By Matthew Lau
Why is food so important? Over centuries, food has evolved into more than a simple necessity of keeping organisms alive. Food can arouse emotions, be a cause for socialising, provides livelihoods, and can be a vocation for some.
Jesus makes himself eternally present in the tangible form of bread and wine. Devote Catholics come together to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion as the reception of Christ’s body and blood.
There is a scene towards the end of Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille, when Chef Remy the gifted rat sparked a moment of nostalgia in the imperious and acerbic food critic Anton Ego, who is commonly referred to as “The Grim Eater”.
The aptly named Ego let his guard down when served a plate of confit byaldi – a variation on ratatouille, a traditional French stewed vegetarian dish – which reminded the astonished Ego of his own mother’s cooking.
A delicious meal is usually the final product, but where does it all begin?
Renowned Australian chef and restaurateur Matt Moran starred in the award-winning TV series Paddock to Plate.
During which, instead of following the usual bog-standard template of food shows where celebrity chefs just cook dishes and plate up, Moran delved into the sourcing of produce by meeting the best growers and farmers Australia has to offer.
They are the unsung heroes of our nation’s thriving agriculture industry, one of whom spoke with The Record Magazine about the practice which he had lived and breathed for the past 65 years.
Bob Panizza owns a grains and livestock farm in Marvel Loch, located some 30km south of Southern Cross. Old Aprelia farm is now into the fourth generation of the family – which he runs with his wife Jacqueline, his son James, and daughter-in-law Sally.
“Food is very important, you can’t live without it. Australia has a good food production in almost everything – not only grain and wool – but also livestock, lamb, milk, eggs, vegetables, fishing, they all come under agriculture,” Panizza said.
“We’re a spiritual family, we always have been. We like to support the Church, the Priests, and the local school as much as we can.”
Dr Ranil Coorey is a food scientist by training. He lectures at Curtin University on the topic of Food Processing & Food Safety, his students usually end up in the food manufacturing field.
As a teenager, his pursuit for a career in food technology derived from his enthusiasm for eating and enjoying food.
“When you go into the supermarket, any food products you pick off the shelf will have a food technologist behind it,” he said.
“If it is something that is made in Western Australia, there’s quite a good chance that one of our students has had a hand in it.”
Dr Coorey said the fulcrum of his academic teachings is about the chemistry and the physics of food.
“Any food item is made up of a combination of different chemicals. If you put two ingredients or food items together, they react,” he explained.
“What my students do is discover reactions that produce a food product that is tasty, has good texture, good flavour, and that you will eat and is good for you.
“I believe that you can’t remove all those aspects from food, it has to be all of them together and equally important. It could be nutritious, but if it is not tasty then no-one’s going to buy that product.”
Lisa Shepherd of Seton Catholic College knows all too well the significance of educating people from young about respect for food.
As Seton’s Coordinator of Consumer Science, Lisa tutors high schoolers on a basic introduction to nutrition, and also delves into the physical changes in food.
“If you understand how food responds to preparation and cooking, then you grow a greater reverence and respect for food; therefore you won’t be wasting food, you’ll be looking at it how it contributes to your life, to your health, and wellbeing.”
Shepherd said there is a great deal of decision making around food that is lifestyle related.
“If we fathom as to why we eat food, and we build this respect for food, I actually think we’ll have fewer health related problems,” she expressed.
“If you look at it on every level: environmentally, socially, morally, ethically, and nutritionally … the less sophisticated food is, the less processed it is, the better it is for you on all those levels.”
Her motive for teaching young people is to develop an awareness with her students of those diverse aspects that go into decision making.
“I try to introduce their palates to different flavours as well, very carefully – because also I think that gives you a lot more tolerance and acceptance to differences in life. So it’s not just about food.”
Marist Lodge, Belmont, is one of the seven aged care facilities of Catholic Homes.
Chef Parween Ramsahye meets all the residents after admission to discuss their allergies, needs, preferences, special diets, cultural traditions or religious beliefs.
Sometimes her meals evoke memories in the residents from years gone by, which can make their day.
“Food is the part that connects us all, it brings everybody together. It is something that brings them to that moment of happiness. This is how we get to know our residents better. Food reminds them of some of the most beautiful things of their lives,” she said.
“The residents bond over food, and then they become friends. Here at Marist Lodge we are like one big family. There is respect of diversity.”
Carey Bray, Catholic Homes Hotel Services Manager, said the not-for-profit organisation is open to all denominations of religion.
“I believe that food is important because it brings people together, it makes people remember the past, it can build friendships, it can turn a frown upside-down just by either a meal that you’ve enjoyed or the celebration event that you’re having,” he said.
From pages 24 and 25 of Issue 13: ‘God, Science, Church’ of The Record Magazine