Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Some tidbits for brains and mouths

Shock, horror! A new post! Kind of. This is the amazing author Jonathan Safran Foer talking about Eating Animals, the book which started all of this for many people. He's lovely.

"If you want to find out where your meat comes from you're totally out of luck. You might as well be asking to learn a military secret."

On another note, I strongly recommend this restaurant for the meat origin concerned.

Thanks to my lovely friend Peter on both counts.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why I haven't been Meating People lately

It’s not because we’re shit, well, it’s a little bit because we’re shit.

Quite a few people liked this blog and I am feeling very guilty for neglecting it so. It’s like when you forget to call a friend back and then you’re too ashamed to call and remind them of how useless you are and it drags on and on until one of you has the good grace to die. But today I am lifting weights off my brain in preparation for the holidays.

My excuse. I have, let’s call them, digestive issues. In an attempt to fix these issues I have been seeing a broad variety of witch doctors and medical professionals in some kind of mad doctor scavenger hunt. One of these wonderful individuals, no really she is actually lovely and fairly qualified, has me avoiding fructose and fructans. Let’s not discuss the science because it’s shit-boring and I won’t take your advice. The long and short of it is this means avoiding A LOT of fruit and veg, including onions. Avoiding onions is both difficult and annoying.

The impact of this on Meating People is two-fold. Firstly, as previously mentioned, I am a whiny child who does not like to be deprived of things. This means I feel very sad and cranky at trying to avoid the list of foods I may be absorbing craply AND avoiding meat that isn’t friendly and happy. So, there’s my lame excuse. The better excuse is that these restrictions make it much, much harder to achieve what I wanted. If I’m out for a meal I’m often faced with no ethical meat options, before these restrictions I would just go with the vegetarian choice. Nine times out of ten the vegetarian choice is out of bounds under my current eating regime. I can eat the sad meat or I can go without food on that occasion. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs how often this is the case. And that is why I’ve been avoiding updating fellow ethical meat eaters. At the moment it’s just really hard to be strict about this.

All of that said, it doesn’t mean I’m not trying. Given the choice I will always choose free range and I still have a massive interest in this movement. I also still love animals including baby goats. I think this whole thing is similar to the campaign for equal marriage rights. Wait, that sounds wrong, bear with me here. Both movements are gaining momentum and strength and face their biggest obstacle in apathy but I have a lot of faith that they are trains which cannot be stopped. Since I last wrote here there have been some big campaigns and announcements from players in the food industry, about ethical and sustainable meat that is though I’m sure people in the food industry care about equal marriage rights too.

What I propose, friends, is that I try to still update here with star cafes and big announcements in the free-range and ethical food stakes and that you forgive me for not being able to put my money where my mouth is. Deal? Deal.

My fellow eater has also had a lot of things going on in his busy life and busy brain but I shall let him speak for himself, should he choose to.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Today, I lapsed

I apologise for the extended period of time between posts. I have changed jobs in the past month, had a string of shows with my band that we previously did not even think possible and have had people going in and out of our house very weekend thanks to the place being sold (we rent).

So I guess this post is to catch you up. It's probably a good time to give an idea of how this life-change challenge is going!

First, the title. It came from my new boss. I said I had enjoyed the vegetarian option at the Tandoori Den, an Indian restaurant local to my new work in Camberwell, and explained that I had heard the butter chicken was heavenly, but that I only ate free-range chicken. She asked why, and I explained my reasons, and the motives behind "Meating People" as a blog.

"Well, there you go!" she said, winking, "That's a blog post - 'Today, I lapsed!'"

And I did. The idea of generating a post about how I've been going with this whole thing seemed too good to pass up. For the record, the butter chicken was amazing. But I don't know if it was worth it.

My boss' response sums up the attitude I've had from quite a few people, particularly Baby Boomers. Maybe they had enough of the ideologies of the Gen X-ers and were happy when the Y-ers (ie. Kim and I) came along. Perhaps because we are apparently more likely to donate to (or participate in) charity, celebrate diversity and be tertiary educated, pragmatism seems to be our schtick. Hell, you could go with the general criticism of us, if it makes you happy - we'll take whatever comes as long as it's about us. Either way, people seem to yawn when I talk about it being a rule that I don't eat meat that's not ethically farmed, rather than a guideline.

My mum suggested I apply the 80/20 rule. I laughed, but I'm not sure she was entirely joking.

