Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 3, as evil food takes over

Latest update to Good food equals love, bad food equals...?
Warning this is a long one so settle in, there will now have to be part three as well.

Day 3- Tuesday
Breakfast was more structured this morning and the tables where the food was stashed in stainless steel trays the day before, are now neat buffet warmers in a row.
I eat as much as I can of the provided scrambled eggs and wholemeal toast, filling up on some protein to make it through the day. I was now cautious from experience that it could be a traumatic food day, but also cautious that I had done no exercise for 3 days and didn’t know when I next could actually move more than back and forth to the studio loos.
Again today, lunch was served in cute the little lunch boxes. I was hopeful as soon as I saw them but my catering experience instantly told me that the chances that we would be having the same lunch as yesterday would be minute. (The caterer enjoys the opportunity to ensure the diners palate is kept wondering or tortured, whatever the brief maybe… and yes I was questioning this brief by the end of the week!) The boxes felt cold to touch as I picked it up, again not a good sign. As I gravitated back to the same table I lurked at yesterday, I took a peek inside and it wasn’t good news. There was a small chewy baguette with some processed meat, two mesclun leaves and too much seed mustard, served freezing cold obviously straight from the fridge, a rather strange salad of chickpeas, cannellini beans, spring onion and wait for it, chopped mushroom. The salad was squished into the box next to the baguette and dark brown, mushroom ‘juice’ had stained that side of my already unappetising roll. On top of the salad in the same box was an individual quiche that easily was the saddest attempt at something edible in a while. The French would riot in the streets if they knew how badly their classics; baguette and quiche, were being abused. I picked at best, ate the meat out of the roll and headed for the fruit basket. The crunchy nashi pears from the day before were gone (yes there was some smart foodies in the room) and some uninspired red delicious apples were in their place…
I stood staring at the table, realising that I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway and I was actually eating out of boredom and the fact that ‘food’ was put in front of me, something I rarely do. I decided to instead play coffee Russian roulette, so who will be my barista today…

Later that afternoon as my appetite did actually appear, I was tempted by that evil chocolate basket, I took “a break and had a kitkat”, the first for a very long time and reminded myself why I usually don’t bother, I ate it and was still unsatisfied but now also guilty that I had given in to the sugary dark side. I ‘mentally noted’ my out of character incident and convinced myself that I must be stronger and find the good(ness) in what’s offered for lunch.
Tiredness is setting in as I realise its already pushing 5.30 and it doesn’t look like we are going anywhere soon but to my surprise we were back in the bus heading to the hotel by 8.30pm.
Feeling like I have an early mark of such, as soon as my feet hit the street I am thinking about were I can head for dinner and end up convincing two other exhausted yet wired ‘Top 50’ to join me for some tapas at Bodega, in Surry Hills for some late dinner.
As I lay in bed later that night, I realise that an hour and half at Bodega has readjusted my outlook. A familiar feeling place, such as a restaurant, has made me feel somewhat normal again (or was it that extra glass of sherry helping?). Talking about food, drinking wine and some good company; yes that’s what I have missed.
Oh and I did taste some rich Bolognese sauce before lunch today, perhaps it was all the speculation about its ingredients that turned me off my meal, actually no on second thought, it was the lunch!

The end to this sorry saga to come over the weekend. Was I tempted to the dark side again, will it cause me to cry for the cameras, or was that just a 4.30am rise with 4 hours sleep again?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good food equals love, bad food equals…?

Last week would probably count as one of the craziest of my life, up there with packing my belongings in my car and driving across Australia with a guy I’d only known for a few months… luckily 11 years later he ended up becoming my Permanent Dining Companion –PDC. So I got a good thing out of that craziness, but I am still trying to figure out what good thing I got out of last week… and trust me it wasn’t a foodie experience, though perhaps it was meant to be…

Without going into all the gory details (you can read about that on other blogs –just google!), I realised the cold hard truth about my relationship with food. Apart from thinking about it for a living, I treat good food, the food I feed myself, family and friends, as evidence of my love.

For example, if I was to have you over for dinner, I’d plan a meal that I know you would like because of your personality, i.e. a busy person, with not enough hours in the day would appreciate a 12 hour braised dish. A friend that doesn’t get out to as many restaurants as they may like (god, who does!!) may enjoy a reproduction from my favourite restaurant.

Good food, takes thought and love to get right. I also realised that the food I feed myself allows me to be me; if I eat well, frequent my green grocer and fishmonger, chat at the bakery and get enough exercise I feel well, healthy and satisfied. If I don’t… well last week will happen.

So, I spent the week in Sydney as a guest of a fancy television production company – yes, you can no doubt work it out – one that is making, what I thought was a cooking show for amateurs.
Fantastic I thought as I applied, a chance to talk about food to a wider audience than PDC, my friends, work colleagues and you my beloved Eating with Jack readers. (ok yes, I do talk about food a lot, but thought this may give me the opportunity to talk with more(!) people about more(!) food)

But the sad truth was that I have never, for longer than I can remember, felt more dis-attached from food than when I spent that week in Sydney, supposingly working on a food program.
I think I have worked it out though, there was no love; we ate badly, doing long very boring hours, doing no exercise apart from frequent toilet runs (to cut the boredom!) and just felt like cattle bussed in and out, with very little contact with the outside world. And wait for it – shock horror – no phones as well!

