Monthly Archives: May 2016

Kintsukuroi “golden mend”

“More beautiful for having been broken”

kintsukuroi tea bowl

Kintsukuroi (“golden mend”) is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery using lacquer resin laced with gold or silver. As well as a nifty form of repair, kintsukuroi has a deeper philosophical significance. The mended flaws become part of the object’s design, and some people believe the pottery to be even more beautiful having gone through the process of being broken and repaired.

Through kintsukuroi, the cracks and seams are merely a symbol of an event that happened in the life of the object, rather than the cause of its destruction.

Like pots, bowls, cups, and plates, we endure our own bumps and scrapes. We experience drops from a dizzying height and unexpected knocks.

Sometimes we experience things that plant the seeds of shame: rejection, betrayal, abandonment, failure. So we try to avoid experiences that leave us vulnerable to these feelings as much as possible, lest the people around us see the evidence of just how imperfect, flawed, and “not good enough” we really are.

In other words, we stay hidden in the cupboard, right behind the best silver, because we don’t want to get a chip, a crack, or a complete break.

That’s not to say that I believe trauma or tragedy automatically makes us more beautiful—I don’t. I’ve known people who have dealt with these things and come out on the other end about as ugly as it gets.

I do believe these experiences change us though—and I think we have a choice.

We can choose to reject our bitter experiences and flaws, to wish and will them away, to regret, to pine, and to live in the land of “If only…” We can disguise with false-self personas, cover up with defences, distract with busyness.

Or we can choose to see these experiences for what they are: our golden seams.

The times when we get scratched, chipped, cracked and broken can feel totally shitty, but there can also be a strange beauty in the way we process them and the lessons we take from them afterwards… if we want.

Our experiences don’t define us, but they do influence us. We can decide to hide, or we can decide to embrace these experiences that have shaped us in some small way, the experiences to which we’ve applied our own special coating of gold-laced resin. We can decide to cover up, or we can decide to walk out into the world as ourselves, mended breaks and all.

Your story is yours to be told. Embrace the experiences that have influenced you.


Once upon a time, in the far, far east, east even of Eden, lived a great emperor, in a great palace, gorgeously stocked with the richest of goods. It was early spring, and the season of royal visits, when kings and princes called on one another and admired each others’ choicest possessions, gave wonderful gifts and enjoyed bountiful banquets. And this year was special, because the visitors would see the investiture of his beloved son Kintsukuroi as Crown Prince of the empire.
The emperor was excited this year because he had a new and beautiful bowl to show to his friends, specially made for him by the finest of craftsmen from the finest of materials. Imagine then his horror when on going to his cabinet he discovered that it was broken apart, into a hundred pieces. How could it have happened? No-one knew. What could be done about it before the first visitors arrived? No-one could offer any idea, for the time was too short to start again and make another one.
The emperor was dismayed, sad that he could not show off his beautiful bowl, but even sadder that something so beautiful should have broken. He retired into his private apartments with only his beloved son to share his sorrow, and they talked long into the night together.
Next morning the emperor woke to the sound of a great commotion. His senior ministers demanded to see him urgently. The cabinet of treasures had now been broken into, and this time the great new golden diadem that has been made for his beloved son, ready for the investiture, was quite simply gone – along with the broken pieces of the broken bowl, but who cared about those now.
What is more, the thief had been seen, but not recognized, since he was covered in dirt and scars, with nothing to distinguish him from a thousand other down-and-outs who hung around the palace, for the emperor – to the annoyance of his ministers – refused to turn them out but shared his food with them.
No-one knew for sure where the thief had gone, but he had, they thought, run off towards the princes apartments. There the doors were most unusually now locked and there was no answer to their knocking, though they could hear sounds inside. Would the emperor give his permission for them to break down the door: they dare not act without it.
The emperor was silent for many minutes. On his face his ministers saw sadness but not anger, lament but also love. What was going on? Eventually the emperor spoke. “Leave the prince and his apartments alone. If he is ready to rule, he must be allowed to act. His will and my will are as one.” The ministers were not at all sure just what this meant, but the message was clear. They were to do precisely nothing.
So the day passed. The emperor remained in his private apartments. Those of the prince remained locked, though smoke could be seen coming out of the chimney and a fire had obviously been lit. And eventually the ministers tired of their waiting and went to bed. The important guests were expected the very next day.
Imagine now their surprise in the morning when they went to the treasure cabinet to prepare its items for display and found the precious bowl back in its place, whole again, but glistening with veins of gold where the cracks had been. Its beauty seemed all the greater. And by it the prince’s crown, a slim band now, but speaking in its simplicity of a strength, an authority all the more striking, because it had given itself away and given glory to another, but was the greater itself for it. The investiture could go ahead.
A smile of secret understanding passed between the emperor and the son whose newly scarred hands had shown him worthy to come into the kingdom.

