Saturday afternoon we were at the indoor pool. It was built some time in the 1980s overlooking City Oval. They put it right behind the northern goal, and the entire south wall is a window, making it a virtual grandstand. You go for a swim and get a VFL football game thrown in, with a view across the brilliant green to terraces, mainly empty, that rise away and almost obscure the Edwardian roofs beyond. The shadows creep across the green late in the afternoon, and sometimes rainstorms blow in from the west. The old grandstand is at the other end. I followed VFA decades ago when Essendon had some lean years and some Essendon players transferred to Dandenong, then a VFA power. Now it's VFL, a blend of the old VFA and the then-VFL reserves.
On Saturday, they put the AFL grand final on the loudspeaker system and we - the boys and I - played pool volleyball and listened to the game. The place was almost empty, like two grand finals ago. Everyone goes home and watches it on television, but I have an aversion to sitting in a lounge room in daylight hours. Even for a grand final. Apart from that I prefer radio. I like figuring out the action in my mind and guessing from the crowd noise what's happening milliseconds before the caller calls it.
That night, the house was full of the aroma of garlic and lemon suffusing chargrilled chicken.
Lebanese-style chicken drumsticks.
The thing to do with these is to be heavy-handed. I suppose there's plenty of lemons in the middle east so you don't have to be sparing. For a dozen drumsticks, chop two dozen cloves of garlic and squeeze the juice of four lemons. Get some of the zest and throw that in as well. Cut a few leaves of fresh mint, and a sprig of oregano.
Slash the drumsticks deeply and place them in a large bowl, tip in the lemon juice and scatter the garlic and herbs. Add a good dash of cumin, pepper and salt. Turn the chicken to make sure it is completely coated and set aside for a couple of hours. Bake or grill.
Serve with hommous - blend a drained can of chickpeas with five garlic cloves, a little tahini; a few tablespoons of olive oil; a quarter cup of lemon juice; salt and pepper - and a quick tabouli salad of parsley, onion, tomato and bulgur wheat. Use a little couscous if you have none of the latter. It works fine. Drown with lemon juice.
The drumsticks were even better cold the next day. Unbelievable but true. Roll on 2014.
Quiz question: name the VFA grand final that was not decided until the Wednesday following the game.