Crash! The huge male orangutan swings over into another tree, searching for fruit.
He climbs higher, overlooking the canopy searching for another meal. Every day while following orangutans I notice how many different fruit trees they go to, usually around 15 or so.
They crash and clamber through the forest like hungry, hairy acrobats searching for the most nutritious meals.
One of the orangutan’s favourites is a fruit called durian.
Picture of a split-open durian fruit. The interior of a wild durian, split open with the sections of creamy flesh visible.
I am basically crazy about durian, maybe even more than the orangutans. Most people probably don’t even know what it is, especially if they don’t live in Southeast Asia.
Durian is a pineapple-sized yellow or green fruit that is covered in sharp spines. It grows on large trees and is cultivated by the local people in Borneo. The fruit has concealed sections that contain their seeds covered in edible flesh.
To open a durian, I have to carefully search for the place where the sections meet. Then I insert a large knife and twist, popping it open.
The orangutans however pry them open with their teeth and bare hands, seemingly with ease.
The pulp that covers the seeds is unlike any other fruit. It is creamy yellow or white. It tastes a little like butter with a hint of banana creaminess, but each fruit tastes different and it is virtually impossible to describe in words.
To really understand the taste and why I love them, you have to try them yourself
Picture of Russell Laman with an orangutan researcher examining cultivated durians at a fruit stand.
Each year that I visit Indonesia with my family, my first question is always, “Is the durian in season?”
It is sold all over the small towns in Indonesia. Probably the most popular fruit, it dominates the market. As I drive down the streets I am immediately aware when durians are near.
The odour that they release will clog your nose and overpower your sense of smell. Yet for me the smell holds the promise of durian, and so I have come to love a smell that many find so repulsive that the fruit is banned in hotels and on planes.
Sliced bread and its inventor, Otto Rohwedder, have both celebrated a birthday. Rohwedder was born on July 7, 1880, and the first sliced loaves were sold on July 7, 1928.
Every invention that makes life easier is now deemed “the greatest thing since sliced bread,” (or if you live in Australia, ‘the greatest thing since canned piss’) but the idea of presliced bread actually took a while to catch on.
Rohwedder spent over 10 years trying to get a bakery to try out his machine. Bakers thought that their customers simply wouldn’t be impressed and wouldn’t care if their bread was presliced or not.
Skeptics were also worried that the presliced bread would become stale faster or would crumble and fall apart during the slicing, according to the Constitution-Tribune.
However, once Rohwedder got his foot in the door, it didn’t take long for the invention to catch on.
The small town of Chillicothe in northwest Missouri became the first place where sliced loaves were sold to the public. The news even made the front page of the local paper.
Photo: Chillocothe, Missouri.
While there’s no proof, it’s likely that the phrase, “the greatest thing since sliced bread,” came from the advertisement that ran on the back page of the paper, which called the sliced loaves “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.”
Just two years after it was introduced, use of the slicing machine spread across the country, and the company Wonder Bread began building its own bread slicers and mass-producing the presliced loaves.
During World War II, the government banned sliced bread in order to put more resources into weapons production rather than bread-slicing-machine production.
The ban only lasted two months because of the strong backlash, not just from bread companies, but also from consumers who had grown used to the presliced bread and were outraged at the idea of having to slice it themselves, according to the Kansas City Star.
Rohwedder’s original machine includes multiple steel blades that chop the loaves into slices just under 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) wide and then stuffs them into a heavy waxed paper wrapping.
In Adelaide in the 1950s, my grandmother was our family cook, turning out such standards as shepherd’s pie, lamb chops, and apple pie and custard.
She cooked tripe (see above) in white sauce as a treat. I liked it.
You don’t see tripe (in this case, the lining from a beastie’s second stomach, the reticulum) in your local butcher any more.
It’s something you have to order in advance.
Tripe is associated with working class northern England nostalgia – flat caps, poverty and grime”.
An after-school favourite was a South Australian specialty, jubilee cake.
This was a teacake with dried fruit, which was iced and sprinkled with coconut. Sliced and buttered it was the best cake in the world.
Her cooking now seems plain, but unlike many people in the world at that time, she had access to quality ingredients, many of which were gathered from our Adelaide backyard.
Back then the choice in milk was simply the number of pints ladled by the milkman into our billy early each morning.
