Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tammi is now Tasting Terroir on WordPress

All good things... yep. And so although Blogger did what I needed for the first 3 1/2 years of this blog, it was time to up stakes and move. I need more functionality, a wider column ('cos I'm wordy, hey?) and increasingly, just for you lovelies to be able to see my blog on Chrome.

I'm still ironing out the kinks over there, but I reckon it looks pretty good. In fact, I toasted the new site with my first glass of alcohol in a week and a half last night with Stuart. Cork popped, blog launched. You'll find me now at


That's right, my domain is eponymous. Cool, eh?

To end this part of the adventure, I'd like to leave you with my recipe for lemon roasted almonds. :-) These are my standard afternoon blood sugar recovery plan.

Lemon Roasted Almonds (aka Zomigod Nuts)

Take a bunch of raw almonds, marinate them in plenty of lemon juice and salt for about half an hour. Pop them into a hot oven (around 220C) for about 10 minutes. Give them a stir, and pop them back in for about another 10. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn, but they're tastiest on the darker side. When they're completely dry, leave them to cool. If you don't eat them all up immediately (if there are family or friends around, this is a real possibility, even for a kilo of nuts), store them once they're cool in a sealed jar.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

How Joel Salatin Unknowingly Convinced Me to Become a Farmer

I spent the second half of my childhood living on a 2000 acre cattle ranch in Oregon. Before that, we were city slickers in Orange County, California (before anyone called it 'the OC'). In spite of this idyllic existence where my cowgirl dreams came true, I didn't learn much of the ways of the land, so to speak. We had a ranch-hand in charge of the cattle, and although my parents were deeply involved, we kids largely just went along for the lark of a good round-up. I was good on a horse and knew a lot about their care, as well as the castrating and vaccination routines of pasture-fed cattle, but I couldn't have told you a thing about growing fruit or vegetables, and chickens were a total mystery.

Three years after high school, I found myself on the cliffs of Wales, walking with a lover I met in a hostel in London after dropping out of university while protesting the 1991 Gulf War. I'm vegetarian. We're discussing our life's dreams in that starry-eyed youthful way, and I pronounce my intention to own a property in Colorado someday, near enough to Boulder that there will be a like-minded community of hippies and dreamers, but far enough out to buy a farm big enough to do some serious growing. My lover says, 'no way. I totally can't picture you on a farm.' (He also shortly thereafter informed me he had recently left the Australian Army Reserves. It is one of the true mysteries of this story that we are still together 19 years later...)

Some six years later, my lover/husband and I visited Daylesford for the first time. As always when we spend time in the country, we were enchanted and immediately commence dplans to move there. We signed the Convent Gallery's guestbook with, 'we'll be back... to live next time.'

Since we met, Stuart and I have spent a total of two years actually living in the country, one in a small town in Oregon, where for most of the year we lived in a gorgeous little log cabin under a magnificent cherry tree, the other on a remote property in far east Gippsland, Victoria, which is an environmental education campus for Year 9 girls. The latter year was a pastoral dream, a poetic success, and professionally challenging. We swore again that we would live in the country on our own property one day...

But in all these pastoral dreams, I never really entertained the notion of actually being a farmer, in the sense of a producer for a market to make a living. Mine has always been a hippie's halcyon daydream of self-sufficiency. Which, unsurprisingly, is probably why we haven't yet made it happen. Exactly how do we earn a living on our own little unplugged piece of the planet? Even around Daylesford, there's not a lot of work for an academic and a business development manager in building automation technologies.

But everything changed when we heard Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms last weekend. In case you haven't heard of Joel, he describes himself as an environmentalist, capitalist, lunatic farmer. He is one of the most intelligent, charismatic speakers to whom I have had the pleasure to listen, and he did a great job of busting my every stereotype of 'dumb farmers'. He even has a philosophy about that...

