Finals time. All in the eye of the beer-holder.

Monday, September 26th, 2016 at 9:10 am

Footy finals time – so much energy directed into fewer and fewer teams until there becomes such a burning hot focus on two groups of young men, so supremely blessed with foot skills and enviable strength through the hips, that Melbourne seems absolutely fit to burst. And then suddenly, it’s all over and the strong hipped young men fly off to all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffets in Las Vegas and Lembongan and there’s this sort of pause. And for just a fleeting melancholy moment, for a briefly opened dirty dressing room window in time, this subtle shift in the sporting breeze occurs and people collectively wonder, “Football– what’s it all about?”

And while most people are experiencing this time of year through the pragmatic prism of points for and against, there are still others who look at September through the lens of the great food continuum. Where on grand final day some see a team running through a cheer squad banner, others view it “Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe” style as the great transition from the season of slow cooked stews to the season of summer snacks. Where we mystically morph from the brown rice and rutabaga hotpot to the bag of corn chips and hand-hewn hummus. Where the irresistible timing and form of asparagus seems seasonally inspired; so impossibly perfect for grilling, dousing in salt & balsamic vinegar and devouring with fingers that it begs the question – maybe there is a God?

So whoever you barrack for, whatever your favourite finals finger food is and whether you look at the MCG as hallowed ground or the perfect spot for a community food forest – have a great week.

Check the weekly specials and recipes here

Recycling the world as the sun comes up.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016 at 12:46 pm

The question has been posed, what does breakfast have in common with the general concept of recycling? Gee well there’s a few directions you could take that. There’s the path that leads to thinking about breakfast as the first meal of the day, beginning again the metabolic processes of food digestion, internal composting, and finally of course, expulsion. Or with less of the ‘humanure’ thinking, perhaps you like to take the kitchen food scraps out to the worm farm first thing in the morning and start the day by checking on the thousand little miracles in there, quietly recycling the world. The ecology of our own microbiome and the compost pile surely aren’t that different and both need tending.

A lot of folks will maintain a newspaper and coffee habit in the early hours of the day (shredded newspaper and spent coffee grinds or tea are all great in the compost by the way), or carve out some sort of quiet time of reflection and mental calm before the tasks roll in. A kind of sorting and recycling of the thoughts and emotions and ideas that all jostle to be attended to when given a moment to be heard. Perhaps by breakfast time at your place there’s already a lounge room full of cardboard cubbies, intergalactic space stations or a wildly messy stage for epic robot battles made from your collection of Fair Food veggie boxes. Which is great, though we do like getting them back so we can reuse them a few more times before they themselves hit the recycling centre. (Just flat-pack your used Fair Food box and leave it out at your Food Host or in the spot where your order is dropped off so our drivers can collect it).

I guess even the breakfast kedgeree recipe at the top of this newsletter is a recycling of sorts – possibly of left overs but also traditions, an example of what happens when the food cultures of different peoples and places are combined together through global circumstance, as is so much of what we eat every day. Anyway now I’m not sure why we even posed the question in the first place, but some morning musings on keeping the cycles alive can’t be a bad thing when a brand new day is there for the taking.

Weekly specials and recipes … 

SMOKEY CORN AND THE PLANETARY PUSH NOTIFICATION

Thursday, April 14th, 2016 at 12:08 pm

I noticed there’s a cleaning theme going on with some of the products on special this week. I don’t know where it comes from but lately I feel like there’s something of a simplify, declutter, clean-up thing going on in our collective consciousness . With all the KonMari-ing, digital detox and “Go without months” are we reaching peak stuff, peak like and peak shopping? Or perhaps, with our oceans full of plastic and the atmosphere CO2, is our planet filtering biofeedback into our zeitgeist telling us to embrace simplicity, to downsize, defriend and disconnect? Have you been having a powerful urge to throw away your smartphone, your Ipad and all but three changes of clothing recently? Maybe the world’s immune system is talking to us. Maybe after all the failed Rios, Kyotos, Copenhagens and Parises the earth is resorting to a kind of direct mail approach. I don’t know what’s going on and whether any of this is actually a thing, whatever it is I’m pretty sure probiotic floor cleaner, Epsom salts and toilet paper are just another tiny clue to it all.

