-range pork on the menus in Alabama are pretty slim, I reckon. Chicken will pose a similar problem, and thanks to America’s preponderance of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), commonly known as ‘factory farms’, even beef poses an ethical dilemma unless you know the provenance. I could go on about dairy, seafood, fast food franchises, processed snack foods… you get the picture, but I’ll use pork as my primary example given our plans to be free-range pig farmers.
Will we eat pork in the full knowledge that it isn’t from ‘happy pigs’?
Yes, we will.
We won’t eat a lot of it, but we’ll eat it. There are a few reasons why – more than simply ‘I really want to try that because it looks really delicious’, though I can’t pretend that’s not part of the decision-making process. There are a few key reasons why we will compromise our usual ethics, but the core one is conviviality. That is, while traveling, I don’t want to be ‘that person’ who makes everyone uncomfortable by listing all the things we don’t eat, or by turning down food that someone has offered us in their home with, ‘oh, we don’t eat factory-farmed pork’ every time. Such a response not only tells your host you don’t want what they’ve offered, it infers they have done the wrong thing in offering it to you. I would rather leave ethical food discussions to this blog and other writings, and to conversations that are not taking place in the presence of such food.
At home, standards are easy to maintain. We buy or grow the food and we cook it. When in someone else’s home, I don’t ask if the pork is free range if that’s what’s on the menu. In fairness, my friends all know how we are and are pretty unlikely to give us factory-farmed meat, but if they did, I’d eat it. The animal is already dead and cooked at this stage – in my opinion to refuse to eat it is wasteful and disrespectful of the life it gave as well as inhospitable towards one’s hosts.
Mind you, it’s not only when a host offers us something. There’s food on airlines, lack of choice in small country grocery stores and the usual road trip compromises. Or the myriad ‘hidden’ food ethical dilemmas, such as monoculture GM soy in the ingredients or factory-farmed eggs in some muffins at a diner. While our ethic enables us to avoid many such things, we would be miserable trying to completely avoid the horrors of industrial agriculture – sometimes the pleasure principle is achieved by not agonising so much and knowing you’ve done your best.
As I write these things I’m still sorting out the questions around hypocrisy and being complicit in an unethical food system. But the way I’m thinking about it is to understand ecosystems beyond their biological components – to include the social aspects as well.
If farming had not moved outside of ecosystems – as we all know industrial agriculture requires enormous external inputs and must find places beyond their boundaries to process their outputs – we wouldn’t have the severe negative environmental consequences we face today. But in addition to choosing food that comes from a healthy ecosystem, we should generally choose food that is still intricately linked to communities – that both sustains and is sustained by communities. When we conceive of an ethical approach to food this way, we must consider the human social interactions as well as those between humans and other animals or humans and the earth.
I guess rather than calling it ‘ecotarianism’ then, you might call it ‘ethotarianism’, because it’s about a consistent ethic of respect and pleasure. I’ve often said we should all be hedonists – in the tradition whereby one’s driving principle is to seek pleasure, both for oneself and for others, and taking one’s pleasure should not withdraw it from others, whether they are human, animal or vegetable.
But this complicates the question – the choices are in fact even more difficult than simply seeking ethically produced food – because sometimes the pleasure of various participants will be at odds. A clear example is when I’m offered a plate of pulled pork from unhappy pigs by a relative in the South – it’s too late to give that pig a happy life, but I can still be gracious to my host. Wherever possible, I avoid putting myself in such a position, but once in it, choices must be made, and mine will be to eat what I’m offered.
What do you do when you’ve been given a Notice to Vacate your suburban Melbourne home? Why, pack up your stuff and buy an old motorhome for an epic road trip across the USA, obviously. That’s what the Jonai do.
Who are these Jonai? I’m a PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne investigating the role of food in a cosmopolitan, sustainable society. Stuart is the family brewer, baker and preserve maker, who has a business in solar thermal equipment catering to the DIY market. We are supported by a crew of interesting and interested kids — Oscar, Antigone & Atticus, ages 11, 9 and 7.
Have you ever planned a Tasmanian holiday and thought, ‘gee, the ferry to Tassie will be a fun adventure with the kids!’? If you have, think again. I don’t get seasick, but travelling with three kids, two of whom get carsick, meant I was anxious the whole time. Also, as we were trying to do this on the cheap, I booked an internal cabin, which meant no windows. Whatever you do, book a cabin with windows. Otherwise, prepare yourself for an experience much like returning to the womb, but not your mum’s. And make sure you take your own food, as what we saw on board had the predictable monopoly pricing and appeared to be pre-masticated.
But enough about the ferry. Some of you may even like it. This is meant to be about Tassie, its beauty and the richness of its produce, not about how far it is by sea (it’s rather close by air, of course). I’ve already detailed our feasts from this trip, as we explored the many excellent producers across the island state.
First of all, for those who take the overnight boat, you will arrive very early in the morning. A voice will harass you to get out of bed and off their boat, and most of you will obey, but not all, leading to delays for the tight line of cars stuck behind Those Who Selfishly Sleep In. Oh, wait, I was trying to move on from writing about the interminable ferry rides…
So it’s early, and you’re in Devonport. My advice, based on our trip and the advice I received, is keep driving. If you’re headed in the direction of Launceston, whatever you do, do not stop at Etc in Elizabeth Town for breakfast. It may look like the first decent food on this route, but books/covers, okay? Just imagine the precise texture of a croissant straight from the microwave and you’ll get it. I dearly wish we had gone to Utsi Cafe in Perth, which is a very short detour from Launceston.
We also made a brief stop at Ashgrove Cheese Factory, and I’m going to recommend giving this one a miss as well, at least if you’re looking for cheese. Their ‘Green Milk’ (un-homogenised full cream), on the other hand, is lovely and we enjoyed many litres on our travels.
But on to the camping! Our first week was spent in the northeast at the very beautiful Bay of Fires, where we camped in the ‘Cosy Corner’ campground. Our site was just back from the beach where we were sheltered from wind and enjoyed the added protection of sparse trees. Fires are allowed, something we hardly ever experience as we typically camp in national parks and/or during total fire bans.
