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Kitchen gods and sacrifice

Excerpt from – House Therapy – Discovering who you really are at home!

By Sudha Hamilton

House Therapy is Sudha’s soon to be published new book.

 

The Kitchen

The Ancient Greeks, who gave us many of the founding principles upon which we base our modern societies – democracy; logic; philosophy; literature and poetry to name but a few salient examples, had  a rich collection of gods and goddesses. Hestia was the goddess of hearth and home, older sister to Zeus and first born of the titans Kronos and Rhea – perhaps not as well known today as her siblings Demeter, Hera, Haides and Poseidon.  This may have been due to the fact that she was swallowed first by her titan father Kronos, who in  a bid to avoid being overthrown by one of his children, as prophesied, ate all his children, she was thus the last to be regurgitated, once Zeus had forced his father to do so.

The Romans also worshipped her in their homes and knew her as Vesta. The areas of responsibility for which Hestia was worshipped and sacrificed to, were most aspects of domestic life and in particular what we now call the kitchen. For it is around the cooking hearth or kitchen that a home or house builds up or out. Hestia was always toasted at the beginning of a meal in thanks for the hospitality proffered. She was probably where the early Christians appropriated their ‘saying of grace’ before dinner from.

Homeric Hymn 24 to Hestia (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th – 4th B.C.) :
“Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honour: glorious is your portion and your right. For without you mortals hold no banquet,–where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last. And you, Argeiphontes [Hermes], son of Zeus and Maia, . . . be favourable and help us, you and Hestia, the worshipful and dear. Come and dwell in this glorious house in friendship together; for you two, well knowing the noble actions of men, aid on their wisdom and their strength. Hail, Daughter of Kronos, and you also, Hermes.”

Interestingly Hestia was a virginal goddess and refused the suits of both Apollo and Poseidon. Perhaps this is where we get the separation of the sexual roles of the wife and mother in the home and the focus on providing nurture and hospitality instead. Hestia was seen as the giver of all domestic happiness and good fortune in the home and she was believed to dwell in the inner parts of every home. She was also the first god mentioned at every sacrifice, as she represented the hearth where sacrifices took place – this is the direct link to our kitchens today and the genesis of the sacred chef. There are very few temples of Hestia extant and this is thought to be because every home was her temple in the Hellenistic world. I think we can draw some intuition from this in our view of our homes being places of divine inspiration.

The kitchen has of late become a popular focus of interest, with TV chefs and groovy restaurants grabbing the public’s imagination. For House Therapy the kitchen represents our centre, our practical and instinctual selves. This is where we prepare food for family and ourselves. It is also often where food is stored in the refrigerator and pantry cupboards. Food is about survival and security. There is no bullshit about these things and the kitchen is a place where the elements of nature still regularly intervene. Fire on the stove and in your oven; water at the sink, earth in the bench tops and structure; and air in the extractor, fan forced oven and all around. You can be hurt in the kitchen if you do not pay attention to what you are about. Unlike the faux furies vented in the kitchens on TV, you can experience some real passions in these hot and pressurised places at home. You might be burning fingers and dishes, dropping scoldingly hot plates and crying bitter tears over chopped onions. The kitchen is where we show our real reactions to strong emotions, pressure in our lives and our appetites and jealousies.

Have a look around now at your kitchen, the colour of the walls and general lay-out of things. What is your first impression? What does it say to you about your instinctive self? Are you clinical or passionate? Are the walls white/neutral or vivid/strong colours? Is it large or small? Is the instinctual, raw and pragmatic you an important part of your life? Or is it hidden away or missing? The trend in studio apartment architecture now, to build them without kitchens and have neutered mini servery’s instead, is a reflection of a missing essential in sections of our culture. Stripping away the practical ability to fend for yourself by cooking your own food and becoming dependent on pre-prepared meals is symptomatic of us having lost our way along the journey. Is your kitchen well equipped? Can you cook? Do you enjoy cooking for friends, family and yourself?