PS – From next week recipe/specials newsletter will be shifting to Saturday delivery.

More specials and recipes … 

ONE TREE TO DO IT ALL

Friday, April 8th, 2016 at 4:24 pm

If you’ve ever wandered around a Balinese village you may have seen coconut trees with numbers painted on the trunks. Each year a ballot is held with the numbers allocated to households conferring the right to harvest from those trees. The ballot ensures everybody has a fair go at the most productive, the closest, the easiest to climb or the best ones to tie your hammock between. This may all sound a bit folksy, on the contrary, in many cultures coconuts are an important natural resource.

In Sanskrit they call the coconut kalpa vriksha or “the tree which provides all the necessities of life” (probably why we just call it the coconut). And if, on your Bali holiday, you happened to be marooned with only coconut palms for company, your opinion of this humble tree may change. For starters you could – drink the coconut water or use it for an emergency blood transfusion, eat the flesh or dry it for later. You could make coconut milk, cream, sugar or oil for cooking, cleaning, skin and hair care or start a massage business for day-tripping tourists. From the coconut shell you could make buttons, cups, bowls, serving spoons, rustic jewellery, horsey sound effects or a novelty bikini top. From the husks you’d get rope, fishing lines, potting mix, caulking for boats and pillow stuffing. While the fronds could be woven into roofing, baskets, mats and make a number of hat styles including a very serviceable fez. And finally with the wood you could build bridges, houses, furniture and knock up some attractive coasters in time for a happy hour Malibu cocktail. I mean why would you even bother getting rescued?

More specials and recipes … 

THINGS TO DO WITH SOYBEANS ON A RAINY WEEKEND

Thursday, March 31st, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Soy is an incredibly versatile bean; not only is it a protein alternative to milk and meat it’s found in newpaper inks, wood stains, paintball projectiles, caulking, insulation, foam, fuel, candles and crayons – apparently one acre of soybeans can make 82,368 crayons.

In 1941 car-maker Henry Ford thought soybeans were the future; he had his engineers develop a soybean and hemp car as a hedge against an expected steel shortage caused by World War II. Made with the help of famous scientist and inventor of peanut butter, George Washington Carver, Ford promoted the project by proclaiming he could “grow cars out of the ground”. Suspected by critics of being hype help together by fibreglass, the project languished with petrol rationing and then at the end of the war slipped into obscurity never to be heard from again. There’s a thriller in there I tell you.

Specials and recipes … 

ITALIAN DOLCE VITA

Thursday, March 24th, 2016 at 3:58 pm

One Christmas holidays on my grandparent’s farm, in a big rolling 10 acre paddock we helped make hay. Me, my brother, my sisters and our cousins would run ahead of my grandpa’s baler pushing the loose hay back in line. Sometimes three of us little kids together would drag a bale to the farm truck for my uncles to stack up. At the end of the day up the top of a full hay shed we shared a flagon of lemon cordial, while down below the adults drank beer from longnecks. Our aunty would yell up at us to come down and eat her cold roast lamb, potato salad and coleslaw. And now I think about it on those days we were never closer, never more together, never more purposeful, never more of a family.

Next month we’re Crowdsaucing, not raising money collectively for a good cause but making tomato passata across Melbourne with friends, family and neighbours. For the occasion farmer Nathan Free is growing five tonnes of romas up at his place in Lake Boga. It’s a day that’s about more than putting aside a supply of pasta sauce, it’s a day to do something special together. Because for every bottle of sauce we make – we’re helping a farmer stay on the land. And for every child who helps, every friend, every parent, every aunty, every grandparent, every neighbour, who shares their kitchen, their knowledge, their labour, their love – we make life long memories and with those memories we help build a community of people who care for each other, a community of people who do things together, a community of people who belong together. Crowdsaucing Day is Saturday April 30th.

