Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jamie Oliver is transforming the way we feed ourselves, and our children.

These series of links were found at or through the TED blog.

Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food | Video on

Why you should listen to him:

Jamie Oliver has been drawn to the kitchen since he was a child working in his father's pub-restaurant. He showed not only a precocious culinary talent but also a passion for creating (and talking about) fresh, honest, delicious food. In the past decade, the shaggy-haired "Naked Chef" of late-'90s BBC2 has built a worldwide media conglomerate of TV shows, books, cookware and magazines, all based on a formula of simple, unpretentious food that invites everyone to get busy in the kitchen. And as much as his cooking is generous, so is his business model -- his Fifteen Foundation, for instance, trains young chefs from challenged backgrounds to run four of his restaurants.
Now, Oliver is using his fame and charm to bring attention to the changes that Brits and Americans need to make in their lifestyles and diet. Campaigns such as Jamie's School Dinner, Ministry of Food and Food Revolution USA combine Oliver’s culinary tools, cookbooks and television, with serious activism and community organizing -- to create change on both the individual and governmental level.
Join Jamie's Food Revolution: 

Chris Jordan pictures some shocking stats >>
Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food >>
Michael Pritchard's water filter turns filthy water drinkable >>

Found at the TED website:
News and commentary on Caribbean culture, literature, and the arts 

Beverly Bell writes about the complex relationship between Haitian peasants and Monsanto as they react to the company’s announcement that it is donating millions of dollars in seeds to Haiti.

“A new earthquake” is what peasant farmer leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news that Monsanto will be donating 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides. The MPP has committed to burning Monsanto’s seeds, and has called for a march to protest the corporation’s presence in Haiti on June 4, for World Environment Day.  READ MORE HERE.

Announcing the 2010 TEDGlobal Fellows!

The 2010 TEDGlobal Fellows reflect both geographic and discipline diversity. From Venezuela to Ghana to Brazil to Costa Rica to Sri Lanka to Yemen, these pioneers are breaking new ground in technology, engineering, programming, biology, genetics, environmental science and invention. Fellows also are innovating in filmmaking, photojournalism, architecture, music, poetry, entrepreneurship and activism, among other disciplines.
“We are excited to host our second class of TEDGlobal Fellows in Oxford. They represent a spectacular concentration of cross-disciplinary talent and share a common goal of improving the state of humanity. We look forward to their active participation in the TEDGlobal community and the amazing collaborations that inevitably result from the Fellows' time together," said Tom Rielly, TED Fellows director.
If you click on TED Fellows it will open at the page that links you to all the individuals selected for this year.

and finally to see this video of Viktor Frankl go to the TED talks site .

Viktor Frankl: Why to believe in others

Neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl pioneered an approach to psychotherapy that focuses on the human search for meaning.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Guardians of Diversity - a chef and an artist

This post is from a fascinating website DIVERSITY FOR LIFE  on The Guardians of Diversity which includes stories on farmers, community activists, scientists and scholars. Here are the stories of a chef and an artist. As yesterday was the International Day of Biological Diversity this is in keeping with that theme!

I am on the look out for more stories about people doing similar work - especially in the realm of seeds like the artist featured below. 

Claudio Bincoletto by RUTH on JULY 3, 2009
To most of us, nettles are bothersome weeds that have a nasty habit of stinging us when we are out walking or doing some gardening. But to Claudio Bincoletto nettles are an exquisite food that can boost the flavour of soups, omelettes and stews. In fact, nettles are very nutritious, and are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and iron as well as a range of vitamins. And importantly, once you cook them, they no longer sting.
Bincoletto works as a chef and expert in wild foods, sharing his knowledge of ethnobotany and herbal traditions in cookery with restaurants and agricultural colleges and spreading the word about the value of biodiversity and the need to ensure its sustainable conservation. Claudio has also used his knowledge of wild plants to collaborate with rehabilitation centres in the UK that use foraging and gardening as complementary therapies in the rehabilitation process for former drug and alcohol addicts and for the treatment of depression.
Mitsuaki Tanabe  by RUTH on JULY 2, 2009
For the past 20 years, Mitsuaki Tanabe has been creating sculptures on a single motif: a grain of wild rice. This is no ordinary grain of rice but the ancestor of today’s cultivated rice, which is believed to have existed for no less than 10 000 years. Wild rice is a water plant, which maintains its life in wetlands and shallow bodies of water. This habitat is rapidly being lost as a result of economic development.
“When I encountered wild rice 20 years ago, I was inspired immensely as an artist,” said Tanabe. “I learned from scientists about wild rice and its habitats and I wanted to do what I could to make the situation better. I wanted to create artworks to make a strong visual impact on people and to inspire them to learn about the importance of biodiversity.”
Tanabe has given the International Rice Research Institute a 7.5 tonne sculpture of a rice seed for its Riceworld Museum. And on 1 April 2008, his latest work, ‘A Seed of Wild Rice MOMI-2008’, was installed by the Global Crop Diversity Trust at its headquarters in Rome, Italy. The stainless steel sculpture is 9 metres long and weighs about 250 kg.

