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


Bugs and barbecue.

Yes, February was always the busiest month and you get fewer days to do it in.

And the weather! When I was ten I read Colin Thiele's February Dragon, about as accurate a portrayal of February weather as it gets. Another early read was Ivan Southall's Ash Road published in the early 1960s, and with a darkly prophetic title given the events of 2009. And 1983 and 1967 and other years, for that matter. Do children still read Australian literature or just Andy Griffiths these days?

It's all rain into March; but on the last weekend of February we sweltered at the beach. As the sun fell on the Saturday evening, Tracy walked the ti-tree lined slopes with Alexandra reclining in the stroller. They returned. She smiled. I took over. Walked down to the beach. No sleep. Onto the sand where after dinner walkers, many with dogs, were enjoying the sunset. The water was still warm, tide on its way out. Earlier in the day, I had been a couple of hundred metres offshore with the boys on their small surfboards and we had noticed thousands of beetle-like creatures with yellow backs on the water. Now they were gone but other things were in the air, buzzing and zooming. Back to the house. Thomas asleep; William with Tracy on the balcony gazing into the hot black sky and wondering which were stars and which were planets. The bugs were here too. Some had made their way into the house. A large sonar-equipped winged thing was tapping impatient feet at one of the windows. I liberated it, and it buzzed off into the night in search of dinner or a mate or both.


That was over a week ago. Today they came to town. I walked the boys to school and against the wall of a large building on Sydney Road were piled literally thousands of black beetles the size of Tic-Tacs. They were not going anywhere but were alive and writhing. They are refugees from the rain north of the state, reported to be the highest on record and more to come. And they said it would never rain again. Or someone did. The others probably just repeated it mindlessly, like robots at prayer.


Last night:

It was a warm evening decorated with passing florid clouds that had already rained themselves out somewhere else. So out we went under the great firmament armed with glasses of beer, a check tablecloth and a barbecue fired up good and proper.

Calamari with oregano.

Dust a few dozen calamari rings in seasoned flour. Easiest done with a plastic bag. Simply throw a tablespoon or more of flour in with the calamari rings, hold the end closed and shake. Perfectly floured.

Heat some oil in a cast iron pan. You want it really hot. This is best done outside on a barbecue grill well clear of children and other humans to minimise splash burns. Place calamari into smoking oil and lift clear and drain after no more than sixty seconds. Have your guests line up for deep-fried calamari and serve with a green salad, kalamata olives, good quality fetta and freshly sliced vine-ripened tomatoes. And cold beer. I like to make a 'flat' Greek salad - cover a platter with a layer of sliced vine-ripened tomatoes, crumble fetta over them, toss with olives and dress with good olive oil, vinegar and crushed dried oregano. I have an instant supply of this in the garden - as the herb overgrows, the ends dry out naturally and you simply pull off the dried leaves, crushing them in your hand. Perfect.


Martin Kennedy said...

I noticed tonight the cat was tortmenting an unfamiliar largish black bug. Must have been one of those northern refugees. I rescued it. In other local news, I've been hearing an extraordinary amount of magpie song around Brunswick just in the last few weeks. Not sure if its normal (I dont remember it last year) or flood-related again.

kitchen hand said...

Greater worm supply due to the wet weather is my theory, Martin. Or people having barbecues outside.

Our resident magpie Halfbeak always drops chicken bones and pieces of sausage in OUR backyard from other peoples' barbecues. She is quite hilarious - lost half her lower beak when hit by a car some years ago. We rescued her, sent her to Lort Smith and they released her back in the area.

I presume you rescued the cat from the bug and not vice versa.

Melbourne Girl said...

Haven't noticed a lot of bugs around out here in the north eastern suburbs, but have noticed I'm swatting and spraying a lot more mozzies. They appear from nowhere every night.
The family of magpies is still wandering the street and I've heard a kookaburra a lot. He's been visiting every morning and having a giggle at something that's tickled him. Sounds lovely

kitchen hand said...

We have mosquitoes appearing from nowhere as well. Flyscreens everywhere. They must be able to fly through them.

Melbourne Girl said...

I think the new breed of mozzie is a freak of nature in some way. We've got screens on all the windows and we're still getting the little blighters inside. It's become a bit of a competition to see how many we can "get" each night
It's a jungle out there.

annmelody18 said...

I absolutely agree with Melbourne Girl....

kitchen hand said...

Perhaps they're breeding in the pipes and coming up the drain hole in the bath or sink under cover of darkness. I might try putting all the plugs in ...!