Change is around the corner

I can tell by the way I've been binge cleaning. It is always always a portent. Brighid and I scrubbed the corners of the kitchen floor, with a steelo pad and some baking soda no less. Then we swept and swept and swept the entire kitchen floor and then I washed and then I got cloths out and dried it by hand (it is a small kitchen) so I could get back in there and carry on transforming. I cleaned the shelf of supposedly just tea bags and eggs and the old fashioned scales which hold the eggs (but actually the groaning holder of many recipe books, too old lemons and bananas, school notices, empty bread bags and Inland Revenue mail). I cleaned the top and surrounds of the old chippie fire which hosts the jug, the Kenwood mixer and the sugar jar. I cleaned the top of the stove and the wall around it and even the door of the oven. I cleaned the top of the dishwasher and the surrounds of the slow cooker and the wall around that as well.

Then I made sushi. Welcome, spring.

When I first learnt to make sushi, I used a premixed liquid to add to the rice and then later a sushi vinegar plus salt and sugar. Tonight I ditched the sushi vinegar for the apple cider vinegar, which is definitely the new black in my life. The sushi tasted very nice and this time, all FOUR of us ate and enjoyed it.

Last week I cooked oxtail in the slow cooker. My first time cooking ox-tail and I hiffed it in there with carrots, celery, onion and water, from memory. I lifted the oxtail out at the end of the day and served it with vegetables for dinner (very nice I thought, I'll be repeating the process), then strained the remaining stock and stored it in the fridge. Until last night when Favourite Handyman and Fionn used it to cook the pumpkin in for pumpkin soup. FH added the herbs (sage, marjoram, lemon thyme + ginger and garlic) at the end and then whizzed it up with the best invention ever, the Braun whizzy stick and we had truly delicious, nutritious, pumpkin soup for dinner.

Pah to some of the other nights. Which did include fish and chips from the chippie and Indian from the Indian shop. No doubt there was some virtue somewhere, principally from the fact of us not starving. Then yesterday (Saturday) lunchtime we had fish and chips AGAIN because who can say no to the request of a boy who played superbly and with the rest of his rugby league team MADE IT TO THE FINALS!

I've thought about a food quite a ridiculous amount. Mostly to do with the world of nourishing traditions and a comparison with the macrobiotics world and also with thoughts relating to Paul Campos' Obesity Myth for good or bad measure. A smattering of my thoughts, rather half baked, I will confess in advance:

1. There are some very active blogs on the nourishing traditions theme. As I was skimming a couple the other day, noticing the online courses I could sign up for (but will not), I remembered Susan Faludi. Susan Faludi wrote Backlash, c.1990.

I read Backlash from cover to cover and thought I was in university heaven when she spoke on campus at Canterbury, I think in 1991. A very sharp journalist, she detailed the cases of many right wing women who were campaigning for naughty career women to leave their jobs and get back home where they belonged with their kids and the kitchen. Only Faludi kept finding these women out on campaign with their children in child care and their husbands doing the cooking and housecare. I loved Susan Faludi and wish I still had my copy of Backlash.

I couldn't help wondering if some of these women (they are all female in my experience to date) ever have to grab some takeaways (or takeout as the big bloggers on this are all American so far) instead of NT-style food as they are too busy with the commercial and internet arm of their passion to actually cook?

I would like them even more if they did, to be honest. But then I am an impure girl, from the baptismal font to the messy house of motherhood.

2. Paul Campos talks about the increased health risks not to heavy people, but to heavy people who lose weight. Given the prevalence of yo-yo dieting, this isn't particularly surprising as many people must starve themselves of nutrients when they diet. But I thought he paid absolutely no attention to the nutritional aspects to heaviness. I've been reading about under active thyroids and weight gain and I've been doing something about it and I feel much better, and lighter. I am sure that when I was oddly and without a doubt excessively hungry and thus eating enough for 2.5 persons despite not being pregnant, my body was craving nutrients. Given that I was eating quite well, nutrient absorption seemed to be the missing factor. No doubt I have a billion more things to learn about this.

3. Isa Ritchie wrote this on an earlier blog post of mine:

From a theoretical perspective (or at least the one I'm using), Nourishing
Traditions and the WAPF provide a kind of food praxis - see Paulo Freire's work
on educational praxis (Cuban literacy campaign) - combining theory and practice
in a politicising way - encouraging criticism of the dominant paradigm and
offering an alternative that's based on something many people can relate to: the
gastronomy of our ancestors.
I am very happy to be combining my food obsession (which is getting unhealthy, not so much thinking about food but now thinking about thinking about food) with one of my favourite thinkers, the great Paulo Freire, who was my guru when I was at teachers' college studying with John Gourley and whom I still think about now, though not enough. Indeed tonight at the dinner table, which was unsuitably rumbunctious in my opinion, I wondered what the dinner table was like for Paulo Freire and his family (I just checked wikipedia and he did have five kids). It's all very well encouraging subversion amongst the masses in the classroom or the workplace, but at the table at home... well the other point is that I'd not been encouraging it at all.

So, NT cooks challenging the industrial paradigm by direct action... I can see that, though I contend that the vegan macrobiotics (not all macrobiotics seem to be pure vegans, though veganism seems to be upheld as a high point to aim for) are also using knowledge and food choices to create direct action and make political points and the campaigns to liberate sows from crates and chooks from battery cages are and have been important battles.

4. Malcolm Kendrick, in his book The Great Cholesterol Con, notes the lower heart disease mortality in Japan compared to most others places. He also convincingly puts forward his hypothesis that cholesterol has nothing causative to do with heart disease but that stress and social dislocation has a lot to do with heart disease. Only I wondered about that Japanese data when I read in the Guardian Weekly recently about the shocking suicide figures for Japan, about 30 000 per year. Maybe they don't wait to have a heart attack when they are stressed, but kill themselves first? Which doesn't seem so very reflective of a healthy society to me.