NB the wonderful images originally posted here are no longer available at the site.

Friday, May 21, 2010

designing our future and an ultimate homage to the seed - The Seed Cathedral

A favourite design idea I found last year from the Netherlands were these string gardens.
There seem to be such innovative people coming from there! See the May 12 post on this blog for other creatives out of the Netherlands! String gardens appealed on many levels - even the name! I exchanged a few words with the designer when posting this at my other blog last October. Also check out

Some would be rather horrified I guess at how far this takes you from the regular concept of a garden - but part of the fascination for me is that intensifies the relationship in front of your eyes of seed to soil to the plant's growth cycles and there even seems to be a grave yard for old string gardens. I think they might be better suited to a cooler climate that here and also need a bit of horticultural know-how to keep them flourishing. That aside I am bowled over by the concept of these because of the way they expose the growth cycle at eye level. Has any one out there tried something similar to this successfully?

Have a look at this wonderful series of videoed string gardens here. Charming! And from the red-light district below - a show by Fedor van der Valk - the creator of string gardens! Its a great website I promise!

I wrote last week on the way designers are rethinking the future emphasising it's not all about the uber-fabulous and drop-dead expensive genre of 'new design' for new's sake. There is a great deal of ingenuity being applied to even the most humble of everyday items - see 3 of last year's finalists in the following design competition below for proof of that. What I'm posting here is the call for designers the world over to enter a Korean Design Competition - its free to enter - and it seems the integrity of the idea is what's important rather than the length of one's design CV. 

C A L L - F O R - E N T R I E S
Incheon Metropolitan City, KOREA,together with designboom promotes an international design competition.
participation is open to applicants from every country in the world,
to professionals, students, and design-enthusiasts.
free of charge registration required.

iiida 2010 is hosted by Incheon Metropolitan City and organized by Incheon Business Agency.
sponsors of this competition are:
Ministry of Knowledge Economy, Republic of Korea,
Korea Institute of Design Promotion,
Incheon Industrial Design Association
Incheon Design Company Association.

01 - the subject of the international competition is 
green heartiida 2010 calls out for fresh and new design proposals to be made by designers with green hearts.
being aware of the environment is a joyful way to give sustainable change to daily city living.
designers with a passion for preserving the environment are asked to suggest a future where
humans and nature can coexist. as such, we welcome the participation of competent
world designers in iida 2010, with the goal of generating new possibilities
for sustainability through design.
iida 2010 seeks entries in the following three categories:

1 - green design for humans- life style design which help realize ways to consider the environment in daily life
- daily goods, home appliances, lighting, furniture, stationery, home devices, car, packaging, etc.

2 - green design for the city- innovative and effective public design which suggests the possibility of an eco-friendly city
- architecture, interior design, road, public area, park, urban planning, urban infrastructure, etc.

3 - green design for communication- design taking lead in social communication for the diffusion of green design and green life style
- poster, video, advertisement, illustration, campaign, software, mass media, networking, etc. 

read more at and at iida 2010

Click to enlarge to read about some finalists from last year:

A pretty amazing concept - the rocking actually powers the light attached to the chair.

A new approach to eating locally - these plates bring it all home!

...well thats humble for you - and why I say designers aren't sticking to the WOW items to put their efforts to work. I have a brother who's quick to remind that some of the smallest inventions have generated considerable wealth. 

I found this and other great stories at INHABITAT.COM . By going to search categories in the sidebar and choosing botanical I pulled up a fascinating series of projects - but of course had to go no further than this one below due to its definitive nature and relevance to this Homage to the Seed blog!

 and now...

Introducing the extraordinary "Seed Cathedral" - the UK pavillion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo - which contains seeds from the Millennium Seed Bank and I like to think some of those seeds may have perhaps orginated in Queensland and passed through the Seed lab at Mt Coot-tha!