The real reason to go to Bay of Fires is for the intense colour saturation. The mixture of red-lichen-covered granite rocks, silky white sands, unfathomable aqua seas and Big Blue Skies left me with a sense of synaesthesia, as joy washed over me one tint at a time. The beaches are gorgeous, but it’s worth mentioning they’re not exactly swim friendly for kids. Not that it matters, as the lively rockpools and little protected shallows are ample playground for inquisitive little people.
We stopped for a night in Bicheno, a lovely little fishing village, to wash some clothes and bodies on our journey south before setting up camp again. We had a fried feast at the Sea Life Centre, where I’d recommend sticking to the local catch of course. The Trevalla and scallops were a definite highlight, but the oysters were a disappointment, even though they must have come from the marine farm where we’d been buying them live up above Binalong Bay. I guess we spoiled ourselves with all that fresh shucking…
Before making our way to Freycinet, we popped up for a picnic at Douglas Apsley NP, which was a nice, inland change with a decent river running through it attracting plenty of locals for an afternoon swim (okay, paddle). We feasted on lovely local produce sourced from Pasini’s Cafe in Bicheno (which included some divine pickled walnuts, as well as a Bruny Island ‘Tom’ and a luscious beetroot dip…) and watched the kids delight in the age-old pleasure of rock hopping.
We also popped in to Nature World for the kids to see some Tasmanian Devils, and were pleasantly surprised to find them in a healthy condition (unlike the mangy ones we saw nearly 20 years ago). There were quite a lot of them, as well as some snakes in grassy enclosures that certainly got the kids excited. Overall, for a place with animals in enclosures, it was a mostly positive experience (I still maintain, along with many others, that birds should simply never be enclosed in cages).
Next stop, Freycinet National Park, where we knew we had to at very least do the walk up to a view of Wineglass Bay. We also knew that much like Wilson’s Prom, there is a lottery some months before the summer peak season to get a campsite, but we were lucky that a friend from Hobart recommended we just cruise in to Friendly Beaches, which doesn’t require bookings. Friendly Beaches is only about a 10 or 15 minute drive from the carpark where all the bushwalks commence down the peninsula, and as promised, even in peak season, it was quiet and lovely.
I won’t mention how much it rained while we were at Friendly Beaches, except to say it’s lucky we got out of the Bay of Fires on time, just before St Helens had to close (and then lost) roads. It’s also not ‘normal’ for the time of year. Fortunately, as @crazybrave says, at least we have a ‘good camping spirit’. 🙂
As for the Wineglass Bay walk, we set off with three (mostly) keen kids, and by the time we’d made it the 1.5 km straight up to the lookout, with every intention of making it the 1.5km down the other side, we’d pretty much convinced the wee Jonai trio that the extra 8km around the point would be a flat easier option than the return mountain-goat route. And so the full 11km we did go, and even if it did start raining on the walk, it was a lovely family outing. Never mind that the visibility for about half of it is a rather short forests’ understory and Atticus was wearing a generic version of Blundstones for this walk… it actually was lovely, and the kids were proud of themselves for making it so far.
After a few soggy days around Friendly Beaches, we stuffed our saturated gear into the car and set off for Port Arthur. A stop at the Sorell Fruit Farm was a fun break as we picked kilos of fresh stone fruits and berries, but the business model is rather irritating – you can’t even go along with the kids if you don’t buy a punnet yourself, which is pretty expensive. However, we did in fact want all that fruit, so it was fine for us.
At Port Arthur we stay in the Port Arthur Villas, which, while not cheap, were still excellent value at $240 for a two-bedroom flat with good-sized kitchen/dining/lounge areas. If you buy your tickets for Port Arthur from them (at no extra cost), they give you the key to the back gate, which is a stone’s throw from the property. We stopped at the delightful little fish market in Dunalley on the way down as well, where we not only picked up a beautiful trumpeter fish to cook that night for Ev and his mate Steve, who were similarly rained out, but also got the kids fish and chips for lunch which included delectable baby octopi! Now that is what I want from fish and chips!
As a fascinating way to bring history alive for the kids, you cannot go wrong with Port Arthur, by the way. During summer they have short performances in some of the restored buildings, which offer a really interesting and lively interpretation of the convict settlement’s grim past. The restored houses further offer great opportunities to discuss changes to the ways people live over the past 170 years – of course my kids were particularly unimpressed with kitchens relegated to the back instead of being the heart of the house. 🙂
To be continued… next up, gentle Hobart, stunning Bruny Island, hobby farm life and the charming Cygnet.
One of the major highlights of camping for me is the opportunity to cook and eat outside for days on end, coupled with the wonderful challenge of limited cold space and cooking with only two burners. When we accepted our lot as ‘car campers’ after having children, with whom we’ve been camping since the eldest was 5 months old (and #2’s first camp experience was at 11days old!), we discovered the joy of Cast Iron Camping and have embraced it in all its tasty results.
First, some basics. Although I would never suggest you *must* travel with these items to make good food (you need only look to Great Depression Cooking with Clara for proof), it certainly makes it more pleasurable for me. Therefore, I travel with two good knives (usually my Chinese cleaver and a 10” Dick – ahem, this isn’t a joke, it’s the brand), preferably my big chopping board, but a medium-sized one will do, a 10” le Creuset (any enamelled cast iron large pot will do – we scored ours on somebody’s nature strip in North Carlton) and a 10” cast iron frypan. The lid for the le Creuset comes in handy for camp pizza on the frypan too.
I bring along a smaller stainless steel pot as well for cooking the odd sauce or hot chocolate for the kids. Obviously, a spatula & wooden spoon, plus a mixing bowl is helpful. I also try to bring one or two more plates & bowls than we need for dining to hold ingredients as I chop. Arguably not essential but rather pleasant to have along is a stovetop espresso maker… you can indeed make coffee old-school in a pot, but we all know which is tastier.
