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11 posts from August 2006

31 August 2006

BlogDay 2006

As I mentioned yesterday, today is BlogDay 2006.  Usually I find it difficult to work up too much excitement about these blogging love-ins.  However, this one gives me a good excuse to blog about something other than food.  I can therefore break a cardinal blogging rule: always stay focused on your core topic.  I'm a rebel.

My rebellious credentials are further enhanced because not only does this post contravene a blogging rule, it also contravenes one of the rules of BloggingDay 2006.  Rather than recommending five other blogs, I'm recommending six.  I know, I'm cr-cr-cr-crazy.

Gadi Taub is a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  He provides a very sane and measured voice on Israel and the conflict in the Middle East.  His blog hasn't been going long but whatever he writes is worth reading.

Oliver Kamm is a fund manager and political commentator.  I don't really understand how one leads to the other, or if one does lead to the other.  His politics are hard to pin-down, he probably errs towards a nineteenth century concept of a liberal, he is Mr Rational.  His arguments tearing apart Noam Chomsky are legendary and well worth a read.

Francis Sedgemore is another lefty who blogs.  He's a British scientist with a speciality on space flight by training, but luckily for us, he also blogs about politics and society.  Again, he takes a very rational and even-handed approach to the Middle East and is not afraid to argue against received wisdom.  His writing is all the better for it.

Pickled Politics is a blog with a focus on South Asian society and politics in the UK.  If you read the About Us page you'll get a good feel where they're coming from.  The blog is clearly written by a group of people who think long and hard about the society they live in and question what they see around them.  They're quite happy to point out the negatives but are not shy of making the most of the positives either.

Smallworldmedia is a change of tack.  This is a blog that contains very few words but tons of the most stunning photographs.  All the photos are taken by Christopher Sleight, a UK based journalist.  I reckon his post from yesterday could be a good treatment against mid-winter blues.

The Long Tail is a blog that has spawned a book of the same name.  I found the book fascinating and I love reading the updates by Chris Anderson on his blog.  His ideas are the antidote to the dotcom boom and bust of the late 1990s.  He provides a level-headed answer to the question: What does the internet mean for markets?

I found it hard to pick such a small number of blogs that I enjoy, although it is refreshing to write about non-food blogs.  For those who are interested, you can download my current list of the blogs that I read here.  N.B. The file is in a format (OPML) that can be inserted into any RSS reader like Rojo or Newsgator.

30 August 2006

Tomorrow is BlogDay 2006

Tomorrow is BlogDay 2006.  The idea of which is to get bloggers linking to blogs they would not otherwise link to.  That means in my case, not other food blogs.  The purpose of the day seems to be so we can pretend we're all a big happy family, rather than avaricious tight-wad bastards only looking out for number 1.

The real up-side for me, is that it enables me to link to some of the many non-food blogs I regularly read.  So, watch this space for some blogtastic linkage.

29 August 2006

The cost of food

I am aware that when I write about food, I rarely refer to its financial cost.  I am lucky, I do not have to worry about whether I can afford my next meal - unless it's another Urasawa - but obviously, many are not as fortunate.  However, given the importance of this most fundamental purchase, its cost is vitally important.

Breakingviews (subscription req'd) carries an interesting article on the implications of food inflation.  According to the latest figures from the UK's Office of National Statistics (ONS), food prices in July 2006, were 3.2% higher than the same time a year earlier, whereas other goods were only 2.4% up.  Breakingviews suggests a couple of reasons for the increase - higher energy prices and the commoditisation of food stuffs (very Michael Pollan) - but notes that consumers have not been complaining.

The article makes no real attempt to suggest why they haven't complained but it does note:

The change in attitude [of accepting higher prices] could be the most significant shift. When inflation was under tight control, producers found that price pressure in one area had to be matched by cost reductions elsewhere. The willingness to accept higher prices is the first step in inflationary psychology. The next would be workers demanding higher wages to compensate. Steady increases in the price of food - which is vital and purchased frequently - would make that sort of demand more likely.

Therefore, we are likely to insist on higher wages so we can afford our loaf of bread.  But why aren't we getting worked-up that food is costing more?  My personal feeling is that although food costs more, food accounts for less as a percentage of the household budget than it has done previously.  It goes back to apathy.  Large swathes of the population don't care enough about how much food costs them, similar to their lack of interest in the quality of the food they are eating.  Those that do notice either cannot do anything about it because inflation means all food is getting more expensive or, they may be fooled into believing that by paying more, their food is better/healthier/more natural.

