For People with an APPETITE for LIFE!

Welcome to THE MAIN INGREDIENT a place where Food News, Food Politics, Food Culture, Food Fashion & Food Humour meet. Each week you can preview topical foodie matter from my 'Gourmet Lifestyle' radio show called (wait for it) THE MAIN INGREDIENT. Food for the belly & the brain, I hope you'll enjoy the journey with me. Regards Kel

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Books for Evil Cooks!

Having recently spent a couple of days on planes and in and out of terminals trying to get home to Australia, I decided it would be as good a time as any to catch up on my reading and googled the latest foodie publications. Here’s an intriguing book that I couldn’t get my hands on for the trip but absolutely tickled my fancy ‘The Axis of Evil Cookbook’. When they're not actively attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction, 'Axis of Evil' countries such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea are busy enjoying their region's finest dishes. And their 'Axis of Somewhat Evil' cohorts, such as Cuba and Syria, are at it too. With over one hundred recipes, from soups and salads to meat dishes and desserts, this unique cookbook includes snapshots of each country as well as profiles of famous leaders. Regional recipes appear alongside dictators' favourite dishes - from Kim Jong-Il's ruthless appetite for shark fin soup to Saddam's celebrated rack of fresh roasted gazelle. Full of cultural anecdotes, political insight and delectable recipes, 'The Axis of Evil Cookbook' is an intriguing and forbidden treat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Designer Rice!

The Washington Post recently featured an article on the Japanese and their changing relationship with rice. It seems that if you are Japanese the days of eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner are fast becoming a distant memory, especially for the younger generation. Their national rice bowl is increasingly seen to be less full with trendy Western delicacies becoming the norm such as croissants, spaghetti, baguettes and French fries. The devastating effect on the Japanese rice industry of late has farmers and retailers racking their brains for new ways to entice people back to their beloved rice before it’s too late.

Keep an eye open for a new range of ‘Designer Rices’ that will no doubt eventually work their way into our already bursting gourmet product isles. In reality these designer rices are unmilled grains that when added in small amounts to a rice cooker turn traditional white rice pink or purple. An exciting concept for some people I guess, although I have to admit for me there is nothing nicer than a fluffy bowl of pristine white steamed rice, but I guess desperate measures are needed as per capita rice consumption in Japan has fallen to half of what it was in the late 1960’s. There are also new offerings for the health conscious in the form of sprouted rice, high-fiber mixtures such as oat rice and brown rice that have been steeped in water until sprouts emerge. Japanese bakers are also being invited to help boost rice consumption by baking tasty creations that are made from rice flour.

Of course the current trend for western style food has done more than just affect the rice industry in Japan. In 1988, 18.9 percent of Japanese children were considered obese, according to a survey. By 2005, the percentage had risen to 24.3. Unfortunately for the Japanese as rice becomes a thing of the past….. The Japanese waistlines go West!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

House Bottled Water at $2.50!

Here’s something a tad worrying…. With recent studies on the harmful toxins in plastic bottles casting a shadow over the bottled designer water industry and even glass bottled water being hit by ecologists for the long term damage the bottles inflict upon the planet, an industrious restaurateur over in Los Angeles came up with the idea of selling all-you-can-drink ‘house-bottled’ water at $2.50 a pop. Now my initial reaction to this idea was one of furious indignation! How very dare they? Make us pay for tap water in a fancy bottle?

However……. I’m afraid I jumped the gun as further research on my part has shown that the owners of ‘Grace and BLD’ in Los Angeles have invested in a specialised water-filtration system to do away with expensive, wasteful bottled water and the charge for the new ‘house bottled water’ has been implemented to compensate for the costly purchase and maintenance of the new water filtration system.

Having thought a little more about this i’ve realised that serving bottled water is indeed a wasteful practise as the plastic or glass containers are manufactured, transported and then often end up trashed and dumped in land fills rather than being recycled. Not to mention the old cancer causing chemicals that are reported to leak into the water from the bottles that are plastic.

So! Perhaps this bottled house water idea isn’t such a bad one? Setting up such a filtration system can be expensive, but it does offer customers an affordable and fresh tasting alternative to bottled water. Meanwhile the owners of ‘Grace and BLD’ restaurant in Los Angeles have had such a negative response to their idea of charging patrons for their house bottled water that they now offer it for free.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Are you a NORKER?

You know once upon a time it was a sign of social status to be able to successfully negotiate your way thru a huge line up of cutlery at a dinner party wasn’t it? You know the old salad fork, soup spoon, fish knife, dessert spoon & butter knife. But sadly it seems those days are almost gone. The KNORK is apparently what we humans are increasingly using in place of the traditional knife and fork to shovel food into our gobs. A fork with a serrated edge that can conveniently double as a knife. A TV Dinner was always something I associated with those ready made meals of the 60's (remember the old 'Vesta' curries?) but apparently we are now more than ever a tv dinner generation and we have absolutely no use for most of the items in our cutlery drawer, preferring to eat with our hands or shovel it in with the all purpose Nork. Plus! The 'NORK' has the added benefit of allowing us to be able to eat with one hand and keep the other on the all important remote control.