We went to the Lakehouse to hear Joel talk about building a local food system, and how to scale up 'without losing your soul'. I was interested in the way I always am – how can we feed the world through smaller, more local production where farmers are embedded in communities? You know, the usual, 'how do we save the world' sort of questions that are my trademark. I came away convinced that the best way for Stuart and I to help save the world was not simply by 'living the changes we wish to see in the world' but by flogging them and making a living from them as well. Yes, I'm convinced that we can and should be primary producers. I give us about five years to get through a start-up period. How did Joel convert me?

Here are the highlights of Joel's double-feature seminar, in note form with minimal editorialising.

First of all, a local food system has six components:

  • local farms will be 'aesthetically and aromatically, sensually romantic'. Large scale commodity 'farms' are so opaque they allow unsustainable practices. Local producers are embedded in communities. The industrial economy has created 'commercial apartheid' – it is 'opaque, confused and inefficient... with a semblance of efficiency only enabled by cheap energy'. Stop subsidising the petrochemical industry and cheap, industrial food will have to increase in price.
  • (Sadface fact of the day: in California, organic growers are now required to sign an affadavit to keep under-5-year-olds off their farm because they might wear nappies, which might contaminate the produce. See my rant on agro-industry for my thoughts on this sadness.)
  • Local producers look after the 'ecological umbilical' with practices such as pasture-based livestock, stacking and symbiosis.
  • Farms should be solar driven (not petrochemical). Fertiliser is in-sourced.
  • Farmers should be 'Jeffersonian intellectual agrarians'. :-) In order for 'city folk' to take farmers seriously, they need to professionalise and outwardly express their intelligence.
  • Traditional family farmers are not good at creating a successionally successful business – they must learn to collaborate and take on more young workers outside the family where necessary.
  • With our loss of local canneries, butchers, bakeries, etc, we must reclaim spaces for community food processing, such as church halls.
  • Government regulations are not scalable for small operations. At some point, we should be able to take individual responsibility for our food choices (eg raw milk).

  • Most farmers are not very good accountants. You need to be able to understand which of your products are being subsidised by others and do something about it if you want to be profitable.

  • No matter how good your produce is, people need to know it exists. A great way for small farms to market more easily is to collaborate with other small producers nearby.

  • Distribution can be the great bottleneck for small, local producers, who end up selling everything to supermarkets via the big distributors. Again, collaboration with other local growers can solve this problem.

  • Every product needs a consumer, & a small, local farmer's patrons are likely to be people who appreciate seasonality, who are excited about rediscovering their kitchens, and who know that processed food is expensive.

In the second seminar on scaling up, Joel went into more detail about Polyface Farm. Here's what we learned...

  • Polyface sales are approximately 25% on-farm, 35% restaurant and boutique supermarket, and 45% 'box drop' internet sales.
  • They separate the delivery fee from the farmer's cost so consumers can see how much goes to the farmer – as Joel said, he's a farmer, not a transporter.
  • His boundary is deliveries within 4 hours of Polyface.
  • The box drop system works much better than farmers' market attendance – there's no speculation about what stock to take, they deliver to a central point at agreed time and customers collect their boxes, which they were able to choose from entire inventory. (The internet, once conceived as a tool of globalisation, has emerged as an excellent tool for localisation.)
  • Polyface employs interns and apprentices, provides housing and board and very small stipends.
The Mental Protection from Wall Streetification of Polyface
  1. Never have a sales target.
  2. No trademarks or patents. 'Hold your innovations lightly.'
  3. Identify your market boundaries. (Then you can just tell those outside them to seek other fabulous local growers, thus supporting the movement & reducing your own stress.)
  4. Incentivised workforce (bonuses and commissions). [apologies to those who hate 'incentivise', which isn't a word, I know. Am quoting.]
  5. No Initial Public Offering (IPO). That way you will never be beholden to shareholders, whose primary aim is merely to make a profit themselves.
  6. No advertising – it's all word of mouth.
  7. Stay in the ecological carrying capacity (the ecology of the farm should be able to metabolise its own waste).
  8. People answer the phone.
  9. Respect the pigness of the pig.
  10. Quality always has to go up. (If you can't increase quality when increasing volume, then don't increase your volume.)

