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


Egg them on.

Football for 2017 commences in approximately 33 minutes. You need to make food fast.

Leek and cheese omelette.

Crack four eggs into a jug; whisk lightly with half a cup of milk and a good dash of salt and pepper. Slice the white section of a leek into very fine rings. Grate a cupful of cheddar cheese.

Pour the egg mixture into a melting teaspoonful of butter in a non-stick pan. Scatter the leeks and cheese over the egg. Lid the pan. Cook on lowest heat for fifteen minutes or until leeks are soft.

Slide off onto a plate. Segment into quarters. Serve quarters with a salad of shredded red cabbage, grated beetroot, grated carrot, walnuts, thinly sliced apple and mayonnaise; kind of a cross between Waldorf and coleslaw. It works well.

Tonight: Richmond should beat Carlton but you never know with Richmond.


Moral Superiority, the Sequel.

History repeats:
... and was soon recognised as one of the best cartoonists in Australia. ... not everybody reading the Australian was happy. ... 'You name it, Bill got attacked by everybody. If it wasn't the left wing it was the right wing.' People ... 'tried to stop me from drawing by complaining to the Press Council. There are also those who complained to the anti-discrimination board because you draw a black person black. What are you supposed to do. I'm a cartoonist. ... you jump in with both feet. Anyhow, all those attempts failed'. According to him, government ministers had written letters of complaint and the Church of England once claimed he was a racist.
The 'Bill' mentioned in the above extract from Comic Commentators: Contemporary Political Cartooning in Australia was not Bill Leak; it was one of Leak's predecessors, the savagely satiric cartoonist Bill Mitchell who died in his fifties in 1994.

It seems it takes a satirist to know a satirist. Everyone else is just plain offended. On Saturday, Barry Humphries wrote:
"Bill Leak was the best political cartoonist in the world. ... He made the mistake of telling the truth, which is the mark of a great satirist. ... Bill despised aspects of political correctness, in the sense that they obscured the truth. A famous cartoon - or you may say an infamous cartoon - was so blatantly a pro-Aboriginal cartoon that only an imbecile could throw the epithet 'racist' at Bill Leak. He was the very opposite ... ."
Critics of the cartoon Humphries mentions blindly ignored its portrayal of the appalling and wilful neglect of aboriginal children; rounding instead, like a bunch of droop-lidded Texas salamanders sniffing out a waterbug, on the alcoholic father of the child as the victim. Yes, you would have to be an imbecile to run, arms outstretched, to the drunk instead of his impoverished son.

In a column last year Leak wrote, "By enabling tantrum-throwers to re-establish their feelings of moral superiority they can walk away purged." Last Wednesday night, at the launch of his book Trigger Warning, he said, "When I met the great cartoonist Bill Mitchell about 34 years ago, he said, 'Mate, a cartoonist only has to be funny once a day, but it's a lot harder than you'd think.' ... Political correctness is a poison that attacks the sense of humour. Luckily for Mitchell, it was tipped into our water supply at around the same time he retired."

Comic commentators: Contemporary Political Cartooning in Australia
Edited by Robert Phiddian and Haydon R. Manning
Network Publishing, 2008

Trigger Warning: Cartoons by Bill Leak
Wilkinson Publishing, 2017


What if a politician turned up to your cafe on Sunday?

Talk about being played for a fool.

Now let's go back a little first. One of my many jobs in the far distant past was in the hospitality industry. I was a wine waiter. I worked weekends. I worked weekdays, too; but weekend work was necessary as well.

Weekend work earned more money. The reason was that fewer people wanted to work on their weekend; it was a supply and demand equation. Then the award was enshrined in law; or rather the concept of the weekend was enshrined in law, a bargaining chip the unions would never let go. The weekend was sacrosanct. No-one goes to church any more, but the weekend remains a quasi-religious occasion. So you get paid more to work. A lot more. Sometimes three times as much.

The other truth - there are always several, despite current beliefs - is that small businesses can't afford multiple staff on weekends, especially Sundays, when trade can be sporadic. Weekdays in the cafe business bring regulars who work close by; weekends bring customers who might decide to brunch in Northcote, Moonee Ponds, East Brunswick or Seddon instead. Four staff at $50 or more an hour times five or six or seven hours means no profit, so you don't open. It's a no-brainer. Weekends are sacrosanct for workers, but owners will open on the same day at a loss? Don't be ridiculous.

So the Fair Work Commission reduced penalty rates. I couldn't see them bringing down the same result under a Bill Shorten government, before checking with Bill that he could roll it. No problems checking with Bill, they're all mates. It's a Labor club.

But we don't have a Bill Shorten government. We have a Coalition government. You beauty, said the FWC. Bring it on.

A landmine.

It's blown up in Turnbull's face. What does he do? Nothing, beyond muttering about more jobs being created because lower wages mean more to go round. Cold comfort for the worker.

Are you serious?

This week, we have a disgraced Labor politician who has just (9.30 a.m.) been chucked out of the Labor Party for hiving off a hundred grand of taxpayer funds for beach house money; we have a Liberal minister who forgot she just bought a house. No, not Sussan Ley, that was last month. Michaelia Cash. Wait, isn't Michaelia Cash the minister for employment? Responsible for among other things, part-time work?

This is nuts.

That self-same thieving, amnesiac political class says, "Hospitality staff, in order that we run Australia better, you are required to pool the contents of your pay packet with your fellow staff. Now, where's my limousine, I'm off to the airport/Bruce Springsteen concert/global warming convention."

Those baseball bats they sold out of at Rebel Sport for home invasion and carjacking protection are going to do double time at upcoming elections. Look out politicians.


Monster tomato vine.

The tomatoes are over the fence. Ignore all the mythology about growing tomatoes. You just need four things: sunshine, water, air and nutrients. Air meaning pinch out the lower limbs as the plant grows taller. This season I grew a cherry tomato, Tommy Toe, in the old compost-filled ex-laundry trough on the east side of the garden, so it gets the westering afternoon sun. It is now above the fence line and I have tied its upper canopy to the unroofed pergola. That's eight feet of tomato vine. It has yielded hundreds and more are still coming thanks to a fortnight of unbroken sun.

So, into the salads with fetta and olives; chopped with basil onto olive-oiled crusty bread; and into pasta dishes, such as:

Gnocchi with ricotta and cherry tomatoes.

Boil four medium peeled and chopped potatoes until soft. Mash thoroughly, make a crater in the mound on a floured breadboard and tip in an egg, three-quarters of a cup of flour and some chopped basil. Hand mix and then roll out the dough to make cylinders. Chop into one-inch sections, make fork impressions if you wish, and transfer the sections to a lightly-buttered and floured tray.

Drop gnocchi into boiling water in a large pot and wait until they rise to the surface, then scoop them out using a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, press a cut garlic clove into serving dishes; add the gnocchi and top with tomatoes, either whole or sliced in two (I like them whole but the unwary diner can squirt juice clear across a table when biting into them), ricotta, a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of extra chopped basil and parsley. Crack pepper over the lot. Finish off with grated parmesan.