Aged: food, not me

Sometimes the determination to lose one kilogram sees you eat the leftover pavlova for breakfast. Don’t judge hastily – some of us are innately contrary creatures. What it can result in, however, is an interesting foray into recipes past – before refrigerators.

The most immediate observation is the cream has taken on cheesy characteristics: at once the dessert is more savoury than it was the day before. A lot has been written about the Victorians embracing sugar – as if they ate sugar in the same way that we do, today. However, what if sugar (and salt, for that matter), were not eaten in the same way that we do, but were mutable forces in the face of a very, very different eating experience?

This week I sought to experience that and at a not-too-dangerous-temperature-time-of-year kept my own food (not the athlete’s), at room temperature before consumption. Like tomatoes from the fridge versus from the bowl I expected a new landscape of smells and flavours. And of course, I live and travel by my own adage that ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you lose weight’.

I’m in good stead: growing up I was routinely told to ‘add garlic’ if the meat smelled odd. In our house it wasn’t the two second rule, it was the ‘add garlic’ rule. And I can say with hand on heart that I have never really had food poisoning in my almost-middle-aged-life. Sorry, various employers. Proviso: this is not to denigrate serious food-borne bacteria – it’s just to say I have been very laissez-faire and have not suffered.

Current food safety handling rules are routinely ignored. For good reason. ‘Protein must be kept above 60C or below 5C’ clearly does not apply to rare meat or silky room-temperature sashimi. A pet issue of mine is that dietetics and nutritional science in Australia always lags behind current thought. Coconut fat is still being taught in schools as ‘bad’ fat, as the ‘healthy eating pyramid’ is still being taught as best in practice nutrition. In my book, it’s a FAIL. Perhaps I’m as bad as a climate change ‘denialist’ (read ‘an idiot’), however I’ll keep espousing chicken skin and leafy greens.

Speaking of chickens, ideally I’d like to get my hands on a freshly killed chicken: meat changes flavour over time, hence the ‘high’ flavour of hung game. In Kenya it took 24 hours to slow cook a wild chicken to tenderness, and the flavour was pronounced but not rancid, suggesting that it was fairly fresh.

Traditionally meat was hung to tenderise it. Steaks cut from a hung beast are tenderer but also have flavours more akin to Parmesan than blood. The skirt or onglet steak in particular, are susceptible to aged flavours as they literally ‘hang’ (hanger steak) within the organ cavity, so age more quickly than sirloin (a very boring steak), within the muscular sections.

Slicing and cryovac-ing is not so good. As someone who routinely buys fish in cryovac this exercise has made me think about what is happening to the fish – if so obviously there’s so much not good going on with ham. I think I won’t be allowed to experiment with fish on the bench.

In regards to the cheese: clearly cheese wins in life. In fact, I’d suggest that the Quicke’s cheddar was improved by removing from the bag – anaerobic maturation is less pleasurable than the normal cheese ageing process. We can all take something from that. 

And in regards to the apple: we don’t know. It had been cold-stored before the experiment. Lovers of room-temperature fruit understand the frustration with that.

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One Response to Aged: food, not me

  1. fornalutx says:

    A whole new world indeed Amelia, if not that brave. I personally enjoy the various flavours from my Barambah milkk as it enters and passes through its use by. Creamy changes to sweet and yoghurty changes to slightly sour and then down the sink if there’s a bit left. Of course I could make yoghurt. But am a lazy sod.

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