Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Happy Little Vegemites

With Australia Day (or "Invasion Day", depending on your perspective) almost upon us there is some good news, with the iconic Australian spread Vegemite now back in Australian hands. Bega Cheese has announced it will acquire Vegemite from its US owner Mondelez International, meaning Vegemite will be back in Aussie hands for the first time in 90 years.

Derived from leftover brewer's yeast and pitch black in colour, Vegemite certainly takes some getting used to for those not lucky enough to start eating it from the age of nought. Personally, I love the stuff. It's comfort food when you're feeling a bit sad, hastens the departure of unwelcome hangovers (welcome to your 30s), and is perfect on toast on rainy afternoons.

My advice for those trying it for the first time? Toast, lots of butter, thinly spread and (a little like applying foundation) build up to what makes you feel most comfortable. I also love it with cheese on salty crackers, or on fresh bread with butter. My Dad likes his on fresh grainy bread, butter (a staple in our household), a generous smear of Vegemite and ... green apple. Strangely delicious.

Another important feature of Australia Day is, of course, the lamb lovers Australia Day ad. This year's ad has stirred up rather a lot of controversy. The ad doesn't mention 'Australia Day' (which I think is smart given recent pushes to change the date to a date that is more inclusive and that doesn't celebrate the European invasion of Indigenous Australians' lands), and indeed pokes fun at those who seek to prevent boat people permanently migrating to Australia - "hang on, aren't we all boat people?".

As the politics of everything becomes more heated and divisive, I think it's important that debate is sparked on a variety of platforms. While some may disagree that the Meat & Livestock Association have any say at all, I say we should embrace respectful, thought provoking discussion - from wherever it is generated.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Absolutely Beautiful Things - The Golden Globes

The Golden Globes kicked off awards season in an unsurprisingly political fashion. Following on from last year's Oscars "white wash" along with Trump's shock US election win, there was plenty of fodder to graze on - sexism, racism, elitism. It was all there. But there were other really fabulous moments apart from Ryan Gosling's love letter to wife Eva (#couplegoals #obviously) and Meryl Streep's wonderful anti-Trump speech. And that, of course, was the dresses... AND Evan Rachel Woods' suit (which I loved).

Big winners in the well-dressed category are below. But I think yellow and Versace were big winners on the night.

Blake Lively rocking her post-2nd baby body in Versace

Emma Stone radiant in Valentino - describing her dress to Ryan Seacrest when asked as pink with stars on it

Naomi Campbell in Versace

Naomie Harris in Armani

Pregnant with her 2nd Natalie Portman taking a cue from Jackie O in retro-inspired Prada

I love her in yellow! Reese Witherspoon in (you guessed it) Versace

Viola Davis in Michael Kors - responding to Ryan Seacrest's boneheaded
question of "what do you call this colour" she responded with refreshing simplicity: "yellow"
Bombshell goals: Emily Ratajkowski in Reem Acra

Friday, January 6, 2017

Food for Eating: All The Superfoods

I made this delightful salad during the week, and as I was assembling the ingredients realised that I had the who's who of Superfoods all in the one bowl: quinoa, kale, blueberries, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and avocado being the key food celebs. This recipe is fast, easy and I think most would have the staple ingredients at home already. This is great with smoky barbecued chicken, but please yourself I say. While I have never warmed to kale, I actually really enjoyed it in this, I think primarily because you remove the stems and chop the kale leaves into very manageable pieces. If like me you aren't a fan of kale, chop it a little finer - but not so much that you squash the leaves and get that horrible squidgy effect.

Who says you can't win friends with salad?

Kale, Quinoa and Blueberries Salad

Food for Thought: The Candy Diet

I love this thought-provoking piece from Seth Godin. It really ties in to some epic conversations I've had recently with some journalist friends of mine. See below and have a think...

The Candy Diet
The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury's Advise and Consent. Millions of people read this 690-page political novel. In 2016, the big sellers were coloring books.
Fifteen years ago, cable channels like TLC (the "L" stood for Learning), Bravo and the History Channel (the "History" stood for History) promised to add texture and information to the blighted TV landscape. Now these networks run shows about marrying people based on how well they kiss.
And of course, newspapers won Pulitzer prizes for telling us things we didn't want to hear. We've responded by not buying newspapers any more.
The decline of thoughtful media has been discussed for a century. This is not new. What is new: A fundamental shift not just in the profit-seeking gatekeepers, but in the culture as a whole.
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."*
[*Ironically, this isn't what Einstein actually said. It was this, "It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience." Alas, I've been seduced into believing that the shorter one now works better.]
Is it possible we've made things simpler than they ought to be, and established non-curiosity as the new standard?
We are certainly guilty of being active participants in a media landscape that breaks Einstein's simplicity law every day. And having gotten away with it so far, we're now considering removing the law from our memory.
The economics seem to be that the only way to make a living is to reach a lot of people and the only way to reach a lot of people is to race to the bottom, seek out quick clicks, make it easy to swallow, reinforce existing beliefs, keep it short, make it sort of fun, or prurient, or urgent, and most of all, dumb it down.
And that's the true danger of anti-intellectualism. While it's foolish to choose to be stupid, it's cultural suicide to decide that insights, theories and truth don't actually matter. If we don't care to learn more, we won't spend time or resources on knowledge.

We can survive if we eat candy for an entire day, but if we put the greenmarkets out of business along the way, all that's left is candy.
Give your kid a tablet, a game, and some chicken fingers for dinner. It's easier than talking to him.
Read the short articles, the ones with pictures, it's simpler than digging deep.
Clickbait works for a reason. Because people click on it.
The thing about clickbait, though, is that it exists to catch prey, not to inform them. It's bait, after all.
The good news: We don't need many people to demand more from the media before the media responds. The Beverly Hillbillies were a popular show, but that didn't stop Star Trek from having a shot at improving the culture.
The media has always bounced between pandering to make a buck and upping the intellectual ante of what they present. Now that this balance has been ceded to an algorithm, we're on the edge of a breakneck race to the bottom, with no brakes and no break in sight.

Vote with your clicks, with your sponsorship, with your bookstore dollars. Vote with your conversations, with your letters to the editor, by changing the channel...
Even if only a few people use precise words, employ thoughtful reasoning and ask difficult questions, it still forces those around them to catch up. It's easy to imagine a slippery slope down, but there's also the cultural ratchet, a positive function in which people race to learn more and understand more so they can keep up with those around them.
Turn the ratchet. We can lead our way back to curiosity, inquiry and discovery if we (just a few for now) measure the right things and refuse the easy option in favor of insisting on better.

Ice cream for breakfast? What are you feeding your mind?