I woke at 8am to the electro-wind chimes of my alarm and the smell of something sweet. Or, I thought, snoozing my phone and turning over in our linen sheets, something rotten. It was hard to be certain. It got me out of bed.
It was a Saturday morning, April 22nd. The day we were supposed to go to Mooney Beach. The day, looking back on it all, that Liz and I came undone. Of course, we were not the first in history to have something undone that day. In 296 St Gaius stepped down as the Catholic Pope. In 1056 the last supernova, Crab Nebula, appeared visible to the naked eye. In 1915, Germany recorded the first military use of poison gas (chlorine) in World War One. In 1984 Ansel Adams died (the ultimate undoing). In 1993 tennis star Bjorn Borg divorced Loredana Berte; in 1994, 7,000 Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutus in the stadium at Kibuye, Rwanda. And, in 2014, Liz and I prepared to celebrate our wedding anniversary for the last time.
I pulled on my dressing gown and followed the smell down the hallway and found Liz, standing in her pyjamas at the stove, stewing apples. The smell of cinnamon and overripe fruit. She said she didn’t want the apples to go bad while we were away.
I kissed her neck, took the bread out of the bread box, placed it on the wooden chopping board. Sliced two thick, uneven pieces and put them in the toaster.
I hated the gluten-free bread Liz made. Its little birdseed bits, its dense, spongey, square-ness. Derived from the Latin word for ‘glue’, gluten, I learned, is what keeps wheat together. What gives bread and pasta that elastic, flexible, pleasurably palatable texture. A protein composite I never knew I loved until it was gone, replaced, instead by this small, crumbling loaf. Humans first began harvesting wheat in the wild grasses of the Fertile Crescent (Assyria, Mesopotamia, and the Nile Valley in Egypt) around 8800 BCE. By 6500 BCE it had spread to Greece, Cyprus and India – Germany by 5000 BCE. Through the Bronze Age, spelt became a staple in the human diet, though the 15th Century, the ‘Age of Discovery’, the French, English and Portuguese explorers spread the production of wheat and other grains to North and South America. The 19th century, the Industrial Revolution, sped up the process of bread-making, spreading wheat across the world. By 1992 wholegrains were listed as one of the most important food groups by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a recommended daily intake of 6-11 servings per day. Flash forward to the 2000s, the rise of health foods, where I found myself, thirty-five years old, sitting at the kitchen counter smearing a thin scraping of butter across the rough surface of two cardboard-like slices of gluten-free toast. It seemed positively anti-evolutionary.
Liz turned off the stove, heaped two golden-gluggy spoonfuls of stewed fruit on top of her homemade muesli and doused it in grey soy milk. She pulled up a seat beside me at the kitchen counter. Together, we chewed, smiled briefly at each other.
I finished the last bite of my toast and pushed back the chair.
‘Don’t forget to wash up your plate.’
‘I’ll do it after.’
‘After I go to the toilet.’
‘Okay, off you go.’
Six months after switching to her homemade wholefood recipes, Liz had asked me if I’d noticed a change in my stools. I thought it was just the stress of work, our relationship, but Liz said it was likely to be a change in my fibre intake. It was around this time she started adding birdseeds to the bread, beans to our dinners, bran to her homemade muesli. I’d caught her one Sunday morning standing at the kitchen table in her bamboo bathrobe like an alchemist, adding measured handfuls of oats and activated almonds, dates, raisins and all kinds of seeds: pepitas, sunflower, chia. She said I wouldn’t believe the sugar content in the cereal from the store. She had, in fact, taken photos of the nutritional tables with her phone so that I would believe. Per 100 grams of Farmer’s Fruit & Nut Muesli she showed me there was, on average, 11.0g of protein, 20.9g of fat, 3.4g of which is saturated, 51.8g total carbohydrates, of which, 12.7g of which was sugar. At the bottom of the cereal carton the disclaimer read: Farmer’s Fruit & Nut Muesli is proudly made with the finest Australian ingredients (when possible) and quality important ingredients (when not).
Liz snorted at that.
She’d traced oat production back to Manitoba, Canada. Almonds from Iran, raisins from California, apricots from Turkey. She knew how important local farming was to me, I came from a long line of Australian dairy farmers, out past Bega, and she used it to her greatest advantage. Though, of course, I worked at a branding agency and my father had left the farm a sixteen and was now a university lecturer in microbiology.
