Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Product of the Month: No. 1 in a new series.

Victoria is no longer The Garden State, The Place to Be, On the Move or even the People's Republic of.

Instead, it is now the swine flu capital of Australia. If you read newspapers, you will have noticed that at the political level, the swine flu epidemic has moved from 'contain' to 'sustain' (or vice versa - I have no idea what they mean) to 'high farce', with Victorian bureaucrats accusing New South Wales and Queensland of 'retaliating' for stealing their citizens as tourists. The level of the discourse could not sink any lower, but it just did:

JOHN BRUMBY (PREMIER OF VICTORIA): I do know that we launched a very successful tourism campaign in New South Wales just a little while ago. I do know that there are lots of New South Wales citizens who are being attracted to Victoria and maybe it's a bit of a retaliation for a successful tourism campaign.

Victoria has also given up on testing people for swine flu and is, instead, hoping it will all go away, like the drought and crime in the city.

So forget Tamiflu and Relenza. Now is the perfect time to return to one of mankind's most ancient cure-alls: garlic. Down the ages, garlic has been suggested as a cure for just about any ailment you care to name.

The garlic pickle above will keep more than swine flu at bay. It is one of Mrs Fernandes' best products, packing a powerful flavour punch with a little simmering background heat, a perfect sour pickle-to-sweet balance and a finish that lasts and lasts. Until morning.

Ferns' products come all the way from the town of Pune in India, so there are plenty of food miles involved, but with 85 million jars of Ferns pastes and pickles riding the boat across the Indian Ocean (plus remember the boat took a load of stuff there in the first place), you may actually be 'wasting' less carbon than a sanctimonious Prius owner driving across the suburb to get The Age. So to hell with food miles.

Try Ferns' Garlic Pickle on any mild curry with yogurt and a swathe of chopped coriander.

Available from Desi Needs, Waterfield Street, Coburg. (I walked.)

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