Monday, February 15, 2010

Nola James, Australia's national dish, and pie in the sky from Chairman Rupert, along with free hay ...

(Above: Australia's national dish? Well if you visit the Melbourne Show you'll know the answer).

What to say about a piece of serious journalism that raises incredibly serious national issues?

Why do we so desperately need a national dish to cement our identity as Australians?

Indeed. I hadn't realised it was a pressing, desperate need, until I read Nola James' Our national dish: a big pile of meat.

Even better, James manages to mention News Ltd three times in the piece - way even above the kind of lick spittle service you'd expect from Murdoch's minions at Australia's most cheapskate conversation, The Punch - and her opening is a classic of product placement:

Much discussion has been had recently – mostly media engineered discussion to coincide with Australia Day and the launch of News Ltd’s new nationally syndicated Taste section – on the subject of Australia’s national dish.

We've left in her thoughtful link so you can rush off and see the kind of exciting ideas being delivered by Rupert's culinary minions, including the vegetable and ham fritters at the top of the page when we visited. It was so exciting, so mouth watering, the fritter phenomenon had achieved an average member rating of five out of five. And there are 17,000 plus more recipes like them!

Oh Rupert you light up our day. I almost swooned with the excitement.

But back to James and her quest, almost an odyssey, to resolve the most pressing media engineered discussion of our time.

Could Australia's national dish be the salt and pepper squid?

Well at the least that question would provide an opportunity to link to a News Corp story, Search on to find Australia's national dish, in which Masterchef finalist Poh Ling Yeow stakes a claim for the meal, but sad to say, the result of the News survey was a vote for the BBQ sausage in bread. (and not even a mention of tomato sauce).

Well what to make of this exquisite banality, with salt and pepper getting 3.84% of the grand total of 1,121 votes and roast lamb scoring a handsome 15.43%, but the banger in bread stealing the show?

How on earth to fill out the rest of the column?

How about some gratuitous cultural stereotyping?

Not all national dishes are worth writing home about. Ireland for example, is still sporting the national dish of the potato after hundreds of years, although I am sure they are very proud. Russia on the other hand is still championing the liquid lunch with a national dish of Vodka mopped up with blini.

The one respondent who had paid attention to this piece of tripe at the time of writing made mention that Ireland's national dish was in fact considered to be Irish stew, which while it contained potatoes, also contained onions and mutton (let's not argue about whether adding carrots and other vegetables is a valid modern translation or a serious heresy).

And never mind that 'Russia' is in fact quite a diverse concept, and that if in the Ukraine, you might favour borscht (a proper use for beetroot), if in Siberia, pelmeni (mince filled dumpling), or more generally kasha (a porridge often made of buckwheat groats), or schi, a soup dominated by cabbage, sauerkraut and often topped up with winter vegetables.

Well it turns out that wikipedia has already spoken on the matter of national stereotypes, and devoted a page to national dishes, with Australia being assigned meat pies (no mention of tomato sauce) or vegemite on toast.

A dog's eye without any dead horse? And not one mention of damper or witchetty grubs?

Well we can lave James to her various other whimsies. She manages to roam through vegetarianism, the problems of having meat mentioned as a national dish (and it's not just the 'does' of heart disease and high cholesterol) to arrive finally at a method of cooking as a national dish.

That's right, the barbeque gets her nod, in which case I guess there's going to be a showdown with certain tribes in the United States, but it least allows James, in a reductionist way, to reduce the conversation about actual dishes to undiluted nonsense in a finely thickened gravy. Next week? The microwave as Australia's national dish?

But you do have to admire the clever ways she gets in more mentions of News Ltd nee Corp:

Judging from the News Ltd survey results, Australia’s top three choices for our national dish fill a certain criteria – in that they can all be eaten with one hand. Although considering our rapidly ageing population, with nearly 25 per cent of our nation to be aged over 65 by 2050, we may eventually have to claim stewed apple as our national dish as most of us probably won’t be able to chew solid foods or stand up by 2070.

Actually it won't matter because anyone who masticates the mental food on offer at The Punch probably won't be able to think solid thoughts, let alone visit a library by 2070.

Well it got me to thinking that the big trouble here is the amount of money on offer for contributors.

Zilch, nada, zip, nothing. While the Australian media, led on by Rupert's minions, rant on about the value of their intellectual property, their digital copy content, and the public's need to pay and pay, the fact that The Punch pays nothing to its contributors, while its in house staff keep feeding it as part of their patriotic duties, is a scandal.

You can read Margaret Simons' piece on this What Are Freelancers Paid? The Wrap, along with a handy table that summarises the results of her survey. Along with its "0" in the rate per word and rate per piece columns, The Punch scores this comment: The Punch has told some writers that it will pay "once it has good advertising revenue".

Rank exploitation, Simons calls it, and to that you can add the corollary, you get what you pay for.

Including meandering pieces about national dishes which pay lavish lip service to News Ltd and its ersatz attempts at a national discussion, as a preamble to a series of plugs for the launch of a dismal recipes site which makes the recipes in the Women's Weekly seem like a national service.

Which by my reckoning makes Australia's national dish for freelance scribblers 'pie in the sky, by and by.'

By golly, is it time for a little Joe Hill singalong this Monday morning?

Long-haired minions of Rupert come out every night
To tell you what's wrong and what's right
But when asked how about something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet:

You will eat, bye and bye
In that glorious land above the sky
Work and pray, live on hay
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.
That's a lie

And the starvation army they play
They sing and they clap and they pray
'Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum:

You're gonna eat, bye and bye, poor boy
In that glorious land above the sky, way up high
Work and pray, live on hay
You'll get pie in the sky when you die
Dirty lie

Holy Rollers and jumpers come out
They holler, they jump, Lord, they shout
Give your money to Jesus they say
He will cure all troubles today

And you will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky, way up high
Work and pray, boy, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

If you fight hard for children and wife
Try to get something good in this life
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell
When you die you will sure go to hell

You will eat, bye and bye
In that glorious land above the sky
Work and pray, live on hay
You'll get pie in the sky when you die

Workingmen of all countries, unite
Side by side we for freedom will fight
When this world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:

Well, you will eat, bye and bye
When you've learned how to cook and to fry
Chop some wood, it'll do you good
You will eat in the sweet bye and bye

Yes you'll eat, bye and bye
In that glorious land above the sky, way up high
Work and pray, and live on hay
You'll get pie in the sky when you die
That's a lie....

That's right ... Australia's national dish is hay. And Rupert serves it up on a daily basis.

(Below: Homer Simpson showing he's a dab hand at Australia's national dish. Funny, I'd never thought of Homer as dinki di, but somehow it feels right).

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, I don’t think the problem with James’ article is the fact she doesn’t get paid for it. She is just an amateur. Her blog is a smorgasbord of these stereotypes and ridiculous conclusions. I suggest you take a look – even if it is just for a giggle.


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