Returning to the rich historical connection our modern day kitchen has with Hestia’s hearth, as mentioned earlier it was the place where the highly necessary ritualised sacrifices took place. These sacrifices usually involved a calf or some other domesticated animal and those involved with the sacrifice would share in eating the meat of the roasted animal. So the power of the sacrifice would be in the ritualised slaughtering of the animal in dedication to the goddess for a particular purpose – to bring good fortune upon whatever was so desired for example. Today the cook or cooks go into the kitchen, risking cuts, perspiration and burns, to prepare a celebratory meal for our friends and or family – Christmas, birthdays and other days of ritualised festivities. We may not consciously invoke Hestia or any other gods but the overall intention is the same, we wish to share good cheer with those we love and bring good fortune upon us all.

It is interesting to ask oneself what is true sacrifice and what does it mean in our lives today? When we think of sacrificing something, we tend to see it as foregoing or missing out on something so as to have something else. “You cannot have your cake and eat it too.” Which I have always thought was an incredibly stupid saying, because what is the point of possessing uneaten cake? A sacrifice I hear you say, perhaps a slice for the gods. Interestingly the Greeks and Romans would eat the cooked flesh of their sacrifice, offering the bones and fat to the gods and goddesses, but it was the life itself, that was the real sacrifice in my view. The word sacrifice means to make sacred, so whatever we offer up in dedication to the gods becomes sacred. Actually the word anathema, was the Greek word forlaying-up or suspending something in wait for the gods, and it is has now taken on the meaning of something that is accursed, through its contact, down through the ages, with the jealous Hebrew  god, Yahweh; the Christian god. Our language, and lexicon of words, have taken an interesting journey over the last four millennia, and it is no wonder we are all a little confused at times. So we could make  a correlation between sacrificing something in our life and that thing, which  has been sacrificed becomes anathema to us or accursed. How do you feel about the things you have sacrificed in your life? A person’s love; a relationship; a career; types of food; alcohol; drugs; sex; lifestyle; freedom?  We do not live in a particularly sacrificial age, more of a ‘you can have it all’ age, but can you really enjoy it all and be present for entirely disparate things in your life? Do we appreciate things more when we make room for them in our lives? Perhaps sacrifice still has a part to play in our lives today, better sharpen those knives.

The kitchen is also a place of transformation, where base elements are turned into the gold of love and nourishment. Is your kitchen a space where magic like this happens, regularly or just on special occasions? Domestic kitchens have a great tradition throughout the West of being incredibly impractical, lacking preparation space and adequate and functional cupboards. This is now being addressed in more modern homes, as the passion is returning to the kitchen. I think that we suffered for a few decades from the ‘American wonder of white goods’ syndrome, where no home was complete without these wonderful space and time saving machines and that a mentality of faster was better grew up around them. Fast foods, sliced white bread, whipped cream in a can, all these travesties were accorded the haloed status of modernity and progress. When in actual fact they were soulless short cuts that ripped the heart out of good cooking. Yes we still do have a lot of gadgets in the kitchen but we also now understand that good food still needs dedication and application. Bread makers are great, but bread cooked in a wood fired oven tastes better and if it is naturally fermented sour dough even better. Espresso coffee from your home machine tastes a lot better than instant coffee.

Your kitchen is a place where you can practically respond to the basic needs of living. Is your kitchen letting you do this? Is your kitchen supporting you in feeling centred and secure in dealing with the vicissitudes that life often throws up? Are your knives sharp and well balanced? Do you have enough bench space when preparing meals? Does your stove cook the way you want it to cook?  If not then you are letting yourself down and going around with a bloody great hole where your centre should be. As a member of the human tribe you need to be able to fend for yourself, and the kitchen can empower you to be grounded in the here and now. Not wafting around on the ceiling hoping for the crumbs of human kindness to drop your way.

Things we can do to transform our kitchen

As a chef, who has owned and managed a number of restaurants and cafes, I know all about kitchens and their design downfalls. First and foremost it is about space and in particular bench top space where most kitchens, especially older kitchens, are lacking. Storage space comes a close second and it is in these areas that a solid beginning can be made in transforming your kitchen from a frustration trap into a pragmatic pleasure dome. Cooking is never completely easy, if it is, it isn’t real cooking, in my opinion, there must be some blood, sweat and tears in every great dish but not too much. Unnecessary suffering is not on anyone’s menu by choice.

