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

27.6.18

No sunsets yet for Ray and the band.

Sir Ray Davies, writer of "Waterloo Sunset" said The Kinks will record again.

A Scottish newspaper in 2001 said "Waterloo Sunset" was 'regarded by many as the apogee of the swinging sixties' - but the many are not defined.

A music writer described it as "the most beautiful song in the English language" - but there's a chance he liked a Peruvian or a Latvian song better.

Pete Townsend said it was 'divine ... a masterpiece'. Effusive praise from a contemporary.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine called it 'possibly the most beautiful song of the rock and roll era' - but what of other eras? For example, "After the Ball" was written in 1891 and is one of the most hauntingly beautiful and tragic songs of all time*.

Then along came Rhett Miller.

He declared "Waterloo Sunset" to be 'the greatest song ever written by a human being'.

The case rests.


*"After the Ball" written by Charles Harris tells the story of a child who asks her uncle why he never married. He tells her that when he was a young man, he saw his girl kissing another man at a ball. She tried to explain, but he wouldn't listen to her, and never married anyone else. Years went by. The woman died, and he received a letter from her brother explaining that he had been the man kissing her at the ball.

19.6.18

"Spice flavour exploding on a wave of fragrant steam ..."

How to stuff a capsicum.

Slice a couple of onions and fry them in ghee or oil in a heavy pan (it must have a tight-fitting lid) until translucent.

Grind a quarter teaspoon each of cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. Or just shake them out of your spice containers. It's all the same, really. Some people can taste the difference, but would you really want them to go on about it at your dinner party after a hard day?

When onion is fragrant, transparent and begging you to sample it, add spices and stir for a minute or two.

Now tip in a cup each of basmati rice and rinsed red lentils, and carefully add three and a half cups of boiling water.

Finally, add two teaspoons of salt. Stir. Place the lid on the pan. Turn down heat very low.

Lift the pan twenty minutes later. Done. The spice flavour will explode on a wave of fragrant steam, and the rice will have ballooned.

In the intervening twenty minutes, cut the tops off three red capsicums, and remove seeds and pith.

When rice and lentil mixture is done, stuff the capsicums with it. (The above quantities will yield more than enough mixture.)

Replace the capsicum tops and place them in a baking dish, which should be of a size that roughly holds their tops in place.

Add a good dash of chilli powder to a jar of tomato puree and warm it through, adding a dash of water. Now pour this into the baking dish so that it almost covers the capsicums. Think of hippos in a pond. You can just see their backs.

Bake until capsicums soften, about an hour. Adjust fluid if your oven is particularly hot.

Serve with yogurt; a salad of tomato, mint, basil, and spring onion; some sweet lime pickle; and some warm fenugreek naan.

15.6.18

Tricked.

I was out walking with my father one day when I was about five years old, and I saw a shop that had a sign outside which said coin laundry. I asked my father if they washed money in there, and he said yes.

We lived near two racecourses, Moonee Valley and Flemington. There were always large trucks ferrying horses in and out. Some the trucks bore the words Caution Horses. I asked my father what caution horses were. He told me they were a special breed of horse that was never flustered and helped calm the more high-spirited racehorses before races.

Then there were churches. They all had their own sign. Anglican Church, Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, Catholic Church, Baptist Church. One day I saw a sign near a church on a particularly busy road. It said Silence Church.

I asked my father. He told me the people who went to the church were never allowed to speak. Ever. I had a horror of that building, a drab grey timber construction in Epsom Road Ascot Vale housing sad mute people while outside, normal people carried on their lives laughing and talking.

13.6.18

Family grown up.

On 12 June 1968, the movie Rosemary's Baby premiered in the USA.

On the same day, Mary Rose's baby premiered in Australia. He was the youngest of seven. (I was fourth of the septet, of which six remain*.) In those days mothers and babies stayed in the hospital for almost a week, after which some had the luxury of a further week at Mountfield, a rambling Victorian monastery in Canterbury owned by the Grey Sisters, who provided assistance for new mothers in quiet, peaceful surrounds and plied them with food while their babies were bathed and dressed and generally fussed over. New mothers? My mother probably didn't tell them she already had six children. (Although the nuns did look twice at us when Dad turned up with the other six of us to visit.)

The new baby turned 50 yesterday. It seems like no time.

*The one who passed.

5.6.18

Conferenceville.

We were meant to be having a conference this coming long weekend, an organisational 'catch-up' at an 'eco-resort' near the mountains.

I've been there before. They bus you up to the mountains; and when you arrive, you dump your bags in the economy-style rooms which have no views out of the window because of the trees (the place is 'eco' because it is in the middle of a forest), and then they herd you into a huge conference room and lock and bolt the door. You can't escape until 6.30 at night, when they herd you out of the conference room and into the dining hall where they serve sustainable dinners made from fair-trade vegan ingredients.

'Catch-up'? What a stupid name. We 'catch up' every weekday. And sometimes on weekends. It's all we ever fucking do. I see the stupid art director I work with more than my wife or my kids. Which is not right. Because my art director is not as smart as my kids, and not as pretty as my wife.

And what the hell is it about holding conferences at an 'eco-resort', then spending two whole days sitting in a brown-carpeted hall looking at a bunch of power point presentations with pointless arrows and graphs showing how much money the organisation didn't make this year?

Why not just send around a memo saying, 'We're tanking. You're fired.' Or 'We made a profit. Thanks. There will be a Christmas party.' But spare us the two-hour power point presentations charting the profit/loss/job cost report/EBIT statements etc etc, ad nauseam.

Anyway, today an email arrived. It was from the MD:
Due to unforeseen circumstances, our conference at Seven Sanctimonies Eco Resort will have to be deferred.
You could just about hear the mental high-fives going on around the office.

That word 'deferred' is interesting. Generally, things that get deferred never get rescheduled, do they? There is a God! The God of Protecting Innocent People from Conference Hell.

The email went on:
Seven Sanctimonies Eco Resort is unavailable due to a fire earlier this week, when a wok caught fire in the kitchen, burning down the resort and destroying much of the adjoining forest. An alternative venue will be sought and booked for Grand Final weekend, as that weekend has good availability at short notice.
I'm handing in my resignation tomorrow.

4.6.18

Fast Food #4: chicken curry in a hurry.

The only slow bit is the overnight marination but you can leave it out at a pinch.

*

Slice four chicken breasts and place in a large bowl along with three tablespoons of peanut oil, a tablespoon each of cumin powder and chili powder, six finely chopped garlic cloves, a tablespoon of soy and a dash of white pepper. Toss to thoroughly coat chicken pieces.

Marinate overnight.

Wok-fry chicken in a tablespoon of oil.

Meanwhile, boil rice and lightly boil a head of broccoli, chopped into florets, and when semi-soft, finish off in a sesame-seed oiled pan with a dash each of fish sauce and soy, and a clove of chopped garlic.

Serve on rice with broccoli on the side.