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Slow Food – Bush Tucker

on Food  

When I’m asked for an example of an Australian dish, I’m always a little stumped. Most of the things we think of as Australian staples were appropriated from immigrants or British settlers. It’s easy to forget the native foods, the bush tucker, that were cultivated and used by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years before imported crops and meat pies came on the scene.

A couple of weeks ago The Boy and I attended the Bush Tucker meets Valley Produce event run by the Swan Valley and Eastern Regions Slow Food Convivium together with the Maalinup Art Gallery, where the event was also hosted. As with previous the Slow Food events we’ve attended, the idea was to educate guests through a meal showcasing local ingredients and traditions, as well enjoying the experience of sharing good food together!

Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.

Slow Food International

The meal began with an introduction from Maalinup owner Dale Tilbrook, who spoke about the Aboriginal history of the area and the traditional foods we were about to eat. The food was prepared by Dale, Slow Food chef Vincenzo Velletri and their helpers, and included a modern fusion of local and native ingredients. I find fusion dishes sometimes a bit hit and miss, but these were prepared with knowledge and sensitivity to the traditions and ingredients. They were well complimented with Edgecombe Brothers wine and Bitter Bush essences with soda water (tip: the lemon myrtle tastes like lemon lollies despite not having any sugar in it).

Pizza Bianca with smoked kangaroo and wild lime olive oil
Bush tomato mousse in a pastry case
Pizza Bianca with emu and pepper berry chorizo

It’s a pity how uncommon indigenous ingredients are, when they grow well in the Australian environment (obviously) and actually taste really good! I suppose it can be confronting for some people to eat kangaroo or emu, although they are also much better suited to the land here than pigs and cows and much healthier. I didn’t manage to get a decent photo of every dish (and I did manage to drop jam all over my poor camera), but here’s a selection.

Kangaroo tail brawn on crostini
Asparagus creme risotto

Eating local, seasonal and sustainable food has become increasingly important to me, for a variety of reasons. Chief among them, and the reason that I love these Slow Food events, is that I believe in supporting people who do good work with actions (and money) rather than just words – it’s the only way they can continue to do good work.

Emu ravioli with saltbush butter
Oven roasted, lemon myrtle marinated prawns

The meal ended with desserts celebrating the quondong (native peach) season – vanilla pannacotta with white quandong halves in peach schnapps, and quondong jam tarts with wattle seed cream. I learned about some new local flavours, was reintroduced to others, and it was a pleasure as always! It’s left me wondering where I can get some of these bush tucker plants to attempt to cultivate at home – maybe I’ll have better luck growing native wild limes and bush tomatoes than I have with the European varieties?


Minimalism vs Tech: To-Do Lists

on Life  

There’s nothing that wastes time quite like exploring apps for getting things done. Everyone has their own take on what makes a great to-do list, and some have expanded to (or from) complex project management applications.

I’ve tried out my fair share of to-do list apps and solutions, but most tend to be far more complex than I need them to be. This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list, just what works for me personally. If you have any recommendations of your own please add to the comments below!

For ad-hoc lists on the go – IOS notes

Often I’ll think of things I need to do whilst waiting for the bus or otherwise on the go, so the option to jot things down quickly on my phone is a necessity.

Up until recently I was using Wunderlist, but the recent updates to the Apple’s default Notes app now allow you to add checklists within notes, serving my purpose for simple ad-hoc lists. Since it’s far simpler and an app that iOS won’t let me delete anyway, this is now my quick list of choice.

For projects & Collaboration – Trello

At work and for Side Project magazine, where a bit more power is necessary, I use Trello – a free, multi-platform, cloud-based app that I mainly use in a browser. The premise of Trello is to have boards, each of which hold multiple lists which appear as columns across the page. In each list is are cards, which can contain checklists, comments and attachments, and can be assigned due dates and a person responsible. Cards can be moved between lists, and archived as they are completed.

This sounds complicated, but seeing everything laid out visually can be a huge help to see what needs to be done and who needs to do it. Clever filtering and tracking of when cards are added, moved and deleted (and by whom) help to get more specific in more crowded boards.

I’ve started trying to use it to plan out blog posts for ChiGarden as well, and to bring across any of my ad-hoc lists that need to be put somewhere safe longer term. I think your average person wouldn’t need this level of detail for personal use, but if you run a blog, are planning a wedding, building a house or just have a lot going on then it’s worth checking out.

