Leftover shots

Sorting back through my shots from Vietnam looking for something in particular, I’ve realised that there is so much content that I left behind. I was too busy enjoying myself to post them while I was on the road nor did I take any sort of notes that I could spin out into a meaningful post.

Dune kid, Mui Ne, Vietnam

Kid who rents out mats to slide down the White Sand Dunes in Mui Ne, Vietnam. He looks that angry because I’ve just told him that under no circumstances will I be hiring a mat.

On the way to market, Hue

Bringing oranges across the bridge to market in Hue

On the way to market, Hue

Moving coconuts to market by cyclo, Hue

Pho in Hoi An

Serving in the back streets of

Usufruct in Fitzroy

Usufruct, the right to derive benefit from the property of others, is generally best (and in most societies, only) displayed by the example of picking fruit from trees that overhang the boundary of a private property into public space.

A Google User named kirsten has begun compiling a map of all of the overhanging fruit in the suburb of Fitzroy.

It’s collaborative, so the map could easily become a guide to all the free fruit in the whole city.

Does Gordon Ramsay write his own extrafood column in the Herald Sun?

Gordon Ramsay’s Humble Pie was a 2006 bestseller but it was the award-winning feature writer Rachel Cooke who quietly wore out the “f” key on her laptop. Then again, she can afford a new computer, having pocketed a rumoured £100,000 share of Ramsay’s rumoured £750,000 advance.

From “Literary Haunts”, The Times, November 12, 2007. Surely Ramsay has much more lucrative things to do with his time than pen a few hundred words a week for extrafood in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper. So who is the food writer at Gordon Ramsay Holding’s PR agency, Sauce Communications? Any idea, Ed?

Beer Flaw Tasting

Flaw Tasting
“T” is for Taint

If there is one thing that evaluating beer in Cambodia has primed my tastebuds for, it is tasting bad beer. I never particularly dwelt upon the reasons behind their badness because I was too busy trying to find synonyms for “watery”. I had never approached badness in a systematic way.

So the opportunity to pinpoint the reasons behind the badness could not be passed up. Tastes and the ability to discuss them with objectivity can be learned.

The key problem with beer is that it is a complex, living animal for at least some period of its existence. The yeast within it breeds and mutates; it acts differently when hot or cold, or in the presence of more or less oxygen. When dead, the yeast cells settle in clumps. Certain micronutrients inhibit the growth of some strains but promote the growth of others. It sometimes competes with other foreign organisms for the sugars used in brewing. The water used matters.

At every step of the brewing process, something can infect the beer: bacillus, clostridium, coliforms, acetobacter, gluconobacter. Other wild yeasts that float upon the breeze can drop in and take charge (in lambic beers, this is actually the goal rather than a problem).

It still amazes me that any two beers ever taste the same.

Flaw Tasting

This weekend a friend and brewer, Ben from pint.com.au, bought The Enthusiast Beer Taste Troubleshooting Kit, a selection of 8 artificial flavors that are identical to the most common flaws in beer and invited a crew over to drink some deliberately and systematically tainted beer. Metal taint, spoilage by acetic acid bacteria, bacterial growth in the mash or fermentation, spoilage by wild yeasts, insufficient wort boiling, poor yeast health, use of old hops were all to be tasted. Often many of these things happen at once to beer but the ability to separate each of these problems out by taste alone is the cheapest way to improve the brewing process.

Some taints were much worse than others.

While most of my friends found the “infection by acetic acid bacteria” as a mild flaw, I thought it to be like drinking a cup of vinegar. The apple flavors of badly boiled wort weren’t right for a beer but nor were they hugely offensive to me. Nobody enjoyed the “bacterial growth in the mash” which I likened to having freshly regurgitated a whole fruitcake; others found it reminiscent of baby vomit. As someone who tastes things for a living, I’m still not sure if it is reassuring that I’ll now be able to identify that the goaty, damp basement smell in some beer is caused by coliform infection during fermentation or that the metallic flavor that I have come to associate with Angkor Lager is the fault of poor quality equipment at the brewing plant.

The full set of beer flaw tasting notes (PDF) is now at Pint.

“Fetal bovine serum, you say”

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with bio-artist Oron Catts which probably rates as one of the strangest I’ve ever had. I used the words “fetal bovine serum” far too often for somebody who writes about food. He spoke of his work as “semi-living” where I might have used the term “undead”. His art left me with the dissonant feelings of both complete repulsion and the obsessive desire to find out more.

So this week over at SBS, I take on ethicist Peter Singer and PETA regarding their support of laboratory-grown meat. Why not take on some big targets?

It’s as goddamn weird as food gets.