Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Seventy years after.

"Any resemblance between pre-war football and today's game," football historian and Truth sports reporter Jim Main wrote in 1969, "is purely coincidental."

Main continued: "The old game died bloodily in 1945, when Carlton throttled life out of South Melbourne and gave birth to a professionalism that has matured into today's cold, calculated ruthlessness ... ."

Carlton was reigning premier when Main wrote those words; having achieved success by poaching the star player of the League's then most successful club, prompting one of the Sun News-Pictorial's better back page headlines: Carlton Draft: Melbourne Bitter. The act of unsporting bastardry so shocked Melbourne it never won another flag; Carlton blithely piled up another seven during the reign of nine coaches following Barassi, some of whom were summarily sacked - and two of which were reappointed, attesting to the board's erratic vacillations.

The word professional is no longer associated with ruthlessness. The Swans found professionalism, via its famous spin-free 'no-dickheads' mantra. On the other hand, Carlton just stayed ruthless and have not won a flag for twenty years. They would do well to apply the Swans' policy. To the board, of course.


Seventy years after the game known as the 'Bloodbath', Carlton and the Swans meet again - tonight. It could be another bloodbath; metaphorically this time, of course.


Stupid labels: #1 in a series of about six million.

It was on a can of pineapple in the supermarket.

It read: Naturally Low in Fat, as if to reassure the one in eighty billion shoppers who might think pineapple was as fat-laden as, say, a ham and cheese croissant or a jar of double cream.

What next? Naturally Low in Nuts on a leg of lamb? Completely Sugar Free! on a jar of salt?


Conversation in a hotel late one night.

The room was silent. Delegates had voted and were waiting for the result of the first podium finish – third – to appear on a large screen fixed to the wall. The barman moved around softly, collecting glasses.

The room was a private one at a rundown hotel in an inner bayside suburb; the kind of place once frequented by car dealers, waterside workers, blacksmiths and horse trainers. To say the clientele had changed would be like saying the sun had risen. Today, the faded curtains, the worn carpet, and the accidentally-antique bar furniture gave the establishment a raffish air that appealed to the inner-urban hipsters who had transformed the surrounding suburb from $10,000 workers' cottages into $1.5 million 'unpolished gems' by the simple act of moving in. Now, the hipsters were happy to mix with the remaining scoundrels of the area and the hotel was the place they did it.

Suddenly, a headline appeared on the screen.

The Top Ten Vegetables.

Silence. A subtitle appeared.

No 3: Pumpkin.

Borg broke the hush. 'Pumpkin?' he exclaimed, with a high, searching, inflection. 'Pumpkin? Third? That's ridiculous!'

Radnitz spoke. 'Yes, I admit, unexpected,' he said, looking at Borg. 'But we must not let professional jealousy cloud our judgement.'

'Professional jealousy?' replied Borg, with the same upward inflection. 'Ridiculous.'

'I can see it's going to be one of those evenings when everything is ridiculous,' said Radnitz, slowly and with only a hint of sarcasm. 'But you are, after all, a niche player. You do not like mainstream.'

Borg was a grower of organic chokoes for the hospitality industry. Very niche, but then again they were very good chokoes. Or so I had heard. I hadn't personally tried an organic choko grown for the hospitality industry. In fact, I hadn't personally tried an organic choko period.

Schwartz put down his double Scotch and entered the conversation. 'In some countries,’ he averred, 'pumpkin is mere pig food.' With that he drained his glass and walked immediately, as if by remote control, to the bar.

Chad Winters was impassive. He sat in a retro green brocade winged armchair, obtained by the hotelier at Fowles Auctions for a mere $100. Winters raised a lazy arm, the one whose hand was not around a highball glass. Heads turned.

'Radnitz is right,' he said. 'We should respect the voting process. A poll is not a fashion statement, nor a social media affectation, nor a twitter ejaculation. Nor is it peer self-congratulation.'

