I check out two new books this week – Matthew Evans’ confronting, but inspiring ‘On Eating Meat’, and the heartwarming collection of family-inspired recipes in from chef Nu Suandokmai in ‘Fire and Flavour’.
Australian chef, farmer and food critic Matthew Evans, of Fat Pig Farm, has a new book out and it’s going to ruffle some feathers. Engagingly written and well researched, On Eating Meat (Murdoch Books) takes a good hard look at meat production and it’s impact on the land and the natural environment.
A meat producer, dispatcher and consumer himself, Evans investigates and shares the various methods of production. It’s a confronting read in parts, spelling out some of the more brutal aspects of meat production – even for those who may have already given a lot of these issues thought. However, knowledge is power and I’ve always been of the opinion that consumers should take much more interest in where their food comes from.
He pulls no punches, calling out some of the huge names in meat production whose concern to hide their production methods from consumers he considers questionable – at the very least. Because of the run-around he experienced at the hands of a couple in particular, he makes a fairly impassioned plea for transparency in commercial production. It’s hard to see any reasonable argument against transparency – unless their production methods are so abhorrent that they fear consumers might become demanding of higher standards. Their ‘nothing to see here, folks’ stance definitely suggests the absolute opposite.
Vegans start looking a little less shiny, too and don’t escape Evans’ gaze in ‘On Eating Meat’, as he shines an honest, unflinching light on fruit and vegetable production – the mammal, bird and insect deaths which are an inescapable part of it, the carbon footprint of fossil fuel fertilisers used and the massive resources committed to meat substitute production.
Having said all this, this is not a ‘doom and gloom’ treatise. For a more ethical food future, Evans suggests that consumers need to take a more informed standpoint. He calls for less radicalisation and for a greater understanding of ethical farming.
I’d strongly and urgently recommend this book for anyone who eats.
Fire and Flavour, from Wakefield Press, is a warm and accessible look at the Thai culinary tradition which produced star Adelaide chef Nu Suandokmai of Lantern by Nu. Nu was one of the first to bring authentic Thai cooking to Adelaide and this collection of images and recipes takes us back to his mother’s kitchen, on their village farm, where he learned his skills.
At it’s heart, good Thai food has it’s origins in simplicity, using ingredients to hand. This cookbook celebrates the family recipes, as translated by Nu, and helps the Australian home cook recreate some of these simple, delicious dishes, using ingredients that are easily found in Asian supermarkets here.
I can’t be the only person in Adelaide addicted to Nu’s food and was thrilled to find he includes an accessible recipe for a personal favourite – banana roti will be making an appearance on my home table soon.
Adelaide food writer Nigel Hopkins and photographer Tony Lewis accompany Nu on this trip back to his family home in Thailand, sharing the experiences that inspired the fabulous Thai food that he has become famous for here in Australia. Like home cooking the world over, Thai home-style food is being usurped by convenience foods, but on their farm the Suandokmai family continue to cook and eat as they have for generations. .
This is the food that Nu’s mother taught him to cook – and now he’s generously sharing it with us.