(Or scroll to the baked chicken recipe below.)
Everything is dry. Two heavy downpours in two months; nothing in between. But I've been watering the garden regularly - all summer long - and it is a lush, shady haven to come home to on these hot nights.
Yesterday I got the quarterly water bill. Surprisingly, it wasn't much higher than usual, the usage component overshadowed by parks and gardens charges, sewage fees, water supply costs, waterways and drainage charges, various levies, desalination plant extortion fees, GST, carbon tax, whatever. I made some of those up. So why do they call it a water bill? I don't know. The water's the cheapest thing on it.
Yesterday I saw an elderly woman hosing her Coburg driveway in broad daylight, as elderly people seem to enjoy doing. Watering your driveway is probably going a bit far, but the fact that she was doing it brazenly, like robbing a bank without a mask, meant that people are slowly recovering from the quasi-criminality governments associated with watering during the dark days pre-2010, when hardware store owners got rich on the sale of vast, ugly, space-wasting plastic structures you placed next to your house to 'harvest rainwater'. Even as politicians and their green high priests were telling us they couldn't build dams because it would never rain again, they were hypocritically legislating for compulsory water tanks in new houses. I have recently noticed that many of these are quietly being removed. People are deciding they don't want their front yard or sideway blocked by a plastic box the size of an elephant. Especially when their water bill is mainly taxes anyway. But how do you dispose of a 5000 litre water tank? Where are they going?
And so, on goes the hissing of summer lawns (which incidentally made a great title for an obscure album a friend of mine had once in the 1970s).
Baked chicken with feta and oregano.
Combine 250 grams of feta, two teaspoons of dried oregano, a tablespoon of butter, a teaspoon of lemon zest, some chopped parsley, a clove of garlic, half a dozen black peppercorns and a quarter cup of lemon juice. A quick blitz in the blender should do it, but only a few seconds. Add salt to taste.
Take four bone-in chicken breasts with skin on, draw away the skin from flesh without detaching it and cram cheese mixture beneath skin. Rub olive oil flecked with dried oregano over skin.
Place chicken breasts in a baking pan and bake in a moderate oven 30 minutes, then raise heat to high and bake another 15 minutes. The breasts should be golden on top. Sprinkle more parsley to serve.
Serve with two salads: a simple hot salad of halved baby potatoes tossed with greek yogurt, chopped spring onions, a little olive oil and salt and pepper; and one of sliced truss tomatoes, sliced red onion rounds and olives.
Cold beer to keep the heat at bay. Thirty-plus for the next five days including 36, 36 and 37 Monday to Wednesday. Celsius. Which used to be centigrade.