Hotter than Hell

So the ex has been hassling smartfoodmama for my chilli sauce recipe. Some might think that this is an issue for his solicitor, but I think it’s an opportunity for a quid pro quo – feijoada recipe Gomez!

Like so many recipes, this one just sort of developed.

I had spent a day in the kitchen with the late Alan Mansfield and wonderful ex-South Africans Aunty Joan and Ivan. We were there to make lime pickle and chilli paste.

I’d never seen anyone drinking port before lunch so as you can imagine it was an unforgettable experience! I still have the lime pickle recipe somewhere but I don’t think I ever wrote down the chilli paste recipe.

My “recipe” resulted from the need to use a half full sandwich bag of the hottest chillies I have eaten (not quite scotch bonnet – bird’s eyes). I bought about 300 gm of milder chillies and set to work.

The sauce I made was then used by the drop. Except for the ex-South Africans Gomez worked with up North. They woofed it down, making me think I might have got Aunty Joan’s recipe right.

While we’re talking chilli, for the longest time I wondered (well occasionally) what Shriracha chilli was and why it was so special. So one day I actually read the label on my chosen commercial sauce. Seems I have been using Shriracha chilli for years! It’s the only one that doesn’t use (that dreadful) bottled garlic.

But I digress.

Smartfoodmama’s Chilli Sauce

Finely dice:

2 large cloves of garlic

Ginger: approx half a thumb size piece (perhaps not Jason Mamoa’s thumb)

Gently sauté in about 2 Tbs EVOO (okay, extra virgin olive oil) for about a minute then add:

1 tsp raw sugar to caramelise (not carmelise as our American TV chefs are won’t to suggest, they also like to marinade things! Of course we know that you put things in a marinade to marinate them. Life is not easy for a food AND grammar Nazi).

Then add the chopped chillis (4/500 gms) and sauté till softish.

To seed or not to seed? The seeds have much of the heat and when the paste is blended it thickens it.

Add a cup of water, cover and simmer for about half an hour.

Remove lid, keep cooking another half hour or so, adding water if it starts drying out.

Blend and put in a container of your choice, keep the surface covered with oil to preserve.

I’m not one for sterilising jars – too much carry on and this will keep for ages in the fridge as long as you keep the surface under oil.

This can be made with any chilli you like, but will be unpredictable. If you made it with birds’ eyes do warn guests, though I have had a guest douse his entire plate with it, despite the warning. We really enjoyed watching him try to eat it. Feats of strength should not include chilli!

Still feeding me

I’m not sure anyone at all will read this, given the fact that I’ve been absent for so long. Illness and catching up on work have definitely got in my way. Travel tales will have to wait. Then there’s dealing with loss. I recently travelled to Sydney for Mum’s consecration. Jewish mourners wait a year before the headstone goes on the grave, though it can be a shorter period. It gives folks the chance to recover form their grief and join together to celebrate the life of their loved one.

Like any secular Jewish family the food was the most important thing. I spent the previous evening making Mum’s sausage rolls. Rolling out the pastry in a kitchen no bigger than my Mum’s tiny kitchen with the radio blaring maudlin hits from the 70s. I got a little reflective. Observant Jewish women bake challah bread on Fridays and the kneading and rolling provides the rhythm for serious meditation. Mum never baked challah though it was always on the Shabbath table warm from the oven.

My mother spent the war years ‘on the land’ as she put it.  Here she is pretty as picture growing food for the nation. Of course I have been watching Home fires.

My paternal Grandmother is known to have said “It just isn’t a simcha (celebration) without smoked salmon”. And there was smoked salmon. But it wasn’t a party without Mum’s sausage rolls, so I made them. Lisa baked the richest chocolate brownies I have ever encountered and Sam continued her “I am Zumbo” trajectory with a chocolate and hazelnut cake as big as the centrepoint tower. Well retro theme. And it tasted as good as it looked. I even learned how you slice these darlings, thank you Shirley Smith!

