Friday, April 23, 2010

Feeding Your Family on Less in Australia

Maybe you're familiar with
Curtis Stone, the gorgeous Aussie celebrity chef who stars in his own US-based TV show,Take Home Chef.

The show title is a clever double entendre because once you've seen charismatic Curtis on TV doing his thing, most women, if they had half a chance, would want to take him home!

However, Take Home Chef is totally above board with a premise that looks something like this: Curtis goes into a supermarket and approaches an unsuspecting shopper suggesting that he help them pick out groceries for a fabulous meal, which he also offers to cook for them in their kitchen.

So on reality TV, he does actually go home with the shopper, who is generally thrilled at the opportunity to take Curtis home and have him cook up a sumptuous meal for them and or their family.

Within a couple of days of arriving on Phillip Island, Australia, I saw promotional posters (pic above) at the local Coles supermarket branded with Curtis's photo. It appears he is now also the spokesperson for a Coles campaign titled "feed your family for under $10."

Coles is not the kind of supermarket I would normally shop at. It's everywhere in Australia, and over the years it has eased out a lot of small, family-owned markets and green grocers. In other words, they're a corporate stronghold with questionable business ethics.

Additionally, though produce is labeled "Australian Grown," at the Phillip Island Coles, there are no "organic" labels on the fresh fruits and vegetables.

If I had my druthers, I wouldn't shop at Coles, I'd seek out a family-owned specialty grocer with "organic" labeling and fair prices (they do still exist in Australia, I hope!), but not on this tiny island.

Anyway, on the way out of Coles, I picked up the small recipe booklet, brandishing a pic of Curtis holding a $10 note, and found that it contained 7 meal ideas for a family of four, and the accompanying recipes.

And what I noticed flipping through the booklet, is pictures of prepared meals lacking color (due to minimal vegetables), but with an emphasis on meat and carbs:
  • Chicken drumsticks with parsley and lemon
  • Chicken fried rice
  • Fettuccine bolognese
  • Moroccan beef skewers on a bed of couscous
  • Pork curry with pineapple and snow peas with rice
  • Beef ragu with rigatoni
  • Chinese egg noodles with broccoli and carrot
As you'll note, 6 out of the 7 meals contain meat, and 6 out of the 7 meals is either pasta or rice- based, but none of the meals feature lots of plump, colorful, fresh veggies.

I'm not surprised. You see, Australians are big meat-eaters. Like Argentina, this country was built on the back bone of cattle and sheep farmers. We're "ranchers" at heart and we're very proud of our beef and lamb, which due to its superb flavor, is exported all over the world.

Understandingly, small specialty butchers are still thriving despite corporations like Coles. The one in the pic to the left is right opposite Coles, in fact.

I bought my Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon there, plus some chicken and my sister bought lamb chops for a family meal (below), which as you can see is heavy on the meat!

Despite that I'm not a big meat-eater these days (as you will note from the posts on this blog), I enjoyed every mouthful of that delicious, 3-lamb cutlet meal.

Grazed on lush green open pastures, the flavor of locally-grown lamb is unbeatable.

In this blog, I stress often the budgetary and health benefits of minimal-meat meals and going one day a week completely meat free (Meatless Monday).

Whereas Curtis for Coles is proposing Australians can eat-for-less with meat featuring in 6 out of 7 main meals, and with vegetables barely present in those meals.

Personally, I question the health benefits of Coles "feed your family for under $10" campaign.

On Monday, I'll explore the Meatless Monday campaign in Australia. I'm interested to see if it's catching on or if Australians are resistant to cutting back on their meat consumption.

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