I am interested to know which food sectors have suffered the most from inflation.  According to the press release from the ONS, the reason for the increase can largely be attributed to:

  • Fruit, where prices for some items fell by less than a year ago, especially grapes, strawberries and peaches
  • Milk, cheese and eggs, where shop bought milk prices rose in July after price cuts earlier this year
  • Meat, where prices rose in July, especially for beef

However, each of these three categories cover a multitude of sins.  Are we talking organic beef or Tesco's Value range?  Or have prices risen in both groups but if so, is it by similar amounts?

I fall into the category of people who have not noticed the increases, but I am intrigued and want to know how food inflation is affecting me.  So, I am creating a basket of goods - the Silverbrow Prices Index (after the Retail Prices Index) - and will post about its fluctuations.  I will do this on a monthly basis so I can see in real-time, just how expensive our most fundamental purchase is becoming.  I haven't decided yet on its composition but it will reflect the type of food I buy and eat on a regular basis.  I'm sensing an opportunity for the foodosphere's perspective of Freakonomics.

25 August 2006

Suggest questions for my Dan Lepard podcast

Dan_lepard I am very excited.  Dan Lepard, probably the UK's finest baker and a leading food photographer, has agreed to be the first interviewee of what I hope will be an occasional series of podcasts.

If you are a regular reader of Silverbrow on Food, you will know that I think very highly of Dan and I'm not the only one, as his website so bashfully points out:

'The bread supremo' Fay Maschler, The Evening Standard

'Lepard is one of London's most inspired and inspiring breed of new young bakers... a British bread champion' Michael Bateman, The Independent

'A passionate baker, dessert maker and talented pastry chef.' Nick Lander, The Financial Times

I'll be interviewing Dan on the evening of Thursday 14 September and hopefully (technology willing), I'll be posting the podcast to the site later that night.  I've got some ideas of what I want to speak to him about, obviously including his experiences as a baker, as an author of his best-selling book The Handmade Loaf, as webmaster and about his forthcoming projects.

Made_in_italy_1 One of those projects, Made in Italy, Food and Stories is the catalyst for the interview.  The book is the first serious cookbook / biography from Michelin starred Giorgio Locatelli - I'm pleased to say he's another man who's food I adore.  From what I've heard this book is a bit of a magnum opus, running to over 600 pages, it covers the full gamut of Italian cooking according to Giorgio.  Dan is responsible for all the photos.  No date has yet been confirmed for the release of the book, however Dan believes it should be early September.

Because he is such a nice bloke he has agreed to let me give you a sneak peak of the book, including some beautiful photography and stunning looking recipes.  Click here you lucky people.

Another new project he is working on and I'd like to talk to him about, is a book with the Ronseal-esque title of British Baking.  It does what it says on the tin - it will be about the history and current state of baking in the UK.

So, you know what I'm interested in, but I'm interested in what you're interested in.  I'd like suggestions, comments and ideas from you.  Either leave them in the comments section under this post, or email me.

17 August 2006

Squeamishly Starbucks

I have never liked Starbucks.  It's not the global domination thing, it's the insipid coffee and the  baked goods that always seem to be stale.

Silverbrowess loves Starbucks.  She can't get enough of their tall caramel frappuccinos or skinny decaf vanilla lattes.  I like my coffee to taste of caffeine.  I want a decent kick of coffee, which for some reason Starbucks eschews.  I don't want it tasting of all that other crap they love to add-in.

If there's any truth to this video, it seems those other flavours might just be crap.

A warning to the viewer, the video is a bit grim.

16 August 2006

Fay Maschler blogs, sort of

Ok, Fay Maschler is not quite blogging in the way Frank Bruni of the New York Times does, but readers can now leave comments on her reviews. This follows a redesign of the Evening Standard website.

At the time of writing, no-one has left a comment. Assuming someone does bother to say something insightful, it will be interesting to see whether/how she responds.

From a media watching, rather than food-blogging perspective, I find it fascinating the Evening Standard feels compelled to convert so much of its content to look more like blogs and less like traditional media. Clearly The Evening Standard is getting a bit scared at the prospect of the arrival of thelondonpaper (yes, spelled like that), News International's new free evening paper.

09 August 2006

Gefilte fish alert

I always knew there must be a reason that traditional Jewish recipes require fish to be cooked within an inch of its life.  I now know what that reason is.

And there was I thinking that "Jewish housewives' disease" was an entirely different kettle of fish.