Of course food is at the centre of most celebrations and certainly for Jewish families, and Chinese, Italian, Greek…and on it goes. But food is crucial here because of who Sheila was. She was an archetypal Jewish mother who cooked Shabbath dinner every Friday night. Prayers were minimal but the table heaved with favourite dishes of her children and then grandchildren. Mac cheese and soya Chicken? Why not?

I’ve written a great deal about the way grandmother’s go on feeding their families after their demise .. family recipes? Hence the demand for her sausage rolls, her matzo balls and more. But in my garden I have a miracle, a final gift from Mum. In my last house we had a massive mulberry tree I was sorry to leave. A baby tree had grown next to it and Mum had potted it. I took that one with me when we moved and after an extended period of neglect I finall planted it. It grew and grew as trees do and each year more berries turned up on it. But they were all small. This year the tree is full of mulberries and they are properly sized and sweet, though just beginning. I like to think it’s the Consecration miracle but dynamic lifter should take more credit.

My Mum is still feeding me.

Such a shame, so little has changed

The Guardian – Want to know what it’s like to be a woman in a boy’s club? Ask any waitress

This excellent piece from the guardian is the tip of the iceberg and it’s such a shame so little has changed since I was a gel. I was a waitress for many years, in a planet far away. My first ever job was at “Grandfather’s Moustache” – what seemed in those days to be a fabulous Italian restaurant run by Greeks. After 5 weeks I got the sack – first and last time. Surprisingly, I wasn’t sacked for slapping the chef and co-owner every time he groped my 17 year-old arse. And I wasn’t sacked for the free food and drink I provided for my friends. I was sacked for ringing up an hour before my shift to call in sick. It was a good lesson to learn early on.

Sexual harassment was a very regular occurrence. I later worked in a restaurant where the signature dish was turkey breast – oh how original were the gibes. I even worked temporarily in a disco – yes, smartfoodmama is senior! This, I should add has earned me considerable cred with my students. Go figure: “yes, there was a mirror ball, yes the dance-floor lit up…”. Moving through the crowds I was once grabbed Trump style. I know I sent the cretin flying with my one free hand and the bouncers were happy to finish the job. In truth I was treated more respectfully by the merry band of gangsters running the place then by so-called hospitality professionals in years to come. I’ll always cherish this comment from the owner (read in heavy Balkan accent) “I like you, you good gel, you work with your brayn not your bum”.

Story three: Desperate for work I did a day’s trial in a large commercial seafood house of horror. Wandering in to the kitchen the very first comment from the chef to a waitress picking up a plate was: ”That’s not your meal you stupid f’ing c”. I worked through lunch but didn’t come back for the second shift.

There are many aspects of life in 2016/17 which should have been done away with back then, when I was a gel. That’s why I still call myself a feminist – yes “we’ve come a long way baby” – some of the boys need to catch up.

The Emperor has new clothes

I’ve been a regular at the Emperor’s kitchen in Leeming for years –none of the hassle of getting parking in Northbridge and Yum Cha offerings which are as good as most. But we particularly loved the cheerful and attentive owner who was always there. But now he’s gone – I hope he is putting his feet up and enjoying a well-deserved retirement.

I’m told the new owner is a young mainland Chinese gentleman. The old place has been tarted up and looks much more inviting.

But I was never concerned about the décor, it was only ever about the food and they have kept up the old menu – all of my favourites: fat prawn dumplings, crispy squid, stuffed tofu and crunchy kai-lan.. All just as good.

But these little prawn dumplings are new and simply divine.

I love it when things change and stay the same.

A Taste of…

Watching TV is so last century but as with many of my contemporaries, I like to watch the (big) box, free-to-air, no-frills. Yes, very last century. And as was the case last century the pickings have just gotten very lean as we slide into Xmas and the dreaded non-ratings season.

I’m a bit happy that the ABC is repeating selected food-themed Landline episodes on Fridays at 8, repeated on Sunday and readily available on I-View.

Last Friday’s stories included one of pastured eggs. These need not, of course, be organic but they are as free as free–range can be. I first became aware of this way of producing eggs from Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm.

Pastured eggs aren’t necessarily going to be organic, but the chickens live like chickens. Their mobile cages men that the chooks get a varied diet while fertilising various fields.