I went to the toilet. I had, in fact noticed a difference in my stools since my forced change in diet. What had once been an irregular, surprising and occasionally traumatic experience had become a reliable, solid emptying each morning, over in just a few minutes, though I didn’t give Liz the satisfaction of that information.
Sitting on the toilet, I skimmed my work emails on my phone. Michael had written to say that Monday’s briefing with Harringvale Homes had been cancelled, so I should enjoy my break ‘stress-free’. Harringvale, my latest client, had settled on a retainer of $50,000 to re-brand their chain of retirement villages. I’d planned to spend the driving time up to Mooney Beach to get my head around their new brand tone of voice. Comforting, but not patronising. Empowering, but not overwhelming. A mix between, There’s opportunities around every corner, and, Sit back and relax, let us do the work. They had chains all up the South Coast, people couldn’t afford to retire in the city anymore, and I’d altered our route so that we might pass a few, just to get a sense of their vibe, their brand identity.
Another email from Liz’s mother, who insisted on emailing my work address, despite Liz and I having a dual email specifically for this purpose (firstname.lastname@example.org) confirming my availability for the first communion of Katherine, cousin Gigi’s daughter.
And an email from Sally, saying she’d really enjoyed out lunch at Sushi Fusion on Friday and hoped this meant we might start seeing more of each other again. Sally, I suppose, was my mistress, not that I liked the word but she seemed to be quite taken with it, sometimes signing off her work emails and text messages with ‘Missy’ or simply ‘M’. I’d confessed some of this to Liz over dinner at our second favourite Italian restaurant just a few months prior. Not about the nicknames, or how long it had gone on, how how it had started, but enough so that our usual Siciliana and Margherita double pizza combo went largely untouched. Of course, she was mad to begin with that I’d booked the restaurant, seeing as she wasn’t eating gluten by then, and they didn’t offer gluten-free dough (it was anti-Italian they said), so she finished her rocket and parmesan salad, downed her glass of mineral water and left me to finish the pizzas, now cold, alone.
I flushed the toilet and squeezed a few droplets of the orange extract oil into the bowl. Aerosols were banned in our house, even though I’d tried to reason that man-made chlorofluorocarbons were now largely phased out of commercial aerosols such as air freshener and deodorant. I tried to tell her about the Montreal Protocol, but she took one look at it and laughed saying, ‘a voluntary international treaty, huh?’ I tried to tell her how CFCs have now been replaced with liquefied gas, such as butane or propane, but she just shrugged and said ‘where do you think they come from, somewhere good?’ My problem, she said, was that I believed all the facts, while she followed her intuition. It was hard to argue along these lines, though I struggled for some time. In the end I reconciled myself to orange-oil toilet drops and roll-on deodorant at home, and secret stashes of aerosols in the top drawer of my desk at work, my sports backpack, the glove box in the car.
I stepped out of my pyjamas and into the shower. The water was hot and the needle-like jets from the water-saver nozzle stung my skin. It had been Liz’s Christmas present request last year and I’d spend the month of November weighing up the benefits of an aerating and non-aerating showerhead. It was a tough call: on the one hand the aerating shower heads gave the appearance of greater water volume by mixing the restricted water flow with air, providing a softer, more natural shower experience, while the non-aerating shower head provided a harder, more massaging shower experience by squeezing the restricted flow through very small holes. In the end, Jannis, the overweight sales rep at Bathrooms Galore sold me on ‘massaging’, and I had regretted it ever since. The massaging element was more akin to acupuncture, piercing and fierce, and, I’d discovered, that if you turned the water pressure up really high, you could stand in the middle of the ring of water without actually getting wet.
I washed myself quickly with Oatmeal Soap, which Liz had started buying though neither of us had eczema or particularly sensitive skin. I washed under my arms, my groin, my hair.
As I was rinsing off I heard the little knock on the bathroom door – Liz’s ‘code’ to let me know I’d reached my shower limit. We had a three-minute limit correlating with the Level 3 water restrictions currently in place in our area. Since June 2005, the government had increased water restrictions from a Level 2, meaning that freshwater sprinklers were now not permitted at any time, nor was hosing of any hard surfaces including, but not limited to, paths, cars, floors, buildings. The hand-watering of gardens and lawns, while still permitted, could be carried out a maximum of two times per week, and only before 10am and after 4pm. We had the rules stuck to our fridge.