Buy an island bench if you lack bench top space and cannot easily create more, they are great and I have several of them, and you can take them with you when you move.

Sharp knives, that are also well weighted in the overall heft of the knife, can bring a smile to any good cook and I always say, “happiness is a sharp knife.”

Obviously kitchens need to be clean and cleaned regularly for all sorts of reasons, hygiene, health and happiness. Clutter in the kitchen causes chaos and calamity, food takes longer to prepare and the energy around it is bad.

Trapped dead energy, in the form of rotting and old produce in fridges and cupboards, does not augur well for happy kitchen gods and thus producing yummy healthy and nutritious food; so clean out and clean up.

 

©Sudha Hamilton

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A2 Milk Different White Stuff

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Mad, bad and dangerous to eat the series

A2 Milk Different White Stuff

With The Sacred Chef

INTRO: A few years ago; ‘milk was milk’, it came in funny shaped glass bottles and was delivered by a milkman, (who was rumoured to be infamously linked with extramarital activities), and who would run along behind the truck carrying the clinking milk bottles in their crates.

Then, along came the momentous choice between full fat milk and low fat milk; and glass milk bottles went the way of the dodo. Nowadays, producers are adding so much stuff into milk that it is hard to keep up – omega 3 fatty acids, added calcium, vitamin D, in addition to coffee, chocolate, banana and other flavours. ‘Low fat’ has been joined by ‘no fat’ and milk comes in a variety of cartons and plastic bottles. So, today a trip around the supermarket and up the dairy aisle entails a whole lot more choosing time than it once did.

If you really think about the simplicity of where it all came from – over there is the cow and here is a bucket and you pull on these…. Well now there is a whole new kind of cow’s milk to think about called A2, and this is an essentially different type of milk than everyone else’s. Humour aside, this is probably the most important development in the understanding of one of our most cherished consumer foods. We drink a lot of cow’s milk and we give our kids a lot of cow’s milk products, and if there is a concern about it; we should all be informed.

There are two main forms of the important cow’s milk protein, beta casein, found in the cows’ milk that you drink. These two forms are known as A1 and A2 beta casein. The A2 form of beta casein has been identified by scientific research to be the original form of beta casein that would have been produced by cows thousands of years ago. Every litre of milk contains about two teaspoons of beta-casein, usually a mix between A1 and A2.  A2 is the original type but over time a natural mutation occurred in some European cattle, and A1 beta-casein developed, says Keith Woodford, professor of farm management and agribusiness at Lincoln University in New Zealand, and the author of a book on the subject:  Devil in the Milk.

According to Woodford, the genetic difference between the two beta-caseins is tiny, but the difference in outcome is enormous. “The beta-casein has 209 amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and the difference between A1 and A2 is just one of these,” he says.

A1 milk beta-casein has been linked to allergies, type 1 diabetes, heart conditions and more recently some psychological conditions, such as Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism and Schizophrenia. For more info on these issues or to see details of the Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford visit www.unireps.com.au

A2 milk is not genetically modified. It’s not that the A1 protein is taken out later: it’s that it was never there! The milk used in A2 branded milk is taken only from cows that produce the A2 form of beta casein.

Make Your Own A2 Yoghurt


Sterilize all bowls, utensils or yogurt maker (internal container) before starting. You can sterilize them in the dishwasher or boil them for 5-10 minutes.

What do you need:

*           2 litres of A2 Full Fat Milk

*           1 teaspoon dairy-free acidophilus

*           thermometer

Method:

1.     Bring milk to just under boiling point, and then pour the milk into a glass or earthenware dish. Let the milk cool to about 42°C.

2.     Prepare starter by combining acidophilus powder with 3 tablespoons A2 Milk (at room temperature).

3.     Pour the starter mixture into the milk carefully without disturbing the skin that may have formed on the surface of the milk.