Pastured eggs straight from the farm are becoming more readily available. Freo folks can buy their pastured eggs from the good folks at Nibali Stockfeed.

Another story Landline ran was about experiments to include omega 3 into feed for lambs in an attempt to improve the health outcomes of meat eaters. I’m thinking eat more fish, but then we know there just isn’t enough fish for all of us. Which will bring us back to the question of where will that Omega 3 come from. Feeding ourselves, who said it was easy?

Next week’s taste of landline will feature stories on cattlewomen, that’s right women and the mighty Murray cod. I’m keen to earn more about this prized fish I may never eat.

Watching TV is so last century but as with many of my contemporaries, I like to watch the (big) box, free-to-air, no-frills. Yes, very last century. And as was the case last century the pickings have just gotten very lean as we slide into Xmas and the dreaded non-ratings season.

I’m a bit happy that the ABC is repeating selected food-themed Landline episodes on Fridays at 8, repeated on Sunday and readily available on I-View.

Last Friday’s stories included one of pastured eggs. These need not, of course, be organic but they are as free as free–range can be. I first became aware of this way of producing eggs from Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. If you’ve never watched Food Inc, please do:

Pastured eggs aren’t necessarily going to be organic, but the chickens live like chickens. Their mobile cages men that the chooks get a varied, fresh and wholesome diet while fertilising various fields.

Pastured eggs straight from the farm are becoming more readily available. Freo folks can buy pastured eggs from the good folks at Nibali Stockfeed.

Another story Landline ran was about experiments to include omega 3 into feed for lambs in an attempt to improve the health outcomes of meat eaters. I’m thinking eat more fish, but then we know there just isn’t enough fish for the world. Which will bring us back to the question of where will that Omega 3 come from. Feeding ourselves, who said it was easy?

Next week’s taste of landline will feature stories on cattlewomen, that’s right women and the mighty Murray cod. I’m keen to earn more about this prized fish I may never eat.

Remembering Sheila Newman 1922 – 2016

It’s two months since we buried our mother; a remarkable woman who lived her life for others. Sheila was generous and she was brave. I’d like to say she was fearless, but only the ignorant are fearless. Being brave is having the strength to confront fear. Sheila was brave.

She complained all her life of the pain of her legs swollen by varicose veins. I was to blame apparently. She said she got varicose veins because she stood for so many hours with the other women of the Black Sash, protesting the apartheid regime whilst heavily pregnant with me.

I asked her once: “Well why did you do it”? And she told me she didn’t want anyone to think she was afraid. That says so much about her. As far as my mother was concerned, what was in your heart was not enough – you had to use your voice and you had to call out wrongdoing. No surprises if I tell you that she picked me up from school aged 16 so I could join her picketing the Springbok Rugby team, having given me an absentee note my headmistress nearly choked on.

Generous? Yes. Sheila wanted so little herself; and gave so much to others. Her unrenovated kitchen in Murriverie Road, was her command centre – she would have fed the world if she could. I learned everything from her. I am my mother’s daughter, I have cooked for my living, taught food studies, written two theses on food but I will never give as much of myself as Sheila did.

Perhaps this excerpt from my MA thesis – Didn’t Your Mother Teach You Not to Talk With Your Mouth Full: Food, Families and Friction, will say what is so hard to express now that she has gone:

Mama cooks dinner every night and it’s such a comforting place to be, perched on my wooden stool, lecturing mama’s back. I wanted her to be ‘mama’, not plain ‘mum’; wanted her to cover her head with a shawl when she lit the candles on Friday night. Wanted a mother of image, of warm brown eyes, big soft bosoms and open heart. I wanted a ‘yiddische mama’, which was in fact what I had.

I see her standing before a steaming pot, ladling out bowls of pee-yellow chicken soup. How tenderly she scoops two glistening, plump matzoh balls into each one (and I wonder whether Marilyn Monroe really asked Arthur Miller’s mother what you do with the rest of the poor little matzoh); because it’s always two, you know, except for Dad, who gets three, and maybe Robin. We all get three, in the end, but first you have to eat two and then cajole, and promise to eat the rest of your dinner. But who wants it anyway when you can eat light as air, starchy dumplings, clear broth and just the loneliest bit of carrot?