While some people continued to grumble about the inconvenience, it seemed the effect the restrictions had on most was one of increasing vigilance. It was on the news most nights at that time and discussions about the water levels at Warragamba Dam became as common as speaking of the weather. You’d be going through the check-out and the fourteen your old serving you might say: ‘How about the dam hey? I hear it’s at 40%’. And so when the new sanctions came it, adherence almost became a mark of pride. I, for one, had personally called the local council to report Mrs Beavers who I’d seen hosing down her driveway late one Wednesday night. Liz took it seriously, but was conflicted. That year she’d also had her heart set on shifting our food intake to 50% homegrown produce, and so, after submitting a proposal to our local council, she received permission to install a recycled water sprinkler. Or rather, I was asked to install a recycled water sprinkler so that now, at 5pm, brown sewage water oozed from the rubber hosing snaking through the vegetable garden. In the afternoons, a warm southerly would waft the smells back into the house as we were preparing dinner.
And it wasn’t just the water. That Christmas Liz has asked for a compost system. She wanted it as her main gift, how could I refuse? And so, over the remaining weeks of summer, I installed the large plastic silo and Liz eagerly had begun building up a tower of rotting, overripe vegetables and food scraps under the lemon tree in our backyard. It wasn’t long before our Kelpie, Kip, has started snacking in the evenings, giving him foul, recurring bouts of diarrhea. I tried to pick up his droppings in the grass as I walked him round the block, or in the yard before friends with small children arrived, but it was no use, it would only smear and slip through my fingers. We now had a rat problem, too. I’d seem them gathering around the compost heap in the evenings. Kip began dragging them in at night. The rats, the dog, the compost were all added to my list of household chores stuck on the fridge, beside the water restrictions chart and the revised nutritional pyramid Liz liked to refer to.
I stepped out of the shower, weighed myself. 80kg, well within my personal benchmarks of health; however on Liz’s request I’d gone to the doctor for a check-up just a few weeks earlier and my BMI reading had revealed that I was technically ‘overweight’. It was absurd; one look in the bathroom mirror told me it was scientific error. I’d read somewhere the equation was flawed. I told Liz so. It couldn’t, for instance, differentiate between The Michelin Man or The Terminator. Maybe it was muscle. I sucked in my stomach and wrapped the towel around my waist.
Out in the kitchen Liz was sitting on the floor in front of the open fridge. I watched as she ferried dirt-spotted vegetables between the freezer and the open esky beside her. She’d long ago shunned the local supermarket for produce, now all our groceries came from our backyard or the organic markets held at the local primary school near our house. We bought our root vegetables from Mrs McKay’s farm out near Orange, lettuce and herbs from a local Marrickville grower, seafood from Joe, a fishmonger based out near Ulladulla, meats from a Bangalow butcher. Every couple of weeks she sold her own produce too, bottles of pickles and fermented cabbage and, her speciality: marinated black olives. Her mother grew them in her backyard in Five Dock, they reminded her of home – Calabria: a region in Italy renowned for its fine olive-growing, where, for many years her mother and father, Liz’s grandparents, had run a respectable import/export business. I’d heard the story many times, over family dinners and the like. Things were going well until the 1950s, when export restrictions changed, channels closed, Jimmy’s health started fading, and so they decided to pack up everything and board a boat to Australia. They sailed eight weeks along the Suez Canal, setting foot in Perth where they worked another five years in the factories until they’d done their time and could travel to Sydney. Liz called her grandmother after every market stall to tell her how many bottles she had sold. To Nonna, it was never as good as the old days.
From her shelf in the pantry Liz packed a bottle of olives now, along with a large collection of sand-coloured bags of grain: cous cous, quinoa, brown rice. She stuffed them in a hemp bag that read MY BAG IS GREENER THAN YOUR BAG.
She left my shelf untouched.
This, too, was a semi-recent thing. I’d opened the cupboard one Saturday morning to find the pantry separated into ‘sides’. A ‘conscious uncoupling’ of foodstuffs in the night. Broad beans separated from baked beans. Salmon in spring water from spaghetti in meatball sauce.
I’d confronted her over the breakfast table, but she just shrugged and said, ‘I just don’t like my food being near yours.’