Now if you, like me, are at all concerned at our rapidly diminishing cutlery skills then you will be further dismayed to hear that one in ten young adults find even the 'NORK' an encumbrance, saying they regularly eat their evening meal using only their hands. A survey of 7,684 people by supermarket chain Sainsbury's has suggested that the busy lifestyles of working families have led to a wider reliance on 'finger food' with more than one in seven adults eating breakfast with their hands, and almost half of them tucking into a sandwich or wrap for lunch. To make matters worse around 5 per cent continue the habit when they get home, snacking solely on bitesize foods such as mezze and tapas. Now I LOVE fingerfood but I am a little concerned to discover that our current passion for little nibbly bits is challeging the traditional table setting of knife, fork and spoon. Apparently only just three per cent of those surveyed admit to using a full set of cutlery for breakfast. Ian Jarmarkier, the head of Sainsbury's Food and Innovation Centre, says this is a fascinating insight into how we eat now. 'It shows that the way that we eat food is evolving to match our changing, busy lifestyles. Although convenience eating these days by no means implies a trade-down in nutritional quality.' Yes but ahhhhhhh...... I did so love a good fork on the table!

ORTHOREXIA: An Obsession with Healthy Eating

In the wake of all of this publicity about what we should and shouldn't eat, here’s an eating disorder that might not look so bad at first glance. People who fuel their bodies with only organic foods and meticulously count calories, and are obsessed with exercise are now being called ORTHOREXICS. Some doctors are saying Orthorexia CAN become dangerous “when food becomes a source not just of nutrition, but of virtue or self-worth, when eating ‘bad’ food implies that one is a bad person, and when the diet becomes a source of either self-esteem or, conversely, guilt and self-loathing So if you are doing all of that you are officially Orthorexic!

Symptoms of the disorder:

You spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food.

You plan your day’s menu more than 24 hours ahead of time.

You take more pleasure from the “virtuous” aspect of your food than from actually eating it. You Are increasingly rigid and self-critical about your eating.

You base your self-esteem on eating “healthy” foods, and have a lower opinion of people who do not.

You eat healthily to the avoidance of all those foods that you’ve always enjoyed.

You so limit what you can eat that you can dine “correctly” only at home, spending less and less time with friends and family.

You derive a sense of self-control from eating “properly.”

Finally a name for those irritatingly disciplined people who meet you for a drink and will only order a mineral water and refuse to eat anything from the cheese board! Not something I need ever worry about then.

Research, Research, Research

Earlier this week the British public were rudely awakened to horrifying news from the World Cancer Research Fund saying that they now have enough evidence to strongly recommend that all processed meats whether they have been smoked, cured, salted or preserved with chemicals be banished from our diets FOREVER! No more bacon butties, no more ham ‘n’ eggs, sausage and mash a thing of the past? Their report has taken 5 years to compile and says processed meats are a convincing cause of colorectal cancer. What’s worse there is no level of intake that can "confidently" be shown not to raise the cancer risk. Processed meats are also thought to bring about an increased risk of cancers of the oesophagus, lung, stomach and prostate. The World Cancer Research Fund says in its headline summary: "Evidence shows that salt and salt-preserved foods probably cause stomach cancer." Meanwhile of course the meat industry tells us it’s all a load of bull (Ha!) and being blown way out of proportion. Just days later the results of a study at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough inform us that although we have been told for years, decades in fact, that salt can cause strokes and heart attacks, they have found “no conclusive proof that eating less salt will be of any benefit to us". Now I don’t know about you but I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all of this bloody research. In the past few months we’ve discovered that eating grapefruit can increase the risk of developing breast cancer, having more than a glass of wine a day can contribute to oral cancer, even orange juice has taken a bashing. Then there’s processed baby food, bbq’d meat, bottled water, celery, they’ve all been hit by the food police of late and the list is becoming endless. I’ts getting to the stage where it’s becoming impossible to fill the shopping trolley! Meanwhile yet another study tells us that our life expectancy continues to increase by several years a decade, DESPITE our decadent eating habits. Surely we all realise by now that the key to a healthy life is good nutrition & regular exercise? Don’t tell me the occasional bacon, lettuce and tomato sarni is going to be the end of the world as we know it? Could this all be a part of the British Governments supposed plan to turn their country completely vegetarian?

Meanwhile, as the British frazzled their brains over the prospect of their beloved bacon and sausages being banned from their breakfast tables yet MORE exciting news from a different set of scientists, the perfect excuse for heading to the pub after work and something that will probably cause a national holiday in Australia. The LATEST research has shown that a glass of BEER is far better at rehydrating the body after exercise than water. Researchers suspect that the sugars, salts and bubbles in a pint may help people absorb fluids more quickly. This amazing bit of news was discovered at Granada University here in Spain. So there WILL be life after bacon after all?