Plimsoll Line

Sarah Coles: Words and Radio


Sarah Coles is a writer, radio producer and journalist. A Plimsoll Line is the markings on the side of a ship that let you know if it overloaded or facing hazards. It is Sarah’s hope that this blog will have a similar effect.

She is at work on a book–Rooted: Adventures in Antipodean Food Politics. Since 2011 she has written Dolphin Lettuce Tomato-a blog about food politics.  She makes podcasts. She is currently scripting a podcast about a woman who worked as a stripper for the Yakuza and partied backstage with the New Power Generation. The surfing section on this blog is an archive Pineapple Fritter, a blog which was popular in Arkansaw. In 2014, Sarah was the proud recipient of a Women in Technology grant from electron workshop. She recently joined the board of Electronic Frontiers Australia and co-hosts RRR’s Greening the Apocalypse, a radio show that explores the cracks appearing in the global food, ecological and political systems. For kicks, she has just started drawing a political comic called The Devil’s Avocado.

Shearer/Jazz Genius Lynden James Brown and blog author Sarah Coles interviewing a cow with a H4N Zoom. Photograph by Tess Sellar who is a goat herder at Holy Goat farm.

Sarah’s interest in the politics of food started years ago at a backyard talk by Sandor Ellis about fermentation. She started reading all of the food books she could find. Lots of Michael Pollan. The Ethics Of What We Eat. The history of the pineapple. Macrobiotics. The Zen of Fish and The Secret Life of Lobsters, both incredible books by Trevor Corson. Some Buddhist cooking philosophy. Wendel Berry. The Secret Four Fish by Paul Greenberg. What To Eat by Marion Nestle. The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellis Katz. Griffith Review 27 Food Chain. Unmentionable Cuisine by Calvin W.Schwabe, The Mushroom Cultivator by Paul Stamens and JS Chilton, Consumed:Food For A Finite Planet by the amazing Sarah Elton. The End of Plenty by Joel. K Bourne Jnr. As well as reading she listens to a lot of podcasts, her favorites being Stuff You Should Know, The Writer’s Almanac and KCRW’s Left, Right and Center.

“I never ‘ad an orange til I were 21.” When Sarah’s Dad told her this she thought he was taking the mick but her Mum says it’s true. Her parents grew up in post wartime London where food was scarce; they ate horse meat sandwiches and grew horseradish in an allotment. Sarah grew up in Western Australia in the land of plenty. HP Sauce. Sunday roasts. Dripping on bread. Bubble and Squeak. Christmas in July. Yorkshire puddings. The first mention Sarah ever heard of congee was from her mother, a no nonsense dietician who taught her the maxim ‘everything in moderation’ and the phrase ‘good fats’. These days her parents are retired and spend their days making cheese and marveling at how well the curry leaves and pawpaws are growing.

Sarah trained as a cook at Tofu Shop International, a family business that manufactures tofu on site. Malcolm, the father, is trained in Japanese cooking and given to screaming ‘What’s the f**king point!’ ‘Where’s the f**king five spice?’ before disappearing into the alley way to practice Chinese pole forms. He is the tofu maker in a separate area of the kitchen but would occasionally appear beside Sarah at the workbench to demonstrate the macrobiotic way to prepare a tomato before wandering into the office to play Ian Moss on YouTube. Louie, the son, is trained in Italian cooking, skateboarding, sarcasm and home-brewing. He was an excellent teacher who she could always rely on to talk to about pickles.

It is her hope in writing Plimsoll Line to create a place where food politics and black humour collide. It is her hope that somehow this blog results in more pickles and bees and less pesticide and Big Macs. She would also quite like a shiitake farm.






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