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The Australian Kitchen

Chop. Slice. Blend. Stir. Mix. Rinse. Mash. Fry. Pop. Steam. Cook. Boil. Grill. Smoke. Dry. Rest. Bake. Fillet. Season. Drizzle. Mix. Beat. Slimmer. Serve. Eat.

In November 2015, Australia launched a new food channel: The Food Network. Not that this country lacks any cooking show. During prime time you can get inspired by Aussies BBQ Heroes, Jamie Oliver’s Superfood, Chopped, The Spirit of Japan, Inferno Kitchen, UK Bakes, Cabinet’s Kitchen and a dozen of others. Despite the huge range of these programs, it seemed viewers were in the need of something more. Quite funny, in my opinion, as Australia doesn´t really have decent food culture.

Every single European I come across has been complaining about the same thing: Australian food sucks. The bread is too soft, the coffees are too weak, soda’s are incredibly sweet and artifical. Above all: who came up to create Vegemite chocolate?! No, Australia is not a country like France or Italy where you could go to just because of its kitchen. France can be named in one sentence with croissant, crêpe, brie en Boeuf Bourguignon. Italy just breaths pizza and pasta. Perhaps Australia can be described with sausage rolls or pies. Not the chocolate pie or Dutch apple pie, but minced beef pie. It comes with a dash of ketchup and if you’re lucky, it had been made the same day. If not – what most likely the case is – you will probably munch it after a good night out.

The cooking shows are a big puzzle for me, as there is no point in broadcasting them. Why look at them and not use them? Sure, Jamie Oliver can provide you great ideas for dinner and it is quite entertaining but how likely is it you are actually going to put this in practice? Nihil, I assume. It is a real shame, as Australia has many farmers and produces a lot of fresh vegetables, meat and dairy. However, most of the harvest will be exported to other countries and Australia ends up importing more products. For example: the Passionfruit Christmas Pudding has been created in England from imported ingredients and exported to Australia. Same for the Belgian Chocolate Cake, made in Belgium – I guess this is actually a good thing – and the kiwi’s are imported from Italy. You start to wonder if this country keeps anything for themselves and if they are able to cook something more than a mashed avocado toast.

Well, there is one thing Australians are bloody good at doing: the barbecue. It is the French gourmet pan, the Italian pizza oven and the Belium deepfrying pan. All hail, make way for the Australian Barbecue! You cannot live without a barbecue unless you deny that you are in Australia. There are options for vegetarian and vegans so no one will be left behind. Every household owns at least one of these smoking hot grills. Either working on gas or with – flavoured! – coals: char grill, steam, woodfire, spit, portable or smoking. Australia has the answer. There are free electric barbecues in parks if your backgarden is too small. Every day, the council cleans them but on the country side, you might be a bit unlucky. Most rest areas have designed barbecue pits so that you could still light the barbie, if you could not afford a portable on – and also to prevent bushfires.

Knowing this, the only understandable cooking show which makes sense, is Aussie Barbecue Heroes. I wouldn’t be surprised if locals pick something up from this show. Three couples have to face different barbecue challanges such as “create a dish with prawns, sweet chili and basil, within 30 minutes!” or “give me a fushion steak!” It is far more interesting than Australia’s Master Chef with the tension around Sally’s dish and the question if the eggs of her quinea salad are boiled on the point or not.

To wrap up the Australian kitchen, you will need 3 things. Pie – preferable a few days old, reheated – a barbecue – to create excellent steaks – and an ice cold beer – but due to the heat, it is more likely a warm one. I haven’t discussed the matter “beer” but as most students among us know what a beer is, it seemed irrelevant to me to elaborate on that subject. There are no extrodinairy beers here: think about a simple beer and reduce the alcohol to 3.5% and that is your Australian beer. However, you never know what Jamie Oliver comes up with and turns it into a gourmet superfood. This country is full of surprises.

So there you go: pie, barbecue and a beer that goes along with it. Simple and easy, that is Australian food culture. Who needs Passionfruit Christmas Pudding anyway?

America: the Country of Unlimited Portions!