4.     Cover with a cloth, place in a warm, draft-free place for 8 to 12 hours or overnight, and do not disturb it until the yoghurt thickens.

5.     Drain any excess liquid and store in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.

To make your yoghurt a thicker consistency

1.     Remove the skin on the surface of the yoghurt you’ve just made.

2.     Pour the yoghurt into a muslin bag.

3.     Hang the bag over a bowl and let drain for about 2 hours or until the desired thickness is obtained.

Serve with fresh berries or passionfruit; stir a little maple syrup through for an added treat.

©Eco Living Magazine.

Eco Living Magazine

Midas Word

Aphrodisiacs in Food

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Heading: Aphrodisiacs in Food

Yummy food Yummy love

With The Sacred Chef

Intro: Celebrating spring is very much about the birds and the bees, sowing seeds and enjoying the fecundity of nature. So what foods stimulate the arousal of life inside us by their essential chemical make-up and perhaps by their shape and form?

Eating well – beautiful organic food presented naturally, and eaten after some blood pumping exercise is the first step. Food tastes so much better when you have a healthy appetite for it. Don’t eat out of habit. Don’t eat the same boring thing every day. Don’t eat if you are not hungry. Food like love making is better when it is special.

Food is an essentially visual art medium, like painting it is an arrangement of form and colour on the plate. Glistening green spears of asparagus with a dollop of basil, macadamia nut and honey mayonnaise; freshly shucked oysters alive in their sea salty liquor; ripe red strawberries perfect in their natural state; a salad of warm artichoke hearts, goats cheese, fresh figs and baby spinach leaves; or a tangle of fettuccine slippery with extra virgin olive oil, cherry tomatoes, chilli and chunks of ocean trout. Each dish can be a moment of poetry, involving all the senses – what other art form do we literally consume. Let the smears on your serviette be a testament to the abundance of your life!

Food for fertility and a touch of “friskiness”

Zinc is one of the most important minerals to be aware of in relation to our libido and fertility levels. It helps maintain sperm count and levels of testosterone in men and in women; it is involved in a healthy menstrual cycle; it is vital for cell division during pregnancy. Zinc is also needed for the parts of our brains that activate our sense of appetite, taste and smell. Oysters are packed full of zinc, as are fish, green leafy vegetables, lean meats, nuts and pulses.

Organic veggies have higher levels of mineral content than those grown with chemical assistance. Why not grow your own organic veggies? Spend a weekend digging in a patch and readying the soil for sowing – you will be amazed when green things start sprouting and you will feel a quiet pride when you first serve the progeny of your garden to friends and family. The taste, (oh! the taste) will blow your mind. You get the complete package – exercise by honest toil to build appetite, pheromones from perspiration to attract the opposite sex, superior nutritional value from organic produce, and the best flesh for taste and colour.

Avocadoes were known as testicle fruit by the ancient folk in Central and South America. They are rich in phyto-chemicals and are linked to lowering cholesterol. Their creamy texture, gorgeous colour, (and reputation as an aphrodisiacal food), make them an ideal ingredient in dips, salads and wraps. Three quarters of the avocadoes, which we consume in Australia are of the Hass variety – with distinctive purple black skin and oval shape. Other varieties are the Shepard – green skin with golden buttery flesh ( and the only avocado not to turn brown once cut open), available from Feb to April; Reed – green skin when ripe, round shape, peaks in November; Sharwil – smaller pear shaped avocado with a rich nutty flavour; a winter/spring variety;  and the Wurtz – a smaller winter avocado grown in Queensland. Try spreading avocado, a good local honey and cracked black pepper on some lightly toasted sour dough rye bread for a delicious and nutritious start to the day.

Tropical fruits are pretty much sexy per se; things that like to grow and ripen under the sweaty equatorial sun. Biting into beautifully coloured fruits that explode in your mouth, and send streams of juice running down your chin are experiences to surrender to. Fresh pineapple slices are particularly like eating sunshine – and of course mango is the queen of the slippery fruit affair. These fruits are full of antioxidants, vitamin C and a diet rich in them can make you feel vital and youthful.

