Monday, November 22, 2010

Sourdough crumpets, feijoa vinegar and pondering on the middle class?

In this post-industrialised society dominated by service sector jobs, bizarre corporate structures and so many occupations that didn't exist a decade ago, immersed in the information overload of the internet and other media... (yeah, you can probably tell my brain is still frazzled!)... So at the Women's Studies Association conference, on Sunday, when a woman asked me (well, actually commented, rather than asking a question, and I can't really remember what else she said) about 'middle class' - saying she didn't really like the term, I had to think (a dangerous thing for my brain at the moment)... So I've questioned this class thing before, we're no longer in a Marxist bourgeois/proletariat system - we've had the post WWII rise of the middle class and consumerism and many, many household appliances to go along with it.  We still have huge issues with poverty - globally and locally and there are a small group of people with most of the world's wealth (so we've been told over and over again)... there are still a large number of people in 'developed' nations who have a little luxury, but not a lot.  So despite the complex and varied social stratification, I'm going to keep using this term - to paraphrase Johanna's comment a while back: you do have to be middle class to have the luxury to lead the lives that we're blogging about.

The conference presentation went really well - I got positive feedback - and I'm greatly indebted to my food bloggers (as I've started calling you), particularly Johanna and Sandra, who's quotes I used a lot in the presentation.  I wish there was a way to attach the power point.  It was basically a facilitated blog discussion of middle class women's role in the Nourishing Food Movement (entitled: Back to the kitchen).  I'm very grateful to everyone who contributed to the discussion(s) on the blog(s) which will also be in my thesis.  It was interesting that the process of submitting my abstract, receiving critical feedback and blogging about it generated so much discussion that my research and the conference paper were steered in that direction!

So... Feijoa vinegar...

A while back I was making those tasty tasty feijoa drinks and I mentioned attempting vinegar.  At the moment (after leaving feijoas and water in a bucket for months and months and then draining the liquid off) it looks like this:

It tastes quite nice - for a vinegar, a little like apple cider.  I'm going to let it sit until the sediment separates again and then put it in little bottles for xmas presents - I also want to make drunken cherries, chocolate truffles and lip balms - provided I can get this thesis out of the way by then!

Recently, we had a tea party and I made sourdough crumpets - using this recipe from Zucchini and Chocolate.  They came our beautifully (I used the rings from agee jars as crumpet rings) and were absolutely delicious, spread with mascarpone and berry conserve.

I was amazed that crumpets - those things that come in a plastic packet from the supermarket - with the interesting texture - can be made so easily at home - and with sourdough!!! I'm in love with this recipe and I may even be bothered to make it again soon.

I'm presenting the same (or very similar) conference paper at the Women in Psychology conference in Nelson early December - and will be in Wellington from the 5th to the 9th - if anyone wants to catch up

Aroha nui!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Culinary contradictions, internal conflicts, social ties and the soap box

Right now on my kitchen bench I have a jar with an inch of water and a bouquet of fresh asparagus from the farmers market. I have a loaf of my own sourdough bread, baked this morning, a coffee plunger containing freshly picked herbs from my garden; lemon balm, rosemary and comfrey, ready to be made into tea, I have the large sealable glass jars I used to use to collect raw milk in, now filled with culturing water kefir and kombucha, and next to them, looking rather embarrassed, is half a steak and mushroom pie and paper bag of fries from the bakery – which have been deep-fried in cottonseed oil and seasoned with chicken salt which likely contains MSG.  This is left over from my breakfast, and I feel abashed.  I can hardly think straight at the moment, let alone cook, and while my intentions with food are often good, sometimes the low blood sugar and lack of appetite from stress combine in truly evil ways that allow me to seek out and consume the disgusting, deliberately tasty, fast foods that I’m supposedly opposed to.  
My sourdough bread

I feel a lot better when I’m eating real, fresh, whole foods but it seems to be at odds with the society that I live in.  Going to family functions can become difficult when I’m morally opposed to the food being served – supermarket rotisserie chickens or hollandaise sauce from the packet (main ingredient: canola oil) I feel like a fussy child when I request butter instead of margarine.  Throughout the process of my research into food I have eaten better and worse food, alternately.  The more I know about food the more difficult simple tasks like shopping and eating out become, because of my concerns for my individual health and also wider moral concerns.  I read the labels on packets fanatically and struggle over the knowledge that most eggs served in restaurants and cafes are from caged hens.  Food has become something of a religion to me.  My sins are, in part, due to stress, busyness, laziness and the budget constraints of being a student.  Although, if I did have more time and energy I am sure I could eat much better despite my limited income.  This brings us back to that slightly uncomfortable class issue.  
My water kefir

The Weston A. Price Foundation is largely a middle class, female dominated, movement; borrowing wisdom from our global, pre-industrial ancestors and implementing it in the modern kitchen.  For this reason it is important to emphasise the role of middle class women, who may be educated and have free time, in creating social change.  Although some foods recommended by the WAPF, for example, pasture fed meats in the United States[1], are known to be very expensive, overall, the principles of the WAPF are dynamic and there are many cost-effective options which could be applied by people of varying socioeconomic status.  The individualism of modern, Western, culture means that meals are often the sole responsibility of one person to prepare on one or two incomes, whereas various communal arrangements can be more cost effective, enjoyable and require less individual time and effort.  Other factors such as knowledge, access to local farms and the space to grow vegetables can also be important in determining the quality of food.  These can be linked to socioeconomic status but can be more flexible than equations of income.  Modern society is designed to reinforce the dominant corporate industries and we are encouraged to spend much of our time working in order to feed our income back into processed foods and other consumables rather than having the satisfaction of growing and making things ourselves.  I feel it is important to emphasise that these problems are social problems and cannot merely be reduced to the level of the individual although the purchasing patterns of ‘consumers’ can have an effect. 

[1] We are fortunate, in New Zealand, that it is still more cost-effective to raise beef on pasture because we are devoid of large-scale, government subsidised, corn.