A Mineral Worth Its Salt

3/4/2010 The Sydney Morning Herald

Author: Helen Greenwood

Section: Good Living

Page: 8

This often-maligned compound now comes in a dazzling array of flavours and textures from countries across the globe, writes Helen Greenwood.

We all know too much salt is bad for us. Yet we can’t live without the ionic compound known as sodium chloride or NaCl. Remove salt from the diet and you die. What’s more, your food tastes better with salt.
Thomas Keller writes in The French Laundry Cookbook: “The ability to salt food properly is the single most important skill in cooking … Salt opens up flavours, makes them sparkle. But if you taste salt in a dish, it’s too salty.”
The question is, which salt? In the past few years, Sydney cooks have been deluged with a flood of artisan salts. They are extracted from the Himalayas in Pakistan, skimmed at Halen Mon in Wales, drawn from pans in Brittany in France or evaporated from the sea at Trapani in Sicily. We are now inundated with choices. And colours. And textures.
Gourmet salts can be white (Maldon), pink (Murray River), black (Cypriot), red or green (Hawaiian) and grey or natural (Italian). They can be flaky or grainy, pyramid- or crystal-shaped. They can be damp, dry or powdery.
More importantly, these gourmet salts have different mineralities that give each one a different flavour. They have depth, power and pungency and need only to be used sparingly to great effect.

At Rock Restaurant in the Hunter Valley, chef and owner Andrew Clarke has been playing with gourmet salts. “We use anywhere up to 12 different salts in the restaurant,” he says. “We use the vanilla Halen Mon with balmain bugs after they’ve been grilled. We use a coarse-grain curing salt for meats. We use iodised salts to flavour blanching water. We use the Cyprus black salt to finish off our wood-roasted goat. We put Maldon on the table because it’s clean and has a soft sea-saltiness.”
All salt comes from the sea, whether it’s mined high in the Himalayan mountains or collected from salt flats in Bolivia. Yet this inorganic mineral carries the flavour of the environment in which it was formed. In the case of the famous French fleur de sel, or flower of the salt, which is “young” crystals that form on the surface of salt evaporation ponds, the flavour varies from region to region – like fine wines.

Alderman Providore is a specialist online food retailer that sells Himalayan, Hawaiian, Bolivian and French sea and rock salts. Former co-owner Tim Alderman maintains salts from different countries impart different flavours. “Each one has a different minerally quality, as distinct from Saxa,” he says. “The grey salt has a distinct mineral taste, the pink and rose salts tend to be more subtle and are different the Murray River salt. The textures change, too.”
This is a contrast to the traditional view of salt as a mono-flavouring. Most of us grew up with an iodised salt that just tasted, well, salty. It was mined and refined to remove most of its minerals and took away bitter – and any other – tastes. Plain table salt was also available but most people preferred iodised salt, which manufacturers starting producing in the 1920s after US studies found people were suffering from goitre, an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by iodine deficiency. It is believed Australians’ consumption of iodine has dropped considerably in the past few decades.
Humans need less than 225 micrograms of iodine a day. The mineral is found in seafood and sea salts, both natural replacements for refined salt.
Sea salts are harvested from salt pans, ponds or marshes, or by channelling ocean water into large clay trays and allowing the sun and wind to evaporate it naturally. Sea salts are less treated than other commercial salts so they retain traces of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine. Sea salts’ fans rave about their bright, subtle flavours.

Gourmet salts can be used for cooking or for finishing a dish and sometimes both. Like a spice or herbs, different salts lend themselves to being used at different times as you cook.
Kala Namak, or Indian black salt or sanchal, is an unrefined mineral salt that, despite it’s name, is a pearl-pink grey. It’s strong, sulphuric odour dissipates when used in Indian cooking and is magic with eggplant. You can also sprinkle it on melon or yoghurt as a final seasoning.