Two other quick, interesting, important points:

And I quote,
“GMO is evil.”
Patenting seeds and suing small growers, including traditional native American communities, when patented DNA is found in their seed stock is EVIL. Indeed.

Organic certification is insufficient as it is a pass/fail system. Those who would get a D- are alongside those who would earn an A+ - it's a perverse incentive to work to the lowest common denominator. For example, one farm might produce all of its own organic compost – all of its outputs become inputs for the farm – no organic waste leaves the property. Another might bring in organic fish emulsion from the east coast, which has been sourced as a byproduct of Japanese driftnets and has a carbon footprint bigger than importing petrochemical fertilisers from Australia (this is to the US, of course).

According to Joel, if you ask whether something is organic, and the producer or seller says, 'yes', the conversation is over and you buy it. There are many things that might be environmentally or ethically suspect about the produce, but they are masked by the organic certification. When he's asked why he doesn't certify, there is a conversation, everybody learns more, and the word is spread further. :-)

As I listened to Joel, it increasingly dawned on me that many arguments against running a small farm were being systematically debunked. He is a passionate advocate for farming in a way that is socially, environmentally and fiscally sustainable. He speaks my language. He writes fascinating books detailing what we only heard a few hours of. And he's on the lecture circuit proselytising about all of it. Zomigod, I can do that.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Civil Campaign

Yesterday's announcement of the sacking of Catherine Deveny from The Age came as no surprise to many of us who have loathed her particular brand of lowbrow vitriol that covers a wide spectrum – from class hatred and 'hipster racism' to attempts at humour around the sexual activities of an 11 year old girl. And yet the Twitters are alight with dissent over whether she should have been sacked for her tweeting at the Logies.

Others have already blogged on the issues around whether she should have been sacked for her tweets and questioned why more socially destructive and offensive columnists like Andrew Bolt haven't been fired yet. The most compelling piece I've seen came from Jason Wilson over on New Matilda, who asks why she was hired in the first place. And surely those of us who dislike Deveny's work would agree that she's hardly the worst offender. The other trollumnists should be reined in as well, in the interest of a more civil society.

And so I have an idea.

In my meeting yesterday with Graeme Innes, Race Discrimination Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission, we talked through the complaints process available to all Australians if they think something published is discriminatory on the basis of race, sex, age or disability.

For example, if you read one of Bolt's columns (and I don't recommend it, though to get this campaign going many of us might need to) and find it offensive, you can lodge a complaint with the AHRC. Even if you believe an 'anonymous' comment is racist, sexist, etc, you can make a complaint and the publisher is responsible for defending or denying.

You can then tweet what you find offensive and suggest others might complain if they too find the material offensive. So rather than all of us simply tweeting our outrage, we can take action.

The AHRC (or you could use your state Commission, such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission) is required to investigate every complaint. Clearly, the system will look after itself – spurious complaints should not end up sacking somebody who is undeserving.

The important thing is that the AHRC and state commissions cannot act on racist comments in a column or the comments without an official complaint.

So it's time to speak up!

Logically, if trollumnists start attracting as many complaints as they do rabid comments of agreement, they becomes liabilities for their employers, as Deveny did for hers it seems.

The trolls have had their day. It's time we take away their oxygen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How do you do it? On good cooking and finding time.

This is not a post to make others feel guilty about what you're not doing, though it may have that unintended effect on some. I apologise in advance to any who take it that way. But while we have a quick look at the life of the Jonai, here's a brief bit of background:

I was raised in a family with two working parents who outsourced most domestic labour, including quite a lot of what cooking was actually done (very little, in truth). Our 'junk cupboard' (full of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Chips Ahoy, Ruffles potato chips, etc) was precisely half the size of the 'real food' pantry, which was stocked with tins of vegies, soup and other highly refined items. There was minimal fresh produce in the house beyond bananas and apples. My mum hated to cook, but would occasionally produce a dinner of pork chops cooked to cardboard consistency (to ensure we didn't get salmonella) and mashed potatoes (made from real potatoes). Many dinners were toast or a bowl of Cheerios we made ourselves, though we could sometimes convince Ma to make french toast, waffles or pancakes (from Krusteaz). She also made oatmeal to order as we all chilled out in front of the tv at night.

