Saturday, July 31, 2010

Policy questions unanswered

A lot is being said right now on Twitter about the media and the questions being asked of the party leaders during this election campaign, and whether they are focusing enough on policy or are asking questions the public is interested in.

My feeling is that the world of Journalism, from what we know of it, seems quite insular. Is there a temptation to ask questions not because you think the public want the answer, but because another publication is asking it?

The thing that got me was how many Journalists who are on Twitter seemed to have the "See if you can do a better job" style of engagement in this discussion. Rather than point out where - if it is in fact the case - people are asking them to get this information and acknowledge that there is at least a section of the community who ISN'T getting the information they want from the journalists asking the questions of the party leaders, at least some of the journalists seem to be throwing hissy fits that anyone dare criticize them and refuse to see what the problem is.

Here's the problem as I see it: Gillard is being asked questions that are totally irrelevant to the way she will run the country if elected. Rather than ask what is ACTUALLY going to be done about infrastructure and population growth outside of the tiny percentage that is boat people, she was asked about her earlobes. Rather than ask questions about the $12,000 in support to be given to families with disabled children for early intervention and what criteria will be applied, she was asked about photoshopping of her appearance.

Rather than ask Tony what the criteria are for "Severe disability" and what "Up to $20,000" means and how they will apply to his Education card scheme for disabled children, he's asked about the Cabinet leak in the Labor party. Rather than ask him what measure he has in place for Early Intervention and why the scheme does not extend to people with disabilities not classified as severe, he's asked why he's got his family with him. Rather than ask him why Joe Hockey when appearing on the 730 report stated that of course they won't change the Fair Work Act, "full stop", but they're quite happy to change "what the lawyers tell them it's ok" to, we're treated to another question about Tony's apparent "woman problem"  

Policy Issues are being left out of questions in favour of Gotcha-style journalism. Chris Uhlmann's first story for ABC News 24 was a prime example. Rather than focus on current policy and the current campaign, he chose to stick the knife in Kevin Rudd sending a staffer along to Security meetings in his stead. As acknowledged by all involved, that was never done for major meetings or when issues of import were discussed, but Chris chose to use the piece to demonstrate "contempt" shown by the former PM to public servants.

The leak by Laurie Oakes - that, Quelle Suprise - not everyone agrees on policy brought to Cabinet straight away, was another example. Think people don't talk about Cabinet discussions after they occur? Check out Labor in Power. An entire documentary based on Cabinet discussions and the like. It's not new, it's barely even news. Laurie is a heavy-hitter, and his questions make people sit up and take notice. Imagine how the debate could be shaped if instead of questions about whether Kevin Rudd had been asked to campaign or whether he'd told them he wouldn't we had questions about Healthcare. Imagine if instead of questions about earlobes we had questions about Dental health schemes. Imagine if instead of questions about airbrushing we had questions about infrastructure.

Campaign coverage becomes less policy-focussed by the day. We're catering for those who vote on personality, who swing for a sound-bite, and aren't interested in anything but the profile of a politician.

We're dumbing it down. Do the Journalists of this country really think we're more interested in Julia's earlobes than the way she'll run this country? Do we care more about Tony's speedos than we do how he'll run this country?

If that's the case, Mea Culpa, Journalists. If not, you're treating us with contempt. Ask some questions about policies and stop treating this like a campaign for Prom Queen and King. It's our bloody country at stake, whoever wins.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bastardizing Part One

Almost the first thing I do when I hear about a recipe is think about how I can adapt it to what I would like. I'm fussy, and almost no recipe is going to suit me straight off the page. Dinner tonight was a prime example. I'd seen something, somewhere about Caponata, a Sicilian Aubergine (Eggplant, Aussies) stew that's traditionally served cold or as an entree or accompaniment. It's supposed to have herb vinegar, capers, olives and parsley stalks, and has a unique salty, tangy flavour which mixes gorgeously with the creamy texture of the Aubergine.

What I made tonight would probably not really even be classified as a Caponata, but here's what I did;


One red or green capsicum
five tomatoes, ripe as possible
Red onion, two small or one large
One large Aubergine (purple, if possible)
Two small or one large zucchini
half a tablespoon of oregano
half a tablespoon of mixed herbs
One large cob loaf
Red Wine Vinegar or similar
Two cloves of garlic


Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Chop Aubergine into large pieces, add to hot pan with two tablespoons of olive oil with chopped zuchinni. If your tomatoes are not very ripe, I would add them now as well. Toss until Aubergine well coated and starting to brown. Add Red onion and garlic. I added probably a teaspoon of salt at this point as well. Add two or three glugs of red wine vinegar at this point, and see how you go for consistency. Too much will result in sogginess, not enough and the eggplant could become tough.

Once the onions start going clear as onions are wont to do and the red wine vinegar evaporated, add the tomatoes if very ripe. I would add the capsicum at this point to have something with a crunchier texture

Grab your cob loaf and cut a square from the top so you've got a lid. Scoop out the middle to make as much room as you need for the stew. If it's a very fresh loaf, you probably won't even need to scoop. Add some cheese to the bottom

Shadow is an optional extra, natch.

Add the scooped out bread, torn, to the stew, mix through and scoop the stew into the bread

The cheese at the bottom should provide the bread with a bit of stability, but this is why you don't want it to be dripping soggy, just nice and moist.

Put the lid back on and put on a flat tray in the oven for seven minutes, or until bread starts to brown

Remove from oven and slice with a bread knife (The temptation might be to use a sharp knife so you don't drag at the stew, but that it just going to make your life difficult with a baked loaf) into desired serving size. This is a very filling meal, so less is most certainly more. The serving below was about three times more than either of us could eat, and it's really not that big a plate.

It turned out better than I'd hoped. Moist but not too moist, creamy, tangy and filling. Apart from the eggplant and red onion (Which really made it for me), you could use any vegie you've got lying around in this. You could substitute brown vinegar at a pinch (using far less) , use a Pana de Casa for authenticity, and add the capers and olives if you are actually serving it as a side dish. I honestly think combined with the vinegar that capers and olives would be too much flavour and would take the subtlety from it, but certainly that's how it would be done traditionally. I would not advise balsamic vinegar. Aubergines soak up oil and vinegar like bread. The flavour would be overpowering in my opinion.

Another idea I'd have pinched from Ro if I'd seen it in time (the cheese at the bottom I nicked from her, the cob loaf I'd already decided on) was using small dinner rolls instead of a cob loaf, or if you're serving as an entree' and don't want to be fiddly, using a ramakin or souflee dish and forgo the bread. The torn bread really soaked up some of the liquid though, so I'd recommend throwing some in, anyway.