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


Banking Royal Commission steals ten-year-old script.

Forget Rowena Orr v. Catherine Livingstone. I wrote the Banking Royal Commission script ten years ago. If the bankers had had any balls at all (and I'm talking about the blokes) the exchanges would have proceeded along the following lines (from the link above):
BANKER: Fine. It was a question. Thanks for clearing that up. Now I’ll answer it.

Firstly, as I said earlier, I'm no seer. Nor am I a morals crusader, a nanny, a pastor, a household budgetary advisor, a schoolteacher of mathematics, an economics lecturer, a logician or a homespun philosopher. I'm a banker, even if the title is misleading today. Banks used to bank money, now they just it shovel it out the front door to passersby, who sometimes give it back, with interest. Sometimes. Maybe a bit less so lately.

But I haven't the time, the inclination, the necessity nor even the legal capability of assessing a borrower's home life, spending habits, financial intentions or any one of a number of other indicators of fiscal health beyond the current very limited criteria, all of which are government regulator-mandated, might I add.


Qualms? You know what? If you want that kind of banker you're forty years too late. Once upon a time I could upbraid a borrower for daring to walk into my office without cowering in fear. Or for not wearing the suit he wore to church on Sunday. And if I felt mean that day, I could leave him languishing in an outer-room waiting chair for two hours with no magazine racks full of Property Investor or BRW Rich 500 or water fountain or Cafe Bar machine to keep him amused and he'd be all the more grateful when I finally decided to let him in.

In those days, for every loan I approved after long and serious contemplation, I'd knock back five after no contemplation at all. Plus, just try getting your wife to apply for a loan forty years ago and see how far she got.


OK, you're shocked. Nowadays everyone think everyone should be able to get everything they want, including debt, and as much of it as you want. Sure. But you can't have it both ways. The upside was, forty years ago you needed a thing called a substantial deposit, which demonstrated not just a propensity for saving but also provided a better borrowing-to-assets ratio. A cushion. Now it's 100% in the loan. Even more if you want to renovate or tour the world for six months or buy two cars or four boats or six franchises. As well as a deposit, you also needed another thing, called a job. These days it's different. I'm the one who has to dress up for a loan interview. The customer keeps me waiting. And the government tells me I have to loan funds to everyone without fear or favour or the Equal Opportunity Board gets a knock on the door.

Fine. I'll lend to anyone. But don't come after me when the whole house of cards finally collapses.


Double White: a psychedelic trip back in time to 1968.

One day a long time ago, when I was 12, two white objects arrived on the same day at the house where I lived.

The first white object.

The first white object was a piece of glossy white-coated cardboard folded into a perfect square. It was a record album. The title of the album - The Beatles - was embossed into the cover. My older sister brought it home. She liked things like that. She had often brought home similar objects, but the others had been brightly coloured.

We went into the white room and she folded out the cardboard square, took out the first disc and placed it on the record-player, which was a small grey box with a single speaker in its detachable lid.

The sound of a jet taking off came out of the mono speaker. Later there were onions, noise, raccoons, murder, sex in public, crying guitars, guns, pigs and playground equipment which an American madman later misunderstood to be something else.

I sat in the white room and listened to this jumble when a soft humming noise grew louder from outside the white room. It sounded like a flying saucer from a 1950s movie: a hum with an overdubbed soft whine.

The second white object.

The soft whining hum was the second white object, a 1968 Toyota Corona.

The Toyota Corona drove - yes, drove, or at least was driven - into the driveway of my house as I was listening to side 3, track four of The Beatles. It rolled to a stop outside the window of the white room, and its dazzling white exterior threw reflections onto the ceiling of the room where I sat listening. I turned off the record player and went outside into blinding sunshine.

The car had rolled to a stop halfway up the long drive. Two people got out. They were Uncle Joe and Auntie Irene, who lived in Ivanhoe. (Uncle Joe and Auntie Irene were not related to us, but my mother had adopted a vast collection of upper class friends as proxy relatives, so we called them 'auntie' and 'uncle' to validate the proxiness, if there is such a word.)

The brand new white Corona had a blue vinyl interior, a radio, carpet, two side mirrors, and an aggressive nose that slanted forward from bonnet to bumper. The motoring media called the car the 'shovel-nosed Corona'. It was a Farina design, so car snobs were finally able to buy a Japanese car without losing social cachet. 'It's Italian-styled!'