Stuart, on the other hand, was raised in a family where fresh food was paramount and readily available. Hardly any refined foods sullied their pantry, and his mother was a steady and plentiful cook of quality meat and three veg. Neither of our fathers cooked, though mine would man the barbecue at parties (Stuart's still doesn't like to do so) and mine also taught my mum to whip up a damn fine southern-style fried breakfast (he's from Alabama).

The point is, I certainly wasn't raised with any cooking skills, let alone positive food memories from childhood, except for the beautiful restaurants my folks would take us to during our regular travels. Our housekeeper did teach me a lifelong love of quesadillas, which I have passed on to my own children, though with many added vegies and my own refried beans.

So here we are, late thirtysomethings, both working full time, with three children. I work as well as doing my PhD, and this year my role as President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) sees me interstate on average one night a week. Yet this year is the year I am learning to make sourdough, it is a year we are slaughtering chooks and eating them, a year our garden has proven extremely bounteous (and we rent, by the way), and we manage to put a home cooked meal on the table nearly every night. How do we do that, we're often asked?

I've written plenty on the importance of skills – competence is the friend of efficiency. The other thing I've written about is the pleasure of competence, and the need to take pleasure in the everyday, including 'chores' such as cooking, gardening and tending the chooks. Finally, I've also pointed to the benefits of teamwork and the further efficiency of a larger household to reduce waste, a point supported by last year's report on household waste, which showed that smaller households waste more, though large share houses that are not families still tend to waste more as well. Just briefly then, here's how we do it:

  1. We don't do exhaustion. Our philosophy is that everything is achievable if it's a priority, and cooking when you're tired can actually be a way of relaxing if that's how you see it. For Stuart, this extends to foraging on the way home, doing a bit of harvesting or staking tomato plants, etc, and for me it extends to finely chopping a number of ingredients for a quickly fried Thai basil, chili garlic fish instead of ordering takeaway. This is not to say we never get tired. We do, but perhaps we think of it differently to others, and reasonably expect ourselves to still cook a meal for the family, which may be something as simple as rice and avocado on a really lazy night. (NB We do order takeaway sometimes – perhaps once a month.)

  2. We share the shopping, and make do with what's in the house when necessary. Stuart pops into the Vic Market once or twice a week on his lunch break to pick up mostly fruit or a bit of meat. I stop in at the butcher, Italian grocer, organic grocer or fruit shop in our local shopping street after dropping kids at school on a day when I work at home, or on the way home from working in the city. When we're really low on fresh food and too busy to go get some, we raid our freezer, which is always full of stock, homemade pasties and sausage rolls, and frozen meat for 'emergencies'. Plus we keep a lot of beans, both dried and tinned, for quick and simple meals. Having chooks means we always have eggs on hand, and my breadmaking obsession keeps us in bread!

  3. Although I'm the primary and more passionate daily cook, we share the cooking as well. Like I said, if we're very busy, sometimes the meals are incredibly simple: rice and avocado, pasta with a jar of passata from last summer's harvest, lamb chops with roast potato and a simple salad, or Stuart's stir fry, much beloved by the children. When there's time to do something more, we do. I love nothing more than having time to get into the kitchen by 5pm so I can serve something delectable between 6:00 and 7pm. Sometimes I'm overly ambitious and dinner is late – in which case I let the children graze on nuts and fruit to tide them over.