He paused and sipped his highball. 'As for your comment, Schwartz,' (Schwartz was back, glass in hand) 'that pig-feeding practice merely reflects one element of what is good about the orange gourd: its sheer abundance. They feed it to the pigs because it otherwise rots on the vine. You might remember my telling the story about my own bountiful harvest a few years back. After throwing down a few seeds at the start of summer, my garden became a sea of endless trailing vines supporting some ninety five-kilogram pumpkins by season's end. I decided never to grow pumpkins again, simply because there were always more than I could use, and it seemed a waste, even though they store for months.'

'Abundance is nothing without utility,' said Borg. 'Or taste.'

'I like that coming from a choko grower,' laughed Radnitz.

'Blandness may apply to many vegetables,' went on Chad Winters, ignoring the interruption. 'Yet the mark of a good home cook is - like the alchemists of old - being able to turn something into something else. Something wonderful.'

He paused.

'Right now, all over the world, housewives are turning pumpkins – the cheapest vegetable of all – into dishes they hope will hold sufficient interest for their husbands and children that they will go to bed both satisfied and nourished: the twin Holy Grails of the domestic culinary art. If anything can do that, pumpkin can. It can be used in casseroles, braises and stews; transformed into pies, both savoury and sweet; and baked into bread, scones and biscuits. Its flesh can fill pasta, can be cooked into risotto, or be sliced into lasagne. Its sweet caramelised flavour, when baked, is unsurpassed. Mash it alone or with potato or swede or carrot. Saute it until it starts to sear, chill it and turn it into salads worthy of a main meal with chickpeas and pine nuts, or avocado and walnuts, or green beans and cherry tomatoes. You name it. In some countries, longevity is measured in pepitas: the men chew roasted pumpkin seeds even while playing cards, smoking endless cigarettes and sipping ouzo. And - as I said - right this very minute, home cooks worldwide are preparing what is possibly the world's most ubiquitous soup, made perhaps with ginger and garlic and coriander and a touch of chilli, or a simpler version with stock and a swirl of cream.'

Borg rolled his eyes at the mention of 'ubiqitous'. Schwartz drained his glass. Radnitz stood up. The clock said five to ten.

'Last drinks, gentlemen,' called the barman, mopping the bar with a foot-long Carlton Draught bar towel.


Couscous with pumpkin, chick peas and chilli sauce.

Fry a finely-chopped onion in four tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy-based pan. Crush and add a small cinnamon stick. Fry.

Add a large cubed unpeeled eggplant, three medium carrots cut into rounds, and two quartered medium potatoes. Stir to cover in oil. Fry ten minutes, shaking the pan or stirring.

Now add 250g pumpkin cut into large cubes, followed by two large ripe quartered tomatoes, a drained can of chick peas, a quarter teaspoon mixed spice, three teaspoons (or more) of your favourite hot chilli sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add two cups of water, cover the pan and simmer until vegetables are almost tender.

Add a dozen trimmed green beans cut into batons and two trimmed zucchini cut into rounds. Simmer another fifteen minutes.

Serve over couscous cooked according to pack directions.


Countdown: top ten vegetables of all time.


Until the early 1970s, Melbourne was dead on Sundays. Everything was shut. TABs, casinos, $2 shops, brothels, liquor outlets, Kidzone, Domino's pizza, Northland, you name it. It must have been awful. How did people get through the day?

My father had a Sunday coping strategy. He took us on what was known as a 'Sunday drive', a quaint mid-twentieth century weekend activity that involved a whole family packing into an FC Holden station wagon and driving into the countryside on mostly deserted roads, although another vehicle might be spotted occasionally, embarked on a similar expedition.

He usually drove north-west. We were practically on the urban fringe anyway. West of Essendon was thistle and Avondale Heights, both of which were wild. Keilor Road took us across the Maribyrnong River bridge into Keilor proper, where the road became the Calder Highway. After that was nothing but farmland all the way to Bendigo. We would take an arbitrary turnoff onto some unmade road, rumble along a few miles and then stop, apparently at random. Somewhere near Greenvale, or was it Oaklands Junction?

We'd climb a barbed wire fence, glance around for bulls (probably the latter before the former), and then look for mushrooms, fanning out like a police line searching for clues. It was good clean fun, picking through cowpats and mud under a slate sky. The mushrooms* usually grew in clusters, and sometimes in an odd circular shape, like Stonehenge.