‘Near yours,’ I said. ‘What does that mean, Liz, what the fuck does that mean?’ and she just continued with the cryptic crossword.
At first I planned to replenish my shelf as though nothing had happened, but over time my stash dwindled, as Liz did most of the grocery shopping while I was at work, so that now, all that was really left were a few instant noodle packets, some assorted canned goods and the remainder of Kip’s dog food, which Liz had been unable to bring herself to clear out, though the dog had been dead almost three months now.
She looked up at me from the kitchen floor and asked if I wanted to pack anything. I peered into the fridge, knowing it was a trap, but taking my time all the same. I took out the butter.
‘Dan—you can’t pack butter.’
‘What’s the esky for then?’
‘Isn’t that what the esky is for, so it doesn’t melt?’
‘Yes, but it doesn’t have any ice in it yet.’
‘Right. What’s the point then?’
‘What’s the point of having an esky then?’
I retreated back to our bedroom, defeated. Liz’s clothes were already neatly folded and laid out on the floor. I could see the creases of linen, the complementary shades of beige and brown and burgundy, stacked in piles according to garment type: short sleeves, long sleeves, pants, skirts and dresses, undies and socks. Clothes made of hemp, ‘so green it’s actually carbon-negative!’, Liz claimed. Bamboo, ‘hypoallergenic and naturally anti-bacterial’. Merino, ‘thermo-regulating and biodegradeable’. Clothes that came with a story, that traced the exact seamstress who has sewn the hem of that exact skirt. That donated a portion of all sales to the communities that grew the seeds of the fibres, that worked the ethically run factories.
I packed my Ralph Lauren polo shirt, Zoggs boardshorts and brown leather Birkenstocks. Liz didn’t approve, but she didn’t approve of waste either, so we were at a stand-off, the unspoken agreement being that I would wear them until my existing wardrobe needed replacing.
In the side pocket of my overnight bag I slipped a bottle of whisky and a bag of weed I’d had in my drawer for some time, along with a few other treats I’d picked up from the service station the night before as I filled up the car with petrol for our trip: a Mars Bar, two bags of salted nuts, some beef jerky. I’d made a list of all the things I’d missed since Liz started with her allergies and was slowly making my way through them. The list was long. It has been over two years since it all began.
It had started with the dairy. It made her bloat, she said, left her with a uncomfortable, gassy feeling. She’d showed me her stomach, though I couldn’t see anything much wrong from the outside. She placed my hand on her stomach and asked if I felt anything. I said, honestly, I couldn’t. Two days before, sitting at a café, she’d asked if I’d thought about having children. She said just as the waitress was putting down my latte, so that for a moment I wondered if she was really talking to me. I said ‘Of course I have, we’ve been trying haven’t we?’; and she shrugged a little and took a sip of her green tea. So, those days later with my hand on her stomach I wondered for a moment if it might be something else, if she might be hinting at something more, but she said no, it was definitely the dairy, which resulted in another uncomfortable conversation, given my family’s long-held association with the dairy industry.
We’d dropped into the old farm, out past Bega, on one of our previous anniversary trips to the coast. She’d been charmed, delighted. Had met the family, milked a cow herself. When all the talk of ‘food allergies’ first came out in the health magazines, we’d laughed about it together. My father loved to make jokes about soy milk and almond milk and rice milk – ‘watch out, they’ll milk anything they can get their hands on!’ he’d say after a few beers, stumbling around the living room picking up inanimate objects within reach, ‘Clock milk! Tea-towel milk! Chair milk!’
All the same, Liz switched to soy milk that summer and it seemed to settle things for a while. But just two months later, after a series of out-of-town weddings and a yoga retreat she signed herself up to, she claimed the bloating was back again, this time with a new culprit. That toxic protein gluten. All the symptoms fit: bloating, fatigue, aching joints. I’d asked her to get treated for coeliac disease, or at least see a nutritionist, but she said he didn’t need to pay someone $200 an hour to tell her how food affected her own body. By this point, her mood had begun to change. She was quick to snap, she stormed around the house, snorting and sighing. We’d be trying to have a normal conversation and she’d get exasperated, accusing me, saying things like ‘how can you say that when you know my mother has diabetes’, or, ‘how can you use that word when you know I’m a feminist’. I asked if everything was okay. She said it was the gluten.
