Wednesday, December 17, 2014

10 Rules of etiquette for dining with friends

 “There’s nothing more fulfilling, more than distracts ourselves from ourselves, than simple human company.” – Tristan Fidler

Friendship is explored in issue #10 of I am Still in Yesterday’s Clothes. A wonderful little zine that my friend Tristan Fidler has being putting together for the past six years. A theme is chosen for each issue (Parties, Music, Movies etc.) and contributions are sought from friends. So it seems fitting for the tenth and final issue to revolve around the theme of ‘Friendship’.

I read this zine all in the one go, once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I knew over half the people who had contributed, so it was lovely to read articles about friendship written by friends, and learn about what people do for friends, what makes a good friend, how one would want to kill their friends, the friendzone, all about BFFs and more!

Tristan ends his editorial piece in the zine with “Throughout the featured contributions, I trust something vibes with you about how you see yourself and others as friends”… and it reminded me, and made me think about what an awesome bunch of friends I have. The majority of my friends, people who I have know for many years have been a result of the Perth music scene - people who I met through going to local music gigs, attending the same parties, played in a band with or played on the same line up with and similar minded friends of friends etc. etc. Music has always been and still is my biggest connection with people. In recent years, I have made many new friends through a connection with food as a result of food blogging as the Blue Apocalypse, which has also lead me to plunge into some food related projects/events and connecting with many more awesome food people. 

Music + Food = Life + Friendships

But for me, it’s not about having the same music tastes (ie: you don’t have to listen to metal music) or food tastes (some of my best friends are vegetarians), but the reasons behind the choices made – the way you go about making decisions and the search…the search for something interesting or different, and sticking up for your choices even if they are unpopular.

I’ve never cared too much about the type of music someone likes because I think that what’s more important is why they like it. If you like something because everyone else likes it, it doesn’t really amount to much but if you like something because it has been an active choice, a consideration of factors and an elimination of alternatives. I can respect that, no matter what it is. The same goes for food.

Tell me a story behind your music and food choices, and I will listen with interest.

I contributed a piece to issue #10 of I am Still in Yesterday’s Clothes.
If I was going to write about friendships, it would have to revolve around food of course! 

So here are my 10 Rules of etiquette for dining with friends.

Do you agree/disagree? Let me know what you think :)

10 Rules of etiquette for dining with friends.

1. Respect all the food choices

These days you’re probably faced with friends that have a variety of dietary requirements – vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, nut free, paleo etc. and sometimes it can be hard to swallow “like you don’t eat what?!” But with friends, the food you like to eat should not be a deal breaker. 

2. Don’t preach

Further to the point above, friends should not preach and try converting others to their eating preferences. This does not make for good dinner conversations. 

3. Just eat it

Generally, the polite thing to do is wait for everyone else’s dishes to come out before you start eating your own, but you’re eating with friends not family. It is acceptable to tuck in first.

4. Sharing is caring

The only reason you eat out with friends rather than by yourself is so that you can order more dishes and try different things. Order to share when dining with friends and everyone benefits.

5. Company vs Food

So what’s more important when dining out? The company or the food? I say the company and if you have a bad food experience and your company doesn’t make up for it…well maybe it’s time to find some new friends.

6. Table Manners

Elbows on the table, using the wrong knife or fork is fine in the company of friends. Friends don't judge. But talking when your mouth is full resulting in food spraying across the table is gross. Draw the line at that shit.

7. Look out for each other

Friends look out for each other but telling each other when there is food stuck on their face or between their teeth.

8. Put your phone down

No calling, messaging, tweeting or facebooking on your phone while out with friends. 

There are people in front of you – tell them what’s on your mind!

If you take a photo - #latergram it.

9. Split the bill evenly

When dining out with a group of friends, the law for the bill is to split it evenly at all times, even if it results in your individual bill being one or more drinks over. This is the price paid for having friends.

10. Drinks

While pouring or buying yourself a drink, it is customary to top up everyone else’s glass or ask if they want a drink as well. 

Cheers to friends :)

You can get a copy of I am Still in Yesterday’s Clothes from Etsy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

TEDxPerth 2014 – Fruit “Seconds”

This year was the third annual TEDxPerth event. 

We moved to a new venue at the Perth Concert Hall, which was almost triple the capacity of last year with 1700, making TEDxPerth the second largest TEDx event in Australia, behind Sydney! I assumed my role as the Food Curator again making sure everyone was fed throughout the day – liaising with the in-house caterer to plan the menu, making sure all dietary requirements were met and working out the logistics for the day. This year I also spread my own idea by providing fruit “seconds” to attendees donated by Newton Orchards of Manjimup to highlight the issue of food waste.