I like to bring a tupperware of my favourite spices, and absolutely essential (for me) is a container of salt flakes and a pepper grinder, as I can’t bear iodised, granulated salt or powdery pepper. Oh, and this year I started taking my sourdough starter along to make a leavened damper, and let me tell you, it’s worth it! But I’ll get to that…
We picked up a secondhand ‘Eva Kool’ esky a couple years ago after admiring our friends’ on repeated long, hot summer camping trips. This thing will keep brie in good form for 10 days, and in fact we’ve seen it keep ice for that long when kept in the shade and with wet towels over it in 40C weather. Between that and our vintage Coleman stove Stuart picked up at a garage sale, we are indeed happy campers. So what do we eat?
As mentioned previously, this is now a staple for us when we’re camping. I’m very glad I only took half of Fran, my starter, as a wallaby ate her halfway through the trip. She made some brilliant bread before she went though. My total aversion to supermarket bread also means we have to make our own while camping, as no good bakery bread will keep well enough. We do, however, rely on tortillas & Sorj bread as our ‘long-life’ option.
The recipe is simple. Pour some starter, flour, salt, water & a bit of olive oil into the mixing bowl. Mix/knead for a minute or two. Put dough in the le Creuset (this is why I bring enamelled cast iron, btw) with some oil in the bottom, rubbing a bit more on top. Cover & let rise overnight. In the morning, it will take about half an hour to bake – you should flip it after about 20 minutes (conditions of your stove, the weather, your pot, etc will make this vary, of course). The result is a lovely, airy loaf with a crispy crust, thicker than foccacia but not as tall as a normal loaf usually, perfect to enjoy with eggs.
Brekky is important to me. (Stuart would say that’s an understatement.) Having grown up in America with a love of cooked brekkies, I’ve maintained my desire for nearly two decades in a land of muesli eaters. Don’t get me wrong, I like raw oats with nuts & Stuart’s stewed plums, but not as much as I like eggs and roast tomatoes. So here’s a sample of our camp brekkies:
ham/cheese/tomato scramble on turkish rolls – this was simpler than an omelette with the same ingredients as I would normally cook the fillings separately and re-introduce them to an omelette. While camping I was minimising extra washing up, because no matter how fun the cooking is, I’m less enthusiastic about washing up (especially with cold salt water…). I prefer mozzarella for this for the gooeyness.
poached egg on mushies with prosciutto & pecorino on fresh sourdough damper – I poached eggs in sea water with spectacular results.
breakfast burritos – egg, tomato, prosciutto, tasty cheese, optional yoghurt – Mexican, or American versions thereof, is standard on our menus, and brekky burritos make a nice change to the regular fry up, as well as being a simple option on a day without damper.
fried eggs, Boks bacon, fried tomato, fresh sourdough damper – we sought out local produce wherever possible along our Tasmanian adventure, and Boks bacon, though apparently only ‘bred free range’ instead of fully free range (and there is some controversy around all of this that I won’t go in to as I don’t know the story well enough), is really delicious bacon.
roast tomatoes & avocado with hand-whisked hollandaise (on very boring local ‘bakery’ bread) – I’m cheating here as we made this in a serviced apartment at Port Arthur, but I wanted to include it both to give Ev (who slept on our floor as we all escaped the endless rain) kudos for hand-whipping the hollandaise. It wasn’t as a thick an emulsification as if he’d had so much as a whisk to do the job (I gave him a fork…), but it was delicious nonetheless. You could definitely do this camping, and just fry the tomatoes.
french toast from leftover Zum bakery sourdough, zucchini flowers stuffed with chevre & egg, egged & fried in butter – I couldn’t pass up the zucchini flowers at the Hobart Farm Gate market, and we weren’t sorry.
fried tomato & Rare Food bacon on fried day-old sourdough – I know, we had bacon and we fried the bread. It was so bloody good we did it two days in a row. It’s an excellent solution to stale bread. The Rare Food bacon is from Matthew Evans of Gourmet Farmer fame’s pigs, which the Cygnet butcher then cures. It’s quality product, but the bacon is a little smoky for my palate.
You admittedly couldn’t eat such rich breakfasts every day of your life, but hey, we were on holiday and couldn’t resist all the local free range eggs, amazing produce, free range bacon and stunning range of cheeses. Besides, it was important that I share the amazing variety of options one has when camping with you, dear readers. I did it all for you, and I liked it. 🙂
Lunches are typically a deceptively simple affair when we camp as brekky and dinner are ostensibly the main acts. Their simplicity relies on picking up high quality local produce and making lovely rolls or a ploughman’s lunch with them.
Ploughman’s lunch – fresh baguettes, avocado, chicken liver pate, Bruny Island Cheese ‘Tom’, green olive tapenade, beetroot dip, tomato, cucumber, pickled walnuts – we sourced most of these ingredients at the lovely Pasini’s Cafe in Bicheno.
camp pizza – quick pita/pizza dough, passata, salami, tomato, mushie, shallot, feta, pepper – make a pita dough from flour, baking soda, salt & water – you can add a little oil to keep it from sticking. Set aside and prepare your toppings, roll out your dough (I don’t carry a rolling pin as a bottle of wine does the job nicely) and cook it first on one side, then flip it, add the toppings & cover. It should be ready in less than 5 minutes.
oysters, oysters, oysters – my new year’s resolution was to eat oysters every day we were in Tassie. Sadly, I failed to eat them on five out of 20 days, but I’m pretty sure I still ate my own weight in them. We reckon the best ones came from Get Shucked on Bruny Island.
beef stroganoff a la bourguignon – I often do some kind of beef stew when we camp, mostly because I’m happy to store beef for longer in the esky than most other meats, and it makes a very simple meal on around the fourth night. I improvise each time, and as I made this one, I chuckled to myself that I wasn’t sure whether I was really making stroganoff or bourguigon, nor could I remember exactly how I usually make either, hence I reckon this one was kind of both. I just cook up some onions, shallots & garlic, then add the beef and mushrooms. In the other pot, cook the pasta. Once the beef is just barely cooked, I push the bits aside, add a knob of butter (& a little reserved pork fat from that morning’s brekky), melt, then add flour and brown off before pouring in a bit of wine to thicken. Mix all the bits back through, strain the pasta and mix together in the big pot. You can add a bit of yoghurt or sour cream at this stage, as well as a healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper. Voilà – a two pot bastardised but tasty dish. 🙂
Chipolata sausages with onion, capsicum & garlic on cheesy polenta – polenta is a genius camping starch, as is cous cous. I like to mix some mozzarella & pecorino through it to give it some creamy flavour.