Italian sea salts, such as Ravida from Trapani, is produced from the low waters along the coast of Sicily. They are rich in iodine, fluorine, magnesium and potassium with a lower percentage of sodium chloride than regular table salt. Delicate but with a defined flavour, they are finishing salts that bring a salad or a sauce to life.
Both these salts were part of a tasting held by The Salt Book. A dozen gourmet, plain and flavoured salts were lined up and paired with a variety of foods.
The exercise was fascinating. Strips of rare, grilled sirloin fared better or worse depending on which salt you used.

The coarse rock crystals of pink Himalayan salt looked pretty but the Ravida sea salt from Sicily made the meat jump in your mouth. The green Hawaiian salt was recommended with yellow fin tuna but added a polish to prawns.
James Ballingall, program director at the William Blue College of Hospitality Management in North Sydney, which hosted the tasting, used a brine made from Olsson’s macrobiotic salt to cure a chicken before roasting. The wonderful, tender, firm flesh tasted more like chicken than most birds, apart from organic chooks.
Good all-rounders, favoured by chefs and home cooks, are the Maldon sea salt and the home-grown Murray River salt. Guerande Fleur de Sel stood out as a pure, light seasoning that should only be used at the table.
Fleur de sel is a soft, moist salt that looks like sea foam and surprises consumers who are used to their salt being dry and grainy. Italian salts such as those from Trapani are also moist and often off-white.
The wonderful Riserva Camillone from Cervia in the Emilia Romagna region is strangely sweet. Flavoured salts such as Netherlands smoked salt, Tetsuya’s truffle salt, Cyprus lemon salt flakes and vanilla fleur de sel figured in the tasting, too.
They overpowered the plain ones and need to be used carefully.
Suggestions include salmon, kipfler potatoes, poached prawns and desserts respectively.
The key to a healthy diet is to cook fresh produce and then season it with a salt that has personality and provenance.

The Salt Book, Arbon Publishing, by Fritz Gubler and David Glynn, $34.99.
About 20 per cent of the world’s salt production is used in food. The remainder is used in the chemical industry and applications such as de-icing roads.
Most of the 20 per cent we consume is “hidden salt” in manufactured foods, from breakfast cereals to instant soups.
The Australian division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) has reported many Australians consume 10 times the amount of salt they need for a healthy diet. The recommended daily intake for salt is four grams but many Australians regularly consume up to 40 grams.
The chairman of AWASH, Professor Bruce Neal, has asked manufacturers of processed food to reduce the salt content of their products by 5 per cent a year.
AWASH’s research has shown excessive consumption of salt comes mainly from eating processed food and can lead to high blood pressure, kidney damage and stomach cancer.
A leading nutritionist, Rosemary Stanton, (pictured), advises people to avoid such products in the first place. “The problem is we eat so much of it,” she says. “That’s why our salt intake has increased so much in the past few decades.”



Kala namak (also known as sanchal) Use in Indian cooking, on raw tropical fruits and cooked vegetables. It’s sold at Indian grocery stores.
Celtic salt, French grey sea salt Use for general purpose, soups, stews and sauces. Buy Coarse Guerande Salt.
Coarse salt Use for salt crusts on meat or fish, curing and flavouring in soups, stews and sauces. Buy Himalayan Pink, La Baleine, Esprit du Sel.
Rock salt Use for curing and brining. Not ideal for the table.


Flake salt Use as an all-round general salt in cooking or at the table. Buy Maldon, Murray River, Halen Mon, Pyramid.
Fleur de Sel (Flower of Salt) Use for salads, cooked fresh vegetables and grilled meats. Buy Le Paludier.
French sea salt Use in salads and on cooked fresh vegetables and grilled meat. Buy Le Paludier.
Grey salt (sel gris, Celtic sea salt) Use at the end of the cooking process or on the table. Good for casseroles and stews. Buy Le Paludier, Riserva Camillone sale di Cervia, Trapani.
Hawaiian sea salt (alaea, Hawaiian red salt) A natural mineral called alaea (volcanic baked red clay) adds iron oxide and imparts a mellow flavour. Used to preserve and season native Hawaiian dishes. Good for meats. Buy Alaea.
Italian sea salt Use for salads and to finish roasts and sauces. Great as a garnish on bruschetta. Buy Ravida.
Organic salt Standards include purity of the water, cleanliness of salt beds and how the salt is harvested and packaged. Certifiers include Nature et Progres (France), BioGro (New Zealand), Soil Association Certified (Wales). Buy Halen Mon, Olsson’s.