The following two recipes showcase the earthy flavour and meaty texture of the mushroom. But my most common use of the mushroom is to halve some button mushrooms, sweat them in their own juice and toss them over rare steak with a shower of pepper and a little garlic butter.

#1: Mushroom and cheese melt.

Slice half a kilogram of fresh mushrooms. Finely chop a large onion and fry in two tablespoons of butter until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, a few minutes until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter, stir in three tablespoons of flour until combined. Then add two cups of milk and whisk until smooth. Stir until it thickens, then remove from heat and fold through the mushroom and onion mixture and a cupful of grated cheddar.

Divide mixture between four soufflé dishes or ramekins, top with a quarter cup of cheese each, and bake until cheese melts to a golden crust.

#2: Asian-style mushrooms.

Soak a dozen dried Chinese mushrooms for 30 minutes. Drain, discard stems and cut caps in two.

Deep fry 250g pressed bean curd cut into triangles.

Add peanut oil to a wok, add two spring onions cut into short batons and the rehydrated mushrooms. Stir 30 seconds, add 150ml of vegetable stock, two tablespoons of dark soy and half a teaspoon of sugar. Simmer 15 minutes, then add the bean curd. Cover wok and simmer another five minutes.

Meanwhile, blend a teaspoon of cornflour with a tablespoon of water and stir through the sauce. It should thicken. Sprinkle over a teaspoon of sesame oil. Serve over fragrant steamed rice.

If using fresh tofu, omit deep-frying process, carefully slice the tofu and slide it into wok to avoid it breaking up.


The mushroom fields are long gone now, buried under double-storey fake Georgian houses with enormous rooms that hold couches the size of racing cars from which you can gaze at reality television on enormous screens. Nothing grows here in the dark any more except, perhaps, teenage terror suspects who sprout overnight and are dragged, when found, blinking into the sunlight, their relatives unaware of their online activities in the dark of night.

*OK, the pedants are on to us again: a mushroom is strictly the fruiting body of a fungus.

(Holden image thanks to Serving suggestion only.)


The footy oval at the bottom of the valley.

Sixty years ago, several enterprising gentlemen purchased an abandoned building site in West Essendon. It was no surprise the estate was abandoned. Despite being close to sub-division, it sat on a cliff. The street plan had been submitted to the planning authorities, was printed in the 1955 edition of the Melways street directory, and then deleted in the next edition.

Potential builders looked at the site and were stunned. "Can't build on that," they exclaimed. "It's a cliff. Get a decent rain after you gouge into that, and you'll have a billion tons of mud and several earthmovers at the bottom of the valley floating down Steele Creek."

So they put it up for sale, to whoever would be mad enough to buy it.


The several enterprising gentlemen bought it. They wanted to build a school. But where to put the actual building?

"Never mind where to put the school," said one, who played football and had his priorities right. "Let's make a start on the footy oval."

They borrowed someone's earthmover and a steamroller, scratched out a zig-zag road to the bottom of the valley, and carved out a primitive oval on the mudflats next to the creek.


That oval, the home of St Bernard's Old Collegians, is still there, on the south west corner of the estate. They built the school about ten years later on the north east side on a shelf carved into the cliff. The south east end, being steeper, remained a virtual cliff until last year, when someone got brave enough to try to use the cliff-like hill to house football (and cricket) spectators.

They started digging in winter. Massive gouges appeared in the earth. The hill held, the reason being that it seemed to be mostly rock. Over the course of excavation, thousands of boulders were unearthed. Most ended up at the bottom of the valley, piled up next to the oval like a giant cairn. Later, they were used to rebuild the perimeter, half-buried in between landscaping grass amongst the weed matting, like studs in a leather couch.

One night last winter I was running slow laps on the oval. It had rained for several days and I expected a landslide to bury me at any moment. An earthmover was perched at a seemingly dangerous angle way above me. You'd have to be brave to drive an earthmover in a place like that. Clinging to the hill on a narrow cutting, it looked like one of those mountain goats that stand on cliffs. How do they do it?