The following is an excerpt from Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Penguin Books ISBN 9780143038412

Holy of Holies – Perfect Pizza in Italy

“Pizzeria da Michele is a small place with only two rooms and one non-stop oven. It’s about a fifteen minute walk from the train station in the rain, don’t even worry about it , just go. You need to get there fairly early in the day because sometimes they run out of dough, which will break your heart. By 1pm, the streets outside the pizzeria have become jammed with Neapolitans trying to get into the place, shoving for access like they’re trying to get space on a lifeboat. There’s not a menu. They have only two varieties of pizza here – regular and extra cheese. None of this new age southern Californian olives-and sun-dried tomato wannabe pizza twaddle. The dough, it takes me half my meal to figure out, tastes more like Indian nan than like any pizza dough I ever tried. It’s soft and chewy and yielding, but incredibly thin. I always thought we only had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crusts- thin and crispy, or thick and doughy. How was I to have known there could be a crust in this world that was thin and doughy? Holy of holies! Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance………”

Recipes from the Sacred Chef

A different kind of sexy is the feeling you get sliding a warmed spicy olive into your mouth.

Warmed Kalamata Olives in Infused Oil

Into a fry pan over a low heat, pour 2 tbspns of extra virgin olive, then chop up a lime & 6 cloves of garlic and a piece of ginger, a sprig of rosemary, a cinnamon quill and add this to the warming oil, before adding in 3 cups of Kalamata olives. Stir through for 5 minutes and add salt & pepper to taste. Serve on a platter.

Salted fresh pineapple is a great way to serve the tangy flavor sensation of fresh ripe pineapple.

Choose a ripe pineapple by its aroma, if you can find one that has not been too dulled by refrigeration, cut it up into bite sized pieces and lightly salt with a special sea salt freshly ground down in your mortar and pestle. Accompanied by a fresh lime soda or a cold beer — and heaven is right there on that tropical island inside your taste buds.

Fresh Asparagus Spears dipped in Basil, Macadamia Nut & Honey Mayonnaise

Whole free range egg or egg yolk mayonnaise with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Ingredients

3 Tsp honey

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 cup fresh basil leaves torn

½ cup roasted macadamia nuts

1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil drizzled in slowly.

Freshly ground black pepper & sea salt to taste.

Method:

Whizz it by hand or in the blender adding in your oil slowly as you go. Lightly steam or blanch your asparagus spears and serve accompanied by your tangy mayonnaise.

Warm Salad of Artichoke Hearts, Fresh Figs, Goats Cheese and Spinach Leaf Salad

Ingredients:

4 Globe Artichokes Steamed Peeled and halved

3 Figs sliced lengthwise into quarters

120g fresh goat’s cheese served at room temperature

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 cups baby spinach leaves

3 Romano tomatoes sliced lengthwise into quarters

Dressing – ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Sea salt & black pepper to taste.

Method:

Begin with the warm artichoke hearts and cover them with dressing before gently arrange dobs of the goats cheese amid the figs, tomatoes, parsley and spinach leaves on a platter and lightly toss before serving.

©Eco Living Magazine.

Eco Living Magazine

Midas Word

Foodmatters

Organic Wines in Australia

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Heading: Organic Sommelier

Wines by region in Australia & New Zealand

With The Sacred Chef

Intro: For the freshest fruit flavours available in your wine drinking experience, it is hard to go past good organic wine. When the fruit on the vine has been treated with knowledgeable care – sans the chemicals – it often takes the wine making to a whole new level.

By the same token, being organic does not turn ordinary wine into great wine and cannot replace wine making proficiency. The number of organically grown wines is increasing all the time, and I counted well over fifty wineries making organic wines during a brief bit of research. However, distribution difficulties for many wineries mean that you do not find much of a range in your local bottle shop, and this is something that can be greatly improved upon.