  4. But you even make bread during the week? Yes, and I can do this because I believe in a lackadaisical approach that makes it possible. You can see my post on how I wander through the kitchen, giving a dough a quick knead here and there, before letting it rise overnight to pop into the oven when we get up. This takes me no more time than someone else might spend reading the paper or watching the news (in fact, much less). Much of my bread is fairly flat because I leave it to rise for too long – it's still totally scrumptious! Stuart also regularly brews beer of an evening, and does so quickly and efficiently after more than a decade of practice.

  5. What about all the preserving? Harvesting and processing the masses of plums, tomatoes, pumpkins, olives, apricots, and more is one of the pleasures of our 'down time', though some of it can be rather tedious as well (ie pitting plums!). We do most of this on the weekends, though Stuart, who never rests, will often do some after work as I make dinner (does this cause some tension in the kitchen occasionally? Yes. ;-))

  6. How do you manage to have a social life, take children to lessons and sport, and do any exercise, etc? Okay, a confession: I'm a little allergic to exercise. When I commute to the city I try to ride my bike (8km), so I get exercise that way sometimes, but admittedly not enough. Stuart rides every day, rain or shine, so does about 20km a day. He also brings crazy amounts of stuff home on his bike, so perhaps he is a little superhuman and not everyone is inclined to do what he does. We socialise plenty, but often by having people over or going to their houses for dinner. Our kids are not heavily scheduled, though Antigone now does gymnastics (shared between 3 families, so only have to drive once/three weeks) and piano (the teacher comes to us). The boys aren't keen to do lessons, and we don't push. We'd rather have more homely time here, cooking, reading and playing, which we think will give them what we regard as more important life skills than many other things we could outsource, though we're not knocking the value of those other things – they're just not priorities for us.

So how can everyone 'find time' to cook more delicious and nutritious foods? First of all, through practice. The ability to use limited time well requires skills. Skills lead to competence, which is pleasurable. It feels great to know you've dashed in with a few ingredients and knocked up a lovely meal for the family, which leads to you wanting to do it again. Rushing in and throwing a frozen or takeaway dinner on the table doesn't feel that great, but you'll probably do it again if you don't know how to cook something better, leading to a dreadful cycle of bad food and related guilt/bad feelings. It's a no-win cycle, but skills are the way out.

An important part of this skill-building is reframing cooking and food shopping as 'fun' and 'relaxing', leading to 'delicious'. It's also great to spend time as a family doing the harvesting and cooking – we think it's 'good parenting' to cook with your kids. :-) Ultimately, the creative process of imagining what's in the garden/fridge/pantry and how you might transform it into a meal to nurture yourself and others is deeply and viscerally joyful, in my experience. 'scuse me while I go knead the bread...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Rant: Raising Chickens is Good (or, on the Stupidity of Industrial Agriculture)

I wrote this poem last year, but given my recent posts on why and how we raise and eat our chooks, as well as other sustainable homely practices, I thought I'd share it here. Warning - this is not intended to be scholarly - it's an 'emoticons off' rant.

A rant, or
F*&king stupid people f*&king up our world not an ounce of sense or personal responsibility wanting to own dogs & cats but not allow productive small animals like chickens stupid pointless people need to f*&k off now turning me into a bloody misanthrope when I really want to like people (that is not the poem).
16 July 2009

It started with 3 chickens
3 clucking
bug & weed-eating
fertilising chickens
in one suburban

They cost her 7 dollars apiece
and gave her
2169 eggs
in their pleasant quarter-acre lives
worth a conservative 1100 dollars
leaving her 1079 dollars to spend
on organic fruit
she wasn't already growing in her own

The chickens
meant she needed no
no herbicides
& needn't pay for any
fertilisers for the food she was growing
in her own

She called the chickens
John, Deere, and Tractor.

Over the fence lived
a couple with a dog
a bright green lawn
a 4 wheel drive
a sedan
roses and no food growing
in their

The husband worked
for agri-business
who'd been stung
when their bagged spinach product
killed four
left 35 with
acute kidney failure
due to e coli contamination
in their Salinas Valley
industrial scale
vegetable fields.