More recipes and this week’s webstore specials… 

Making friends can really shake your life up. Care for your box, care for the world.

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016 at 4:08 pm

When I started researching coffee I heard a lot of talk about cupping. It sounded mysterious; I first imagined cupping was similar to the Chinese medicine practice but with hot latte glasses suctioned to the taster’s body containing different coffee beans and then by a process of infusion he or she came up with a score for each batch.  On closer examination it’s a little more mundane and turns out to be a very uniform protocol roasters use to rate coffee with.

Australian Army peacekeepers Shannon French and Tom Potter (that’s them above) were equally in the dark about cupping when they brought 600kgs of their farmer friend’s green coffee beans back to Melbourne after their tour of duty in East Timor.  Leaving the green beans with a neighbour who worked for a large coffee company they went off to Africa to find work on anti-poaching projects.  They were in the Congo still looking for jobs when an email from their neighbour came; it read, ‘Forget Africa, you’re onto something, this coffee is really good. Come home now!’ The wild harvested Timorese coffee was consistently cupping at 81 or above, putting it in the much sought after Premium and Specialty ranges.

It was the Portuguese who first came to Timor in 1515 who planted coffee on the island.  During the 30 year Indonesian occupation the old coffee plantations were abandoned.  In the rainforestHibrido de Timor, a hybrid of arabica and robusta with a distinctive taste, crossed  while growing wild.  To make some extra money cash-strapped Timorese villagers began to wild harvest the beans.

In 2012 when Australian Army peacekeepers, Shannon French, Tom Mahon, Cameron Wheelehen, and Tom Potter were posted to the village of Belumhato to guard a mountain-top communication tower they had no idea the friends they would make would completely change their lives. First they met Jack, a young Timorese boy, through him they witnessed the extreme poverty of the Timorese.  Here, only 600 kilometres from Darwin, people were walking two hours to collect water, had no access to basic health care or formal education.

Jack’s family wild harvested coffee and the soldiers got curious about the trade. They discovered the farmers were selling their beans for almost nothing to middle men who were then shipping it off to China at a big profit. They wanted to help their friends but they also felt a legacy. The men were very aware of the debt they owed the Timorese people for helping Australian soldiers fight the Japanese in World War Two.

Coming from a wealthy country with an insatiable thirst for coffee the soldiers thought they’d bring some beans home and get a better price for their friends.  It seemed fairly simple but it took 3 months of red tape to get their first shipment home, then there was the roasting and selling into cafes around Melbourne.

At first it was all a bit ad hoc; but taking feedback from the roasters they learned how to harvest for better quality, they raised money to buy new processing equipment and most importantly they paid the farmers a premium price.

In 2014, after a successful Pozible campaign raised $35,000, Wild Timor opened their very own café in Coburg, featuring food cooked by Ana Saldanha, a Timorese woman who fled the country as a refugee in 1975.  A second café followed in Carlton in 2016.

As things developed and grew, life partners and local NGO’s were drawn in and a more formal program began to take shape.  There is Wild Water, a project that brings clean water to Belumahatu, another is finishing a maternal health clinic and another is building a pre-school.  Demand has grown and beans are being bought from farmers in neighbouring villages and so the change spreads.

One of the strengths of Wild Timor is their presence in East Timor; founder Tom Potter lives there, works with farmers, oversees projects and makes sure that what they started when they first made friends with Jack continues in the original spirit.  It’s a wonderful story and reminds me of that Margaret Mead saying, something along the lines of, the only way things get better is when friends get together to make the change.

You can buy Wild Timor Coffee (it’s roasted to order twice a week) here in the webshop

Read more … 

There’s coffee & there’s coffee & there’s coffee. Set box price rise.