After they made the first cut, they made another, higher up. Sheer madness. They were terracing the cliff! The idea was to tap into the iconic concept of drive-in parking, a feature of football grounds well known around country towns and some suburban ovals.

Then they joined the two levels via a hairpin-bended switchback, paved the lot, landscaped the hill and put in strong barriers for the inevitable occasion(s) when someone, parking, will hit the accelerator instead of the brake.

The view from both levels is like the upper tiers at Etihad stadium, except the sky is your roof (if you have an open-top car), and you don't have someone sitting half a centimetre away on either side.
In reviving this legendary and much-loved feature of the game, St Bernard's has turned the iconic footy drive-in into a cutting edge landscaping statement that thumbs its nose at the pastel plasticised anonymity of its grandstand contemporaries. As an example of urban infrastructure, it is as brave and as fearless as the feats performed way below on the oval.
- Uber-Urban Architect


Once again the blasts of car horns greeting every goal will reverberate across the valley. Not sure whether the residents in their mock-palatial 1980s mansionettes on the other side of the valley will enjoy it.


Mourning the condemned. And condemning the dead.

Mourning the condemned.

It was 1986 all over again. The Malaysian pair got as much publicity 29 years ago but still ended up in the same place as the Bali two (actually eight) did. The academics, literati and actors were on to it as usual; one male academic had a letter in the paper yesterday describing the pair as 'inspirational' who had lived 'redemptive' lives, and ended with the academic's clichéd 'I weep for you ... (and) pay tribute to your courage'. Signed, emeritus professor. Meanwhile the left-wing act-persons (if that's not redundant) got up an anti-Abbott campaign, prompting the retort: "They (the actors) are ghouls preying on the wretched plight of others to peddle their demonic Abbott hatred".

Condemning the dead.

Late one night last year, a woman was defiled while still alive in a filthy back street in Brunswick, murdered in cold blood, and then dumped in mud in a field in the middle of the night. Her body was still warm.

Some, among them a priest, said she should not have been out in the middle of the night in an inner city street. (He also said she might not be dead had her faith been stronger.) Incredibly, he said this to children.

A month or so ago, a woman was attacked in a Doncaster park and murdered.

Some, among them a policeman, said women should not be out in the middle of the day in lonely parkland.

Middle of the day or middle of the night; inner city street or open parkland. It's all your fault, ladies.

Yes. There is a yawning gap in logic between these two scenarios. We mourn the condemned even while obscenely condemning victims.


Inevitably, the mention of capital punishment always brings on the high keening wail of the politically correct. And that's just the blokes.

Capital punishment? You must be joking! Or mad! The letter-writing academic above mentioned ' ... "anti-drug" lynching groups baying for blood and the heartless authorities denying you mercy'.

There's the key. 'Denying' mercy. It's the age of entitlement. Everyone's entitled. The condemned are entitled to mercy and if not, it's a heartless denial. No suggestion of discretion, or choices, or caution; the past doesn't matter. Consequences are an authoritarian construct.

What was Jill Meagher denied? First her dignity, then her life and after that, when she was dead, her very blamelessness.

That man who took his two-year-old and shot it with a spear gun – his own child, whose last word was probably 'Daddy' – is right now breathing Victorian air. Ditto the man who threw his four-year-old – she was looking forward to going to school the next year – off the West Gate Bridge, while his other child sat in the car and watched. Will he ever be truly alive? The other child, I mean. Having experienced that. So why should the father?


I spoke to a person recently who had been threatened in Sydney Road late one night a short time before Jill Meagher's murder. She confided in me that she would be happy to see such murderers removed from society, for both the good of society and the safety of individuals. Not an unreasonable opinion. Hardly a heartless 'lynching group', just a frightened individual who no longer has confidence in the law to rigorously protect her or, failing that, to apply robust consequences.

