How to host a sustainable dinner party

Posted on January 31st, 2014

I turned 40 recently. And I had a party. It was a dinner party for 40 of my closest friends and family – 40 for 40 – and it was as sustainable as I could possibly make it. I bought nothing new, used produce that was going to be thrown out and kept as many ingredients as possible within a 100-200km radius of the event.

My brother Pete gave a speech. He told everyone I remind him of a horse.

My brother Pete gave a speech. He told everyone I remind him of a horse.

Why sustainable? Because I couldn’t just “chuck a party” with a whole stack of booze and booze-soaking food and…wastage. I wanted it to matter and, so, as I put the whole crazy gala together (doubting myself the whole way…Will people want to come? Will they turn up? Does anyone love me?), I realized it was an opportunity to showcase some great stuff happening in the food sustainability realm.  You know, to pass on the care.

(As an aside, the mere act of working out that this is exactly what matters to me was a boon. So was witnessing how the whole thing kinda flowed into place – a  nice reminder that when you do what matters to you, stuff flows.)

Below is a rundown of how I went about orchestrating the party and all the contacts and tips you might need to do much the same with your next event, wedding, parties, anything. There are two ways to do life: blindly and consciously. And we can choose our way at every turn. At least that’s what I think.

The Sustainable Dinner expert: Alex from Secret Foodies

I met Alex a while back when she invited me to an event she was running that showcased sustainable seafood. I liked her straight up. A country girl with great values who Just Makes Stuff Happen and waves away stress like a farmer swats a fly. She joined me to create the event and make it run far smoother than I ever could.

She can do the same for you – she does a great Farmyard Feast – or can tailor a theme to suit what matters to you. Or you can go along to one of her Secret Foodie dinners, pop-up events that work to different themes and bring together a bunch of fun, like-minded people in both Sydney and Melbourne at a secret event (sometimes it’s in a random alleyway, or on a Bondi rooftop or a cosy restaurant…and sometimes involving dress-ups).

The Cook: Studio Neon.

I met Aaron through Alex (I rather love how this sustainable food network works). Aaron (ex-Harvey Nichols’ 5th Floor Restaurant, Astral, EST and Felix, who’s worked as a private chef cooking for Lady Margaret Thatcher, Kate Moss, Keira Knightly and, wait for it, the Queen), along with his chef Richard Robinson, (ex-Momofuku, French Laundry) runs a rad rent-out-for-your-own-purposes dining space in Waterloo in Sydney, and puts on “Guestaurants” – bespoke dinners that work to many of the principles I espouse.

We put together a menu working back from ingredients we could source (for free, as leftovers, in season) and using herbs foraged from around Read more

Learn how to ferment. Plus a Sandor Katz giveaway!

Posted on January 30th, 2014

If there’s one thing you need to learn to do – for the good of your guts (and broader health) – it’s to ferment.

Making my sauerkraut, shooting for I Quit Sugar For Life

Making my sauerkraut…a shot for I Quit Sugar For Life (recipe in the book). Photo by Marija Ivkovic

Fermenting is a big focus in my second book, I Quit Sugar For Life (which you can preorder now), and I feature a bunch of cultured recipes – including a beetroot relish which is great on hamburgers(!) and fermented cucumbers. Which are pickles. But better.

Here’s a bit of a blurb on why fermenting your veggies is so good for you. Also:

If you’re already a fan of fermenting, you may have heard of Sandor Katz, the US-based fermentation guru. The I Quit Sugar team and I are bubbling with excitement to be going to one of Sandor’s fermenting classes in a few weeks. And it gets better for you, my dear readers: Milkwood Permaculture, who are hosting the event are giving away four tickets – for yourself and three mates – to attend Sandor’s evening workshop in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne. Details below!  Read more

Friend fade-outs v friend fall-outs

Posted on January 29th, 2014

This is a topic that’s come up a lot among my mates and I lately – the challenges of navigating tricky friendships. Not between us, but beyond.

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Image via jojotastic.com

Over various martinis and meals, I’ve shared my thinking on the subject and thought I might share with you guys, too.

I think many people find navigating friendships as their life stages shift really difficult. Among my friends (most are in their late 30s and early 40s), different and competing commitments (some of us are single, some married with kids; all of us are busy) trigger disappointment and miscommunications. It can be challenging territory to navigate.

I used to cover stories on this topic when I edited Cosmopolitan magazine years back. To be honest, I never quite got the big deal with friend dilemmas. I think it’s because I’ve never had a “crew” of friends. I have a very select number of close one-on-ones and a broad network of acquaintances. Plus, I’m an independent loner. I don’t rely on friends to go about my life – I don’t travel with friends, live with them or date their exes. It’s just not how I do friendship. Of course, I treasure my friends’ counsel and company, but if there’s an issue between us it doesn’t impact me on a practical level, if you get what I mean.

It’s possibly from this perspective I proffer this as a way of dealing with trickiness when it arises: “the friend fade-out”.

I’ve not really had friend fall-outs or massive bust-ups off the back of a misunderstanding or whatever. I’ve done fade-outs.

A fade out is when a bad smell emerges between you and a mate. You might confront them and address the issue in some way. You give it one Read more