I have significantly lapsed only one other time, and this time it was a big'un. My wife Lily and I went out for breakfast with her Mother, and we ended up at Yum Cha. I'm going to pull Kim's move here and say that, as someone who had never had Yum Cha before (despite growing up in Box Hill - go figure), I felt it was an experience I couldn't pass up. It was amazing food (and amazingly expensive), and it's a sacrifice I think I'm glad I made for a one off. I also don't think I could have found anywhere, or any dish, that would have met my requirements whilst still being Yum Cha; in my experience Asian food - particularly Chinese and Vietnamese - is the hardest cuisine to source ethically.

While I talk about these events as if they were me going out of my way to break the rules, it's not really the case. For the most part, on a day to day basis you generally have to eat vegetarian when you're out. This is not necessarily a bad thing; part of the problem of factory farming is that we've come to rely on meat as a staple for virtually every meal, which is both unhealthy and environmentally unsustainable. I also quite like vegetarian options.

This means that I will try and plan meals I cook at home around having leftovers - again, not a bad thing. This often saves me money.

But the point is - restaurants, cafes and take-away joints are generally not your friends for ethical meat eating. I will be going through some places I have eaten recently that are welcome and notable exceptions, running the gamut from simple cafe to insanely wonderful fine-dining restaurant, but you can't go out into the 'Burbs (or even the Urbs - is that a thing?) and expect to find much more than the occasional free-range egg from most places.

However, it's not all bad news - I'm finding that more and more delis are stocking Ottway ham, and Coles and Woolworths both offer token free-range selections of ham and chicken (the Lilydale free-range chicken has been in both supermarket chains for some time, and has come down significantly in price in the last few years). We are eating less meat at home, and the meat we are eating tastes better, and feels more filling as we're not always plugging the gaps with meat for dinner every night.

Money - Well, it wouldn't be cheap if we were eating meat every night. The per kilo differences are not insignificant, and while I don't think it would have made a huge dollar difference for every meal, the dollars do add up. That being said, as we've changed our eating habits according, it doesn't seem that our grocery costs have changed much. Vegies are generally cheaper than meat, they also keep for longer. You can buy bulk amounts of vegies and not have to freeze them; I don't generally like to freeze meat, so that's a bonus.

Overall - I'm pretty happy with how it's been going. I occasionally get fed up, and just wish it was a simple case of Cafe A or Cafe B, or that I could walk into a pub and order a huge chicken parmagiana, get sushi for dinner from Sushi Sushi (more on fish soon) or have bacon from anywhere but a few places I trust, but generally it aint so bad.

Maybe I am a good little Gen-Yer after all. I won't whinge and whine - I'll just ask, take note, and then make a decision accordingly. I won't tell you off for not serving free-range eggs or bacon, but I won't be back (and I won't eat anything containing eggs or bacon while I'm there).

So that's where we're at. See you next post!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Money and the putting of it where one's mouth is

Hello lovers of meat, animals, and the interweb.

Just a quick one from me today to alert you to this story .

The lady who started Kathmandu is offering rewards to industry insiders to dob in cruel farming practices in the world of pigs and chickens. I love the concept but I'm not that confident about its success. Would you really be working in a farm with cruel practices if you didn't condone them, or were at least indifferent? I mean, I work for the state government and I sure don't condone everything they do but the animal cruelty stuff seems to me to be a lot closer to home, you'd have to be watching some not nice stuff going on. But I ramble. It's an interesting idea and I can't wait to see if anyone puts their hand up for the cash.

Side note, who knew this woman donates EVERYTHING she earns from one of her businesses to charity? Seriously, way to go lady. I feel like buying some camping gear just to support her. But not actually go camping, ew.

Random bonus, my friend watched one of his chickens laying her egg the other day and the verdict is that it's a little bit gross.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Know Your Product: Vue de Monde

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. This update is so long overdue it’s not funny (what length of time would make it funny?). Fortunately the food involved is so magnificent the taste has lingered in my mouth these past few weeks.

