Do you love food, but hate waste! Well, you won’t have learned anything at the One Million Women gabfest held this morning at the Parramatta Town Hall.
It was all nice enough. They had some great guests. I’ve always been a fan of Bernie Hobbs and she was a very entertaining MC. They brought in the venerable Margaret Fulton and her daughter and granddaughter, who had some extremely unhelpful things to say about fussy eaters. My son was a fussy eater because he had issues with textures, it doesn’t matter how many curries I ate while breastfeeding, nothing is going to help with that but years of experience trying tiny bits of new things. Also it doesn’t matter how many tomatoes we grow in our garden, the children will periodically bite one under parental pressure then spit it out. They just don’t like them. It was a delight to listen to the grande dame of Australian cookery, Margaret Fulton at eighty eight is still full of passion for making everything tasty. So that was a treat.
The mastermind behind the one million women thing had a bit of a chat, but I was a bit surprised that deciding to compost your vegetable scraps, plan your meals before you shop and check the fridge and pantry before you shop was an epiphany. I lost a bit of what she was saying because she had the most amazing hair that kept creeping over her shoulders and gave the impression of trying to strangle her before she’d thwart it and push it back where it would sulk for a bit then start tiptoeing forward for another go. She was clearly very passionate, as were all the presenters.
I don’t mind a bit of Julie Goodwin, but I don’t think any of us were taking notes on how to make an omelette out of some eggs and stuff we found at the bottom of the vegetable crisper. Who can’t do that?
I’m not sure whose idea it was to stick a young lady with a guitar up on stage to sing a song about sustainability that she’d written her very own self, but I kind of wish they hadn’t. Her voice was fine, but she had that extremely whiny sound that’s so regrettably popular among young Australian singers at the moment and the sound system wasn’t coping with her excellent use of loud and soft. Also she sounded as if she was singing with her teeth clenched together, so the only word I heard in the song was “enough” and that was near the end of the song and summed up my feelings about it exactly.
She was followed by a very enthusiastic woman called Lish who made right before our very eyes and to the slightly repressed horror of Bernie Hobbs a worm farm out of two styrofoam boxes and a herb garden out of a third styrofoam box. A worm farm sounds like a lot more effort than my compost bin, which is basically a bin with no bottom that we chuck vegetable scraps in. Periodically the dog decides that there is a rat in there and scrapes a large amount of gorgeous rich soil out of the bottom of it, making more room at the top as the lot subsides. A herb garden sounds doable, but I don’t understand why they just can’t get green grocers to sell herbs in smaller quantities. Surely that would be a simpler solution to the horrendous herb waste this country is groaning under.
The lady from Macquarie University didn’t have a gimmick but some actual facts. She didn’t slip over on the mud left by the worm farmer, but it was a close thing. The main problem food wasters were the eighteen to twenty four age demographic and rich people, neither of which group was even slightly represented in the audience. And this was the problem with the whole shebang. For a start, they were preaching to the converted. There was a bit too much woo hooing and aren’t you all terrificking, which always irritates me. Also practical solutions were lacking.
I would have liked to have seen, after telling us that an enormous amount of fresh food is rejected by the supermarkets because it isn’t pretty enough, an exhortation not to buy fresh food from them. Big corporations understand a boycott. I only buy toilet paper, pet food and giant boxes of cereal from them regularly. I almost never buy fresh food from them. Tell us to buy our fresh food from the local green grocer and local butcher. How about some composting suggestions for people who live in apartments? What are we supposed to do with the kilos of mandarin peel produced at this time of the year? Give us a few different stock recipes so we don’t throw out our chicken and meat bones or fish heads. Show us how easy it is to chop herbs and freeze them in a ziplock bag. You could have got Glad to be a sponsor, I store a lot of things in their baggies. Tupperware, too. And how about some tips for gently hinting to our more wasteful friends that perhaps they could change their ways? Because the people who really need to hear this message weren’t present and don’t listen.
I shall end with something that fascinated me for the fifteen minutes between seating myself and the show kicking off. We were in the Parramatta Town Hall which is delightfully decorated in a style I’d like to call rococo, but I’m not sure if that’s right. Painted stencil work on the walls, a painting of an Aboriginal man holding a spear with palm trees behind him above the stage, lots of plasterwork moulding. At the foot of the buttresses holding up the ceiling was a sculpted man’s face, the same face under each buttress.