Soft tacos/fajitas with spicy bolognese, onion & capsicum, fresh tomato, cheese, yoghurt, fried corn tortillas – I had some frozen bolognese, which served first as an ice pack in the esky, & later a very simple addition for a delicious dinner. I just added a bit of cumin and chili to change the flavour profile, fried up some onion & capsicum, & lightly fry the corn tortillas in oil to improve their store-bought texture. The kids go nuts for these.
Sir Loin Breier Butcher’s eye fillet in shallots, served on fried potato/onion/garlic, topped with creamy mushies – this butcher in Bicheno (never mind the silly name) is turning out high quality grass-fed beef, as well as a range of sausages and apparently smoked mutton bird in season. This very simple dinner is another camping staple for us. Also, as we had one and a half two many steaks (they were big!), the next day we had more lovely fajitas with them. I do this with lamb usually, making kebabs with garlic sauce and doing my own pitas.
scallops with onion, garlic, capsicum, fish sauce, sugar, lemon, Vietnamese black pepper, rice – once again, picking up the local produce pays off, and the scallops from the Freycinet marine farm were excellent cooked very quickly and served with rice.
pasta with mushie/garlic/shredded zucchini cooked in passata – I know I say everything is simple, but seriously, dried pasta for which one makes a sauce with passata and a couple of vegies, topped with the last of your pecorino (another great camping cheese as it lasts for ages) is easy enough for even the most reluctant cook, and an excellent choice after a week or so of camping when you’re meat free (assuming you were eating meat at all, of course) and need ingredients that keep.
quesadillas made with Bruny Island ODO – cheese, tomato, spring onion – we always travel with tortillas, and quesadillas are a Jonai staple whether at home or away. Very quick, lovely served with yoghurt, guacamole, jalapeños, and/or Tabasco. These were a guilty pleasure using Bruny Cheese’s excellent ODO (One Day Old).
vegie curry – last jar of my green tomato curry with zucchini, ginger, garlic, shallots, garam masala, coconut milk, served on cous cous, enjoyed with Bruny Island Pint Noir – I can’t imagine camping without at least one curry, and this one was particularly delicious. I credit the garam masala.
stir fry with zucchini & egg, bit of vinegar with shallot, garlic & ginger, cooked in pork fat – yep, you read it. There’s that pork fat again, making everything more delicious. It also means you’re saving and re-using fat instead of working out how to dispose of it responsibly in pristine wilderness. Another nice excuse, eh?
Those who know me or regular readers here will know that I’m not really a dessert person. I have a relentlessly savoury palate, much to Stuart and the children’s chagrin. However, some local nectarines and goat’s cheese inspired me to make one dessert on the Tassie holiday.
nectarines cooked in butter, topped with chevre and local honey
I should mention that for a long camping trip without a re-supply, I would usually cook & freeze one or two lunch &/or dinner options the week before, such as lasagne, quiche or stroganoff. This means you’ve got extra ice in your esky for the first couple days, and have a substantial, delicious meal as fresh stuff starts to run out. For our Tassie trip, we were only camping 3-4 days at a time with a break to re-stock and do some washing in between, so I didn’t bother.
Another useful trick is to freeze water in ice cream or yoghurt containers for the esky so that when it melts, you have containers for leftovers. 🙂 And always pre-chill your esky the night before loading it up for the big trip!
May your produce be fresh, your cast iron strong, your knives sharp, your esky cold and your cooking fuel never run out. 🙂 Happy camping, all.
Before arriving in Sicily, I’ll readily admit that all I really knew about the region’s food was to expect an emphasis on quality seafood and influences from north Africa and other cuisines around the Mediterranean. So I expected sardines, anchovies and octopus, cous cous and saffron, and of course arancini, calzone and cannoli, not to mention plenty of olives and legumes, and the ever present eggplant and tomatoes.
What I didn’t expect is the wonderful culture of street food (il cibo di la strada), and the variety of offal, nor the gusto with which all sorts of Siciliani approach it. I could almost be in Vietnam with the tasty diversity of rosticceria – the name comes from arrosti, or roasted, but from what I’ve seen in Palermo most seem to be fried? (in Palermo these foods include arancine, panelle, calzone, croquette, sfincioni…). You can eat these things in the little shops or next to the stalls selling them, or walk with your food, such as while strolling through the plentiful markets.
I was lucky to have Alessio, the brother of a Sicilian friend (Danilo) I made a few months ago in Brisbane to be my guide.
Alessio took me directly to a street stall selling panino con la milza (sandwich of beef spleen cooked in lard) for dinner my first night in Palermo. It was delicious – none of the coarse texture of kidney or badly cooked liver, this was tender and tasty goodness.
L’arancine are among Sicily’s most famous rosticceria – rice filled with meat, cheese and vegetables, breaded and fried or baked. A rosticceria I didn’t know is panelle – chick pea fritters, with a lovely texture almost like roti bread when you pull them apart. Potato croquettes are a simple and delicious snack at any time, and often sold alongside arancine and panelle.
Perhaps lesser known to those of us outside Italy is stigghiola – grilled goat’s intestines served with salt, pepper and lemon. They’re sort of the texture of lamb fat with chewy bits as well, and very more-ish. The stalls and little places selling these will often also sell spiedino – basically kebabs of meats, many with stuffing. We had spiedino with bacon, with panato (not sure what this was?), and one of pork. One had caciocavallo cheese and bay leaves in it as well, which gave a sharpness from the cheese and a lovely, burnt crunchiness from the leaves.
