Monday, October 31, 2011

My Edible Balcony book in stores today!

Well... it's been a long wait but today has finally arrived. My book is in stores across the country. After a wonderful launch last week with Malcolm Turnbull doing the honours and the ABC's Tony Jones acting as MC, The Edible Balcony was welcolmed into the world of book publishing.
It's a nervous time for a first time author... will people buy it? Will they like it?

Here's a lovely email I just received from Caroline who read an advanced copy of the book during the weekend.

Dear Indira,
Thank you so much for your fabulous book. My husband works for the company that owns penguin, so when I saw that your book will be released on the 31st of October, I asked him to order it for me. And tadah: This Friday he came home with the book, 3 days before it's in the stores.
I feel very honoured to be probably one of the first people, apart from your dear and loved ones, to read The Edible Balcony. And what shall I say? I finished it this very same weekend! I just couldn't put it down!
Thank you  so much for sharing your experiences and recipes.
Similar to you, I had always grown herbs on my balcony. In the first autumn after we moved here, I added a few citrus trees to the bed that is attached to our balcony: lemon, lime and kaffir lime as well as a lemon myrtle. These followed two small olive trees to cover our sunshade. It actually sounds more and bigger than it really was, they more or less took care of themselves, while my herbs were regularly eaten up by caterpillars overnight.
Last year I tried some tomatoes, but as we were incredibly busy with wedding plans, they certainly did not get the attention (and water) they needed. We had one tomato!

This year though I decided to go for it. I had taken part in the CSIRO Energymark project and one thing that shocked me was how much water is wasted for food of which most ends up in the bin anyway (Australia is the world's second largest waste producer per capita). Coming from Germany to Australia 3 years ago, I never understood how a country like Australia, in which there is always a region with perfect weather to grow food, could import so much food: cherries from USA, mangoes from Mexico, asparagus fro Thailand, garlic from China and so the list goes. I also never understood why people don't grow more fruit and vegies. Even in Germany we grew herbs, tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and even tried zucchini. And this with one month of summer, if at all.
Like you, my first step (in August) was to find out what is suitable to grow on a balcony. And like you, I did not find much out there. Apart from your blog!

I was totally hooked up, read all edible balcony entries in one afternoon. It inspired me what to try out and gave me the confidence that I could do something! I joined the diggers, ordered seeds, started a worm farm and got out there and planted my seeds. Spring onions, tomatoes, rainbow silverbeet, carrots, heirloom radish, pak choy, nasturtiums, beans, soy beans, lettuce, chili, zucchini, rocket, beetroot. Sounds familiar ?
When I read your book over the last two days, I felt as if you had written down my feelings and thoughts: The exact description of the last thought before falling asleep, the first when waking up, running out onto the balcony first thing in the morning to check for new shoots and caterpillar/aphid/slug damage. Coming home from the office or interstate travel, checking on all the progress with a glass of wine in my hand. The excitement I feel with every new plant glimpsing through the soil.
Thank you thank thank you for your inspiring and motivating book. Thank you for sharing your successes but thank you even more for sharing the errors and failures! It makes it so much more believable and motivating to see that not everything is always running smoothly. It feels more like a friend giving advice, rather than a teacher. I am also looking forward to try out your recipes (tonight we will have the moussaka eggplant stacks).

I wanted to write you this email as a first feedback from a passionate fellow balcony farmer on your beautiful book. The layout reminds me of a mini (well, balcony) version of Stephanie Alexander's kitchen garden companion. Please keep up your great work and thank you very much for finding those words to fill the empty computer screen at 4 am. I know I will get back to these words whenever I have a setback on the balcony or if my motivation is dropping.
All the best for this new year of balcony gardening and all the best for your future as a book author.

Warmest regards,

Thanks for those very generous supportive words Caroline! Welcome to the food gardening club! thanks Indira

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Berkeley, California - Hotel Shattuck Plaza

I had such an enjoyable stay here that I had to share this sumptuous getaway with Saucy readers.
The Hotel Shattuck Plaza was built just after San Francisco's devastating earthquake and fire of 1906. It was constructed of re-inforced concrete and was immediately lauded as one of the city's finest hotels. 

It had several owners during the 1900s and then in 2007 it was bought by BPR properties and completely renovated.
The lobby, bar and restaurant atrium is quite breath-taking.. look at this chandelier!
...beautiful moulded ceilings, potted ferns in the lounge area ...

... and a glorious marble-topped bar which wraps around several pillars.

This is how to have an evening cocktail in style.

I chose a mojito served in an icy cold copper mug

The rooms are spacious with super comfortable beds and stylish furnishings.
The was no fridge in my double room which was a minus - just an ice-bucket.
 But the pluses were many.... free WiFi, large wall-mounted flat-screen TV, iPod docking clock radio and an eco-friendly automatic lighting system in the bathroom. And the large shower.... as relaxing as a bath if that is possible.

The hotel is right next to the BART (subway) and opposite a nest of bars and restaurants.
Hotel Shattuck is your San Franciscan home away from home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Berkeley, California - Michael Pollan's Backyard BBQ

Chez Panisse, the Berkeley restaurant run by Alice Waters which popularised the farm to the plate movement -  turned 40 in August.

Among the dozens of birthday fund-raising celebrations held in California to raise money for Alice's Edible Schoolyard programme, was a backyard BBQ at the Berkeley home of Michael Pollan and his wife Judith Belzer

Michael Pollan is famous for his books on food and gardening. He's doing a 22 hour roast pig for 50 guests who've come here from all over the US - and Sydney! It's crackling away under this makeshift igloo- shaped oven.

Michael's converted his lawn into an edible forest using raised beds.
These boxed beds allow him to grow dozens of herbs and vegetables organically....

... tomatoes...

.... yummmm.....

... and monster beans

..... gargantuan!

guests mill about in the front and on the lovely back deck overlooking the valley

fresh fruit bellinis are being prepared

The Pollan's wonderful homey kitchen is the nerve centre for the Great Pig Rosti Dinner

Produce has been supplied by Devil's Gulch Ranch, Dirty Girl produce, Riverdog farm and Blossom Bluff Orchards.

Then it's the moment of the big reveal...... will it be cooked to perfection?

Vegos look away now.... the covers and foil are removed to reveal a beast fit for a king.

Michael and his assistant chef carry the crispy carcass to the table for serving

Michael seems genuinely in awe of how to break it down...

yes.... let's just get stuck into it...

The juicy flesh falls away from the bone and the crackling breaks into noisy shards of pig skin

ooohhh... well worth the trip from Oz.

The hungry hoards grab a spot on the terrace or garden and the night is quiet and still as we all hoe in.

Michael then gives a speech thanking everyone for their support and helping to make the BBQ such a memorable occasion.

Alice's Edible Schoolyard Programme is teaching school children - many from disadvantaged backgrounds - how to grow, cook and eat. Michael is a big supporter and an advocate of the importance of knowing where your food has come from.

Then it's on to dessert for ... pie. Three different types of pie - apple and rhubarb, apple and plum and just plain apple. All with a thin, crispy, sugary crust.

No-one does pie better than Americans.

And a beautiful hand-churned vanilla ice-cream tops off the bliss.

This pie was almost as memorable as the pig. Almost.

Then it was talking late into the night about food, and farming, and that pie recipe!

The Pollan BBQ was one of the most memorable experiences of my many foodie adventures.
Michael and his wife Judith were really lovely people as well. I got to meet one of my gurus and sit down and enjoy a meal he had cooked for me. Not many people can say that.
Oh, and by the way, Michael now has a copy of my book The Edible Balcony which was inspired by his writings!