Monday, March 21st, 2016 at 10:16 am

Alex and I have been searching for local coffee roasters who have a strong connection to coffee growers. This week we drank a lot of coffee and talked a lot about coffee and learned a bit about the coffee trade in East Timor. Bec and Nikki from Wild Timor Coffee and Linda fromWithOneBean came to the Fair Food warehouse to share their stories with us.  I’ve talked a bit about these two projects that were both recommended by Fair Food customers – we agree and think their work is spot on. The first thing that struck us was that all of Timor’s coffee is organic; coffee mostly grows wild and people can’t afford fertilisers or sprays.  The other thing is that although the scale of the trade in Timor is quite large, (it’s the country’s largest commodity export and provides an income for about a quarter of the Timorese population), at the village level most families only earn a couple of hundred dollars or so a year from coffee.

The bottom line is that East Timor is poor, really poor, so poor they a have a time each year called “the hungry months.” The closest most of us in Australia get to this is the time after lunch until we get home to see what’s in the fridge.  Both these projects work directly with their growers and return profits to their communities as well as implementing coffee training, processing, water supply, reafforestation and social projects.  We’re proud to be selling both coffees and look forward to talking more about them.

There’s also been a fortuitous connection with our food host in North Melbourne, The Auction Rooms.  Andrew Kelly who runs Auction Rooms’ roasting business Small Batch has been filling us in on their direct trade relationship with Didier Pajoy, an organic Columbian coffee grower.


When Andrew from Small Batch met Didier (that’s him on the left) he was so frustrated with the low prices he was considering getting out of coffee cultivation.  Andrew tried some of Didier’s coffee and offered him a premium for his beans on the spot. This is what Andrew writes about the way Didier farms;

Didier has massively embraced pretty much self-taught organic practices and has banded together a group of producers in the area, sharing knowledge and supporting each other’s organic endeavours. He makes a compost tea out of wood ash, milk, sugar cane pulp and soil bacteria from the highest part of the nearby landscape and applies it as a foliar spray which has had remarkable results as a prevention from the effects of the sometimes devastating disease effecting the caturra varietal – La Roya. He has supremely healthy plants also because instead of planting them at the highest density possible, he has spaced them out to allow each tree to get the nutrients from the soil it needs. 

Small Batch take a direct trade approach: they concentrate on buying high quality coffee produced sustainably and pay their growers twice the FairTrade rate and some higher still for the best beans.  Andrew’s belief is that the best way he can help small producers is by talking directly to them about cupping, sustainable coffee growing and part-paying up front so producers can grow better coffee and demand a better price.

You can now buy Wild Timor Coffee here and WithOneBean Coffee here.  We’re expecting to have some of Didier Pajoy’s coffee from Small Batch in our webshop in the next week or two.  And the other wonderful thing with our new coffees is they’ll be fresh roasted to order every week.

Read more … 

Fairtrade, Max Havelaar and life after Pink Bag. Last Step to Intestinal Heaven

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016 at 12:03 pm

Pink Bag is going and we need some help.  Pink Bag is Universal Village’s Fairtrade coffee beans which you might know better as Rhino Coffee – it’s packed in bright pink packaging, hence various expressions commonly heard at the Fair Food warehouse such as “Do you want a Pink Bag?” or “There’s a fresh pot of Pink Bag.”  Anyway, Universal Village is no longer making Pink Bag which has put us in a bit of a spin and in pretty bad need of some good Fairtrade organic coffee.

I’ve been on the Fairtrade coffee hunt so I got curious about what Fairtrade actually is because I always assumed Fairtrade was good because it’s called Fairtrade right?  And therefore, it must be.  Well I had a look around and it’s not as straightforward as that, in fact, Fairtrade is sort of a fascinating reflection of us all really; a study in light, dark and various shades of grey.

Read more … 

Shop News. Afternoon Tea Here Now

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 at 6:41 pm

This week we’re combining our range of hot beverages and recipes for afternoon tea treats with 70’s meditation master, Ram Dass’ mindfulness message – Be Here Now (and yes, okay it was also Oasis’ 3rd album). This is where the simple act of having a cup of tea or similar hot drink and maybe a biscuit or homemade slice aids in our next step towards enlightenment or just stills the maddening crowd for fifteen minutes. (The Photo is Liz’s cacao, cinnamon, chilli & nut milk hot chocolate – no recipe needed just let your senses guide you on this one). Read more …