Book review: Real Dirt

Real Dirt is an easy entertaining autobiographical journey written by James Woodford. He starts off his career pretending to be an environmentalist to impress his girlfriend at the time. Over the years, he matures and transforms into the real deal by moving to a sustainable, self-sufficient and solar-powered lifestyle. I confess I enjoyed the second half of the book more and would love to see a sequel.

There’s an enlightening section on toilet training babies (apparently it’s possible), and another on how they decided to creatively reuse their neighbours’ tree root balls to stop the gully erosion on their property.

James presented the information on solar powering his house with inspiration. He describes how Stuart Whitelaw (environmental architect) visited their block on the winter solstice “to see whether the shadow case by the forest – the longest shadow of the year when the sun at its lowest point in the sky – would fall over the [house] slab. If it did then it would make solar power unviable… “. I also likes the way Stu explained the benefits of solar power:

“If, for a small premium, you could buy a car that you never had to re-fuel, what would you do?”

Book review: 100 food experiences to have before you die

To die for

“100 Food experiences to have before you die” by Stephen Downes, is an easy book to read in short bursts as each food experience is only a page or two long (which is perfect for my daily commute on the train). Many of the food experiences described can only be had overseas, so it would be hard to replicate, although you might be wishing you were there. Some of the mini-chapters contain interesting food trivia and tips on cooking the perfect dish.

Stephen’s ‘perfect 10s’ food experiences are:

  1. Murray River pink salt
  2. a home-grown tomato
  3. freshly opened Pacific oysters
  4. proper chocolate
  5. Japanese rice crackers at a Shinkansen Station
  6. minutes old sashimi carved from your own catch
  7. caviar
  8. fresh lychee
  9. raw-milk cheeses
  10. a ripe mango
  11. charcuterie
  12. lady in pink (apple)
  13. raw fugu fish

The stories of each experience are entertaining and humorous. The section on the fourth mango might even make you blush!


Emma’s top food experiences are:

  1. Matt’s bbq on the Weber
  2. Mum’s roast ham with scolloped potatoes and carrots
  3. Fondue with secret sauce
  4. Lamb chops
  5. Lindt dark chocolate
  6. Italian pizza with a thin crust
  7. Tagliatelle with ragu
  8. Piccata al limone (veal with lemon sauce)
  9. Chocolate mousse
  10. Yakitori chicken with perfect steamed rice

Matt’s recommends the following food experiences:

  1. Bacon butty with HP sauce, pot of Yorkshire tea
  2. Fish and chips with mushy peas, Fullers ESB
  3. Italian wood fired oven pizza
  4. Pork goulash with dumplings, Pilsner Urquell
  5. Beef in stout with dumplings, Guinness extra stout
  6. Tagliatelle with ragu, Montepulciano D’abruzzo
  7. Roast lamb, potatoes and Yorkshire pudding, Black Sheep Ale
  8. Knackwurst in beer, Schneider Weisse German Ale
  9. Trifle
  10. Cioppino

What do you recommend? Send your top 5 to the Traveller’s Lunchbox who is compiling all the suggestions.