Shanghai Expo 2010, thomas heatherwick, uk pavilion, sustainable design, green design, sustainable architecture, green building, seed bank, pincushion building, porcupine building

Nicknamed the “Dandelion”, Thomas Heatherwick’s UK Pavilion bristles with a dynamic facade that gently flexes and shimmers with each passing breeze. The beautiful building envelope blurs the boundaries between architecture and animated sculpture, while the area surrounding the pavilion features a network of pedestrian walkways and a landscaped park area.

Shanghai Expo 2010, thomas heatherwick, uk pavilion, sustainable design, green design, sustainable architecture, green building, seed bank, pincushion building, porcupine building

Nestled within the sprouting facade of seeds is an otherworldly interior that unfolds like a shimmering network of stars. During the day the interior is completely lit by daylight channeled through the structure’s transparent rods. At night the interior is illuminated by minute lighting elements contained within each rod for an amazing effect.

The brilliant bristling structure you see above is not the world’s largest pincushion – it’s Thomas Heatherwick’s recently completed UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Dubbed the “Seed Cathedral”, the six-story high structure is studded with 60,000 translucent rods that act as fiber-optic filaments that channel sunlight into the pavilion’s interior. The densely-packed forest of filaments also contains the impetus to create living forests in the future — each 7.5 meter long “branch” contains seeds from the Millenium Seed Bank that will be given to China one the expo has run its course.

Read more: Construction Complete on the UK's Stunning Seed Cathedral | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World  All text from this article on Inhabitat.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You are invited to come along on June 6 to the Japanese Garden for tea and seed stories in honour of World Environment Day - celebrating Biodiversity

Please click to enlarge for more information - you will see the contact details on the bottom left corner. This part of the garden is truly delightful and there are actually formal Japanese Tea Ceremonies held there from time to time. I will posts images of this garden soon so if you can come along that will be especially wonderful!

Children will be kept busy with special art activites and there will be two sessions for the story circle so bring a picnic if you like and definitely find those seeds you've been saving, or pods or just a story to tell.

I'm taking bookings even though is is definitely a free event as we would love to have an idea of numbers. If you come along at the last minute dont worry - we will try and squeeze you in...
Tea will be something fresh and herbal on this occasion ... but as we are celebrating Biodiversity you may wish to bring something you have grown that would make a lovely tea. And why not bring a prized cup if you would like....there'll be a story there!

If you would like to read the United Nations Secretary Generals message for WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY  or   WED 2010  I'm adding it below and it is also to be found here.

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Biodiversity, the incredible variety of life on Earth that sustains us, is in peril. Species are becoming extinct at the fastest rate ever recorded. Most of these extinctions are tied to human activities that are polluting and depleting water resources, changing and degrading habitats and altering the global climate. From frogs to gorillas, from huge plants to tiny insects, thousands of species are in jeopardy.
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day, “Many Species. One Planet. One Future”, echoes the call of the International Year of Biodiversity to stop this mass extinction and raise awareness about the vital importance of the millions of species that inhabit our planet’s soils, forests, oceans, coral reefs and mountains. Our health, well-being and sustainable future depend on this intricate, delicate web of ecosystems and life.
The global host of the 2010 WED celebration is Rwanda. This small country in the Great Lakes region of Africa is rapidly earning a reputation as a green pioneer. Home to 52 threatened species, including the rare mountain gorilla, Rwanda is showing how environmental sustainability can be woven into the fabric of a country’s economic growth. Despite its many challenges, including poverty and widespread land degradation, the “land of a thousand hills” is working to reforest, embrace renewable energies, pursue sustainable agriculture and develop a green vision for the future.
This year, Kigali will be the heartbeat of a global, multicultural, intergenerational celebration of our planet, its millions of species and the countless ways in which life on Earth is interconnected. On World Environment Day, I appeal to everyone – from Kigali to Canberra, from Kuala Lumpur to Quito – to help us sound the alarm. Get involved, speak out. Learn and teach others. Show leadership and help clean up. Reconnect with nature, our life force. Together, we can develop a new vision for biodiversity: Many Species. One Planet. One Future.

click  BIODIVERSITY FACT SHEET: or click on each item to enlarge these pages below to read properly! ASIDE: Can I just say on a personal note that this is to date the most appealingly conceived, intelligently written and concise overview I've come across on Biodiversity for the general reader -

What is Biodiversity? 
 with us 
      a journey

Sunday, May 16, 2010

From the Island of Madeira to Surry Hills in Sydney

above: a stunning display from the Garland's website

On a recent trip to Sydney one morning I was wandering through Surry Hills when I noticed some things of interest out the front of a florist shop.... old bottles and baskets of seedpods. Curiosity lead me to wander in and begin a conversation to find out about these collections of seedpods. The florist shop was Garlands at 423 Bourke St and it was the charming owner/executive florist Ferdinando de Freitas who took the time to engage warmly with me when easily he could have been too rushed and business like to be drawn into conversation. Instead he was quite the opposite - and quietly interested to see what had piqued my interest.