Bread was delivered by cart, too, and the greengrocer would fill an order from a large green van. Men used special tongs to carry huge, dripping blocks of ice down our gravel drive to the ice chest in the laundry.
My grandfather’s crucial contribution, other than ensuring that I sat with a straight back, was telling stories around the kitchen table.
Now what would a Yorkshire Pudding blog be without a little bit of the history of the Yorkshire Pudding?
The story begins hundreds of years ago and in true fairy tale fashion we begin with Once Upon a Time…Robust and lovely wheat flour began to come into common use for making cakes and puddings. Cooks in the North of England devised a plan to change the course of cookery FOREVER!
They began making use of the fat from the dripping pan to cook a batter pudding while the meat roasted in the oven. Scandalously genius!
In 1737, the first recipe for “dripping pudding” was published in The Whole Duty of a Woman. This was a guide for the fairer sex with rules, directions, and observations for a lady’s conduct and behaviour. The topic of a lady’s love life was included with tips for married, single, and even divorced women!
The book was surely a huge success.
The important thing here though is that recipe for “dripping pudding.” It was fairly simple – make a good batter as for pancakes, put in a hot toss-pan over the fire, add a bit of butter to fry the bottom a little, then put the pan instead of a dripping pan and under a shoulder of mutton, shake it frequently and it will be light and savoury. When the mutton is done, turn it in a dish and serve hot.
In 1747, Hannah Glasse shook up the recipe with her own version in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple.
Glasse was the original domestic goddess! Glasse re-invented and re-named the dripping pudding, which had been cooked in England for centuries although the puddings were much flatter than the puffy versions known today.
Then in 2008, the Royal Society of Chemistry got involved when it declared that “A Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall.” This came about when Ian Layness, an Englishman living in the Rockies experienced a series of Yorkshire pudding “flops” in the high country despite huge successes in the low country.
It is no myth – the rise is just not the same at certain altitudes! Pretty crazy when you can quite obviously cook perfect pudds atop the Pennines.
That aside, Yorkshire Pudding is still a staple of the British Sunday lunch and in some cases is eaten as a separate course prior to the main meat dish. This is the traditional way to eat the pudding and is still common in parts of Yorkshire today. There is a reason for this too.
Because the rich gravy from the roast meat drippings was used up with the first course, the main meat and vegetable course was often served with a parsley or white sauce. This was a cheap way to fill diners, thus stretching the use of more expensive ingredients since the Yorkshire pudding was served first.
Should you wish to tighten those purse strings, this is one way to do it. If you’re anything like us though, you like to load your plate with all the trimmings.
If, after all of that, you are ready for dessert, do like we do in some areas of Yorkshire and fill the pudding with jam, or as a “pudding” in the true sense, try jam and ice cream.
The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence is a museum dedicated to baked beans, owned and operated by a bean-obsessed superhero called Captain Beany. And yes, it is as eccentric as it sounds.
In order to understand the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence, you first have to understand Captain Beany. The man formerly known as Barry Kirk once worked in the computer department of the British Petroleum chemical plant in the village of Baglan in Neath Port Talbot.
Then, in September 1986, one sublime event changed his life: Kirk sat naked in a bathtub full of baked beans for 100 hours, setting a new world record.
At the same time, his one true destiny was revealed: Captain Beany was born, an honest-to-goodness real-life superhero rising like a phoenix from the rich tomato sauce of a thousand baked beans. It was a beautiful moment.
In truth, it actually took a few years for Kirk to complete his baked bean-obsessed transformation. But in 1991, he legally changed his name by deed poll to Captain Beany.
Not stopping there, he started painting his face and (now completely bald) head orange, and began wearing a golden cape, pants, gloves and boots.
Ever since, Captain Beany has been involved in a whole range of strange events, raising money for various charities.
In doing so, he’s raised more than £100,000 for charity.
In 2009, Captain Beany transformed his third-floor, two-bedroom council flat into the world’s only museum dedicated to baked beans: The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence. The tiny museum is packed with baked bean-related artifacts.
It’s bursting with baked bean tins from various brands around the world.
It’s a surreal experience, but one that most visitors thoroughly enjoy. Well done, Captain Beany.
Because the museum is located in a council flat, Captain Beany can’t charge an entrance fee. Donations are happily received, however, and are given to charity.