While I say ‘Siciliani‘, really I’m talking about Palermitani food, as Italy has not only distinctive dishes and traditions between its 20 regions, but even within regions. So while panelle are typical of Palermo, they apparently are not common in Siracusa on the east coast of Sicily, a mere 200km away.
Next, the pasta dishes. The ‘most typical’, I’m assured, is pasta con sarde, for which there are a lot of recipes I gather, but the one I had seems to be fairly typical on many menus. I had bucatini con sarde – a lovely thick, long, round noodle with sardines, fennel, saffron, sultanas, pine nuts and bread crumbs. The combination was heavenly, and I enjoyed it at Antica Focacceria di Santo Francesco, a Palermo institution that’s been open since 1834, amongst what appeared to be the glitterati of Palermitano society. One of the well coiffed women at the table next to me happily scoffed down a panino con la milza, such as I had enjoyed on the street the first night of my arrival. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised to see it on the menu and a well-groomed woman in white pants eating it, but I was. Silly, given I’m pretty sure Rockpool has a famous burger on its menu?
I’ve also enjoyed pasta alla norma – I chose penne, but I gather spaghetti and other pastas are also common. Pasta alla norma is rich with eggplant in a sugo that also includes salted ricotta (as distinct from sweet ricotta used in various desserts). It is a spectacular sauce and I look forward to making it at home!
Another pasta I had in Sferracavallo, a little town by the sea just out of Palermo, was spaghetti con ricci – a very spiny sea urchin that’s scooped out and made into a sugo. I found the flavour very intense – it starts with a strongly aromatic sweetness and finishes off with a slightly bitter flavour. I think a small dish of it would have been lovely, but the big plate was simply too much – Alessio and I swapped and I enjoyed the spaghetti con cozze (mussels) instead, which were small and deliciously tender and fresh.
A classic dish in Sicily is surely the insalata di frutti di mare – seafood salad. My favourite so far had mussels (though not enough of them), octopus, and seppia (cuttlefish), with carrot and I think radish, in the ubiquitous olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Zomigodyum.
And before @CarmR complains about a major oversight, I’ll mention the superb cannoli I enjoyed at Antica Focacceria, and the many granita di limone – lemon ice – I’ve slurped down in the heat of the Sicilian summer. I haven’t sampled other sweets because, close readers will have noticed, I have a relentlessly savoury palate and rarely eat sweets, but sweets are abundant everywhere!
I’ve only written about the things I’ve actually tasted, so of course there will be many I’ve missed. If anyone is keen to mention the other typical street foods I’ve neglected, or other typical dishes around Sicilia, please enlighten us! So little time, so much good cuisine! Buono apetito!
Okay, folks, I’m going to say some controversial things now about history and culture. The historians and others with a keen interest in monuments of the past might take umbrage. A caveat – I’m a great admirer of antiquity and believe there are compelling reasons to study it and immerse oneself in ancient ruins. But I’m a cultural theorist, I focus on everyday life, and this trip is reminding me of some of the reasons why I chose to do this. Are you ready?
I’ve now been in three beautiful Italian cities, and in each I have felt completely enveloped by the past, but deeply engaged with the present. Of course, I’m here to research the present, but also the past, that is, what were the traditional dishes, mealtime habits, preparation methods when the biggest waves of Italian migrants were moving to Australia, and what are they now – how have things changed? To do this research, I have to talk to as many people as I can, sample as many dishes as possible, and wander as many markets as I can find. (NB Yes, I realise I have the best PhD ever and I’m ‘lucky’ and I will remind you all that luck is where preparation meets opportunity, and I seized mine when the idea arose. ;-))
While here, I sometimes feel like a tourist, and surely in some sense I am, though I am legitimised by having a scholarly mission. And of course I am sometimes surrounded by tourists, especially in Roma, which was awash with vast crowds of them. While in Bologna, where there are few tourists, I first thought about how the Bolognese conduct their modern, daily lives amongst such stately medieval grandeur with hardly a thought, it seems. While I would stop to gaze up at the frescos in the portici, they would stride purposefully by – their city’s history is just part of the landscape, a comfortable old blanket much beloved but hardly noticed as one sits down to read a book on a cold winter’s night.
After a few days, I realised I had not even considered entering any of the magnificent old churches, and I had a pang of guilt. But then I thought about how I would not learn about the daily rhythms of these people by wandering solo through their ancient religious houses, and I was here to learn those rhythms – entering the churches would in fact turn me into a tourist, and distract me from the task at hand. I carried on with my eating, talking and watching on the streets – the architecture a backdrop for the quotidian movements of the fair denizens of Bologna. I even made a note to myself that, ‘I want to feel the city’s pulse, not explore its cemeteries… I don’t need to enter its tombs, I need to find its living.
And then came the unexpected detour to Roma (it’s a long story that involves two busy parents who failed to lodge Oscar’s passport application before my departure, necessitating an emergency trip to the embassy in Roma so I could sign a form in front of a consulate officer – #adminfail #bureaucracyfail). I had no intention of spending time in Roma – was quite happy that my trip would be in smaller cities that would not be at the height of their tourist seasons. My view of the Italian capital was surely somewhat affected by a) the unforeseen bureaucratic debacle that led me to cancel flights, book a hotel and jump on a train; b) my desire to be in smaller cities; c) the fact that I despise crowds of tourists, even if I am but one more of their number.
So, Roma. At @orientalhotel’s advice, I went searching for the Campo dei Fiori for the market there. I was last in Roma 19 years ago, so I felt obliged to march past some of the monuments on the way – I went by the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. They remain tributes to a long, rich history, and marvels of architecture and engineering. I took some of the mandatory photos. I shouldered through tour groups following guides with coloured ribbons hoisted on sticks with my teeth clenched.
The market at Campo dei Fiori was very grounding. I wandered through the stalls, gazing at the riotous life of the vegetables, bumping against locals doing their daily shopping. My forehead cleared, my shoulders lowered, and I found a little cafe just out of the way with no tourists and wood-fired pizzas. I spoke with the padrone – who was, of course, Sicilian (many seem to be?), and who graciously gave me some advice on where I must go for a certain wine, a certain dessert… interesting that his tips were immediately about food, even though I didn’t mention my research.