Ferdinando with Tamara - senior florist - in the background.

The sight of these bunya nuts - an indigenous species (which I have mentioned in previous posts) are not so common and are found in a rather limited area of Queensland to my knowledge. It was explained that the Bunya nut cones had arrived at various intervals when available and the seeds had been saved each time. Why I asked? 
It seems Ferdinando is in the habit of saving all such pods and seeds whenever he possibly can. Sometimes these are used in his work or they are kept in baskets on display. Not content to leave it there I asked if he had grown up in close contact with nature as I had a strong inkling he had. This amazing store seemed to celebrate the world of plants and hint at the plant's life cycle by presenting so much more than rows of pretty cut flowers ( which of course have their appeal). In the spectrum of contemporary merchandising of flora it was heartwarming indeed to see a distinct absence of shiny plastic balloons, teddy bears, and things manufactured in China and instead be knocked over by the abundance of alive-looking branches and stems of a wonderful range of plants that still seemed connected to nature... a true feast for the eyes.

A fascinating story came from this dialogue. Born on the Island of Madeira into a farming family and surrounded by others similarly occupied meant learning to save seeds from the harvest, propagate plants and cultivate next year's  crops was the common currency of people's lives. Seeds were not purchased but rather saved and shared amongst the community, with attention given to what seed produced best and such matters. His father concentrated on bananas and grapes but grew all sorts of food to feed the family. 

Ferdinando spoke quite passionately about the land he grew up on, the cultivation practices and common species.  Googling the island's flora I was able to look at indigenous species like Yellow Fox Glove, Madeira Orchid and Pride of Madeira. Introduced species like Bird of Paradise, Agapanthus and Hydrangea are just some of the mentioned ones - all with common names. Avocados seemed to have been introduced for an agricultural crop.

File:Madeira-flowers hg.jpg
above: Island of Madeira flora biodiversity from Wikipedia

below: 1.  Flora from the Island of Madeira
            2. view from the Island with agave plants - an introduced species from Mexico it is widely thought..

The plant-life from the years growing up in this Island location have influenced Ferdinando's aesthetic and appreciation for nature and cultivation quite considerably it would seem. Although there is a vast range of flowers and plants in the store the evidence of one who is preserving plants as they go through the entirety of their life cycle by continuously saving seeds, pods and interesting forms adds another whole layer to the store and the work being done there.

 The strong organic statement to his signature pieces created for hotel lobbies, events and commissions includes these other elements that betray a deep interest in forms and stages of growth.

Installing a work in a Hotel lobby nearby in the city. Guests are so taken with these floral works that the Hotel has the talented Ferdinando produce a typed sheet for framing each week that specifies the names and details of all species used.

This small bunch of herbs olds certain appeal.

a magazine shoot by House and Garden Australia using items found at Garlands

An in-store dinner at this wonderful setting.

With much gratitude to Ferdinando for his wonderful hospitality on my visit to his vibrant corner of the world.                                        

View the excellent weblink for more information:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

House of Origin looks to the past to step into the future

This is a story of what happens when two design graduates from the Eindhoven Design Academy in the Netherlands join forces to start the food-design studio HOUSE OF ORIGIN in Eindhoven. Marriet Willens teamed with Simone Kroon to produce work for some memorable events in the past couple of years that begs the question  "where can we find real food?"

If you thought designers were all about flash chairs and uber-fashionable lamps think again. Popping up around the globe are bright minds focusing on some of the toughest questions and doing their very best in encouraging numbers to think smart and create smart... and to influence the rest of us to take stock if not buy in to their provocation ... to move forward by taking a leap in imagination if nothing else.

Consider this image here -  

                     formally dressed people at the dinner table 

Aha! but what is it they will be eating?

Go to kleurendiner : a special dinner created by Willens and Kroon. It seems that these designers became vitally concerned at the loss of old varieties of vegetables and food sources and the plethora of industrialised, low grade food options in their place. The more questions they asked the more concerned they became to expose people  to real food sources - so a series of fascinating food events were designed to do this very thing... using art and design elements to get people sitting up and taking notice. You can lecture people all day long about what's good for them and for the environment - but here there is a strong likelihood people will not be leaving these tables in a hurry... even if its mere curiosity that keeps them there.