Now I look back in awe, remembering how she was always home before we were, with the shopping, to spend a stolen half hour resting her swollen legs. And she never seemed to mind, or didn’t let me see, as she heaved herself from her bed and the paper and took up her position by the stove.

Was there ever a meal without three movements? And the up and down and backwards and forwards, me too, sometimes, while they sat, and we served. And I never even noticed, that she did it every day and how little we helped and how late it was before she finally sat down and rested those legs.

And now that I know more about the monotony of work that will never be finished, I marvel at her acceptance and the time that she did find for me. Ah, breathe deep, remember all the glorious matzoh balls of my youth, beat the eggs, boil the water and cook my little, light as air dumplings for my little family. What could make me happier than feeding my baby chicken soup and matzoh balls?

Want Mum’s kneidlach recipe?

In Jewish culture feeding anyone is considered a mitzvah, (a good deed which also blesses the doer), which is why we take our Jewish identity from our mothers. Many people assume this custom comes from a misogynistic suspicion of paternity. This isn’t the case –the old rabbis of the Gemara believed that men offer money to the needy while women will offer food and this is the holier act and after all, so much of Jewish practice is situated within the home. Certainly we learned all things Jewish from Mum.

There’s no doubt that Mum learned at her mother’s side as I did at hers. Her mother, our Nana, had been raised in a Dickensian Jewish orphanage where she starved. Nana wasn’t having a bar of Orthodox Judaism, and certainly there would be no fasting. No child would go hungry on her watch. On Yom Kippur Nana would stay home with food at the ready for any local children who escaped the Synagogue and came to her. Nana’s fear of hunger was over-whelming, she slept with a biscuit next to her bed every night.

Nana transferred this fear to my mother and then to me. Mum taught me that when it comes to food, only too much is enough. That is the Jewish way. But Mum did not waste food. It could be said she may have, at times, diced with death – hers and ours. But that’s another story, one I’ve told before:

Mum did not restrict her love and kindness to her children and grandchildren.  I have also written about her love for my cousins and their love of her.

Mum spread love and food throughout her family circle but it went so much further. Friday night always with “mitschleppers” as my Dad would say. Shabbat dinners were usually followed by Saturday lunches – always with guests. Sure my Dad would (over)cook the chops and boerewors, but Mum would cover the table with other dishes – always sweetcorn, potato salad, pickled cucumbers, fried fish and her big wooden bowl of somewhat ordinary looking salad (this was the 60s – no quinoa or sprouts). Mum’s concern was never with presentation, only with abundance and flavour. My paternal grandmother once infamously said: “Well, with Sheila, quantity you will get”! Oh the slings and arrows she bore from her mother-in-law.

Mum and Dad helped the Smith family to come to emigrate from South Africa, possibly the first black family to sneak into Australia before the infamous white Australia policy came to an end. Ray was a baker and he opened a shop in Bondi Junction. Was it every Saturday that our mother went by his shop to pick up his left over stocks to take to the Wayside Chapel, or only most Saturdays?

Mum was 80 when she gave up delivering Meals on Wheels – how many of the recipients were younger than her?

These photos were taken a month before she died, our last hurrah, I had exhausted Mum the day before with many hours of conversation, so she was not at her best and yet she was of course glad to see her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephew. I made her sausage rolls. Mum always baked these for parties – no store bought pastry of course – she would make them a week in advance and they always survived freezing so well. She taught me how to make this quick and easy pastry, but that’s one recipe I’m not sharing.

If you look closely you will see the packet of cheap wafers she hoed into with gusto. No point monitoring Mum’s diabetes any longer.