As I passed through the teeming hordes at the Trevi Fountain later, I actually had to fight tears at how much I was detesting the theme park feeling of everything. It felt impossible to have any sense at all of the rhythms of the Romans during this height of tourist season – instead even the diverse nationalities of the throngs were homogenised into a single category of Those Who Seek Monuments and Take Photos of Themselves in Front of Them. When they eat, it seems almost incidental, and I’m sure most aren’t even aware of how poor a representation of Italian food they are eating in the many clones of ristoranti proclaiming to have ‘Real Italian Food’ (Note to tourists: you’re in Italy, if they need a sign to say they have ‘real Italian food’, they probably don’t). The food at those ristoranti, by the way, reminded me a lot of the generic ‘Italian’ food sold at many restaurants on Lygon Street in Melbourne, though there is an increasing supply of quality, contemporary, regional Italian food on offer in our capital cities.
I don’t know what interactions the tourists might have with locals, but I suspect it’s only with service staff – which, admittedly is a problem for most travellers – how to penetrate the self-contained extant social groups of the locals? My thoughts on dining alone and Michael’s on why don’t we break down more social barriers when sharing a table in public explore some of those ideas.
This story ends in Palermo – I could not have chosen a starker contrast to Bologna’s understated elegance and formality than here. Palermo is steeped in its own rich cosmopolitan history and the crumbling, ornate palazzi are as visually rich as Bologna’s medieval austerity and Renaissance charm. The splendid chaos of its architectural mix – Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Renaissance and baroque – is matched by its multicultural population, and here passion is palpable. Beware the woman who catches a Siciliano’s eye – a warm grin, ‘ciao bella’ and intentful gaze are the consequence.
In Bologna the stranger is largely unnoticed and might have very few social encounters, leaving her to move silently from one church to another, and in Roma, the stranger is so common as to be perhaps disdained, and moves in herds between sites of antiquity that have very little feeling of connection to the city’s present culture – again, just a backdrop for a busy modern life. In Palermo, the stranger might attempt to move unmolested between monuments, but the narrow footpaths, frequent markets, and flashing eyes are unlikely to let you miss its pulse. Here, the walls are literally alive with vines and flapping laundry on its many little balconies – history is ingrained in the daily rhythms.
The markets in Palermo are a real joy – extensive stalls of colourful produce, masses of fish, loads of beautiful olives – the stallholders shouting across to each other and laughing in baritone. And in every little cafe or ristorante, chances are strong that a local will say hello to you, ask where you’re from, and then tell you how they’ve a) been to Australia b) would like to go or c) have relatives there.
I walked into the Cathedral, because it was there. I sat down in a pew and tried to reflect on my reticence to visit these beautiful monuments, hoping for divine inspiration. I watched the tourists flowing in and out, some quiet, many chatting, some on the phone, all taking photos. And then it happened, I got my sign… a man dashed in, head jerking about looking manically to see what he ‘needed’ to see. He stopped dead centre, took a quick photo of the altar, turned on his heel and dashed out, still manically trying to catch what little he could at speed. What has he learned? What has he gained or contributed by this spot of sightseeing? Not a lot, I will presume to say. I hope he then went and meandered slowly through the market, enjoying the excellent street food and chatting with the locals about their favourites, but I doubt it.
Ask anyone what they think of Italy and they will mention the food, the architecture, and most likely the liveliness of the people. Italians are famous for centring their community around meals, and the many delectable dishes that have come from here are a testament to how seriously they take their food. So what happens when you arrive alone to sample and learn more of their food? Especially if, like me, you don’t like to dine alone? And how much are the Italians themselves still gathering for the family meal, the long, daily lunch or dinner?
Social patterns in Italy are changing, just as they are everywhere. With the increasing pressures of working long hours and more families with two working parents, plus changes in social structures such as people marrying later or not at all, and having less or no children… the ‘old ways’ must inevitably adjust to contemporary modes of living. Of course there will always be resistance to change from some quarters, and enthusiasm from others (one need only think of the Slow Food/McDonald’s divide to see the most extreme examples in Italy), but you can’t freeze any culture in time.
In my short time in Bologna la bella, what I’ve observed and been told is that younger people are eating out more than ever, catching up with friends over a quick caffe during the day or a round of aperitivi in the evening. The daytime cafe culture seems to be fairly expedient – there is usually a variety of panini and pizze options (sandwiches and pizzas) and a selection of sweet pastries. All of these things are small and can be eaten with your hands, and the turnover in cafes during the day appears to be quite quick usually. Then it’s back to work.
In the evenings, without fail, people flock to the bars for a drink and the variable selection of antipasti. It’s typical to pay 7 euro for your first drink, which gives you unlimited access to the food on offer, buffet style, inside. After that, your drinks will typically cost between 4 and 6.50 euro.
I have eaten dinner this way most nights, as it’s an informal way to have a meal and avoid feeling conspicuously alone in the more formal setting of a ristorante or trattoria. For the many of my generation who have remained or once again become single, this offers an option not to go home alone, but not to have to feel awkward. Alternatively, it offers groups a chance to gather for a drink while having enough food to call dinner. It’s also a very civilised way to get food into people who are drinking alcohol, and something Australia could learn from.
The antipasti themselves vary a lot from one place to the next, both in diversity of offerings and in quality. Most places will offer a range of bruschette – some with tomatoes, others with prosciutto or tapenade, for example. A rice and/or pasta dish is quite common – some are lovely, others remind me a bit of an American potluck with the inevitable spiral pasta (fusili) tossed in pesto, served at room temperature. Then there may be frittate, roast vegetables such as zucchini or eggplant, and usually some squares of either pizza or ciabatta, and often there are olives. At the less interesting end of the spectrum, there might be a little bowl of nuts, or in many places, potato chips. Pringles seem pretty popular for this option. O_o It’s an extraordinary contrast.
Restaurants are an altogether different prospect. Especially for dinner, most people just don’t tend to go out to dine alone, and you rarely see anyone eating alone in the restaurants here, just as you don’t in Australia that often. So after making some friends from my Italian class, I finally enjoyed some of the local trattorie.