FOR short term to do lists – good old pen & Paper

As much as I like playing around with apps, sometimes a low-fi solution is actually all that is needed. All those fancy digital options just can’t compare to the satisfaction of scribbling a bunch of items on a pad of paper, then ticking each one as it’s completed and tearing off the sheet at the end. Having my list physically there in front of me, without having to open an app or a browser, is a much better short-term prompt than scheduled reminders about due dates. And of course I do love any opportunity to practice a bit of brush lettering. Good old pen and paper is my to-do list of choice for short-term lists to be completed within a day or two.

For me at least, this is a good example of realising when technology hinders rather than helps. I did try to make digital lists for the day work, but it isn’t as satisfying and isn’t really any easier to put together. Maybe it’s a bit less high tech and fancy, but the simplicity and the physical nature of a pad of paper and a pen are all that I need in this circumstance, so anything trying to be more than that is simply unnecessary.

What do you use to keep track of your things to do? If you have a favourite app or paper notepad, I’d love to hear it!

These Minimalism vs. Tech posts are all about exploring the tension between essentialist ideals and recent technology, from my experiences. You can read the intro here. More coming up soon!

Learning Pottery

on Make  


As I’ve been mentioning in my Head & Heart posts lately, I recently completed a six session pottery course at TAFE, along with my mum! This particular course focused on throwing clay on a pottery wheel, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Our teacher made it all look so easy, but it took some time to get the hang of things and then before I knew it, the course was over.

Pottery workshop

We started by learning how to knead clay, which is not the same way you knead bread, and is harder than you would think. After kneading the stoneware clay into tidy balls, we then learned how to center it on the wheel before moulding it into a small bowl. Or at least that was the idea anyway – as a beginner it’s easy to fail on the centering part and end up with a wobbly mess that threatens to fly off at any minute, or overwork the clay to the point that the shape collapses. I took a few timelapse videos of the process with my phone balancing delicately next to the wheel.

Wobbliness aside, shaping clay is a really pleasant feeling – you can feel the weight and the texture beneath your hands, and mostly decide whether to add more water or push it one way or the other by gut feeling. After a day of working on the computer it was nice to go to something so very tactile and focused.

Some leather hard pots ready for turning/trimming

After shaping the clay on the wheel, the vessel is scored around the edges, cut off the base with wire and set aside to dry out slightly (to ‘leather hard‘ consistency) under plastic wrap. The next week we moved on to the next part of the process – putting each bowl back onto the wheel upside down to trim the bottom and edges. This is done with various wire tools, and feels a lot like wood turning with a much more soft and delicate material. Some I trimmed a bit too thin at the base and poked a hole in the bottom!


The neatly trimmed vessels then go into the kiln for bisque or biscuit firing, which leaves them hard, brittle and very porous for the next step of glazing.

Trimmed and ready for bisque firing!

Once bisque fired, each piece then needs to be carefully dipped into glazes containing various minerals that produce varying colours. In liquid form most of the glazes are a pale grey or green, and are somewhat unpredictable in just how they’ll turn out once fired. They can also be layered for different effects, some of which I found more successful than others! I really struggled with glazing and most of my pieces are a bit patchy or drippy in places, although I think I started to get the hang of it by the end.

Once glazed the base needs to be cleaned off so it doesn’t bake onto the kiln shelf, and it goes back in for a second round of firing. It then comes out as a brightly coloured, very robust, food-safe and dishwasher-friendly piece of ceramic!

Black glaze always seemed to come out exactly as expected, thankfully!

I’m not sure how useable most of my pieces are in the end, but I’ve found a place for a few of them around the house as trinket dishes, bud vases, succulent pots (those bowls with holes in the base came in handy after all!) and pot-plant trays.

Succulent planter, tray and a few little bowls and things in the background.
This little brown pot is one of my favourite glazes.
Teeny bud vase and a little jug type thing…

If you count all the processes and waiting time, it takes three sessions to go from the beginning to glazing (and a fourth to pick up the finished product), so my six week course felt incredibly short! Many of the people in my class were serial potters, doing multiple courses back-to-back over years and making some incredible pieces. Now that I’ve had a taster I’m considering doing the same next year.


P.S. Here’s my experience doing the letterpress course last year, which was also pretty awesome. I love learning things!