When the Second World War broke out Mum joined the Land Army: and here she is growing food for the nation:

She loved those years on the land and how she loved her garden. My last house had a huge mulberry tree. It reminded me of our tree in Murriverie Rd. If you knew our frugal mother you may imagine what we suffered as a result – mulberry jam is one thing. We feared one day we would confront something like mulberry curry. Mum found a sucker growing under my mulberry tree here in Perth and she lovingly potted it. I brought it with me when we moved and duly neglected it. Carlos gave it some attention and it recovered. I planted it, and it has flourished. I love that tree and the knowledge that my mother is still feeding me.

The year I moved to Perth was probably the hardest of my life. We had found somewhere to live, and finally work. I was working in the city and came home one night to find a strange package in the fridge: a take-away container with 2 thick rubber bands round it. Those rubber bands looked scarily familiar but the grey stodge inside did not and some .. instinct told me not to open it. So instead I woke Jon up, he opened one eye and muttered “Your Muddah!”

I went back to the fridge, my jaw dropped in horror. Without dry ice, express post or even an airtight container, my mother had posted me a batch of gefilte fish. Just a take away container, her 2 signature elastic bands and brown paper. Perhaps she had glad-wrapped it – I don’t know because it had been stripped of its noxious wrapping.

I imagine the postman has long since recovered from the experience, though I doubt that his van was ever the same. He stood at the door holding this soggy, foul – smelling parcel, shaking his head and handed it to Jon with the question, “Mate! What is it?” Then he asked if he could wash his hands.

“Has she posted you any gefilte fish lately?” has become a family joke. I can’t tell the story without laughing so hard I cry. I remember phoning her the next day, when she answered the phone all I said was:

“Are you completely insane?”

She laughed and replied:

“Oh, it’s been quite cold here, is it still hot over there?”

Mum’s mental state was not, of course, the point. The point was her impulse, mad, generous and devoted. She had missed me at the Seder and sent a little something special for her prodigal daughter, as if it had the power to draw me back and seat me, at the table by her side with her other chicks. And I was lonely and so unhappy and had the gefilte fish survived, I would have eaten it and it would have taken me back to that table.

Mum always pretended to hate me telling that story. But I knew that was performance. She enjoyed her rebellious nature. And she certainly taught me a thing or two about that. My daughter Zenna and my nieces know that we follow a long line of dissident women (and excellent cooks).

Rest in peace Mum, your work is done.

Please add your own memories.

Her Eulogy follows:

Sheila Rhoda Newman 1922 – 2016

Born 1922 in Nottingham Sheila grew up in a tight-knit Orthodox community in Sunderland, England. She won a university scholarship but declined to take it up in order to work and support her family.

When WW2 began she quit her job and joined the Land Army growing food for the nation. She always said that she loved that time on the land, though the work was hard.

After the War she went with her mother Zena to reunite with her younger brother who had been evacuated to the safety of South Africa, where Sheila’s aunt Nita lived.

In Cape Town she met Hank Newman. Upon marrying Hank she became mother to his six-year old daughter Carol (now Phillips).

Robin, David and Felicity followed.

Sheila was a founding member of the Black Sash, the women’s movement opposing the Apartheid regime. Sheila was fearless in speaking up where she saw wrongdoing. In 1962 the family migrated to Australia.

As well as settling and caring for her family and friends, Sheila helped succeeding waves of migrants. Sheila and Hank helped the first coloured South Africans settle in Sydney and their home in Bondi was open to all.

Sheila was politically engaged all her life, even running twice for local council, when she called on voters to “put a Sheila on the council”! Sheila was a spirited woman of conviction. A proud feminist, she was a founding member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, and a member and President of her Toastmistress club for many years.

They say that if you want something done ask a busy person. Sheila only quit delivering meals on wheels at the age of 80.

Hank Newman was the great love of her life and she cared for him through many years of illness as she did for her mother Zena.

But the greatest joy in her life was her grandchildren: Robin and Valda’s children: Samantha Newman, Simon Newman and Lisa Newman, followed by David’s children Joel Newman and Grace Newman. Eventually a grandchild from Felicity: Zenna Newman-Santos.

Sheila was then finally blessed with great-grandchildren. Simon and Beth Newman’s beautiful Amelia Newman and Toby Newman.

