Monthly round-up

I have a blog post coming soon on my next mystery ingredient challenge (hint: crepes). In the mean time, I thought I might share a couple of interesting articles that I’ve come across lately.

The first one is a short piece in the Guardian about the origin of the Lamington. As it turns out, it was an April Fool’s Joke and plays on the ongoing Australia/New Zealand rift when it comes to food.  The article argues that there is “proof” that the humble, delightful spongy cakes is ours!

The Lamington, Australia’s famed dessert, was actually invented in New Zealand and originally named a “Wellington”, according to new research published by the University of Auckland.

Fresh analysis of a collection of 19th-century watercolours by the New Zealand landscape artist JR Smythe, shows that in one portrait, “Summer Pantry” dated 1888, a partially eaten Lamington cake is clearly visible on the counter of a cottage overlooking Wellington Harbour.

One of my favourite food writers Jack Monre has been profiled in the New Yorker blogs and discusses the difficulty of living in Austerity Britain under the Conservatives:

Back in July, 2012, though, while she was posting recipes for friends and then printing them out to distribute at a local food pantry, Monroe wrote an entry called “Hunger Hurts.” The short post told of her quick decline from a middle-class working woman to a single mother on the dole, suffering the pressure of rent arrears when her check arrived mysteriously short. She turned off her heat, unscrewed her light bulbs, and sold every valuable she owned to a pawnshop. Even though she organized her cooking so as not to spend more than ten pounds ($16.65) a week for food, she wasn’t able to keep herself and her son fed: “Poverty is the sinking feeling when your small boy finishes his one weetabix and says ‘more mummy, bread and jam please mummy’ as you’re wondering whether to take the TV or the guitar to the pawn shop first, and how to tell him that there is no bread or jam.”

An interesting piece by Diana Henry about the process of publishing a cookbook. Some fascinating details about the research process, recipe testing and how everything comes together at the end.

But cookbooks are not just information. At the same time as I was researching I was thinking about dishes. This is something that goes on all the time. Sometimes I can’t get to sleep because I get stuck in a groove with a certain ingredient, or food from a particular place. I write these down – I have notebooks all over the place and make long lists on the computer – and then I come back to them for pieces and for books. Ideas for dishes come out of travelling, too. In Iceland over the summer I made pages and pages of notes. The dishes I was coming up with weren’t Icelandic, of course, but they had Icelandic flavours. You get inspired by the foods that dominate; in Iceland, for example, it was cod, dill, oats, beer and, a surprise to me, liquorice. Texture was a big thing there, too. It is partly because of the landscape, which is incredibly varied (so you think about texture all the time). Countries that don’t have a great reputation for food can be the most inspiring. I have a long list of dishes that I thought up in Estonia, for example, that haven’t yet seen the light of day.

A bit of kitchen silliness here – what does the way you have your egg say about your personality? I like my eggs sunny side down, but they don’t have that option here! This quiz is strictly scientific.

If you were on a deserted island and you were given only eggs to eat and you could only choose one style of egg for all of eternity, you know exactly what you’d choose. Scrambled, folded into an omelet, steamed, baked –– there’s no wrong way to eat an egg, but your choice gives more than a little insight into your personality.