Until this weekend when my friend Jo asked me out on a food date.
Apparently, several months ago a series of food shops opened up at Doncaster Westfield, and Jo has been walking around the centre for months thinking to herself "pg would LOVE this!!"
So maybe those ears are not so bored, and there IS a social need to open up discourse on food, food miles, SOLE food and what constitutes GOOD food. As part of my theory on "What is Australian Food", I surmise that as we, as a society, further evolve, we move further from the food of the traditional Motherland, and are entering a phase where the food of our actual citizens becomes less of the exotic, and more of the mainstream.
Like any adolescent, we're breaking the ties with Mum and Dad, and evolving our own identity, based on the sum of our experiences. And the reality for Australia, and its cuisine, is that a huge percentage of our collective experiences are from other cultures.
Thus more and more purveyors of food and food stuffs are carrying the ingredients and the flavours of Africa, or central Europe, of Latin America, of the Orient.
And this is what is obvious in 4 shops in a pretty standard suburban shopping centre.
The first shop is Jones the Grocer. You know that Australian palates are changing, when you have a providor with a cheese room, in the 'burbs. There are various tasting stations, the presentation is immaculate, the staff are young, good-looking and knowledgeable, and the food is SENSATIONAL. Their macadamia fudge made me make a mess in my rompers, and I am not a sweet-toothed person. You can buy anything from Tartuflanghe Italian acacia honey with truffle to Jones the Grocer's own brand of lavosh. Galler Belgium chocolate to dried porcinis.
The second shop is Oil and Vinegar. As far as I can find out, it is the first of this franchise in Australia, Again, presentation is immaculate, the feature wall being covered with a dozen or so glass amphorae with different oils and, well.. vinegars in them. The amphorae are backlit, and the effect is spectacular. Forget the demise of Tastespotting.. if you want real life food porn, it's there for you in the 'burbs! They too have several tasting stations, and you can sample everything from the real aged Moderna aceto balsamico (at $35 per 150ml) to both white and black truffle oil.
The third shop is El Bazaar, a funky shop that stocks all things Middle Eastern. here you can scoop chick peas from hessian sacks, and if you close your eyes and inhale you could very well be in a souk, or the spice markets of Istanbul. The prices of their dried goods were ridiculously cheap, and with Coles only 2 shops away, this puts paid to the argument I often hear that "shopping SOLE is too time consuming. I don't have time to go to individual shops". El Bazaar has a huge range of dried fruits and nuts, and the shelves are stocked with an amazing array of fruit pastes and gels and spices and cookware. I asked the young girl behind the jump about tagines and she offered to ring her Mum to see if you could get an answer to my queries! Now THAT's service.
The final shop was the Oxfam shop where you can get everything from a "Not Made In A Sweat Shop" bag, thru fair trade quinoa to organic chocolate.
And it's at these last two places I made my purchases.
The Nabali Tree Olive Oil. (from the Oxfam shop) I have Googled for info on this product and found absolutely NOTHING. SO, dear readers, I believe I am the first person ever, to write about it. It doesn't even feature in their online catalogue.
Nabali Tree olive oil is organic cold-pressed extra virgin OO, certified USDA organic, certified Fair For Life by IMO and is a member of the Palestinian Fair Trade Association. It is a product of Canaan Fair Trade, Palestine. The label reads:
"Fruity and flavorful and legendary, Nabali Tree Olive Oil, from the native olive tree of Palestine, the ancient home of olive oil.
Canaan oilve oil is naturally organic owing to the ancient Canaanite traditions of farming that persist to this day. Canaan olive oil is produced by farmer cooperatives that are members of the Palestine Fair Trade Association. We guarantee fair prices to farmers and reinvest a portion of our profits in developing projects that serve the farming community. If you are enjoying this oil withing 3 to 6 months of pressing, you will experience the peppery hints and subtle bitter aftertones of "Zeit Fghish", a set of taste impressions unique to freshly pressed Palestinian Olive Oil"
It is a Chartreuse green, and I couldn't detect any peppery notes, but the date on my bottle says it was pressed in 2007, so I might have missed the time period and the oil is more mature. There is most definitely a bitter note to the oil, which mellows on the back palate. It is really a unique olive oil. I am planning to use it as a dipping oil with some sumac and Za’atar.
And my other purchase was from El Bazzar. Some Pashmak, or Persian Fairy Floss. The very knowledgeable young girl behind the jump (the same one who offered to ring her Mum for tips on tagine cooking) explained that this stuff is basically halva that has been pulled and stretched in a similar way to pulled noodles until it resembles fairy floss. It has a pronounced nutty taste. Actually, it tastes exactly like it sounds.. nutty and sweet.. Halva in thread form. A large box cost me $6.50, and I am going to top some hot chocolate chai with it al la Mute Monkey's Beetroot experience. The kids had some last night, atop Emmaline's Chocolate Indulgence Cookies, and some vanilla ice cream. It looks and tastes decadent and spectacular!
So forget all those anti-SOLE arguments, and get with the programme. Those of us in the 'burbs no longer have to trek to Turkisk/Greek/Viet enclaves to get our fix of "exotic" ingredients. We no longer have to brave the Nazi parking officers in Richmond, to get a Simon Johnson-esque rush. We can buy beautiful, fresh, ethical ethnic ingredients at our doorsteps, and incorporate them into our everyday cooking!