It used to be a department store, with six floors, linked by an escalator, with ceilings and interior walls and oil heating; and that was a long time ago, because buildings don’t have oil heating any more.
Then the department store closed and architects turned the building into a warehouse ‘shell’, and ripped out the top ceiling revealing skylights way above, and took away the concealing walls and heating pipes, and painted the stone cold walls behind them white; and, finally, cut a giant longitudinal floor-to-ceiling hole - almost the length of the building – through the floors on five levels, and put a steel stairway in the hole, with wire rope barriers winding around each level, so you didn’t go over the edge and fall to the ground. It looked like H division at Pentridge. You could stand at the bottom and monitor the inmates behind the wire around the perimeter at every level. Then the building was leased to a company whose workers sat at computer terminals all day, and froze.
I did some work there for two weeks and sat against one of the white walls on the alpine-like top level beneath a yawning skylight. For the first two days, a curtain of cold air fell down the cold stone wall behind my neck, and gave me a chill. On the third day, and on subsequent days, I wore a thick jacket, and a green scarf, and a hat; and sat at the screen for the rest of the week looking like a cross between the Michelin man and a duck hunter in search of a wilderness.
On the night of that third day, I went home and made soup. You don’t have to drink soup to warm up, all you have to do is make it, I said to myself as I chopped. Of course, doing both is even better, I replied, just to be saying something. The children were away that week, on school holidays, with their mother, somewhere where the sun was shining; so the house was just me and the ticking clock. She told me by phone that Tom had wanted to go in the water. I used to do that.
Fragrant chicken soup with cardamom and coriander
Fry six green cardamom pods in three tablespoons of hot melted ghee for a few seconds. Add two chopped onions and fry two minutes, stirring.
Add 1.5 kilograms of chicken cut into bite-size pieces, half a teaspoon of turmeric, and two teaspoons each of finely grated ginger, salt and pepper, and fry three minutes, stirring.
Add 1.5 litres of warm water, two grated tomatoes, one cup of cubed pumpkin, three tablespoons of chopped coriander, and one tablespoon of chopped parsley. Cook for an hour until vegetables and chicken are done. Add more water if necessary.
Before serving, add fresh herbs such as chopped celery, mint, more coriander, etc. Serve over boiled rice and add a spoonful of plain yogurt. If you like extra heat, garnish with rings of chopped fresh chilli.