"As far as capital punishment goes, I'm in favour of it in some cases ... only for certain crimes ... the ones which horrify the public most, child murder and sex crimes, terrorism, drug dealing on a large scale, and the killing of police and prison staff."
- Henry Bolte, in Bolte by Bolte by Tom Prior, Craftsman Publishing, Melbourne, 1990


Top ten vegetable countdown continues.

No. 5: Spinach

The Iron Man of the vegetable world, spinach is loaded with the ferrous mineral. To maximise uptake of its iron, eat it with other iron sources such as red meat or beans if you're vegetarian.

Possibly the best combination for sheer good taste as well iron uptake is fegato di vitello alla Veneziana (calves' liver Venetian style) with creamed spinach. Dine on that and you won't be able to walk past a magnet. For the spinach, rinse a bunch in water, throw it in a pot with olive oil, crushed garlic and cracked pepper, cook it until it crumples, add cream and reduce. Finish it with a squeeze of lemon juice and shake of salt. As children, we never had fegato di vitello alla Veneziana, but we had its second cousin, lamb's fry. Same dish, different animal. I liked it. It was good for your jaws. My mother overcooked it. You could have used the leftovers as doorstops. (A common complaint, it is nevertheless understandable that food was often overcooked in that era because of the common fear of spreading disease or causing poisoning through undercooking.) Nowadays we are far more educated and sophisticated; we outsource the poisoning to the Chinese, who supply us with fruit bathed in their sewage.

Couldn't end that paragraph fast enough. Now back to spinach. My top five spinach recipes, aside from the above:

5. Salad of baby spinach leaves, avocado, spring onions, halved cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, balsamic vinegar, olive oil. Toss and eat. Simple and unpretentious but good.
4. Spanakorizo
3. Spanakopita (Made there with silverbeet)
2. Spicy spinach paneer, and the champion:
1. Spinach with caramelised onions and butter beans:

Slice and fry a large onion in olive oil until caramelised. Meanwhile, warm three crushed garlic cloves in olive oil in another pan. Rinse 250g spinach and add to the pan, cooking in their retained water until they wilt. Add a drained can of butter beans, the caramelised onions, salt and plenty of pepper. A dash of chili powder if you like. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the pan, and cook until warmed through. Serve as a side dish to Greek sausages – loukanika – (T-Deli, Sydney Road), then go out and run a marathon.


Black Dog.

The black dog stayed at our house for four weeks. A year old, he had never been in a house. He had lived in a kennel (a professional one; not a box in someone's back yard) but had never been trained to race. He was obviously well-treated and was in good condition.

Typically for these dogs, he was frightened of all the usual domestic noises and jumped at his reflection in a mirror. After living in a concrete quadrangle, a house with dark rooms, and doorways, and blinds that suddenly fly up, and electronic beeping devices must, for dogs, resemble a kind of maze, or a canine ghost train.

He got used to it. That's the point of fostering greyhounds; not to make them forget about chasing small animals, which is what people think. As a sight hound for thousands of years, you have as much chance of stopping a greyhound sighting small animals as you have of stopping a bloodhound sniffing or a sheepdog herding. The idea is simply to get them used to initially frightening situations.

Black Dog, whose name is Lou, is our first foster dog for several years; earlier dogs mentioned here.

Left to right: William, Thomas, Lou the Black Dog and Alexandra.


Another favourite Black Dog:
Hey hey mama said the way you move
gonna make you sweat gonna make you groove


Blackers forgets where he is.

3AW announcers are doing extra shifts on besieged sister station Magic 1278. Veteran fill-in announcer John Blackman on air yesterday morning: "And now the three-aye-dub ... ah, the Magic 1278 Community Calendar ... ."


Countdown rolls on: Top Ten Vegetables of All Time.


Cabbage? Yes, cabbage. Loathed by millions, ignored by billions, the densely-packed, heavy-headed Orbness of Wonderment remains a vegetable champion, a wealth of culinary riches. The reasons are manifold and the recipes are boundless, but seven will suffice:

1. Cabbage soup. In its eastern European incarnation, made famous in Melbourne at the late Scheherezade restaurant, fragrant paprika-stung folds of wilted cabbage in a flavour-filled broth that you soaked up with dark rye bread smeared with butter, the soup topped with a mound of peppery mashed potato. Possibly the finest soup on the face of the Earth (although I've said that before).