I am a strong advocate of regionalism or the eponymous terroir – meaning that certain regions, climates and soil types produce better examples of certain varieties of wine. It took me a while to realise this, and since I have pretty much committed myself to following this course of action I have had far fewer disappointing wine experiences. Of course there are always wonderful exceptions to any set of rules and some tragic ones too… We all have different likes and dislikes, as well in our wine tastes, and whatever I recommend here are really only my own opinions and I encourage you to follow your own taste buds.

White wines

Sauvignon Blanc – Upfront fresh tangy fruit driven style – New Zealand’s Marlborough, SA’s Adelaide Hills, WA’s Margaret River/Pemberton, NSW’s Orange, TAS’s North and South.

Semillon – A clean crisp lemony style when young but ages into a complex burnished beauty- NSW’s Hunter Valley.

Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – A blend of these two varieties best exemplified by – WA’s Margaret River, Great Southern.

Riesling – Dry apple, lime, mineral and sometimes floral style – SA’s Eden Valley, Clare Valley, WA’s Frankland; TAS’s North and South.

Chardonnay – Versatile style of wine ranging from full flavoured, creamy, buttery, big to peach, melon and lemon – VIC’s Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Beechworth; SA’s Adelaide Hills, WA’s Margaret River; TAS’s North and South.

Viognier – Full blown peach/apricot fruit and honey style – VIC’s Yarra Valley, SA’s Barossa Valley

Red wines

Pinot Noir –  Wild strawberry and cherry aromas and a flavour spectrum from young and fruity to elegant and complex – VIC’s Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong; SA’s Adelaide Hills; TAS’s North and South;  NZ’s Marlborough, Central Otago

Cabernet Sauvignon – Deep inky colour and black current flavour, classic wine that blends exceptionally well with merlot, high anti-oxidant rating – WA’s Margaret River; SA’s Coonawarra, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Riverland; VIC’s Pyranees, Goulburn Valley, Bendigo, Yarra Valley;  NSW’s Orange, Mudgee, Cowra, Hunter Valley.

Merlot – Soft, dry and dark fruit variety of wine that has too few great examples in Australia except when partnering cabernet sauvignon – SA’s Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley

Shiraz – Blackberry and vanilla aromas in this red variety which ranges from chocolatey, prunish, high alcohol in warm regions to peppery and herbal in cooler areas – SA’s Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, WA’s Margaret River, VIC’s Yarra Valley, Heathcote, Mornington Peninsula, Grampians; NSW’s Hunter Valley, Canberra District

Grenache – Great blending variety with shiraz, earthy fruity flavours – SA’s Barossa Valley

Sangiovese – Italian varietal full of red fruit flavours with a herbal savoury finish – SA’s McLaren Vale

Tempranillo – Savoury black cherry Spanish variety blends well with shiraz – SA’s McLaren Vale

Zinfandel – Spicy and black berry big flavoured, alcoholic variety with massive plantings in California – WA’s Margaret River; SA’s McLaren Vale.

REVIEWS

Temple Bruer 2007 Cabernet Merlot Preservative Free.

This is an incredible wine with cabernet berry fruit flavours that seem to be dancing in your mouth and a lovely medium bodied balance that can keep you drinking it all night long. This is my wine of the year so far and I recommend it highly to lovers of wine who want a flexible companion to great tasting meals of many persuasions.

I am looking forward to trying the 2008 vintage of this wine – now out.

RRP $20.00

www.templebruer.com.au

Cullen Wines 2007 Margaret River White

As with all Cullen wines finesse is to the fore, and well before their decision to go biodynamic and organic they were making some of the finest wines in Australia. This predominantly Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion blend is a gorgeous wine, complex and refreshing. This will lift any extraordinary lunch or dinner to the sublime and you will thank existence for your taste buds.

RRP $25.00

www.cullenwines.com.au

Happs 2007  Preservative Free White

Another stunner from the west, this Chardonnay with amazing fruit flavours will reinvigorate the most jaded pallet. Drinking these wines you feel purer inside and it can be akin to a religious experience. The Happs vineyards are located in Dunsborough and Karridale WA.

RRP $22.00

www.happs.com.au

©Eco Living Magazine.

Eco Living Magazine

Midas Word