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


Let's just revise that description of the flavour of Langhorne Creek shiraz.

How long does red wine last, opened?

I had opened the bottle, a very rich, purplish-black Langhorne Creek shiraz of 14%-alcohol strength, only a day or two earlier, and I had left it unfinished, stored in a dark cupboard. I had forgotten to replace the screwcap, which was sitting by its side. The bottle had just over a glass left. It should be fine, I thought to myself.

I decanted it slowly into the glass and there was still an inch left.


I cooked the steak, flipped and turned it so that the grill marks made perfect squares. Ninety seconds each side. Rare. The potatoes were already done, as were the asparagus and the fried onions and the pepper sauce. I served it up and sat at the big round table in the kitchen of the beach house where I can eat and read at the same time. I had been going through some old online newspapers from the 1940s researching a job I'm working on. (It's taking longer than it should, because I keep finding interesting items in the old newspapers unrelated to the task at hand.)


I drank. I ate. I read. The wine was still good. No reason why it shouldn't be. Langhorne Creek reds have a combined aroma of melting chocolate and berries when you squash them between your fingers and I also detected a very faint astringency that I hadn't noticed the previous evening. I attributed this to its 24 hours exposure to the air with the cap not being on.

I finished the steak and decided to finish the red wine. I tipped the bottle of black inkiness and as I did, a black something went into the glass. Sediment. The mark of a really good red wine. Those cheap reds come out of steel barrels, but this was matured in French casks. I kept pouring. This time a larger piece of black.

Christ almighty!

It wasn't sediment.

It was a cockroach.

The smaller, first, piece was its head. Or one of its legs. Or an antenna.

I had drunk a glass of cockroach wine.

Or at least, cockroach-infused wine.

What do you do? I'm not the hysterical type, nor do I disgorge. I just stood there wondering whether I should anyway.

Then the secondary thought waves came crowding in.

One: how stupid I had been not to make sure the cap had been screwed back on the bottle.

Two: cockroaches can climb glass bottles.

And then three: was the cockroach dead or just dead drunk?

That one really did my head in.


But what really disturbed me was that I should never have allowed this whole episode to have occurred, due to a precedent in this house some years ago.



Monday. North Melbourne fails to poach star players:
"After missing out on (Josh) Kelly's prized signature a year ago, North (Melbourne) will ... try to tempt the slick left-foot midfielder to Arden St once again with one of the game's richest long-term deals. The Kangaroos are desperate to land a big-name midfield recruit after missing out of Richmond's Dustin Martin, Collingwood's Adam Treloar and Jordan De Goey, and Sydney's Isaac Heeney." (Jay Clark, Herald Sun)
Tuesday: North declares North is a winner because no other team got them:
"Losing out on Andrew Gaff was not a 'kick in the guts' for North Melbourne, according to chairman Ben Buckley. ... 'I don't buy they rejected North, they just chose to stay in an environment which was very dear to them ... if they had chosen to go, they would've chosen to come to us and that's a very positive thing.' " (Mark Robinson, Herald Sun)
Keep trying to buy a flag, Roos - like 1975. That's the Shinboner spirit.


My late grandfather, Tom O'Brien, was North's longest-serving continual member, stumping up membership fees up every year from the 1920s until the day he died in 2003. Through the middle decades of the twentieth century he witnessed some of the toughest home-grown players never to win a flag. Many of them worked at the Newmarket saleyards and abattoir, hence the Shinboner name. When North finally grabbed a flag in 1975 he was happy but ambivalent. North had bought their way to the top after luring Barry Davis, Doug Wade, John Rantall, Brent Croswell and Malcolm Blight from other clubs with offers they couldn't refuse.

"At last we've got a premiership flag flying over Arden Street," he said. "A shame it wasn't won by North Melbourne."

"Yes," I said. "Can we have our captain back now?"

I was an Essendon fan as a kid. Seeing Barry Davis in pale blue and white just looked wrong.


Two in five minutes.

Haven't seen one for a couple of years - snakes. Jumped over one when running along the Merri Creek path a few years ago. Couldn't stop in time; it wriggled across the path as I ran past and it reared up at me but missed.

This weekend I drove over one (didn't hit it) when driving into the Gunnamatta surf beach car park. A few minutes later, I walked up the path towards the beach and a brown snake crept out. I nearly stepped on it. The children had run ahead and were on the beach. If I've seen two snakes in five minutes the place must be crawling with them.