2. Take two slices of white bread. Butter both generously. On one, lay a half-inch-thick slice of home-made meatloaf, still warm from the oven. Top the meatloaf with a thick layer of traditional freshly made coleslaw dripping with mayonnaise. Close the sandwich. Eat. The experience is other-worldly, perhaps even other-universely.

3. Cabbage adds a little je ne sais quoi (except I do) to gado-gado, that quintessential expression of the East, a flavour eruption of peanuts, chili, lemon and soy. And then there's kim chi. Heaven, if you live in Asia or can replicate it anywhere else in the world.

4. Cabbage without the flavour eruption (possibly without the flavour full stop): how my mother used to cook it – boiled in a very large pot (seven children) to be served alongside corned beef with white sauce. The cabbage was so well-boiled, it squeaked when you ate it. It might have lacked flavour then, but it now holds a certain nostalgic retro appeal for me. (1960s food fad fact: cabbage water was as hyped then as the paleo diet is now. Drink cabbage water and live forever!)

5. And while fads come and go like a foodie's instagrammed meal, some things remain the same. It is estimated that since the 1950s, Marathon Foods has turned 75 billion heads of cabbage into 300 million Chiko rolls and six billion dim sims. These incredible numbers prove that six million bogans can't be wrong: if you've never grabbed a hot Chiko roll or a fried dim sim drowned in soy sauce from a fish and chip shop run by Greek immigrants you either don't live in Melbourne or you're a foodie. In which case, enjoy your amaranth.

6. Colcannon.

7. Traditional fat pork sausages gently fried to a turn are nothing without a side of shredded red cabbage gently cooked with vinegar, apple, spices, garlic, salt and pepper. Sweet, sour, bitter – and all in one dish.


William (green shirt) listens at three-quarter time huddle during Coburg practice match (v. Frankston), Coburg City Oval, Friday April 3.
(Picture courtesy Coburg FC.)

Voice of summer silent.

RIP Richie Benaud.


The top ten vegetables of all time. No. 7: Leek.

The most fragrant of all vegetables, the leek is the prince of the onion family and the national emblem of Wales.

Leeks were grown in ancient Egypt and mentioned in a Chinese food guide 3500 years ago. The emperor Nero dined on leek soup, believing it would strengthen his voice for orations. Superstition? I don't know. Ask Tom Jones, Sir Harry Secombe, Katherine Jenkins, Bryn Terfel, Geraint Evans, and the Male Welsh Choir.

The following recipe alone shoots leek into the top ten vegetables of all time, but that's just one. Then you have leek terrines, leek tarts, leek pie, leeks with pasta (or with mushrooms and gorgonzola - totally delicious), and leek omelette, or as it is sometimes more pretentiously known, leek frittata. (The only difference as I understand it is that with a frittata you mix the ingredients through the eggs before cooking; whereas with an omelette you dump the extras on to the eggs in the cooking pan. Big deal.)

Leek and Potato Soup

Leeks and potatoes are often pureed into a smooth soup, but I find pureed soups as monotonous as hospital food.

My version should really be called a stew. It turns the same ingredients into a satisfying main course meal with discrete pieces. If we are still calling it a soup, it is probably the most appetite-satisfying in existence; its chunky ingredients, dairy-filled goodness and house-filling aroma making it the king of soups.

Cut three rashers of bacon into small squares. Fry in olive oil until almost crisp but not quite.

Cut two large leeks into thin rounds, rinsing those towards the green end for grit. Add to pot with a knob of butter. Stir while the leeks soften.

Peel and chop three large potatoes into cubes. Add to pot. Add enough chicken stock to barely cover the vegetables. Cook long enough to soften the vegetables and reduce the fluid.

Before serving, add a cup or two of milk and plenty of white pepper, and reheat gently. Ladle into large bowls. Top with a small mountain of grated cheddar and sprinkle with chopped parsley.


Countdown continued: the top ten vegetables of all time.