GJ Food The Fine Food Connection (Le Paludier Fleur du Sel and others from Guerande).
Cantarella Bros (Ravida).
Lario Imports (Trapani, Riserva Camillone sale di Cervia).
Alderman Providore, (Himalayan Pink, Alaea, Bolivian Rose, Sel Gris de Guerande).
Simon Johnson (Halen Mon).
F. Mayer Imports (Maldon).
The Essential Ingredient (Murray River Salt).
Waimea Trading, 0409 219 280 (Cyprus Black sea salt).
Olsson Industries, (Olsson’s Pacific Salt).
HBC Trading, 9958 5688 (Himalayan Pink).
Kirk Food (Pyramid).



A Ghost of a Business

The original font & graphics for Alderman Providore

The ghosts of my business still survive in cyber-space. Alderman Providore started in 2006 as the next step along from Alderman Catering – a truly exhausting, though exciting business doing top-end party catering. The Providore was designed as an online business – still a very daring and risky step to take in 2006. It was started with $5000 that I begged, borrowed and stole (not really) and was originally a small store on Ebay, created from Ebay templates. 

By the end of 2006, I paid a website designer to create a site for a business, registered the name and domain, used a friend who is a graphic artist to design the typeface and graphic, and hit the internet. I bought gourmet grocery products from all sorts of rare and unique mum ‘n dad, hobby, localised, unknown businesses and created a unique space for their products. The sales started as a small trickle, but grew exponentially over time. David & I introduced product tasting parties, and along with some targeted advertising the business grew and grew. 

At the end of 2008, due to a personal interest in tea and teawares, and due to the rapid expansion of that area, I launched a second web site TeaCoffeeChocolate using the same premise as for the providore, along with a very large range of organic and free-trade products. 

Alderman Providore products in a magazine Christmas gift guide

By this time I had altered the business plan to embrace products from outside Australia IF it was a product that could not be sourced from within Australia. At this time an overhaul of the Alderman Providore site resulted in a fresher, more contemporary look. Magazines started approaching us for both advertising, and to supply products to use as props and in gift guides. Reps from companies contacted me about stocking their products. Sales grew and grew, and we had built a reputation for service, quality, uniqueness, pricing, and product delivery. Ideas were added – and subtracted ,often through being impractical. 

As Christmas 2009 approached, I started early purchasing preparations, and started to stock up on what should gave been our biggest Christmas ever. Like all small retail businesses, I purchased 20% more stock each year, which usually just covered growth, and ensured I wasn’t stuck with stick at the end of the season. If you didn’t get in early, and the product sold out…then bad luck. And the stock rolled in. Cakes, puddings, glacé fruit, sauces, relishes, fruit mince, biscuits and more. I was excited, and pumped for the excitement to come.

Then greed came to town. People who abuse the systems, deal illegally and fraudulently, who use other peoples money to satisfy their own selfish need. They created a monster that came to be known as the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Everyone stopped buying. Online purchasing, in a growth phase at that time, was the first to be hit. That Christmas I sold…nothing. Thousands of dollars tied up in stock…and no market. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, I was effectively broke. Money the business earned was sunk back into it. There was no excess. I remember ringing David, and a pudding supplier in tears, because, thanks to somebody else’s greed my business, my dream, was destroyed.
Early 2010 I put the business, good will, and web sites on the market. It sold to a mum in Brisbane who had an interest in food (but as I was to see…not a passion), and so it changed hands, and eventually a new name. Before we moved from Dulwich Hill to Brisbane, we had a HUGE market in our backyard to clear out the remainder of the stock. Anything left from that went to Vinnies.
So, for some unknown reason, today I searched for the ghost of my business. And it’s still there. A lot more than I expected, in fact. And a story of a past glory came out of it. Who knows what the future holds, as dreams do live on!;jsessionid=A5A960B20A0BA88AA9B4AFAA81406D95?sy=afr&pb=all_ffx&dt=selectRange&dr=1month&so=relevance&sf=text&sf=headline&rc=10&rm=200&sp=brs&cls=2353&clsPage=1&docID=SMH1004131I1G64QPB2R

The Alderman Providore masthead

Tim Alderman (C 2016)