So clutching his values
his greed and his fear
he sat in his boardroom
and agreed
that a scorched earth strategy
was the only way
to ensure that he
and all his successors
could live in good conscience
that they would never again
be held liable
for what was contracted
from once-living products
now wrapped in sterile plastic
in somebody's

And so
if a squirrel ran along the edge of a field
everything within 10 metres
had to be
the pest-deterring
planted by the organic grower
in the next

And then he went home
and he heard a strange sound
not really unpleasant
but definitely
belonging to
something un-hygienic
in somebody else's

He peered over the fence
and stared in shock/rage
at John, Deer and Tractor.
3 clucking chickens
alive, eating and shitting
in the neighbour's

It didn't take long
to garner the cries
of the neighbourhood association
who contacted the council
who knocked on the door
of the woman with chickens
in her

This will not do
they said
you must be rid of these animals
who have no place in the suburbs
if you want to have livestock
move to a

Your chickens
they said
are unsanitary
and a temptation to
the dogs
in others'

And by the way
you must stop dumping your food waste
in that bin up the back
it attracts rats
and foxes and possums
in droves
and your grey water system
well it just won't do
it contaminates all of those vegies
you grow
here in this outrageously

You must buy food that
we know is safe
you can get it at Coles
where it has been sprayed with
47 chemicals to ensure its
and bagged in clear plastic
so you can see it is safe
though you must wash it at home
just to be sure
it hasn't been tainted somewhere
along the industrial line
by some unhygienic worker
who probably looks and acts
a lot like you and your

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Feminists Don't Have to Eat Fast Food

Peggy Orenstein's recent New York Times article 'The Femivore's Dilemma' really struck a chord with feminists across the internets. In the last couple days I've seen the term 'femivore' (which Orenstein says is a combination of feminist and locavore) defined as everything from sapphic to misogynist cannibalism, and I'd have to agree that it's an unfortunate coining etymologically speaking.

Orenstein's concept of femivores arises from her friends who are raising their own chooks, and from Shannon Hayes' book Radical Homemakers, that is, strong, intelligent women (and men, as it turns out) who are choosing to produce food in their own backyards as a way of nurturing themselves, their families and the planet. Unsurprisingly, there have been a number of negative responses to the idea that it is only women who are involved in the locavore movement, or indeed 'downshifting', 'voluntary simplicity', Slow Food or any other version of 'slower', less consumerist lifestyles.

It seems there are three primary threads then that require unravelling: gender, class, and sustainability. On gender, the most compelling argument for home food production and locavorism as intrinsically tied to feminist practice is that women are still by far the majority of the world's domestic labour force. Before anyone starts yelling 'my husband does most of the cooking' (and to wit, my own partner is a regular and good cook, does most of our laundry, and is a passionate home gardener), I am not suggesting that men don't do these things, but according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian women in fact still do two and a half times more food preparation and cleaning up than men,whether they work outside the home or not.

One of ecofeminism's claims is essentially that the patriarchy got us into this unsustainable capitalist mess, and feminism might just be able to get us out of it. Julia Russell puts it quite plainly in 'The Evolution of an Ecofeminist': 'I call it the politics of life-style and I think it is a distinctly feminine politics in that it is both inner and universal, personal and all-inclusive. It is based on the understanding that lasting societal transformation begins with and rests on transformations of the individual.'

Russell's valorising of individual responsibility perhaps leads us to the heart of claims that there are insurmountable class issues with so-called 'femivorism'. Admittedly, Orenstein's 'femivores' appear to all be white middle-class women. But Lindsay Beyerstein's vituperative response “'Femivores'? Spare me.” is disingenuous sour grapes to the extreme. Beyerstein's argument is tired and reductive. While I don't believe anyone is suggesting that backyard gardens are equivalent to running a commercial farm, they are apparently important enough as to be encouraged by governments in times of war to address food shortages. Gardening can indeed be as simple as a hobby, but it can also be a significant means of saving money, ensuring the quality and freshness of one's food, and reduce one's carbon footprint substantially, and it is certainly hard work sometimes, as well as deeply pleasurable.