Well, by this point I’d begun to have my suspicions. Some things matched up, say, for instance, her intolerance for popcorn and her later reaction to the homemade nachos at Mick and Shelly’s house, with both the popcorn and nachos pointing to a corn allergy, though having researched the symptoms it’s hard to be sure. Others, however, were more inconsistent. She’d cut out milk but was still eating cottage cheese. She’d ruled out gluten, but seemed to eat cous cous by the bucket-load. The treatments, too, were questionable. Sometimes requiring expensive herbal drops and supplements, appointments with practitioners without business cards. Other times simply breathing exercises in the mornings, long walks in the evenings. She started sneaking out every second morning with her little blue mat. Yoga was good for digestion, she said. Good for mental and physical health, ‘spiritual wellbeing’. Of course, we’d never been religious. I mean, her parents were Roman Catholic, and my mother used to take me to the Bega country church over Easter as a child, but Liz and I had never really followed any faith. It wasn’t the reason we got married, though I know my friends thought we’d been pressured into it by her family. In the end we weren’t even married in a church – just a garden wedding out in the fields of my Uncle Gavin’s farm. He and his wife, Kelly, were making artisanal goat’s cheese by this point, we used it in the canapés, a little tartlet with caramelised onion on top. But these days Liz was talking more and more about spirituality, about ‘good karma’ and ‘bad karma’ and ‘chakras’ and certain ‘energies’ of one kind or another. More than once, Liz had told me I should start doing yoga with her. I wasn’t mindful, she said. I didn’t pay attention. I see now what she was trying to say, but wished she might have said it in a less obscure way. By this point she was going to classes three times a week, retreats every month. Her arms had started to bulge, her tummy flat and firm, even when she was ‘bloated’.
She sat on the back verandah, her mat rolled out in the morning sun. ‘Just five minutes,’ she said. Meanwhile, I packed the car. I was good at that kind of thing. I built a solid foundation using the esky and the tent, then slotted in fold-up chairs and bags. Pillows and last-minute jumpers and socks went on top, plugging up any gaps and ensuring nothing moved around. I closed the boot, and waited in the front seat. Looking back, things might have been okay if she hadn’t decided, at the last minute, to bring her yoga mat. She’d opened the boot to slide it in and, as she shuffled things around to make room, had taken the liberty to do a last-minute check of the contents of her bag, and then mine, slipped her hand into the side pocket and coming upon my secret stash. She sat in the front seat with the bottle of whisky cradled in her arms like a child.
She said, ‘Let’s not go.’
I said, ‘No we should still go.’ I started the car. She put her head in her arms on the dashboard. The glove box opened and there, below her face, was my stash of aerosols. She started to sob. I turned the car off and stared out the front windscreen.
She turned to me and said, ‘Why do you think I’m doing this? Why do you think I’m like this?’
‘Like what?’ I said.
‘I’m doing it for us,’ she said. ‘For the baby.’
For a moment, then, I thought we were having a baby and I said, ‘Honey, that’s great news.’ I went to put my hand on her back but she pulled away.
‘No, it’s gone. We’ve lost the baby already. You didn’t even know I was pregnant.’
The silence was huge. I wanted to turn on the radio but couldn’t lift my hand. The air-conditioner blew on my forehead, freezing my face in whatever expression was showing. Liz continued to cry in a shuddering, noiseless way. Her shoulders moved up and down. Her body rocked against the passenger seat. A car pulled alongside us and peered in, a middle-aged woman gestured that she would our parking spot. Liz looked up and the women’s eyes met. A look of sympathy crossed between them. Then, the woman turned her attention to me, gave me a foul look, and drove away. Liz watched the car disappear to the end of the street, take a right, and disappear. Then she told me to get out of the car.
I stood on the footpath and watched as she slid across into the front seat, turned the car on, and pulled onto the street. I let myself into the house.
It was strange being in there without her. We’d first bought the house after our honeymoon, the same time my grandma died, leaving us with enough money for a deposit. Walking through the rooms I could trace the way she’d shaped it, the way the space has changed as she had over the years. At first filled with shiny IKEA cabinets and knock-off mid-century sofas, it was now littered with second-hand furniture, tribal throws from countries we had never been to, abstract paintings bought from women she met at yoga.