I must confess to a few wee struggles on my self-imposed ‘free-range or nada’ rule but so far my will power is winning out over my need for bacon NOW, before I have time to head to the supermarket for some free-range goodness, NOW. The biggest transgression was deliberate and calculated; it was done in a spirit of research and not indulgence. No really, I don’t even LIKE this food very much. I will get to what it is soon, bear with me. I’ve mentioned before that I’m also hoping to cook more and healthier but I might not have mentioned that I also want to broaden my palate and try new things. I’m trying to say a lot more yes, though mushrooms are still getting a resounding NO. One of the points that struck me in Eating Animals was that we as a society eat a very, very, very small percentage of the amount of edible produce on the planet; I eat even less of that edible produce because, well, I’m a spoiled brat. So that brings us to saying yes, when for the purposes of this blog I would normally say no.

Okay, tangent over. I want to talk about fancy restaurants (I also want to own fancy restaurants, live in fancy restaurants, eat in fancy restaurants and only have friends who own, live in, and eat in fancy restaurants but that’s another story). My hunch was that with the bigger price tag you get the right to know what is going on your plate. The high-end establishments are generally more able to buy free-range and local. With the Masterchef phenomena I also think clientele are more interested in this kind of thing. I had a few visits to one of Melbourne’s well established Café Vue planned (disclaimer, one of my bestest pals works at Café Vue but that doesn’t make me more likely to be nice to them, I promise) and so they seemed like a good place to start asking questions. The staff have always been very keen to answer questions when I’ve been to the Café so I thought I would get the same response from the business as a whole. And I did, sort of…

Sent: Monday, 12 July 2010 9:53 AM
To: Vue de monde
Subject: Farmers and stockists


I'm currently writing an article on restaurants in Melbourne that serve locally and ethically farmed meat - and I'm also a huge fan of your restaurants - and I'm hoping you can answer a few quick questions.

Firstly, do the Vue restaurants have a policy on this? If so, what is

Do you source your meat directly from farmers? If not, how?

Where do you source your chicken, pork, lamb and duck from?

Any information you can provide on this would be hugely appreciated.


To Kim.Armstrong
13/07/10 10:44 AM

Subject RE: Farmers and stockists

Dear Kim,

Thank you for your email and interest in Vue de monde.

I will look in to this for you, may I ask if and where the article will
be published?

Thank you,


Executive Assistant
Vue de monde
Normanby Chambers
430 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Okay, so far so good. I told her it was for a humble blog but that we’d see where it went. Next email was this:

To Kim.Armstrong
13/07/10 05:51 PM
SubjectRE: Farmers and stockists

Dear Kim,

Thanks for your email. We source our meat and poultry from Vic's Meats.

Kind regards,


Executive Assistant
Vue de monde
Normanby Chambers
430 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Well colour me disappointed. From this one might conclude that Vue de Monde and its various babies don’t have a policy on where the meat is from and how it is treated. Nor, I might assume, are they particularly inclined to talk about. Intrepid eater and blogger that I am, I soldiered on (I might add at this juncture that I had TWO events at various Vue eateries that week and I really wanted to be able to enjoy them). While awaiting next contact from Vue de Monde I did a little research into Vic’s Meats. They’re an on-seller butcher that source from a lot of different farmers, if you do a little googling it seems they stock a pretty broad range of meat that includes a lot of free-range products. They also sell your stock standard meats. So it didn’t help me much.

Sent: Wednesday, 14 July 2010 8:23 AM
To: Vue de monde
Subject: RE: Farmers and stockists


Thanks for the reply.

Do you have a policy about ethically produced or locally produced meat?


Firm, wasn’t I? At this point my Café Vue contact might have stepped in and done a little prompting and reassured everyone in the office that I am not in fact a crazy person, or at least only harmlessly crazy. That shouldn’t have had to happen but there is no denying the response was an improvement. A few days later:

Hi Kim,

I'm sorry this has taken so long to get back to you, I just had to check the information I was giving you was correct.

We strive to use the best quality meat and poultry available, free range if possible. And currently all our meat and poultry is free range.

All the best for your blog and good luck with the ethical adventure!


Executive Assistant
Vue de monde
Normanby Chambers
430 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

So it ain’t all bad, but it ain’t all good. I got to enjoy my duck, and my pork jowl (I know, right?) and my beef bourguignon etc. They were all spectacular and (totally unbiased) the service at both Café Vue in the city and Café Vue at Heide Gallery was great. I can’t deny though that it would have been so much better if the restaurant was a bit keener to engage with me on this. The price tag gives me the right to ask what I’m eating, I stand by that and intend to continue being annoying (it’s growing on me).

