I am off to the convent.

Now before you start with the alarm bells… I have not had an epiphany and no I am not becoming a nun. As fetching as the nuns habit looks and given the multitude of sins it might hide, I just don’t think I could carry it off.  One must be willing to pledge one’s troth to god, and quite frankly, the only pledging I  am willing to make is that I pledge to remain an atheist, I pledge not to try and ruin other people’s lives with my outmoded ideas (i.e.- religion) and I pledge my soul to hedonism until I fall of this mortal coil and am no longer.

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However, Bursaria – a Melbourne based event and catering company, run a lovely space at the Abbotsford Convent – home to slow food, an arts and culture precinct, restaurants, health and wellbeing  and other noble pursuits. The convent was in danger of becoming apartments and the Abbotsford Convent Foundation have fought jolly hard to stop that happening and preserved the space that has been the home of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd for many years.

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Lunch was to be a simple, 2 course affair, showcasing the talents of Studley Park Wines, located just 500m from the convent.  I was blindly unaware the wine was being made just 4km from the Melbourne GPO and made as well as it is.  The rose served pre luncheon and through out lunch, was terrific. They also served a cabernet (a tad too on the juvenile/acidic side of the scale for my taste) and a bright young chardonnay. I was very pleasantly surprised.

There were speeches from Allan Snaith, the man, who with his wife Lizette, are the people behind Warialda Belted Galloway Beef  and a fine job they are doing producing incredible steers for slaughter, and the owner of Studley Park Wines, Andrew Clarke who gave us some history of the wines he produces.  The area on which he grows the vines (before the wines are masterfully crafted by Llew Knight of Granite Hills), has been an agricultural site in the Kew region for over 100 years, and is a flood plain on the shore of the Yarra River. We also heard from Maggie McGuire, CEO of the Abbotsford Convent and Alison Peake of Slow Food Melbourne.

We gathered on a beautiful sunny Melbourne lunchtime in the courtyard of Rosina Room – it once housed older women penitents who had been placed with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd by the courts. Its appropriate that a horde of hedonists arrived to sully it up on a Sunday. A glass of the aforementioned rose and some canapes became the order of the day.

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The room was beautifully put together for our arrival, and we were seated at tables overflowing with herbs, a selection of house baked breads and other interesting pots of things.  A sizeable chunk of waiting gave us plenty of time to mingle and mosey with those others on the table and catch up on some goss with buddies – regaling tales of what has been a busy start to the 2013 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

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Mr and Mrs Snaith’s Warialda Belted Galloway slow braise arrived with some semolina polenta and some greens.  Simple Sunday fare clearly the order of the day.

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A  vanilla and rose panna cotta followed, with some pomegranate syrup, pistachio and biscotti – as rich as one would hope for and a pleasant dessert.. I waddled out of this event I think!

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A quick wander around the gardens at the Abbotsford Convent is a must on any sunny Melbourne day and that’s exactly what a fellow luncher and myself chose to do – basically the long route back to the car, revealing beautiful buildings and stunning gardens.  One can only be pleased that the apartments idea simply never eventuated.  The Bursaria team were able hosts and popped together the perfect nosh for Sunday lunch, showcasing some local producers and introducing a new audience to the wonders of the convent – more to the point, how they can be interacted with on an almost daily basis.

Now, time for a lie down before I get up again to eat!

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The end of the world as we know it!

I am worried about the end of the world. Now, I don’t want to be alarmist but there are some pressing concerns about the big Mayan bang or flood that is supposed to arrive next week and I hope you might help me with them.
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Firstly, I have no idea what to wear.  Lets assume that whenever I do step off this mortal coil, that I need to be dressed for warmer weather – ie the fires of Hell. (Heaven doesn’t want me and hell should be scared I will take over).  Dressing for the warmth is good, like packing to go to Bali without the Bintang singlets and rip off Birkenstocks. But for the end of the world?  I think there should be a touch of glamour maybe, or a 3/4 pant with a light knit, like one wears in Noorsha for a temperate evening out. I am most concerned that I will be either under or over dressed.  I just don’t know what to wear.

And what about the festive holiday season? Those pesky Mayans and their whole end of world thing could have been delayed until after the fat man in the red suit had come down the chimney. I mean, all those horrible hours spent running around a Westfield looking for the perfect gifts for people, only to have them ruined.  I would hate for all those very thoughtful vouchers to just melt away in the apocalypse, not to mention all of the hand crocheted  coat hangers I made for the relatives. It sounds like we should hold off for the post apocalypse sales perhaps, as we might get 50% off or something.

Then, of course, there is the more pressing issue of what to do with the very large bill pile?  Do I leave the bills and risk having the power cut off if the big flood/bang/thingamajig doesn’t happen or some ancient Mayan person might have been a bit shickered at the time on cactus juice and cocked up the date for the end of the world?

 

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Or do I be a dutiful man, pay the bills and hope that when the world does end, I can get a refund if I have overpaid.

These dilemmas are causing me concern and I am not sure what to do.

Who is catering for the end of the world event?  Can I give them my dietary requirements? What if they are serving something that we are allergic to? Maybe they wont have a wine that I will like?  Its just all too difficult to ponder.  I have the car booked in for a service in January and some dinner reservations at a fancy restaurant.  What will happen if I don’t show up or if we miss out on a table because the interwebby thing went down at the end of the world and we lost our reservation.

There are so many things to be alarmed about that I just might have to go have a lie down – just make sure I am awake for the 21st so I don’t miss out, and can throw on something nice.

the ethics of food

Food makes philosophers of us all. Death does the same . . . but death comes only once . . . and choices about food come many times each day.

We make choices every time we make a purchase in a café, a restaurant or, god forbid, at the supermarket. How much are we informed about these choices or indeed how many of us think about the choices we make and the impact these choices have.

The ethics of genetically modified food is among the most pressing societal questions of our time and encompasses a broad range of subjects, including the meaning of food, moral analyses of vegetarianism and starvation, the safety and environmental risks of genetically modified food, issues of global food politics and the food industry, and the relationships among food, evolution, and human history.

There are questions that have to be asked! Will genetically modified food feed the poor or destroy the environment? Is it a threat to our health? Is the assumed healthfulness of organic food a myth or a reality?

The only way to find the answers to these questions is research and a personal analysis of the arguments on either side.  It’s a tough question to ask whether we should genetically modify food to feed the worlds poor, and if we do, at what risk to those who will rely on it, or the effect it will have on the earth.

There are countless arguments on either side but all genetically modified foods intended for sale in Australia and New Zealand must undergo a safety evaluation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).  FSANZ will not approve a GM food unless it is safe to eat.

People have been manipulating the genetic make-up of plants and animals for countless generations using traditional cross breeding. This involves selecting plants and animals with the most desirable characteristics (e.g. disease resistance, high yield, good meat quality) for breeding the next generation. These desirable characteristics arose from naturally occurring variations in the genetic composition of individual plants or animals. But is the same as selecting cells to manipulate the ability of the organism to grow quicker or more robustly.

Questions have to be asked not just about GM foods but all foods we buy.  Don’t be scared to ask your supplier about where the food you buy comes from, how it is grown and why they have chosen to sell it.

It is only after asking questions that we can truly understand what it is we eat.