I opened the bottle of whisky, poured it into a painted ceramic mug, and sat back on the couch. It was only 11am. I moved to the armchair with the best view of the street and watched for a while, hoping to see the car pull in. An hour passed. A ute backed into the parking spot Liz had left. Two women walked by pushing strollers. A man with a clipboard rang the doorbell, waited, then let himself back through the gate. I called Liz, but it rung out. I listened to her voicemail in full, but didn’t leave a message.
I turned on the TV, flicked through the channels: Sparta Revealed, The X Factor, Peppa Pig, before settling on a mid-morning yoga program. Ten women in lycra, overlooking Sydney Harbour. I took a deep breath, and exhaled. Poured myself another mug of whisky.
I thought about calling Sally, but hadn’t even taken my phone out of my back pocket before deciding it was a bad idea. She’d want me to come over and I couldn’t bear Liz coming home to an empty house. Besides, Liz had the car and it was a long bus ride to Sally’s apartment.
The yoga program finished and I checked my phone again. 1pm. By now we should have been near Wollongong. I went to the kitchen to make myself some lunch. I scanned my shelf in the pantry, passed over the instant noodles, tinned spaghetti and took out two cans of Old El Paso refried beans. I held the tin in my palm, thinking what Liz would say. How she’d point out the beans had been grown and harvested in Spain but packaged and preserved in China. That, per 100g they contained 12.2% carbohydrates, 0.2% fat, 5.5% fibre. I took out a some pre-packaged soft tortillas, bread that could last for months, sealed in its plastic wrapping with break out bubbles exclaiming ‘Super Soft!’ ‘High in Fibre!’ ‘O% Trans Fats’. Liz’s nightmare. Bread made from a list of natural ingredients made unnatural: ‘Enriched’ Bleached Wheat Flour, ‘Interesterified’ Soybean Oil, ‘Hydrogenated’ Palm Oil and Dough ‘Conditioners’. I reheated the beans, wrapped it in the bread and grated over some Bega Cheese, a taste of home: more sad than delicious. I washed it down with some instant coffee. 0.1% Fat. 0.3% fibre. A cup full of nothing. Half an hour later I was hungry and drunk. I called Liz again, but her phone was off. I poured another whisky, sat myself on the couch.
I must have drifted off because I woke later to a darkened living room and the smell of something sweet. I breathed it in, lifted myself from the couch and followed the smell into the kitchen. The room was still and quiet, the bench littered with dirty plates and pans, empty glasses. Through the open back door a cool breeze blew in, carrying the smells from the compost through the house.
1. The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant and pulsar wind nebula in the constellation of Taurus. It is one of the most studied remains of a stellar explosion and is widely accepted to be due to a supernova seen in the year 1054 CE by Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arab astronomers, who reported sighting a new bright star in the heavens. The star was so brilliant that it was visible even during the day for nearly three weeks and only faded from view nearly two years later. The current name is due to William Parsons, Third Earl of Rosse, who observed the object in 1840 using a 36-inch telescope and produced a drawing that looked somewhat like a crab. Fig. 438. Willam Parson’s reproduction of The Crab Nebula.
2. Spelt, of course, is now the staple of our local organic bakery alongside sourdough, rye and gluten-free loaves. 3. The release of the American Food Guide Pyramid, later replicated in Australia, confirmed the prevalence of wheat and other grains in the average person’s diet. Some researchers have pointed to this increase as coinciding with the rise in cases of coeliac disease, and believe this increase in grain consumption runs parallel to the rise in gluten intolerance. The American Food Guide Pyramid released by the United States Department of Agriculture. 4. Studies show gluten-free diets can be deficient in fibre, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc. 5. Around this time we were eating a lot of chia seeds in particular, which expand to three times their size when wet (or ingested) and are also a great source of fibre, iron, protein, potassium, calcium and antioxidants. They sat comfortably in the emerging food category of ‘superfoods’ which, at the time, also included quinoa, acai berries, goji berries, hemp seeds, blueberries and kale. 6. From 2013–2014 it is estimated the seeded area of oat production in Canada was around 1.25 million hectares yielding three tonnes per hectare, with exports accounting for 69% of Canadian oat usage. As of 2014, Canada is ranked the largest producer of oats, followed by Brazil and Finland. 