At one, Ristorante da Alice, the menu was given to us entirely verbally, and in extremely rapid Italian. As we were dining at 10pm, having had an aperitivo in Piazza Santo Francesco first, we opted for just one course, a primo (first). We all chose pasta (typical for the primo) – I had the tortelloni a burro e salvia, the others had tagliatelle, one with porcini and the other with a ragu.
We followed it with formaggi – where we were brought the entire round of pecorino and sides of honey and mostarde (a kind of chutney) to help ourselves. Another table ordered flan, and the entire huge plate of it was brought over for them to take as much as they liked.
The following night we opted for both courses at the charming Drogheria della Rosa, and in fact Anja and Christian had a dolce as well. Our primi were three kinds of stuffed pasta – a ravioli in ragu, another filled with eggplant served in a sugo, and a tortelli with zucchini flowers. All were exquisite, but the huge flavour of the fresh sugo won me over the most. We decided to only have two secondi as we weren’t sure we’d make it through more, so we enjoyed a delectable lemony guinea fowl and a stunning cut of beef (like a tournedo?), cooked to perfection and served in a balsamic reduction (Modena is less than half an hour from here…). With all of this we enjoyed the local sangiovese, and finished with a grappa, where again, like the formaggi the night before, we were given the entire bottle to just continue to pour as we liked? I really have no idea how they accounted for what we drank, but I think it all worked out okay.
I won’t detail every meal I’ve had here, not only because many have been, as I said, of the aperitivo style eating, but also because I think the two meals from Alice and della Rosa offer enough insight into a few of the typical dishes and the style of eating and ordering. (And obviously I’m focusing on eating out here, as I’ve not yet experienced a home-cooked meal in Italy.) And the key here again comes back to the fact that meals are best enjoyed in company. We spent time choosing, we shared everything so we could taste more, we deliberated on what we’d tasted, had far-ranging conversations that were not about the food, and generally had really lovely meals in good company. The ‘meals’ I’ve eaten alone have been ‘fine’, but not as memorable, and not necessarily because the food wasn’t good.
In fact, the reverse is also true. I’ve been at meals where the food was absolutely divine – the freshest, local ingredients, highly skilled chefs who know what to do with such quality – and not enjoyed the meal because the company was less than ideal. Tension, aggression or any sort of negative emotions around food really does make the food taste bad, or at least stifles your capacity to enjoy it. So while I won’t equate eating alone with eating with bad company, both make it more difficult to fully appreciate the food.
What does this mean for the many singles out there? Obviously people who live alone can join friends (as Andrea told me here, there’s the family, and then there’s the ‘chosen family’ – your circle of closest friends – and the ‘chosen family’ is increasingly important as less people marry or marry later or divorce, etc) for meals and drinks as they like. However, clearly most won’t do this every meal.
Learning to enjoy being alone and even enjoying your food while alone is a good step, and one I’ve been working on while here. It’s all about finding a place where you can enjoy a nice meal and not feel conspicuous, for me at least. The aperitivo tradition here solves that for me. My other strategy is my notebook – as soon as I sit down I pull out my moleskine and commence writing. Here it’s been mostly field notes, so quite purposeful, and very generative. So using the notebook as a kind of social shield allows me to feel I have company and a reason to be there, even on my own, and savour the food a little more. I think some people use their mobile phones in a similar way, so they don’t feel alone.
While the informal aperitivo offers the opportunity for me to eat alone in comfort, it also is the gathering place for a generation of Italians who spend more time out of home than historically. The ristoranti continue to function as a place intended to gather people together – a big dinner (or lunch) to be enjoyed by friends or family – rather than the place for the solitary diner. It seems that as Italians adjust to their contemporary patterns, they’re still doing an excellent job of keeping food in the centre, even if it’s not at home.
It’s been a busy year. A really busy year. Nearly every week this year has seen me interstate to meet with government or postgrads on campuses across Australia in my role as National President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations. And yet in the middle of this crazy year (Epic 2010), I’m off on a Grand Tour – Finland, Italy and Malaysia. Disparate countries, you think? Well, yes… but there is (always) a rationale.
I’ll be giving a paper at the 18th International Ethnological Food Research Conference in Turku, Finland this week. Meeting a mix of scholars from around the world, all as obsessed with the centrality of food in our everyday lives, is something to which I look forward with enormous pleasure and anticipation.
Next stop, two and a half weeks in Italy for fieldwork. My fieldwork is essentially wandering the markets, learning the distinctive ingredients and dishes, and talking to people about what they like to eat, why, where, and with whom. Oh, and of course, eating. It requires a fair bit of eating… sampling, tasting…
So I’ve booked flights in and out of Bologna in the north and Palermo in Sicily, and nothing further, really. I’d like to do some language study (I don’t speak Italian) and perhaps a cooking class or two. I’ve received advice from the lovely Leanne de Bortoli, @carmR and a host of other tidbits from the twitterz and on Facebook. Obviously, I know some things about regional Italian cuisines, but not having been to Italy since 1991 (!) I’m conscious of how very much I don’t know about contemporary Italian food. Fortunately, I’m an eager and quick learner when it comes to food cooking. 😉 Some of what I’ll find will inform my understanding of what Italian-Australians left behind, and some will highlight the changed ‘homeland’ they find upon returning after many years away.
I can hear some of you (have heard some of you) thinking/saying, ‘but how can you leave the children for so long?’ (Others, mostly mothers themselves, have said, ‘I’m so jealous…’) In truth, it’s hard to leave them for such an extended time. A night or two away just makes me feel grown up and less stressed generally. Three and a half weeks means actually missing out on things, like the daily, multiple cuddles, for too many days. And I’m very very conscious that on the one hand, I am a role model for them of someone who is pursuing my passions with vigour, and on the other hand, the too-often absent mother who is currently role modelling parenting by correspondence.