EuroSim 2015, Skidmore College Saratoga Springs NY

Skidmore  College, Saratoga Springs NY, the first American university that I experience first-hand. I am aware of America’s campus-culture which stands in strong contrast with the more loosely organised style of student life at most, if not all European university. However, this observation on American campus-culture is largely based on American Pie movies and media coverage which cannot really be called objective. Therefore, I see my trip to Skidmore College as the perfect opportunity to test this hypothesis. I am in Saratoga Springs to represent FASoS during EuroSim, a simulation of the European Institutions, and stay here for 5 days. Although I’m not sleeping on campus I do have most of my lunches and dinners there, and that’s exactly what strikes me most about the campus-culture: the overload of food. Lunch on the first day of the convention is my first encounter with the cafeteria. I feel like walking in an all-inclusive holiday resort with various different fresh-cooking corners, ice-cream and waffle machines, twelve kinds of cereals, fresh pizza corner, Asian corner, veggie corner, Western dinner and buffet corner etc. I cannot believe that I am in an educational institute. Overenthusiastically, I walk around without realising my plate looks like a bad miniature version of the Eifel tower and I need a second plate to fulfil my demands. In short, as always with the all-you-can-eat concept, I prove the theory of diminishing returns and I feel like never eating again at the end of my lunch.

EuroSim 2015 Skidmore College

EuroSim 2015, Skidmore College Saratoga Springs NY

EuroSim 2015, Skidmore College Saratoga Springs NY

At first sight, the concept seems great: a central place for all students to have their meals with a wide variety to choose from. However, it also makes me think about its disadvantages. First, it is well-known that the Western world, specifically America, has a growing problem with obesity and I don’t think that all-you-can-eat cafeterias in universities help address the problem. Second,  studying in America isn’t cheap to say the least and having a cafeteria that cost each student around $12.000 a year does not help. Third, having unlimited access to put food on your plate increases the amount of food waste. Fourth, students do not learn to cook for themselves. I know that not having to cook or doing groceries save time, and thus can be seen as an advantage. However, I genuinely enjoy my daily walk to the supermarket where I can enjoy free coffee (honestly it isn’t bad in Helmstraat), and start my hunt for the latest offers which save me a lot of money on my monthly grocery budget. Furthermore, I know how much food my body needs on a daily basis and by buying my own groceries I feel less tempted to overload my plate.

EuroSim 2015 Skidmore College

EuroSim 2015 Skidmore College

Personally I loved my time in the Skidmore College cafeteria but I was more than happy to return to my daily walk to the supermarket. Moreover, summer is coming so my body needs to be beach ready!

All photos © Brian Megens

Can changing our culture change us?

TED always provides a great forum to discuss the future of our planet and how we, as humans, need to change the world. Two weeks ago the TEDx Maastricht event continued the tradition of spreading great ideas to help us find solutions to issues that we humans face. In this Blog post I would like to look at a couple of the speakers from September 4th‘s event in Maastricht and examine how our culture and society effects how we interact with the world. Many of the speakers argued that we need simple changes in our society to start to heal the world and this Blog will focus on these arguments.

The first speaking to fall into the category of pushing societal change came in the morning. Bart Knols talked about the growing social isolation that is plaguing western society.  Bart’s observations came from experiencing the differences on a train ride he experienced in Tanzania versus one in the Netherlands. The train in Tanzania was a social event where he met people, discussed the world and even sang and danced with total strangers but in the Netherlands he saw how people go into a bubble where they are isolated even though they are surrounded by people. This is the isolation that Bart wants to change, even though we are surrounded by people we don’t interact with them. However, there are solutions to the growing isolation that had been coming into our society and Bart Knols believes the solutions are very simple. On some trains in the Netherlands there have been experiments where you designate a train to be a social zone. This is all Bart believes it takes to make a change and it has been shown effective. By simply designating this environment as one to talk and socialize people did and it shows that humans are a product of our surroundings and by changing our surrounding you change human behavior.

On a completely different topic, Shyama Ramani gave a talk on bringing toilettes to the coastal towns of India. After the 2004 tsunami, many of the forests where women would relieve themselves were destroyed and a real need for toilettes arose when women lost the privacy that the forest provided.  When Shyama institute put toilettes in these towns the women used them but the men would still walk down to the beach and just go into the ocean. The issue that Shyama faced was how to change the patterns of the men that had been built into there culture since their ancestors settled on the shores of India. There were several ideas but one that showed success was a toilettes beauty contest where different villages battled to have the nicest water closet with cleanest and most beautiful hut that surrounds the toilet. The one condition for the contest was that the men had to use it for 6 months. This seems to be a form of social training and conditioning. Shyama Ramani was working hard to make toilet use a societal norm and to do this she must make permanent changes to the male Indians behavior to keep the men using toilettes. This would not only provide privacy for the women but it has been shown to raise hygiene levels throughout the towns.  Like Bart, Shyama is trying to make simple changes in people by changing their environment and it seems effective. It’s a pretty simple concept. Change the environment and it changes the people.

