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How to Eat a Thistle

24 March 2013

How to Eat a Thistle is my latest performance essay, and I’m presenting it as part of the 19th Australian Gastronomy Symposium in Newcastle. The theme of this  Symposium is ‘The Generous Table’. There’s a great line-up of speakers and meals, and it runs from 5—8 April 2013. More details here.

I’m doing How to Eat a Thistle on Saturday 6 April, 8:00 pm at the Watt Space Gallery, corner of King & Auckland Streets, Newcastle. Here’s a taster:

Sow thistle

The term ‘thistle’ actually covers a large group of plants, most of which are these days classified as weeds. Although it was the first plant to be outlawed in Australia (South Australia’s Thistle Act of 1852), the thistle has a long history as a generous provider of food—and not only for goats and donkeys. But unless you are in what Jane Grigson calls ‘the anchovy belt’ of the Mediterranean where the cardoon is a feature of local cuisines, the sole member of the thistle family you are likely to see on today’s menus is the globe artichoke. It wasn’t always so. Old cookery books and botanical texts reveal that we used to eat a lot more thistles. Alongside multiple varieties of artichoke and cardoon, Sturtevant’s Edible Plants of the World (1919) lists a further 7 esculent species, including the cosmopolitan sow thistle. One of the 5 bitter herbs to be eaten on the night of the Passover Seder, in Australia sow thistles sustained Aboriginal people and hungry explorers alike. And with our renewed interest in foraging and wild food, they’re making a come-back. I go looking for them in inner Sydney …

How to Eat a Thistle is a mélange of food writing, memoir, fieldnotes, the theatrical monologue and environmental history.

From → Essays, Thistles

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