About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006
Perfectly Happy Thanks
Lifestyle Food on Foxtel is promoting Tamasin Day-Lewis at the moment with a quote from her, along with interspersed vision of a vegetable garden from which produce is being gathered. I've never really warmed to her as a cooking show presenter and have never been able to quite figure out why. Maybe it's the never trust a skinny chef syndrome, or is it that the lion's mane that passes for her hair makes her look a little scary?

Anyway, when I heard her quote it kinda crystallized my feelings.

"There is no point in cooking vegetables, unless the produce is absolutely fantastic."

Mmmmm, not in my world baby. And I suspect not in your world either. Not all of us have access to the very best, unblemished vegies that Tamasin seems to be demanding. Even if you have your own vegie patch, I bet that most of the produce would never be of the standard that would get its picture onto the cover of Gourmet magazine. Things in the real world are misshapen, attacked by insects, perhaps left hanging a little too long. Do we throw these things out? Depends whose kitchen you are in. In mine, amputation is quite normal. Why would I throw out something because a small bit of it was no good? Or that it somehow insulted my asthetic sensibilites. No-one knows better than me that things are not always perfect, that is no reason not to work with them.

Ultimately, the search for perfection does the world no good at all. Agricultural practices designed to deliver perfect produce do more harm, say through the use of insecticides or fertilizers, than the good they do through making a few happy because of the size or unblemished nature of their vegetables. Also overproduction brought about by discarding less than perfect specimens, means tying up extra water resources for no good reason.

Perfect produce? Forget it.
  posted at 8:27 am

At 9:56 am, Blogger Russell said...

I grew up on a farm (and then left it for the City) so this topic sort of speaks to me.

I grew lettuces in my backyard one time, and on one memorable occasion picked the lettuce, washed under the garden tap and put in a salad within minutes. Even the tips of the leaves were crunchy - something I'd never experienced before: truly fresh.

While it's fun cooking with exotic or specially bought ingredients, some of the most satisfying experiences have been conjuring up a tasty meal from literally nothing in the pantry.

All hail the good half of the banana.

At 11:46 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic, but do you think Foxtel is worthwhile? I would be getting it mostly for the sport and lifestyle food channel.

I've had it before I moved out of home a year and a half or so ago, but that was when I wasn't paying for it and before the new channels.

At 12:16 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People think perfection is normal when they see rows and rows of unblemished - but bland - fruit and veges in the major supermarkets. And pay twice the price.

On the other hand, her book about pies - Tarts With Tops On - is fantastic. She's a great writer.

At 1:26 pm, Blogger Ed said...

I cancelled Foxtel because after a couple of years there were too many repeats. I can't say I've seenthe Food Channel on digital.

There is so much bollocks about perfect produce. Why did certain cuisines evolve but to make something better out of imperfect produce. Wonder around the back streets of Paris and you'll see chefs peeling the mouldy skin off Onions and producing perfectly good fare. If I'm making a tagine, or a tew, do i need a perfect carrot? No. Even if I'm grating it into a sald it doesn't have to be perfect and I can always cut the nasty bits off and compost them.

And with spring arriving I'm looking to plant some imperfect tomatos

At 1:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm based in the UK, where we receive Tamasin regularly.
I've also failed to warm to her as a chef; she can cook, but lacks the charisma.
TV chefs are not the best cooks in the world, but (rightly) they must be good cooks, with an ability to entertain.

At 4:57 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi russell, definitely fresh is best, no matter what the condition. There is nothing like home grown produce, straight from the garden.

Hi cam, no problem, this is a full service blog! Let's see, a young man recently living away from home in Sydney. What to do in Sydney, what's not to do in Sydney? I'd reckon if it was me, living the single life on the tear, Foxtel would be the last thing I'd be thinking of. Of course when you get married, settle down and have some kids, maybe then. Lifestyle Food has some good programs, but there is a lot of filler as well. I'd watch the sports channels from time to time, especially for the rugby union which is hard to get here, but even though I follow the AFL, I wouldn't watch that a whole lot either. I have a recently seperated mate that loved his Foxtel when he was at home, but now he has moved out, hardly watches it at all even though he took it with him.

Hi ed, I think people would stop eating out if they knew the real truth. I'll plant some chillies and we can get together for a salsa!

Hi scott, that's probably it, Tamasin seems to intense to be entertaining. I don't think I've ever seen her smile.

At 5:10 pm, Blogger neil said...

Sorry kitchen hand, got all caught up in the Foxtel thing. Supermarkets have an awful lot to answer for, especially forcing growers to grow things for looks and the ability to keep longer. I haven't read her yet but will look out for a book of hers. I always though tarts had their tops off!

At 3:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I wish she ...

Doesn't matter.

At 4:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Neil, I'm completely with you on this! Yes, in an ideal world, we'd all go shopping daily, buying perfect and (of course) organic produce only, which we'd place in a straw basket. And then we'd go home on our bikes. And we'd wear white linen all the time and it would never get stained. Ok, I'm getting carried away. Well, my reality is getting home quite late so I usually go for a quick shop at the supermarket nearest to the train station. Their veggies are not always o-so-perfect, but I just pick up what looks best. And stir an extra-portion of love into whatever I'm making to make up for any imperfections... ;-)

At 11:38 pm, Blogger Ed said...

Neil, salsa sound good. Waiting for it.

At 1:48 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi kitchen hand, think I know where you were headed!

Hi honeybee, I think you nailed that pretty well, white doesn't last but a few seconds on me. Extra love is definitely the way to go.

Hi ed, I'm on it.


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