Sheila’s life was a one of service to family and community. She was not a woman to sit still when there was help to be offered, mouths to be fed or children to be loved. Yet she was known for her candour, she spoke her mind and stood up for those in need.

She was a Yiddishe Mama in every sense of the word: loving, kind and strong.


Simon Newman, Joel Newman, Warren Jacobs and Max Jacobs.

Confessions of a Masterchef viewer – my secret shame!

So tonight we get to see the grand “finaleee”, not final, of yet another Masterchef. And I care because…? Because I’m a shameless baby boomer TV-head who needed something to replace My Kitchen Rules when it finished. And my good friend Anne-Marie watches it too, so we further amuse ourselves exchanging vacuous text messages.

Yes I thoroughly enjoyed MKR because I love seeing Pet Evans eating all that non-Paleo food and who doesn’t like Manu? But what I really liked is the frisson. You know, watching people tearing each apart under the cold glare of the camera (yes still enjoying the afterglow of divorce) and then there’s the jaw dropping lack of boundaries some folks have. I mean was that woman really a lawyer? Does she still have a job? How far can a pouty puss extend her bottom lip? All the reasons I enjoy a bit of TV cookery bullshit.

Masterchef is something else. Its producers also know no boundaries – why should they when they claim credit for the food revolution sweeping Australia? When they have attracted a number of food heavy weights who should know better? (Marco Pierre White are you really such a pompous git? Maggie Beer I forgive you because you are a genuine legend and promoting the great work you are doing for geriatric nutrition).

So tonight’s “finale” will see Elena cook off against Matt. I’m not surprised to see that Matt has survived this far – he has clearly been singled out for glory early on, though why I can’t imagine. He certainly seems to have some flare but little commonsense or ability to read a recipe.

But what really annoys me (apart from the awful dramatic music, pomposity of the judging panel, watching George eat and the miracle of everyone always finishing their dish) is those over the top chef-inspired challenges. Torture to watch, I don’t really understand their relationship to food. I thoroughly enjoy the invention tests and mystery box because folks are actually being creative. But tonight we will be subjected to the alchemy and uber-pretension Heston has become famous for.

Ah Heston. I used to love you! I understand Masterchef has increased your profile in Australia but do you really need this televisual ego-massage? And how do the smoked parfaits, the powders and foams relate to cooking?

How much vacuous padding will we hapless viewers endure before seeing the result?

And dare I ask the obvious question? If food is all you want to do why not do an apprenticeship or work in a restaurant to achieve your “food dream”?

I want Elena to win but I’m not sure I can sit through 2 hours of schmaltz. Reality TV? A secret pleasure – sweet as a Street’s Magnum and it also leaves a nauseating taste in my mouth.


I’m really enjoying Perth’s sunny autumn weather, there’s no better time for alfresco breakfast and no shortage of great choices but Kazoomies at the E-Shed certainly puts paid to that old chestnut about good food OR good view but never the twain!

Nimrod Khazoom is well known to Freoites (the Sandcastle, Fremantle Arts Centre café), but I first tried his North African cuisine at a work event he catered last year, a glorious vegetarian feast.

I’m a big fan of baba ganouj but Nimrod’s beetroot dip blew that out of the water.

So, armed with this knowledge we recently enjoyed his sensational breakfast menu. Tunisian domestic goddess Anne-Marie Medcalf reckons he makes the best shakshouka in town.

Felafel afficiando Gaby Slade has endorsed the felafel.

And you can have it all:

Smartfoodmama just loves it all.

Nimrod’s menu is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner and goes way beyond shakshuka and felafel.

Nimrod has been getting a lot of coverage lately – check

for flasher pics than mine!

The only dilemma I can see for Nimrod is dividing himself between kitchen and customers – the man was born to schmooze. Love your work Nimrod Kazoom!

E Shed Markets

Peter Hughes Dr, Fremantle WA 6160

Booking:0401 839 058

My Mum is surrounded!

