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

27.8.13

Sixty years of the college on the hill.

St Bernard's College celebrated sixty years in West Essendon last Friday. The college started in 1939 on a postage stamp sized block of land in Moonee Ponds, and the story of how the land in West Essendon was purchased is legendary, with an enterprising Br Murphy intercepting an estate agent with a cheque late one night to stave off the signing of an early morning developer deal. The proposed streets, never to be built, had already been named and printed in that year's Melways street directory, in a pre-emptive strike by the developer. (See my book Murphy's Lore and Other Stories: A History of St Bernard's College as Told by Those Who Were There.)


The sixtieth anniversary was shadowed by the death of 2008 graduate Christopher Lane, who was murdered in Oklahoma, USA last week. R.I.P.

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Photo: looking to the west, the original building on the West Essendon hill; not a house to be seen, and a faint row of trees on top of the hill where Milleara Road runs today. In 1963 it was Melbourne's north-western edge, with virtually nothing but thistle and a basalt plain beyond. Today, the far hills in the background are endless suburbia. I grew up eight hundred metres directly east of the college.

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From the St Bernard's Old Collegians website:
Recently Chris Lane '08 was tragically killed in Oklahoma USA. He was in the US on a baseball scholarship and had only been back in the country from his end of year break in Melbourne for 3 days.

Chris was in the 2008 graduating year at St Bernard's. He was 22. He was on the Student Council in Year 12, and was one of the friendliest and most loved boys in the Class of '08.

To his family, friends and all in the St Bernard's community affected by this horrible tragedy the Old Collegians Association sends out our deepest condolences and offer our unconditional support. In light of this, St Bernard's College, St Bernard's Old Collegians Association and the students of Chris' Class of 2008 wish to raise funds to assist the Lane family. The family have expressed an interest in establishing a scholarship, purchasing equipment and/or building a memorial in Chris' name.

Donations can be made via the SBOCA bank account, details below:

Account Name: St. Bernard's Old Collegians Association Incorporated
Bank: Westpac
BSB: 033 066
A/C: 148 455
Reference: Lane

22.8.13

Pasta with anchovies and fresh chillies.

Cook pasta - spaghetti is ideal for this olio e aglio-style recipe.

Toss spaghetti in a little olive oil. Cut up a dozen anchovies into small pieces. Cut a fresh chilli into very small rings.

Toss anchovies and chilli through the spaghetti. This simple dish packs an amazing flavour punch. It's been on high rotation here for years.

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I saw a man gazing up into the tree. It was him: the council arborist. "It will have to come down," he said, continuing to gaze at the tree. "But not because of the mistletoe," he went on, confirming the theory, "But because prunus is prone to borers which weaken the forks, and it's too close to the wires anyway."

We'll have a new prunus in a couple of weeks.

I have a particular fondness for prunus: my mother's street used to be lined with mature trees, and in August they would put on a show. When visiting at night I would turn into the street at the bottom of the hill, flick the headlights onto high beam and the light would reflect off what looked like a solid archway of pink. The beauty was enhanced by its transience, the blossom show lasting a mere fortnight. Most of the trees are gone now, replaced by ugly bough-dropping gums.

15.8.13

Tree latest.

Investigation via Google proved fruitless. So I called the council, because who would know more about trees planted on council land than the local government arborist? I held on for a long time, because it was the week the rates notices went out; and half of Moreland was on the phone to council, waiting in silent rage to vent their anger at the huge annual increase in rates.

Finally I got through and I said I wanted to talk to the arborist; and the receptionist said which arborist, because they had several; and I said any arborist would do, and then she asked me to describe the growth before she put me through, adding that I sounded like an arborist myself; and I said I was as far from an arborist as a maltster is from an automatic transmission mechanic.

That was the end of the conversation, and she put me through. I got the arborist's voicemail. He hasn't called back yet. I suppose they don't hang around the office too much, especially in this weather. There was a gumtree down in Victoria Mall on Wednesday. They were cutting it up with a chainsaw on Thursday morning while I had the day's first coffee ten metres away.

12.8.13

Pasta nicoise: tortiglioni with seared tuna and black olives.

Tuna pasta usually means tuna from a can - either cooked with a napoli sauce and sludged over spaghetti; or the non-tomato version in which peas nestle in the burrows of pasta shells blanketed with melting cheese.

Both are delicious; but I often make another version using fresh tuna.

Pasta nicoise.

This needs a chunky pasta such as the common rigatoni; I prefer tortiglioni, a similar cylindrical ridged pasta.

Marinate a piece of fresh tuna in lemon juice, chopped garlic, salt and pepper for a short time.

Cook pasta. Meanwhile, sear the tuna in a little olive oil and white wine. When just done, cut into fat cubes.

Trim a dozen green beans, chop into thirds and steam until just done. Do the same with some asparagus spears.

Chop two or three very good vine-ripened tomatoes. If very good tomatoes are not available, use semi-dried ones. The tomatoes can be warmed through or left cold, the latter particularly good for a refreshing spring version of the dish.

When pasta is done, drain, add a little cream and white wine to the pan, reduce, add salt and pepper, return pasta to pan and turn slowly so the ridges pick up the cream sauce.

Gently fold through the beans, asparagus, and tomato. Top with the seared tuna and add some very good black pitted olives and some anchovies. Scatter parsley to serve.

6.8.13

The whole street's being invaded. Lear or Wyndham?

OK, so let's investigate. First, a walk down the street. Oh, no! Next door's nature-strip prunus has the same odd outgrowth; but in two or three places. Are we descending into a strange world of Edward Lear-like Bong trees where the leaves of one grow on another completely different type? Evergreen leaves on a deciduous tree? Or is there something more sinister at work? I never read much science fiction but I did read all of John Wyndham.

Now let's climb. The parasite appears to have germinated in forks of the tree. These very old prunus are subject to attack by borers of some kind, which leave small deposits that take on a muddy consistency after rain. This mud lodges in the forks. Let's presume it provides a fertile medium for germination. Closer inspection reveals tendrils encircling the bough below the infestation. Hybrid roots? Perhaps. My correspondent, Melbourne Girl, suggested Mistletoe of some kind. But does mistletoe have exterior roots or invade its host bough?

Time to take a cutting and make further enquiries. At least I know I'm not hallucinating. I think.

5.8.13

Hallucination.

Why do I see, way up at the top of the very old and very large deciduous plum tree on the nature strip at the front of our house, a bough which appears to be growing evergreen eucalyptus leaves?