Archive | December, 2012

Eat nose to tail

29 Dec

If I am around at the right time of year I like to buy the special end-of-year edition of the Mail & Guardian, a good weekly South African newspaper. It’s the edition that gives cabinet report cards: a team of journos assigns grades to politicians, from the president to all ministers, and it always makes for an interesting read. In the weekend & entertainment section I was drawn – of course – to interviews with a couple of famous South African foodies. I was especially delighted to discover Thuli Gogela and her blog Mzansi Style Cuisine (pronounced m-zun-zee, a popular local word for South Africa). Thuli mentioned the nose-to-tail food trend and reminded us that South Africans have been doing it for ages, as the recipes and entries on her blog will attest to.

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I do enjoy all these catchy food philosophy phrases, such as farm-to-fork, farm-to-table, farm-to-school, stable-to-table, cow-to-cone (a lovely line I found at Kate’s Cape Town ice-cream business The Creamery) and the nose-to-tail. The last of these was given a trotter up by chef Fergus Henderson of the London restaurant St John. He brought out a cookbook called The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating presenting rural tradition in the form of delicious thrift, which is what German Ganztierverwertung is all about (sadly, Leo.dict has no translation but nose-to-tail is a good version). Indeed, you will find this tradition in most countries, if you look for it, as well as some blogs such as Nose To Tail At Home or Eating Nose to Tail.

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Culinary Art with a capital A

28 Dec

The films Himself He Cooks and Golden Kitchen celebrate culinary skills in special but at the same time everyday recurring situations. This recurrence is a distinguishing feature in the youtube film clips gathered on Melissa Easton’s blog Mrs. Easton showcasing the rituals of food preparation. Its like meditating on streetfood.

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And some vendors are great entertainers to boot.

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Human dignity is inviolable

27 Dec

Mentioning RSF – Reporters Sans Frontieres here reminded me of one of my favourite photographers. RSF used to publish annual photoessays for the 3rd of May, World Press Freedom Day, under the title 100 Fotos für die Pressefreiheit (100 Photos For Press Freedom). The 1996-publication is comprised of signatory black-&-white images by Brazilian master Sebastiao Salgado. Its title is Die Würde des Menschen (The Dignity of Man (as in Human)).

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Chapter 1, Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000/C 364/01) states that human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected. I came across a somewhat provocative rendering of this by Austrian artist Wilfried Gerstel. In his 2011 installation Gunshot traces in paradise Gerstel uses an air pistol to shoot the iconic phrase into moist clay tablets. It won the Grand Prix UNICUM Award at the Unicum 2012 – II. International Ceramic Triennial in Slovenia. Do have a look at the catalogue for some inspiration!

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I’d be hard-pushed to choose my favourites among the Salgado images but let me share one or two with you anyway. High on the list is the next image. It is a dispute between Serra Pelada gold mine workers and military police in Brazil, 1986. The human face of work at Serra Pelada was used in the opening scenes of the visually stunning film Powaqqatsi (a Hopi Indian word meaning Life in Transformation), the second of the Quatsi film trilogy.

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And, of course, an obligatory African picture too, title of a book published in 2011 by Taschen. The number 1 address online for Sebastiao Salgado is the agency Amazonas Images, created by Lelia Wanick Salgado. There’s also a lovely series called Changing the world with children, which is part of the UNICEF Global Movement for Children.

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Kitchens without borders

26 Dec

You will probably know MSF – Medecines Sans Frontieres (doctors without borders) and perhaps you have come across RSF – Reporters Sans Frontieres (reporters without borders). So you might be intrigued – as I was – to discover CSF – Cuisine Sans Frontieres (kitchen without borders).

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I first read about this Swiss organisation in the spring edition #20 of the young food-cooking-cooks magazine Effilee. In it the founder of CSF was portrayed: David Höner, cook and film-catering entrepreneur, and the birth of CSF in 2005 was described. Höner and his wife were in Colombia in a civil war situation for some press coverage work. There he observed people fighting for survival, too depressed and scared of one another to leave their houses. So he decided to create places that people could visit, along the lines of a neighbourhood pub, small restaurants with protection for the host. David says it’s not about providing food, it’s about hospitality and conviviality, so really, it’s about community.

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CSF projects described on the website are in BrazilColombia, Ecuador and Kenya, such as the bakery in the woman’s prison in Quito, Ecuador, and there are some youtube videos about these here. But the best impressions can be garnered on the blog here.

You can change the world with kitchen utensils

25 Dec

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Philippe Witjes, who co-produced Himself He Cooks and Golden Kitchen, is also a cook by training. He seems to have done some volunteer cooking in his time, much like what is the centre of these two films. Such volunteer kitchens providing opportunities for service are also part of the Vipassana retreats worldwide that we mentioned here and here.

One of the legendary volunteer cooks (actually, come to think of it, the only one I know) is Dutch-born Wam Kat. Christened Pieter Jan Herman Fredrik Kat, Wam is best known as the vegan – or, at times, vegetarian – “demo cook”, the good kitchen soul that cares for the hungry at political rallies and demonstrations. Ask yourself: Who is feeding the Occupy Peeps? What are they eating? And what are they demonstrating against or for?

Political & peace activist, author and social worker, Wam co-founded the Dutch cooking collective Rampenplan. Kat, who currently lives in Germany,  has made some recipes and stories available in his book entitled Wam Kats 24 Rezepte zur kulinarischen Weltverbesserung (roughly: Wam Kat’s 24 recipes for culinary world improvement). You can see many more photo impressions at his website here and there’s a 71-minute documentary called Wam Kat and the Nature of Hope that you can watch here.

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Golden Temple, Golden Kitchen

24 Dec

The 60-minute documentary Himself He Cooks (2011) that we portrayed here has a 5-minute precursor called Golden Kitchen (2005), by the same Belgian filmmaker duo Valerie Berteau and Philippe Witjes on their first visit to the Golden Temple. I think you can watch it on youtube here. There are a couple of web entries with more information and photographic impressions of the langar such as here and here and here. I love the sheer scale of big kitchens, such as the plates for the meals in the photo below.

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Interestingly enough, there’s also a book called The Golden Kitchen (2010) available on blurb. It’s by Rome-born photographer Valerio Berdini (don’t get confused with Belgian filmmaker Valerie Berteau now). You can preview the entire book here.

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Again, sheer scale of pots and therewith the means of cleaning them in the next photo. Valerio has a few galleries on his website; the Golden Kitchen one is here.

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50.000 free meals daily

23 Dec

are prepared, cooked, served and cleaned up by people engaging in voluntary service (seva) at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, Northern India. Belgian filmmaker duo Valerie Berteau and Philippe Witjes present this phenomenon as a dance of food, worship and community in their 2011-documentary Himself He Cooks.

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The hour-long film is eloquent without dialogue and is gathering the accolades on its kitchen shelf, such as the Toyota Earth Grand Prix award at the 25th Tokyo International Film Festival this October.

The Golden Temple of Amritsar (Harmandir or Darbar Sahib) is the holiest place of worship (gurdwara) for Sikhs in all the world, according to SikhiWiki. Besides the practice of seva (service to one’s fellow beings), there is also the langar, or free vegetarian community kitchen, with the food purposefully held simple (yay, simple), associated with all Sikh gurdwaras.

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The name of the film comes from the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib. Dr. Gopal Singh, i.a., translated this into English and first published the rendition in 1960. You can access some of it in google books here; the eponymous quotation can be found on page 538 and seen in the photo below.

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You can watch trailers on youtube here or on vimeo here. It’s certainly going to make my list of must-have-foodie-films.