My daughter is somewhat amused by my love of Mother’s Day. Especially since I usually express disdain for crass commercialism and enforced celebration. So I remind her of the many years I spent celebrating the day with my siblings, their wives and children. Always alone. I had accepted a life without children and taken responsibility for that. Don’t misunderstand me, there is a full and beautiful life to be had without children, but not if you desperately want children.

Mother’s day is not a happy day for all. Certainly not for those who wanted children but haven’t been blessed, for those who have lost their mothers or lost their children. We need to remember that not all mothers love and protect their children and that not all of us cherish mothers who have done their best.

My Mum is in care in Sydney and today she is lunching with my brothers and cousins, their partners and their children.

Mum is surrounded by those who love her. I have just spoken to her and heard their laughter in the background of a noisy Newman get together. But I won’t be there and she will miss me.

My cousins lost their Mum way too early and direct their affection to my Mum. And how happily we share her. I’ve written about the symbolic value of the all-embracing Jewish mother – to argue that we are all Jewish mothers, that children need the love and care of the village. So on this mother’s day it’s good to take a moment to think about those for whom this day is bitter sweet, and sadly sometimes, just bitter.

Which comes first, the chicken or the worker?

So here’s the issue. I love eating chicken, but I can’t say I love chickens – they’re scary little beady-eyed peckers. Yes, I’m a city girl if ever there was one, but I wish them no harm, after all they produce that most sacred of foods: the egg. I’d best not start on the egg or I won’t stop.

Vegans, look away now! I love eating poultry in preference to the meat of larger animals, but I still want to know that, however short the lives of animals I eat, they do not suffer unnecessarily. Live sheep exports are particularly abhorrent. I buy hideously expensive organic eggs, because I want to know that my potential chicken in a shell is the product of a parent who was well-fed and cared for: free-range. Besides they’re huge and frequently double yolked:

Okay I broke one!

I won’t go near Steggles and am ashamed of the days, (many years ago) when I bought a pack of their discount pieces. I stupidly wondered why these pieces were so misshapen. Many years have passed since then, now I do know that they were deformed due to their cramped conditions. Free-range certification is a nightmare and consumers are rightly confused about the real living conditions of the chooks. Buying certified organic means you can be assured that the facility is monitored to ensure they do have reasonable access to the great outdoors.

Here in WA buying free-range chicken means buying Mt Barker, by and large. They don’t look so flash. Then one glorious day I saw this in my supermarket fridge:

It looked like a proper plump chook. It cooked a treat, none of that slimy stuff you find on supermarket chooks. I thought I’d hit the jackpot. The massive 1.964 chook pictured cost just $11.64. I wondered how this was possible and then I bought it anyway.

So there I was happily roasting these fab chooks – 3 days of good eating per chook (hey, I’m a Jewish mother – roast chicken means there will be soup) Now fast-forward to May 4 and the Four Corners  expose on the exploitation of workers right here in glorious Oz.

The program concerned food companies that force unreasonable schedules and pay unfair rates and who should get a mention, amongst others, but Lilydale . I was angry. I was horrified. I was confused. Here I am buying these chickens because they treat the animals reasonably, but not so the poor buggers employed to process them.

Cheap food and the quest to keep it cheap, is wreaking havoc on our farm sector. I would happily pay an extra $3 per kilo for these chickens. Perhaps your everyday chicken lover might not, but shouldn’t the selling point of a free-range chicken be its provenance not its price?

If this reads like latte-luvvy thinking, that I’m an urban elitist let me be clear. I’m a casually employed academic on a low income. Food is expensive but most of don’t even spend 20% of our income on our food, including take-away, while our grandparents spent more like 30%. My students complain about the high price of food whilst frantically checking for messages on brand new I-phones.

We hesitate to spend $15 on a free-range chicken, which can actually feed a family of four (and soup the next day). Meanwhile a Red Rooster “dinner” for four will cost $20. For this you will get an inferior chicken, copious chicken salt, soggy chips by the time you get them home and a great deal of grease. We readily fork out $20 to see a movie, never mind the popcorn. Our priorities are so skewed. I say us because last week I bought another Lilydale chicken.

So here’s my problem, which comes first the chicken or the worker?

I picked the chicken didn’t I?