TEDxPerth Fruit "Seconds" Station 

Every year local farmers are left with tonnes of fruit, rejected by supermarkets and consumers for their “substandard” appearance or size.

So TEDxPerth invited attendees to give a bit of love to fruit “seconds” - they don’t look perfect but they are perfectly edible and taste delicious!

It was great to see so many people come to the fruit “seconds” station and the 180kgs of apples and pears gone by the end of the day.

Can you pick out the imperfections?

Many asked what was wrong with the apples and pears as they thought they looked fine and it’s crazy to think any of the fruit would have gone to waste. But when examined more closely, the Pink Lady apples were a little bruised or didn’t grow pink enough this season due to warmer weather conditions and the Goldrush pears had blemishes caused by the pears branches brushing against the ripening fruit in the wind. These fruit were grown on the same orchard and under the same conditions as all other fruit, but due to no fault of their own, their slight imperfections lead to them being considered second rate and farmers having problems selling them. Much of it is given away to foodbanks and school canteens, processed into juice or even used as compost (?!), but a significant proportion goes to waste as there are costs attached to the deposing of fruit “seconds” and farmers just can’t afford it. 

It was interesting to observe people at the fruit “seconds” station naturally start to select the better looking fruit. It’s superficial to judge something by its appearance but it felt like an innate impulse which we are all guilty of. 

What you expect at supermarkets - row upon row of perfect apples.

We also heard stories from people who had worked at supermarkets and were told how they were advised to not put fruit that looked less than perfect on the shelves. Although it is easy to hate on Coles and Woolworths, supermarkets aren't the only ones to blame. Consumers are also equally to blame. Supermarkets respond to what consumers want to buy and people are more inclined to pick out the nice looking fruit so what happens to the rest of it? As a result, supermarkets can demand that farmers supply perfect looking fruit because that’s what sells.

But there have been initiatives in other places to combat and educate about food waste, for example, in France, the supermarket Intermarché stocks Inglorious Fruit and Vegetables in the produce section with a 30% discount. Harris Farm Markets in New South Wales recently started a similar campaign, selling a range of their Imperfect Picks for up to 50% cheaper than the more conventional looking fruit and vegetables. In Portugal, Isabel Soares started Fruita Feia, a cooperative that sources ugly fruit from local farmers and sells them to registered customers. Her story was presented at the recent MAD talks.

Wouldn’t it be great if supermarkets here put fruit “seconds” on their shelves as well their perfect counterparts? So consumers can be aware of the existence of fruit that comes in all shapes and sizes, imperfections and all, and have the choice of buying them if they wanted too and can enjoy fruit as nature intended. We are so often shield from the reality of our food that we undervalue it - with meat carefully portioned and packaged up so you wouldn’t know it actually came from an animal, and fruit and vegetables so pristine that kids growing up these days must think that all carrots/cucumbers are perfectly straight and apples are so shiny you can see your reflection in it! It’s not right or sustainable.

[Update 4.12.14 - so I published this post yesterday and a day later Woolworths announce that they are starting an Odd Bunch campaign - selling ugly fruits and vegetables at discount prices in their stores. Change is happening. Please embrace it!]

People would ask us what we were going to do about fruit waste? 

Well... TEDxPerth is a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers and we spend months planning the TEDxPerth annual events united by the belief that sharing great ideas can challenge our views and attitudes to create change. What I hope people will take away from their experience at TEDxPerth is to think about their purchasing decisions more carefully and the way they view fruit - it doesn’t all look the same, it doesn’t all look perfect (so stop picking out all the perfect ones all the time!), and maybe our actions can drive the change in what supermarkets will stock and we can all contribute in some way to reducing food waste.

It has always been, and still is, up to the consumer to put their money where their mouth is.

Farmers markets are places where you can access more variations of fruit but if you are shopping at the supermarket or green grocer – ask questions! Where does their fruit come from? What happens to the fruit waste? Let them know you’d be happy to buy imperfect fruit!

(Special thanks to Niamh who spent the day manning the fruit “seconds” station with me during the breaks, we made an effort to talk to everyone to engage them in a conversation about fruit waste.)

Someone said to me that I seemed really passionate about this issue and I told them it was something that has developed over time.... because when I started getting into cooking, I started to care about what goes into my body, so I like to cook from scratch to reduce the amount of processed food I eat as I only want the good stuff! When you care about the food that goes into your body, you start to build a relationship with it. You want to know more about where it comes from, what it's made of, you learn about and connect with the people who produce your food. 

People who work in the food industry are some of the hardest workers I know and the fruits of their labour should never go to waste.