Now, you may well blink and miss my presence on the program when it goes to air in a few months, as no doubt I was not interesting enough to cry and freak out for the cameras, or slice my fingers open with a knife or throw hot oil down my chest (a great plan though, now thinking about it! ;) But since this is my food blog and I like to share with you the stories about what I eat, I chronicled my meals at the stone face of reality tv… so here it is (but remember if you want to apply next year – and why not, you may have that certain little something more than me - make sure you byo everything!)

Day 1- Sunday
Breakfast out with PDC, before he ships me off to the airport at 10am
Economy airline food, “no thanks but can I have some water please”.
A post briefing beer at a local pub, as I watch some of the younger ‘contestants’ hoe into a bucket of KFC. The food snob in me is already out, but if I’d known perhaps I would have stashed a piece for dinner the next night!
Early dinner/late lunch at Spice I am, you can see my post from last year here and soon I’ll post images from this experience, needless to say as good as its always been.

Day 2- Monday
Rise at 5.30 to preen for the cameras, breakfast to be served at 6.30 before the bus departs at 7am. Well what a debacle for the poor hotel. Obviously they hadn’t been told that 50 plus hungry anxious people would be arriving for breakfast at the stroke of their opening time.
Very little food on display, no plates and bug-eyed staff running around. I’ve been there, I felt sorry for them and grabbed what I could and headed around the corner for a coffee from a chain store. (1st out of character foodie experience of the trip…many more to come) Mental note to self, must remember that I am in Sydney and ask for strong, warm lattes at all but a few known ‘safe’ destinations.
Lunch served in our little retreat room was the best of the week. Individual lunchboxes, with mountain bread wraps, frittata and Caesar salad. Served with a very large basket of debaucherous chocolate bars of every kind, enough softdrinks to sugar high a primary school and a basket of fruit that was barely replenished during the week. An urn for instant coffee and tea bags in paper cups sat in the corner mostly unused.
After lunch I headed down to the internal cafĂ© (unfortunately run by the same catering company) and ordered my Sydney latte (ie “a small, strong caffe latte, just warm please”) not scaringly bad but a life plummeting jump from my usual Wall 280 one everyday.
Dinner was a disappointment in many ways, especially the thought that they were feeding us so we could keep filming; the hotel was not a likely destination anytime soon. As we queued into the room we were offered “lamb, or beef curry” on closer inspection, as I stood aside, the options were actually labelled ‘lamb rogan josh’ and ‘beef curry’ so much for choice. Two very similar dishes, served on plain steamed rice with under-done carrot and zucchini chunks in a plastic takeaway container. I looked at mine with despair, ate the cubes of brown meat in brown sauce, the crunchy, unseasoned vegetables and pushed the rest aside. The basket of chocolates and lollies doing its evil work on the room, as kit kats and cherry ripes replaced the bland dinner so many people pushed aside. As a martyr to this blog, I selected the other meat option as a taste comparison, ate the dull vegies and made a cup of plastic tasting tea. From the highs of lunch and the first day of filming to the lows of dinner and many more hours in the studio to come, we finally departed for the hotel at 12 midnight, a cheeky 17 hours under-our-belts for the first day. A kitchen worthy effort.

Days 3-6 to come. Including a small victory in the lunch room, many, many more lollies. Oh and wait for it... what did the judges eat while we ate this? And a hopeful contender for my dish of the month.

Next installment in a couple of days. Promise.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is it?

In the spirit of the Slow Food Gastronomica Trivia night on Monday -that I unfortunately missed- I stumbled across a very interesting piece of produce at the market today.

I had no idea what it was, do you??

PS No, its not a frazzled underdeveloped tomato (like the ones in my garden!) or a fancy Thai eggplant...

Please leave guesses in the comments!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Handmade Help Cook Book

A very exciting idea has just popped into my inbox, that I just love and hope you do as well...

Handmade Help is looking for contributions to a cook book that they are putting together in aid of the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal.

They are looking for contributors, people with recipes to share. As a food blogger this is something I have lots of and the ability to shout it from my proverbial blog 'roof top'.

Check out the details for contributions here and here and please take a moment to copy out a favourite family recipe and send it in.

Please also help out by sharing this information on your blog, at your work or amongst family and friends.

More contributors the better. Lets help replace lost recipes to those affected and raise some money for them at the same time.

Thanks for your help.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Where the hell is Jack??

Missing in action, but now recovered...

Full news to come on Monday with some fun Sydney based food stories to share.

Now if only I had time to make it to Universal; bugger Bodega and Spice I am will have to do... with guest appearances by some of the most inspiring food people I have meet in a while.