Beyerstein even attempts to elide the importance of nourishing one's children if you choose to have them, with her hyperbolic question: 'How about figuring out how to share domestic labor more equitably so that SAHMs have more free time to spend as they see fit, even if their hobbies don't fit the stereotype of maternal perfection?' Sure, domestic labour should be shared more equally, that's a given. And of course mothers should have time to themselves without the constant pressure of the Good Mother mythology. But frankly, one's tennis lessons (mother's or father's) are not in fact more important than feeding one's children. And feeding your children well is at the core of good parenting, not external to it. Taking kids to swimming, tennis, guitar and dance lessons every weekday does not automatically a good parent make. Feeding them healthy food every day so they grow up without chronic illness or obesity is one essential component of good parenting. There, I said it, and now I'll wait for those who would shrug off this essential duty to our children to attack me for not being a good feminist, because apparently feminists eat fast food.

Is it only middle class stay-at-home mums who 'have time' to cultivate a garden and cook wholesome food? Obviously not – families of many classes and cultures engage in gardening and cooking. And in fact, it is often those with the most spare time with partners in the highest income brackets who are least likely to spend their time on food production. By contrast, there are 18 community gardens in Melbourne's public housing estates, with over 650 individual plots tended by residents.

It is obviously not just white middle-class privilege to have a thriving home garden, it's for anyone who cares about their own, their families' (if they have one) and the planet's well being. It is also not just drudgery, and a new way to chain women to the kitchen sink. Our culture's sense of entitlement to a life of convenience and uber-consumerism is neither making us happy nor providing our children with a future. Anecdotally, we talk of the Greek and Italian migrants of the 50s and their backyards full of tomatoes and fruit trees, plus the annual sugo making led by somebody's nonna. For many, these traditions are being lost, whilst for others they are just being discovered.

At a salami making day I attended last winter, a third generation northern Italian claimed that even the 'Skippies' are getting into 'the old ways' now, and someone else quipped, 'people are calling them 'foodies', when all they are is wogs!' The excellent group blog Progressive Dinner Party is awash with women one might call ecofeminists (even if they don't), and the stories you find there make it obvious how much pleasure is gained from growing, cooking and eating their own produce or that sourced from responsible producers. There is unquestionably satisfaction, pride and pleasure in being competent and/or skilled in the garden and/or kitchen.

In my research, I am finding that for those who have the requisite kitchen skills, consciously practising frugality (in terms of purchasing and re-use) is a powerful form of agency, and one that evident across class and culture. One of my interviewees, an Anglo Australian woman in her seventies, is frugal through both habit and necessity, and expresses a great deal of pride at being so. She says it is just 'common sense' not to waste or overspend. A Vietnamese-Australian couple who arrived as political refugees in the 70s echo her arguments for common sense, and further claim to feel 'smart' about their sustainable and homely practices. And their son, born in Australia, also insists that he feels quite proud about his more frugal habits, such as never wasting leftovers, and in fact 'ashamed' when he is wasteful, either in terms of unnecessary consumption or food waste. A key point is that none are expressing resentment at behaving sustainably, rather it gives them enormous satisfaction.

Ultimately, it is not only a feminist issue to engage in homely and sustainable food production, though feminists will have a particular interest in it. The need to provide education and opportunities to develop skills in gardening and cooking is evident in the plethora of issues facing us, from climate change to obesity, and from depression to loss of entire food cultures. And perhaps most importantly, there is an urgent need to understand and promote the intrinsic value and deep pleasures of quotidian 'chores' such as growing and chopping your own garlic.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Loser on Twitter #alot

So one day I noticed that @rod3000, @thewetmale and @nomesmessenger were playing with a new hashtag #alot. It appeared to be an amusing way to emphasise just about anything, for example 'I'm hungry #alot' or 'This government needs an enema #alot'. For the many spelling pedants out there, of which I'm one, it's somewhat alarming, but many of us took up the challenge nonetheless. Watching some of the twitterati like @s_bridges come slowly on board made the game all the more fun.