There's no getting around it. A cauliflower is a cauliflower. It is not an asparagus spear. It is not a zucchini flower, nor is it a porcini mushroom. It is not a superstar. It is not sexy. As far as vegetables go, cauliflower is Mr Plain, cooked by plain people who happen to be hungry.

You could fiddle about with cauliflower and cook in it curries with chickpeas and cashews; or you could impress your dinner party guests by cutting a cauliflower into fancy look-at-me florets, cooking them with tortiglioni and pine nuts and red pepper flakes, and calling it by some regional Italian name that you've dragged out of some cookbook or just made up; but cauliflower, basic as it is, rockets into the Top Ten Vegetables of All Time thanks to one transcendent recipe of perfection: cauliflower cheese.

The ultimate vegetable comfort food, a dish that was a smash hit the first time cauliflower and cheese collided, possibly by accident, cauliflower cheese is outstanding straight out of the oven, yet is bizarrely satisfying eaten cold straight out of the fridge at four in the morning after a night on the tiles. All that chilled cheesy goodness! Cauliflower cheese is boredom-proof, thanks to the immense variety of cheeses God bestowed on us, via His ingenious invention of the cow, the goat, the sheep, the buffalo, the camel, the reindeer and certain other domesticated grazing animals. I have only tried the first three or four, so I cannot vouch for camel cheese, but I am sure it is delicious. It has to be. It's cheese. There is no bad cheese.

Cauliflower cheese.

Trim a head of a cauliflower, making a conical hole in the main stem, and pierce or slit the thicker branches to assist these in softening before the florets go mushy. Boil it with plenty of salt and pepper until almost softened. No more. It will cook further in the oven.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a pot, add four tablespoons of plain flour, stir off the flame to make a roux, add three cups of hot milk, stir until smooth. Now add the cheese, a cupful. Cheddar! Emmenthal! Blue! Whatever! Mix them up. It doesn't matter. For an ironic twist that will leave your foodie friends speechless, blend Roquefort with Bega Bar-B-Cubes. For ease – and that's what this comfort dish is all about – buy one of those packs of ready-grated cheese that combines three varieties.

Place the cauliflower in a snug buttered baking dish, tip over the cheese sauce, add the same volume of grated cheese again on the top and around the sides, and bake until cheese is bubbling, golden and irresistible.

Sprinkle with paprika and serve as a side dish alongside freshly-carved, very rare spit-roasted beef with hot mustard, and a cold beer.


2 p.m. update.

The whole thing has gone on for well over two years, after the 'blackest day in Australian sport' circus, starring a cast of glowering bureaucrats, politicians and sports administrators.

During the two years, the letter writers just didn't go away, like those 4 a.m. mosquitoes you'd like to swat but can't make yourself wakeful enough to do so.

Not to mention the social media twits.

'I have torn up my ticket,' they proclaimed. 'I no longer wish to be associated nor identified with such an organisation.' Pomposity meets verbosity.

'I will never attend another game. Nor will my children.' A bit harsh. What if they were to change their mind?

'I do not want my children exposed to such a culture.'

'I am no longer a follower.'

'I have written to the board expressing my dismay.'
What, as well as a letter to the editor? Some people had nothing better to do than sit around the house writing sanctimonious letters to newspapers about the Essendon Football Club.

Hundreds of them. All written with pens dripping pious ink. That's metaphoric, of course. Nobody uses pens any more.

Then there was another letter. Its author wrote that he was a pensioner in his seventies and hoped the other letter writers would be true to their word. If you're going to tear your ticket up, he suggested, make sure you do tear the bloody thing up. Don't change your mind. Wouldn't want to bump into you at a game.
The expression he used was 'thick and thin' but that might as well have meant sausages to the twits.

The next day, someone called Steve wrote that the pensioner would be the kind of person he would want to be with in the trenches. Someone with a bit of spine.

Thick and thin.


Today's letter of the day:
I'm looking forward to Tuesday's guilty verdict in the Essendon drug saga. Signed: Magpie Marcus.
Magpie Marcus probably wishes he had waited 24 hours before submitting his letter.

(Image courtesy Herald Sun.)