So what nasty thing did I eat? Well, foie gras. I had never really eaten foie gras and I decided not to knock it til I tried it. And it was okay, rich and meaty but not so good that avoiding it will keep me up at night. The ethical price tag is way too high. But kudos to this mob and I might see if there is somewhere I can sample their goodies.

A joint post on our visit to a farm up in Healesville with fun photos coming soon.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cups and Cakes: Sugardough

A few Saturdays ago, my wife Lily and I headed down to Sugardough on Lygon St in East Brunswick.

When we first moved into Brunswick about a year and a half ago we dropped in one morning and had breakfast there, and hadn’t gone back until the aforementioned jaunt. We must have been in a bad mood, because for some reason we came away unhappy. I now know that it had to have been us, because the place is quite incredible.

Sugardough is a patisserie, bakery and café. It’s pretty much always busy on the weekend (and reasonably busy on weekdays), so you might want to head down early if you want the good stuff. As it’s a bakery, items can sell out quickly as they’re all baked in house daily. I went down this past Saturday at 9:30 am to snafu some Custard and Sultana, and Chocolate Brioches for our friends, and some items were already starting to sell out.

So now for the reason you’re all here, the ethical facts:

Sugardough uses the cleverly named free-range Green Eggs in all breakfast items, cakes and breads. You can eat any one of the wonderful cakes, pies, pastries etc without worrying about the fact you might be eating cage eggs, as opposed to some cafes where only the fresh cooked eggs are definitely free range. They also sell the eggs they use at the front of the store, as well as some specialty honeys (and I may have seen jams, I’m not sure).

Additionally, all bacon and ham is provided by Western Plains Pork. As I mentioned in my Coles sow-stall post, Western Plains provides ham and bacon to KR Castlemaine for their free-range products. This is one of the few instances I have found of a café using both ethical eggs and ham (another notable exception is the recently opened Pope Joan, where the waitress assured me their bacon was “like, massively free range”), and it’s great to see consistency like this. It means the business is actually serious about free range, ethical farming, and is not just pandering to hippies like Kim and I to win our egg purchase on a Saturday brunch.

While the source of the eggs is proudly announced around the store (the aforementioned Greens Eggs), the bacon didn’t receive the same fan-fare. The brand of ham/pork was listed, which meant I could give it a google search and find out more. I suppose it could be a good thing, showing that they’re willing to source their meat ethically without blowing their own trumpet, but why not celebrate it?

In any case, it made me very happy to know I could eat the wonderfully light and tasty, but very filling, breakfast pie without guilt. The pictures probably don’t do it, or the Red Velvet cake that Lily had (literally covered in icing from every given angle), justice.

The cakes, too, are magnificent and tasty. And as you can see, everything is very fairly priced:

Breakfast pie (see ingredients in photo above): $8.90
Red velvet cake: Approx $5
Salad: $5
Soy Flat White: $3.50 (X 2)
Tea: $3

Total: Approx $28.90

That’s a very cheap breakfast and way more than we’d generally have eaten. Lily took a lot of her cake slice home uneaten, and snaffled it a few days later. We could have probably eaten for under $20 had we not been starving on the day.

The service was great, the waitress who helped us was very happy to let us take photos after checking with her manager. We had a great conversation about the blog, and they seemed very supportive of the concept.

Well, if it can help direct people to wonderful cafes (/bakeries/patisseries) like Sugardough, then I think this blog will serve its purpose! It’s great that such good food is also ethically good, and is so affordable. It puts a lie to the idea that you have to spend big to eat ethical.

It’s well worth dropping in for breakfast or to grab some pastries, or bread, for a special event (or, maybe, just because you’re partial to pastries and are looking forward to stuffing your face). And it's all ethical!

P.S. If you want to have the best marshmallows ever made, grab some of their raspberry marshmallows. They're made with real raspberries (complete with raspberry seeds), and are wonderfully sweet and flavourful!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some more brief animal killing news

Hi kids,

Another quick one from me just alerting you to this story about how we kill chickens in Australia.

And also this one about peeps who kill their own meat.

I'm really excited that more of these stories are popping up about the place. Having conversations about where our food comes from, how it's killed, and what taboos surround it is half the battle.

Lastly, a quick apology, I have a proper post about my foie gras and fancy restaurant adventures in the works but a bout of horrible illness put me behind the eight ball. This week I promise!

Love and smoochies to all,