I really think it is time I thought about something else besides food. Though I wonder if it is a strategy to avoid thinking about other things when I am at home. I've taken on an extra hour at work (which means an extra 2-3 in reality) which I shall have to pluck out of thin air, or more accurately I shall have to pluck squeezy stretchy time for everything else out of thin air. The boy wants to know why he can't play a million trillion sports, or at the very least, rugby league, soccer, hockey, basketball, tennis, cricket, martial arts and swimming lessons and I say because we need to have time at home all together and he thinks I'm crazy. Which is true, that I'm crazy, but I'm right about family time, I'm sure of it.

When Fionn was a baby and I was working more paid hours than I am now, I was determined to do everything as though I was a stay at home hippy mother. I washed his nappies and packed them every night. I made home made food for all of his lunches and if I cheated it was at the expensive and very good quality Pots for Tots stall in Borough Market (we were in London then, not tiny little west coast wetville) and I then cooked up sweet potato and mixed it to make the bought stuff go further and put it in containers like it was home made food. I wonder if this current food thing is something similar, the way I madly convince myself that I am nurturing everyone enough despite this choice to go out to work. And there are two responses to that in my head: one is that food does matter and we are making such good progress improving family health and the second is that I have internalised the working-mother-is-bad thing Far. Too. Much.

I guess the fish and chips nights and the smoked chicken and salad and pita bread nights deal to the need for reality. The home made bread (I made some caraway rye on Friday) and slow cooked soups and stocks and casseroles and the kelp and vitamin C and beetroot juice and apple cider vinegar and various other potions deal to the nurturing need, both in a giving and a receiving sense.

My major concession to time poverty (and housework dread) has been paying C to clean our house for two hours each fortnight. More would be lovely but unaffordable. Less has proven in the past to be rather disastrous. Only C, who has been busy such that she has mostly cleaned once per month over winter for us, is now so busy she is unable to clean for us. God has callen her and one of our local op shops and food banks is very lucky to have her skills and energy. Not sure what to do next, but in the mean time my new dairy free energy has lead to more cleaning bouts.

I did a little gardening over the weekend. I added more sawdust to the poultry palace. Turns out the poor chooks are very frightened of the wheelbarrow. I weeded around part of the rose nursery and weeded the new home for one of the roses and then transplanted it. I planted out the soldier poppies to a place Fionn and I agreed on, against the house and beside the irises, where they will flower as they irises fade. We have one beautiful iris out now. In the chook grave garden we have both orange and yellow calendulas in flower, very bright amongst the flowering rocket and the alyssum. None of my seeds sown in the last month have either germinated or survived. I think the slugs and the blackbirds are just too hungry and I will have to raise seedlings in pots first. Tomorrow is sow-all-seeds day according to my lunar gardening calendar (the one in the Organics NZ magazine) so I hope to have some fun with my seed box then.

Change around the corner? I'll know some time. Soon. Time to do some clothes folding and slow reading.


cesca said…
I'm also thinking about food a lot, having this minute finished watching the doco "Food Inc". If you haven't already seen it, I recommend it!

I also remember Susan Faludi coming to Canterbury, although I can't for the life of me figure out why I didn't go and see her speak. I loved Backlash (still have my copy on the shelf, although I don't think I've read it since then!). I also LURVED Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth - my all time fave book while I was at uni.
Isa Ritchie said…
I love that you are thinking about what Freire and his family actually ate - My research hasn't taken me in that direction, but his ideas about praxis are great.

Speaking of Japan, The Cholesterol Myth mentions that it is shameful for a man to die from a heart attack in Japanese culture (I'm not sure how true this is) so the doctor is likely to write the cause of death as a stroke... could be an interesting factor in the low rates of heart attacks over there.

Thanks again for another fascinating post!
Hi Cesca. We're the exactly perzactly same generation, you and I. I remember Wolf's Beauty Myth as the other much referenced book in discussions with other women at university. Were you around when they had the women's week (or some similar name) with a series of talks which included one very good one by women from the Prostitutes' Collective and then another about celebrating menstruation with tampon art such as painting them with gold glitter? I didn't feel the love for the second session...

Hi Isa. I must confess that I didn't think about his food, only whether his children behaved at mealtimes. Much of my study of Freire focused on the ways in which he enabled people to protest and make change through the tool of literacy. With my own children treating the dining room as a circus stage, I was thinking a little more authoritarianism and a little less subversive creativity would be most excellent. But as food is status, what they ate (the middle class man who spent his life thinking about and empathising with the poor) would indeed be most interesting. I must look up and see if anyone has done a biography of him - I'm interested that his wives (no.s 1 & 2) were actively involved in education work as well.
cesca said…
Sandra - I do remember the prostitutes collective, I think. It's kind of hazy. I do remember going along to a few meetings of a group called "Women Against Pornography", which was kind of terrifying.

I also remember being too scared to go into the "Wimmin's Room" at uni... I was sure they'd take one look at my red lipstick, short skirts and fishnet stockings (I was a bit of a goth, clothes-wise) and drive me away with pitchforks.
Johanna said…
Ohhh, The Beauty Myth - yes! That was absolutely one of those paradigm shifting books for me, where the world somehow never looked quite the same again.

Backlash fascinating too, but I felt that I hadn't quite been exposed to the messages she was talking about in the same way I had been to those Naomi Wolf talked about, so it wasn't so life changing ... and maybe that change had already happened with The Beauty Myth anyhow.

Funny for me that you mention these books now though ... my teenage son has recently finished reading Backlash!!! I was so incredulous and impressed when he picked it up off the shelf for a look then got engrossed!

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