As the TED talks progressed throughout the day there were two talks that focused on the food we eat and changing the way we see food. Marian Peters tried to convince us that we should eat insects as a way to help create a more sustainable food industry and Mark Post talked about the hamburger he grew in a lab here at the University of Maastricht. A problem that both faced is how to make this food culturally accepted. Marian Peters has a more difficult job because bugs are not on the menu of our western culture. However, she makes the point that many societies around the world have no issues with eating bugs and are very integrated in many cuisines-such as in Laos. Marian Peters was at the TED talk to not only discuss why we should eat bugs but she was there to start to change our societies view on bugs. She made sure that there were enough chicken/bug nuggets (80% chicken 20% bugs) for everybody to try at lunch and the majority of the TED attendees actually tried the food that was 20% ground up insects. I did not try the bugs and I don’t want to… Marian Peters has a lot of work to change my dislike of bugs that has been ingrained in me my whole life. But that’s her goal. Marian Peters is trying to make insects a social accepted food source. I think she has a long way to go but it’s possible. If the children of western culture were to eat products with bugs in them since birth their generation would probably have no issues eating food with insect in them. Other cultures don’t have any issues eating bugs so what’s to say that we can’t change western culture to make insects a social accepted food source. Marian Peters has not convinced me yet but she made some very good points one day we might see insects on the list of ingredients in our favorite foods.

Mark Post has similar issues but not nearly as drastic as Marian Peters because eating beef that was grown in a lab often seems unnatural to real beef but doesn’t have a social stigma to work against. This makes it easier for Mark and he believes one day there will be meat incubators sitting in everybody’s kitchen next to the oven. One of the points Mark Post made about the beef is that he often has to tread lightly when talking about culture beef because some people have a hard time accepting it as an alternative. However, many people are willing to try the beef and so the hurdles are a lot smaller for Mark. But it still goes to show that even with cultured beef, there is a need to change our cultures attitude towards how we feed ourselves. These two talks and ideas are based in science and biology but both need a cultural change before they become accepted into our society.

While there were a lot of speakers that I could have discussed in the blog I chose these speakers because they specifically talked about changing societies and cultures to have positive effects on the world. They showed the power that social change can have on changing human behavior and this is an important message that many TED talks have been spreading.

We are social animals and our environment, culture and society have a huge influence on how we perceive the world and act in it. These speakers raise the point that if we change our environment we change humans. I think this is correct, but to what extent. Being a social species our surroundings have a very large influence and many of our issues can be solved by a change in culture. I wanted to write this blog post on social constructionism because I do believe humans are products of the surroundings. But, I think we are still heavily influenced by our monkey ancestry and I think our human biology still plays a huge part of human actions and interactions. The thirst for money, power, fame, and acceptance is part of human nature and while it may be a crucial in our make up I believe it can be overcome through societal changes. I thought one of the most inspiring talks of the day was by a 17 year old student, Rebecca Vos, who talked about changing the education system and one of the issues she talked about was reducing the hierarchy and power structure of education. She is making the push to not separate ourselves from each other and have everybody work together as one collective unit to better the world. This is a great idea because if we change the way our society interacts with each other it might prove powerful enough to overcome our human nature. Rebecca Vos’ talk made me very optimistic about the future because she is still in high school and if she can convince all her class mates to think like this then their generation with have built a culture of working together as one to overcome our human instincts and push our species forward towards a better and harmonious future.

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Whether I am right or wrong with my views of human behavior, the future is coming and it was nice to spend a day listening to some bright minds present solutions to issues that face our species. Our planet is resilient and will survive until it is swallowed up by the sun in 5 billion years, but as humans we will not necessarily survive. Because of this we need TED and we need these brilliant people to present their solutions so we can ensure a world that is habitable for the future generations.

 

Adam

About the author

I am Adam Daddino and I am a graduate student from University of San Francisco. This summer I was an intern at the Center for European Studies at Maastricht University which is what led me to TEDx. I studied history and religions and have done so with a sociological focus on human interactions with one another. Specifically how we balance the influence of our our biological nature with our social environment.

Good Idea

 “I’ll tell you what you did wrong”, hissed the woman, “you screamed in front of the children! That is just bad! You behaved like a child!”
The man, obviously not impressed by the speech his wife just gave him, nodded.
This train journey from Amsterdam – Maastricht, was going to be a long one.
Hmm hmm, anything else I did wrong?” he responded with a calm voice.
Yes! You did..”, the woman suddenly stopped talking and stared at her daughter. She looked at her mother with big eyes.
Can I have my toooooooy?”
How could she refuse this?

Read more

Living abroad

It’s been three weeks since I’ve landed in Maastricht, and I’m still having trouble coming to reality.

Am I really here? This is actually Europe. I’m in Europe! Read more

Best Websites for Procrastination

#1.  Facebook I know, I know.  But it is what it is, right?

#2. PostSecret The sad, the beautiful, the disturbed, comcom
hopeful… they all have secrets.  And we can read them!

