You've got to love the internet (or "t'internet", as I like to refer to it, archaically). People love talking about how they hate online discussions, or Facebook, or Google, or whatever, but I think it is a case of making it work for you. Think of it, if you will, as the world's biggest buffet table. And everyone's hungry. If what you wind up reading/eating isn't to your taste, surely you have only yourself to blame.
Where food is concerned, you can use the internet to find a recipe for the best bean chilli, or how to make horchata, or look up a menu online before you go to a restaurant, or check reviews, or post your own reviews. Or to engage in meaningful dialogue with food producers, which you then share with the world, in order to effect positive change. Heal the world, make it a better place - that type of thing.
One of the things I have enjoyed most on t'internet this year has been Mr Reuben Bonner's interaction with the Australian importer of Mando, mandarin juice.
Finding himself in Melbourne (Australia's spiritual home of delicious artisanal produce?), our intrepid hero sampled said juice, got hooked, and decided he wanted to see the product in a lot more retail outlets than the few that stocked it in a small Melbourne radius. He wanted it in every café and shop. He wanted it in bars. He even wanted it in his homeland of New Zealand.
Okay, so he also wanted some cases of free Mando for him and his picture-framing buddy Kane, but in return he was offering up a framed map of the Victorian capital so that importer Lu Italiano could chart the exponential growth in availability of his product, which I reckon is a bloody good idea. The quest was relatively selfless. And, if it worked, surely, it meant more sales and more profits for Lu, quite aside from a couple of cases of free juice for Reuben and Kane.
I joined the cause - I like a bit of a cause. I contacted my friend Mr Scheckter at On Trays with a view to him stocking this now semi-legendary product (he has a few Melbourne contacts). I mean, I'd be interested in at least trying this nigh-on mythical beverage if Reuben feels so strongly about it that he feels the need to take up their cause - even going so far as to start a Facebook page- whew, slacktivism this is not. (And he uses the page to share awesome clips of dramatic chipmunks, and pictures of bears falling out of trees on to trampolines - so it is entertaining as well as informative.)
I love the tone of this exchange. I love how cheery, and suck-uppy and boundlessly enthusiastic Reuben's emails to Lu are, and then, in return, how pleasant Lu's replies are, as he tries to ascertain whether Reuben is a) mad b) useful or c) potentially both.
It put me in mind of when I sent a complainy email to the makers of Bundaberg Ginger Beer, about how I always seemed to cut myself opening their ring-tab bottles - they suggested I "use a pencil", or drink the larger, screw-top bottles, which was, obviously not the response I was looking for. I was very disappointed - and hey, if we were in the litigious US of A, I could probably sue for damages, right?!
So, with the wisdom of past failures behind me, I am backing Reuben in his quest to bring Mando to the masses on both sides of the Tasman. I am going to chase up Mr Scheck. I am going to encourage you, dear readers, to join the Facebook page, and join the crusade. I might also seek other marketing/media opportunities for Lu, Reuben, and Mando, mandarin juice... watch this space.
Most of all, I love the good-naturedness of these exchanges. In this day and age where everything is quick, and cheap, and easy, and disposable, isn't it great when someone really cares? Cares... maybe just a little too much, and is prepared to go out on a limb to do something about it?!
Bravo, Reuben - taking the baton and running with it. I wish you godspeed, fair warrior, and that many will join you in your quest.
So come now, Omnivore readers, juice fans and casuals - join the crusade. Power to the people - right on!
Would you be interested in tasting the world's finest mandarin juice? Will you join the crusade? Have you ever taken up the cause to try to make a product more widely available? Or perhaps you have even tried this mighty beverage - care to offer a description for the uninitiated? And will you buy it if Mr Scheck gets it in?
Photo: Allen Timothy Chang