Never one to wallow in uncertainty, nor to allow life to slow me down, I think I’ve solved the dilemma by organising for the children and Stuart to meet me in Malaysia for a final three-week family adventure. 🙂 Our reunion in Kuala Lumpur will be filled with the collective discovery of a new country, and our excitement at reforming the Jonai will not be disrupted by the usual demands of work and school. Genius, no?
And so it begins… watch this space as Tammi tastes terroir across three countries, many cities and villages and two continents… alone, with new friends and colleagues, and within the dear core of the Jonai.
Bring your wallet, but leave your palate at home… seemed to be the theme of Dandenong ranges dining…
I generally prefer not to write scathing reviews of restaurants, on the theory that everyone has a bad night, and if it happens to have been the night I came, well, bad luck for me, but it would be unfair to slam the place on one tasting. I am about to break that tradition, because the food we were served at Wild Oak in Olinda was so bad it had absolutely no place being served. To ask a diner to pay for what was on the plates in front of us was the height of egregious poor form.
From the beginning then. When researching places to eat in the Dandenong ranges, I came across a number of recommendations for Wild Oak. The chef, Ben Higgs, seems to be highly regarded (though I later realised that a lot of my opinion was formed from his own PR), and promotes himself and his restaurant as showcasing the best of seasonal, regional produce. Excellent, we said, and had a look at the website. I saw that Ben runs cooking classes, and had a browse through the offerings: Moroccan Made Easy, Vietnamese Master Class, Sushi Master Class, Tapas and Pasta Class were just a few on the extensive list. Wow, apparently this guy can teach you how to cook the whole world, I joked, and decided against checking availability. I wonder what his actual speciality is, I wondered…
After a gentle stroll from our lovely B&B to the restaurant, we arrived excited to see what the hills had to offer. As we approached the building, I noted that the cooking class kitchen is in a sort of fishbowl at the front of the restaurant, and the word ‘ego’ came to mind. I quashed those thoughts in anticipation of a nice meal of local ingredients. The restaurant was busy, and staff were very attentive. Not only were we seated quickly, the second our bottoms hit the seat a waitress appeared with a complimentary starter. Lucky us, we thought, until I looked at the plate…
Two slices of tuna and pumpkin nori roll, served on a mango and red onion salsa, on top of what we think was a balsamic reduction (the waitress didn’t know). It looked like con-fusion on the plate, exacerbated by a) only having a knife and fork, and b) the fact that the rice appeared to be a solid mass. Ah, I thought, he’s being clever, and that white stuff is not actually rice. Reluctantly prodding at the roll with my fork, I managed to separate a grain of rice from the rest of the glutinous mass. Good lord, it’s rice. (Reminder: Ben teaches a Sushi Master Class.) I don’t believe you should criticise food you you haven’t tasted or books you haven’t read, so I took the plunge, and promptly wished I had a different rule about criticism. It was not just as bad as it looked, but worse, with its gluey mass of starch, tasteless filling, inappropriate mango and red onion, and totally unnecessary balsamic (?). Oh, and somewhere in there was some more starch in the form of individual corn kernels. Yuck.
I cautioned Stuart to order conservatively now that we had insight into what was on offer. A waitress took our wine order and told us she was exhausted as they had catered a 60th that day for 90 guests. We commiserated, ordered a bottle of wine, and made quiet jokes about the menus in front of us, mine splattered with the detritus of someone else’s meal. I haven’t even complained yet, and they’re already spitting in my food, ha ha.
For entree, we decided to go with the special on offer, a tapas plate (reminder: Ben also teaches a Tapas class), though I did mention to Stuart that the titles of the dishes weren’t promising: Atlantic salmon rillette (we’re pretty far from the Atlantic…), duck liver pate encroute, warm marinated olives (what sort? Marinated with what? Why warm?), wild mushroom and basil frittata, and Spanish chorizo sausage with aiolili [sic]. Hoping that Ben wasn’t the one writing the menu with such poor descriptors, typos, and splatters, we soldiered on, thinking he may want to work on his PR at this stage…
And so the tapas arrived. We gazed at the plate, trying at first to discern which was the rillette and which the frittata in the dim light. Poking what was in fact the rillette with my knife, I discovered it was very difficult to actually cut through the butter on top, and insisted that Stuart experience this misery. We then proceeded to taste each item, discussing our newfound intention to simply leave, but wanting to be fair and taste the tapas. The rillette, served without any little toasts or bread, was indescribably bad. It tasted of tinned salmon, and appeared to have been sitting in a fridge for quite some time. It dawned on us that we were probably eating the leftovers from today’s function, which would explain the disastrous ‘complimentary starter’. The frittata similarly did not taste at all fresh, was cold, and was apparently devoid of seasoning. The pitted olives appeared to have come from a jar, been tossed in a mild vinaigrette and then warmed in the microwave. The pate tasted fine, but was not so much ‘en croute’ as ‘on a fluffy bit of foccacia’ & doused in a sickly sweet sauce, and the mild chorizo was okay, but served with a huge blob of rather bland aioli the texture of Miracle Whip.
Time to go. I appealed to our friendly young waitress, and told her I was very sorry to put her on the spot, but that we wanted to leave without our mains. The poor thing looked politely horrified, and asked what the matter was. I gently explained that the food was awful, but that we were happy to pay for our bottle of wine and take it with us. She spoke to Ben, who all the while was working hard directly in front of me in the open kitchen. He glanced at us, after which the waitress returned and said they wouldn’t charge us for the entree, and that she was sorry. Ben didn’t come over to speak to us, nor was there an apology from the kitchen. We paid, left, and got a takeaway pizza from around the corner, which we took back to our cottage and had with our very expensive bottle of wine (it’s one thing to pay $36 for a bottle in a restaurant, another to take it away…). The pizza was pretty good.
I like to think that had we waited for our mains, which would have been cooked by Ben, that they would have made up for the earlier dishes. But unfortunately, he’s allowing things to come out of his kitchen that are bad enough to drive people away without waiting to see. The extensive PR work Ben’s done on his website, with the classes, tours, speaking engagements, etc, ad nauseum won’t make up for dropping the ball in the kitchen, which is where it really counts.