7. The locale of Bega, on Australia’s South Coast is renowned for its dairy produce, but most notably for the production of Bega Cheese, which has been producing dairy goods in the area for over 100 years. My father tells the story about how the manufacturers once approached his father to buy out the family farm, brought them a hamper of products, cheese toasties for weeks. His father, of course, refused, and the farm had been in decline ever since, with my father abandoning his post as successor to go to university in Sydney. Bega ‘Tasty’ Cheese 8. This ranking is still something I still have trouble reconciling, only insofar as the service and copy atmosphere at Lucio’s is far more to my liking than that of Papa’s Pizzeria, which is cold and tiled with the kind of double standard service that sees Italians greeted with two-cheek kisses and open arms and me and my wife at times waiting for over fifteen minutes to simply catch an eye to put our name on the door, but in the end it comes down to science. Papa’s Pizzeria’ use a Cinque Stagioni flour imported from Italy with a W rating of 320 indicating a high protein flour which is perfectly suited to their 48-hour dough. The slow rise allows the yeast to ferment and makes it easier to digest with less bloating, which is something that appeals greatly to Liz, who has issues with that kind of thing. It is then cooked in their Amalfi oven which gets up to temperatures around 400C.Lucio’s wood fired oven, by comparison, reaches only 250 degrees celcius, resulting in a different, and to our mind, inferior texture. 9. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer) was agreed on 16 September 1987, and entered into force on 1 January 1989. Its express purpose is to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion. As a result of the international agreement, research indicates that the ozone layer will return to 1980 levels between 2050 and 2070, though Liz, personally, doubts it. 10. Since October 2003 when Sydney was placed under Level 1 water restrictions due to falling dam levels and extreme drought, the city has been under various levels of water restrictions, set by the Australian Government and enforced by patrolling ‘Water Inspectors’. Fines are issued for non-compliance. 11. An investigation into the reliability of the BMI in TIME magazine reads: “In the journal Science, the latest data from University of Pennsylvania shows that BMI also doesn’t tease apart different types of fat, each of which can have different metabolic effects on health. BMI cannot take into consideration, for example, where the body holds fat. Belly fat, which is known as visceral fat, is more harmful than fat that simply sitting under the skin. Visceral fat develops deep among muscles and around organs like the liver and by releasing certain hormones and other agents, it disrupts the body’s ability to balance its energy needs. Even relatively thin people can have high levels of visceral fat, which means they might be considered healthy by BMI standards, but internally they may actually be at higher risk of developing health problems related to weigh gain.” I read this out to Liz, TIME was our bathroom magazine of choice, but she was not interested in modern conventions of medicine at that time in her life. 12. Between 1951-1968 over 42,000 Italians arrived in Australia as part of the Assisted Passage Scheme – the Australian Government paid for fares and accommodation in return for several years of employment. Georgio and Natalie Feranda, Liz’s grandparents, were aboard the second boat to depart. 13. While the term has been in circulation for sometime, it enjoyed a revival in 2014 following Gweneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s celebrity split, where they stressed that while "in many ways we are closer than we have ever been", they had come to the conclusion that "while we love each other very much we will remain separate". While of course Liz never expressed such sentiments about the contents of our pantry, I like to think that maybe the foodstuff themselves felt such a way, rather than jumping to take sides etc after so many years of living in harmony. 14. She did, however, insist that I throw out my favourite Lowes sloppy joe after that scored an ‘F’ rating for workers in the Australian Fashion Report into Ethical Fashion Production. 15. In 2013 Monash University and Melbourne's Alfred Hospital conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 22 patients, ages 24 to 62 years, with irritable bowel syndrome who had been eating a gluten-free diet to control their symptoms even though it had been determined that they did not have celiac disease. The study revealed that gluten ingestion was associated with significantly higher depression symptoms compared to placebo and, as such, researchers concluded that gluten specifically caused feelings of depression. Gluten did not, however, specifically cause gastrointestinal symptoms in this study, although it did in a previous study conducted by the same research team, which brings in to question both its relation with Liz’s mental state and apparent bloated figure. 16. Allergic symptoms of a corn allergy develop when a person’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts after eating corn or foods containing corn-based ingredients, or after being exposed to corn pollen. A corn allergy can be difficult to diagnose using standard skin or blood tests because it is difficult to differentiate from allergies to grass pollens and to other seeds and grain, all of which she’d claimed at one point or another. 17. Liz was particularly drawn to the Manupira: yellow, located just above the navel, self control. And Visuddha: blue, located in the throat, the right to speak.