#3. Stumble Upon Just create an account.  You know you want to.

#4. YouTube  Duh.  Who HASN’T spent a good amount of time browsing youtube.  But have you seen this one yet?

\”Sophia Grace meets Nicki Minaj\”

Only in America…

#5.  Food Gawker For when you have no food and no money to buy any food, and want to torture yourself.

#6.  The Huffington Post Because then we can pretend that we have an intellectual reason for not studying.

#7.  RyanAir Oh the places we’ll go..

#8. Wereldwerk.eu Who else is so NOT spending the summer waitressing?

#9. FML If you get to page 100, you have a problem.  But then, so do most of the people posting on this website.

#10.  Occupy Wall St. One of few events in the U.S. that I regret not being there for.

#11. BodyRock Yes, it looks trashy.  But the workouts are hard… for those days when you just can’t make yourself leave the house.

#12.  The Big Picture When you’re too tired to read the news.

 

Okay, that’s enough.  I don’t want to be responsible for anyone failing their exams.

Good luck everyone!

 

 

21 Tips to Survive UCM (For UK Students)

So, after a semester at UCM, what I can say is this: a few words of warning/experience/advice/recommendation for future UCM students, especially those coming from the UK:

– UCM is tough. It is a higher work load than many other Universities. You will hear of your friends at uni in the UK doing far less work  with longer holidays. But this is the price we pay for doing so many different disciplines.

– Don’t do Contemporary World History in your first period (or Philosophy of Science). They are killers.

– A 7 is fine. UCM works on the 1 – 10 grading basis (not A, B, C)  10 is the best and 5.5 is a pass. However, I made the mistake of thinking that therefore a 7 is not really that good, where, in reality nobody ever really gets a 10. A 9 is almost unheard of. An 8 is pretty awesome. 7 is above average I would say. 6 is more than passing, and probably what most people are getting in their first semester. 5.5 is  a pass and passing at UCM means that in fact you are doing really well.

– Don’t feel guilty about what some of my friends call the ‘Native-English -guilt’. Generally UCM-ers speak more than one language, and it is not unusual to meet those enviable people who speak English, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Urdu, Swahili and Ancient Greek. Oh, and they are learning Norwegian- just on the side. Don’t feel bad about this, as many UK students have simply not had as much opportunity to learn other languages in such depth. You get the opportunity to go to the language centre as part of UCM and many of your fellow students can help teach you.

–  Don’t underestimate the level of English. You may think that UCM is full of Germans and Dutch using English as a second or third language and therefore as a UK student, of course you would have a higher standard of English. But don’t be fooled, the standard set is high and I get the impression that UK students are not let off lightly.

– UCM is APA. APA is the American Psychological Association form of formatting essays. It is probably different from the footnote-ing style you may be used to with Highers/A-Levels etc. This takes time to get used to and UCM is very strict about the implementation of APA.

– You will have to specialise. You have an academic advisor and you have to plan out your  curriculum rigorously so there is not really a lot of room for trying too many different things out.

– Apartments in Maastricht are very different from halls in the UK. Be warned though, I would recommend getting into an international student house as the Dutch student houses can be a bit cliquey and often they do not have a ‘community’ feel, rather just individual rooms. This didn’t really suit me as I like to talk to people, especially if they are living one metre away. The Guesthouse is often full of exchange students and is a little pricey. Living in Belgium is an option, but then you cannot get the studyfinance. Also it is really quite far away.

– Germans are everywhere. Just saying.

–  You sometimes get asked questions in lectures. They notice if you fall asleep… not that I have ever done that….

– Bring some 50 cent coins for the coffee/hot choc machine on the first days, it helps you get through the day and the closest cash machine is at the Business faculty.

– Work Hard, Party Harder. Pretty self-explanatory.

– Referring to the point above, I would say that the Alla is to be avoided at all times unless completely drunk and reckless. If this is the case then I encourage you to enjoy the Alla with all your drunken might.

– Jobs are tricky-ish to get, but once you start to get to know people they become more and more easy to find out about. But having a job and UCM is also a challenge.

– Brits often drop out of UCM. (I blame the UK education system and the fact that not many UK students study abroad)

– Join Universalis. You get discounts. On everything.(It’s really easy to join on the Intro Days)

– Get an Albert Heijn Bonus Card.

– Speak up in PBL

– Join clubs and stuff, it can be lonely when you are not on a campus/in halls

– Choose Euroshopper

– Get a bike, you’re in the Netherlands now… Should cost about 50 to 80 euros.

And that’s just about all I can say so far…hope it helps for some of you who are hopefully starting at UCM in August. After just a semester I have to say that UCM is one of the best places to be, although tricky at first.