These painterly items above look more like a ceramic instillation than colour cakes on first glance - see more here at their website.

This Food instillation below was shown at the Salone de Mobili in Milan this year and aims to get people to think about what food makes them feel and how it works on them - the instillation is called... Brainfood

Simone Kroon created 'Raapsteeltje', a food bible (above) from local Dutch produce. It is part cookbook/part directory for some of the forgotten ingredients in the Netherlands. Read more from an excellent review at Design NL 

By Jeanne Tan /asdf 16-10-2008
How do you tell the difference between a carrot and a parsnip?
Food isn't thought of so often as something that can become extinct. Animals, plants and ecosystems sadly can go down this path but surely not food which we all need to feed our bodies each day. However in this day and age with the scale of industrial agriculture, big supermarkets and globalisation, our eating habits have somewhat gone astray, our palettes are a probably a shadow of what they once used to be and everyday food has become sterile. Regional delicacies and traditional produce are disappearing gradually, where nowadays most people don't know a parsnip from a carrot and are likely to eat more food grown on the other side of the world than in their own backyard.

While studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven, Dutch designer Simone Kroon became fascinated with the origin of food, and with pure and honest ingredients. She poses the question: Where can we find real food? In her quest, she discovered many different kinds of food on her own doorstep many of which which she had never heard of and which she could not believe could become extinct. 'That's when I decided to tell this story in the form of a book. I wanted everybody to find their own local food again', Kroon says.

The result is the part Dutch cookbook, part culinary directory/guide entitled 'Raapsteeltje' (turnip leaves) which is Kroon's graduation project from the Design Academy Eindhoven, written in collaboration with Sandor Schiferli, a culinary journalist and Slow Food follower. The book takes the foodie on an 'adventure through true Dutch taste' via different types of local ingredients and the region which they originate from in The Netherlands. Background information and explanations are provided about each ingredient and there are two recipes for each, one traditional and one contemporary. Some of the ingredients include Groninger mustard, cockles, spelt bread, Texelse sheep cheese, ham from Valkenburg, Stellendamse prawns and 'forgotten' Dutch vegetables. At the back of the book, a list of the farms and producers is provided as well as open farms and farmers' markets to buy produce throughout the Netherlands. And if you can't physically make it to the farms to buy the produce, a handy list of culinary websites can help point you in the right direction to explore more local Dutch produce online. Hopefully with the renewed interest in local culinary delicacies and traditional food production methods, the gastronomic heritage of The Netherlands will be in safer hands.

below: from magazine LEAD

NB: click on text and images to enlarge for reading

Perhaps you feel skeptical about the designer's work in the sense you feel that minds will not be moved to consider the deeper agendas at the heart of the work. 

The reason I was so keen to post this story is because I think it does take people who think outside the box to nudge us along that bit more. 

We learn well when having fun, are amused or enthralled or fully engaged. We've had organics for decades now and talked of biodiversity loss for longer. Vegetarianism, alternative food supplies and ethnically diverse cuisines  are hardly new - but still most of us presently choose convenience from a couple of huge companies in Australia to get our food supplies... irrespective of costs.  We hand our hard-earned food money to people who cut the growers out at every turn, who want 'roll-backs' in place of quality and sustainability.

My own off preparation practices are more imaginative and nourishing when Im inspired to think and act more creatively and productively - I cut corners these days I never once would have! In our busy-ness and our society of 'too-muchness' (for those of us fortunate to be in that place) we glaze over and make the convenient choice for all kinds of reasons.

We are struggling with the idea of alternatives to industrialised food processes being necessary at an organisational level - Government and non-govt alike. The issue of Food security is now increasingly 
on the political agenda at many tiers of national organisation. School programs are making up for the 
lost years ... slowly, slowly. Home economics classes where instructions to buy packaged brands became  automatic and implied lessons in 'how to shop at the supermarket' became the norm are being slowly questioned by programs around kirtchen gardens - with lessons in the garden, students hands on, discovering the soil, worms, digging, seed saving and what it takes to produce food let alone make something nourishing and delicious - with serious permaculture  and life-cycle instruction.

Bring on the serious and thoughtful designers I say to help us reimagine the possible! If we are just a little more curious as a result and keen to forage harder for nourishing supplies, and with deeper understanding of why it is worth it to bother - then it can only be positive to have their inspiration!

Your thoughts are welcomed on this broad discussion... what do you imagine as you view that dinner table above?
What role can creativity play in all this?

*With thanks to the wonderful Irene at Bloesem blog for this inspired link!

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