Eventually, I learned that #alot means Australian Liberals On Twitter. Oh, right, so we weren't just playing with good spellers... culture jamming a wingnut feed made the hashtag that much more amusing. If you look at the #alot page, you'll quickly see it's full of the sort of people who believe universal health care is a threat to freedom.

And so we continued with our game (many still do). A few weeks ago, a Twitter user who goes by the self-aggrandising (& politically repugnant) handle @MiltonFriedmans (yes, I'm aware the 's' is superfluous, though I gather he isn't), started retweeting me (& @rod3000 & presumably others) & re-hashing it to #KevinPM (I don't even want to know what that page is). First though, he asked me whether there was a reason why we were spamming up their feed. I replied 'yep'. He said he didn't really mind, but could I please change my 'disgusting' avatar (it's my legs in stripey socks, btw). I said, 'lol, nope'. I figured that would be the end of our interactions.

How wrong I was. I can perfectly well understand a person objecting to others spamming a feed that is intended to be on topic (though there's surely a thesis in what that means on the twitters), and to express this objection by doing his own spamming. Unfortunately, however, this belligerent individual chose to spam me directly through @s. There were a few over the last couple weeks which I mostly ignored, but last night he really went on the attack. It appears he has now had the belated wisdom to delete his stream of harassment, but I can see the @s on Tweetie on my iPhone. He @'d me 16 times in under 2 hours last night. What pearls of wisdom and high intellectual debate were these?

There were the personal attacks:

MiltonFriedmans: I'm assuming that between HECS debts, FEE-HELP and AUSTUDY, @Tammois shows leadership in the field of taking taxpayer money. #alot

MiltonFriedmans: @tammois would fit in well with Stalin & Kim Jong-Il! Http://bit.ly/alUkal #alot

MiltonFriedmans: @tammois Only a lefty would assume challanging [sic] one's logic 2B being “cyber bullied”. Most people explain their logic, not ask for help #alot

And then there was the false attribution RT:

MiltonFriedmans: RT@Tammois How can a 19yr old in their 1st degree, often living at home & having never had a career possibly//vote in a Fed election? #alot

If he'd had any wit, perhaps I would have bitten, though I suspect not. I don't find that engaging with wingnuts in 140 characters is productive, nor generally remotely interesting. So instead I blocked him, as his badgering was tedious and badly spelt. This morning I glanced at his page to see whether he had laid off, only to discover he was carrying on still, mostly linking to my blog and ranting about VSU, as you can see.

I actually find this quite annoying still, though I'm choosing to ignore him and his 93 followers (none of whom have joined his attacks, happily, and one who asked him not to RT him in order to support his attacks on us).

I will respond briefly to what I think were actually some marginally interesting taunts about undergrads representing postgrads. First, it's important to ignore the elision of voting with representing – not everybody is always eligible to run for office in pretty much any form of democracy of which I'm aware (eg age requirements, citizenship...). The rules applying to voters are typically different and more open, as they should be.

On the question of representation though, I've already spelled out my thoughts on the importance of separate and independent representation for undergrads, postgrads and internationals. Su made a great point in the comments about mature age undergrads, even though they are the minority, but I would still argue that it isn't only about age (though that is a significant part of the issue of undergrads representing postgrads), it's also about experience with the academic structures of postgraduate degrees, as well as the associated welfare issues specific to doing these degrees (income support, facilities and resources, etc).

So I happily stand by my claim that undergrads should not be representing postgrads. I also stand by my assertion that @MiltonFriedmans was bullying me with his incessant @ing and personal attacks. Culture jamming, in my opinion, which may include tactics such as spamming a hashtag, is not about individual, personal attacks. I guess us lefties can leave that nastiness to the 'Classical Liberals' over on the #alot page, which I've decided not to spam anymore, btw, in order to avoid provoking more bullying.