It is time – past time – to kick off the New Year with another Paper Chef event. It is a time for a lot of careful consideration and looking back and looking forward. It is time for reflection and analysis. It is a time for casting off old vices, old attitudes, old things that you want to remove from your life and a time for renewal of the things that are important to you. It is spiritually a time to wash away what is bad and evil and to recommit to what is good and worthwhile. It is a time to reconsider all the mistakes of the past year – and there were many many of those all around the world, but perhaps more amd more serious ones in the actions of those ruling my native and chosen home.

Regular readers will know that I have some ties with Lousiana – family, friends and personal. Our biggest mistakes have been made there and now is a chance to make them right. Our country has vast resources and has been wasting them overseas in destruction and misguided meddling. Now would be a good time to rethink how and what we do with our efforts.

Closer to home winter storms are tearing through my real home – our creek, which runs at most two feet deep for most of the year, rose 20 feet two days ago, uprooting trees and threatening to flood us. Fortunately it didn’t and maybe we will have the chance to persuade the local water board that dumping the resevoir into the creek when it is at its height isn’t a sensible way to go about things – or maybe we won’t…

So it is time to think a little bit about the Paper Chef – but not too hard. I like the Paper Chef being what the participants make of it. Last time our Masterchef at the Electric Restaurant stamped an authorative Australian flavor and depth of judging that set new standards – he even gave prizes!

But I don’t want the judges to feel that they have to go to that level – at heart this is a participatory event and if our participants and judges want to keep things simple, that is just as honorable and worthwhile.

Since many New Year Resolutions include health and simplicity, I would like to set a tone of simplicity, health and renewal for this month. The current ingredient list is:

Root vegetables, basil, butternut squash, scallions, quinoa, olives, yoghurt, barley, fennel, pumpkin (or any squash) seeds, fancy vinegar, cranberries, cream of rice, cornish hens, honey, something derived from a goat (meat, milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, etc), rocket, cashews, macadamia nuts, pomegranate molasses, hot bean paste and chestnuts.

I am going to ask the judges – Mrs Deedop and Chopper Dave at Belly Timber – to come up with the secret fourth ingredient and the other three will, as usual, be selected randomly from the final list. In the meantime everyone in the world is welcome to nominate ingredients for the list – just keep them clean!