What the critics said.

Of The Beatles, The Observer's Tony Palmer wrote the album 'should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making'.

Of the Corona, motoring writer George Glenroy wrote 'this car sweeps away the Euro-centric snobbery of the upwardly mobile motorist in a symphony of Farina-designed Japanese mastercraft'. (Did Tony Palmer moonlight as a motoring writer?)

Of The Beatles, NYT's Richard Goldstein considered the album 'a major success' and 'far more imaginative' than Sgt. Pepper or Magical Mystery Tour due to the band's improved songwriting and their relying less on the studio tricks of those earlier works.

Of the Corona, The News motor columnist Derek Excel wrote 'with less reliance on the Jap. gimmickry of earlier models the Corona looks to be a major success'. Was Goldstein Excel? Or indeed, was Excel Goldstein?

Derek Jewell described The Beatles in the Sunday Times as 'the best thing in pop since Sgt. Pepper ... Musically, there is beauty, horror, surprise, chaos, order. And that is the world; and that is what The Beatles are on about. Created by, creating for, their age.'

Of the Corona, The Driver and Car's L. P. R. Turnright described the Japanese mid-size car as 'the best thing to arrive on the motoring scene since the Mini ... there is balance, power, safety, driving pleasure, roominess, frugality and luxury. That is today's motoring world. Created by, and for, the age.' (Was Jewell the same person as Turnright?)

Rolling Stone called The Beatles 'the history and synthesis of Western music'.

The Practical Driver announced the Corona as 'confirmation that Japanese have synthesised the best aspects of European and American motoring'. (RS's Jann Wenner ... surely not?)

That these astonishingly similar reviews should have been published about the very same two white objects that arrived at 57 Deakin Street, West Essendon, Victoria, Australia, World, within an hour of each other in late 1968 is a mystery at which we can only marvel, a cosmic coincidence of utter incalculability. But then this:

Wenner (Rolling Stone) said that (the Beatles) were allowed to appropriate other styles and traditions into rock music because their ability and identity were 'so strong that they make it uniquely theirs, and uniquely the Beatles. They are so good that they not only expand the idiom, but they are also able to penetrate it and take it further.'

Charles Le Plastriere in Auto Moderne wrote that 'in taking the best of our own European designs and mixing these with British craftsmanship and the consumer appeal of the American marques, Toyota has perfected the mass market car. The Corona is so good, it will expand the market for a mid-size car'.


I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps


The salad.

My father didn't cook but he made his special salad sometimes and it was huge and served in one of those fat rounded highly-polished blond-wood bowls that were big in the 1960s. The salad had tomato and celery and onion and a few other ingredients that I can't remember but it was sweet and acid and crunchy at the same time, and he said he got the recipe from somewhere, if you could call it a recipe, and I presumed it was from one of the cafes. He sold crockery to the hospitality industry but in those days it was mainly hotels; they had the bulk of the business, which is why on the backs of those 1960s hotel cups and saucers you often see the words 'vitrified hotel china' and sometimes the brand 'John Dynon & Sons'.

Years later I sat at the bar in Pellegrini's looking at the curling photographs either side of the yellowed mirror behind the waiters. It was 1976. A timber menu board with scalloped edges hung overhead at the end of the room and what was on it had never changed and it never would. In front of me behind the bar in the chilled display case were cakes; almond apple sponge and orange cake and butter cake and some kind of grainy chocolate cake, and further down the bar in another part of the chiller case there were salads, and there was the salad my father used to make. He got it from Pellegrini's when Leo Pellegrini was running the place. Leo had retired two years earlier and taking over was a showy young bloke sporting a cravat which was already out of date but worn by colourful individuals like Don Scott.

Another decade and a half went by. The city was still traversable. I crossed it daily dropping my oldest child at St Kevin's and then returning to the city for a coffee and cheese roll breakfast with the papers at Pellegrini's. It was a three-way order. I told the cravat-wearing waiter in English, he shouted it to the kitchen in Italian, the woman in the kitchen brought it out and repeated the order as a question, and I said yes and ate the cheese roll and had another coffee, and then I walked out the front to my car and drove away. Every day for three years.

Then another big jump in years, almost twenty. Two small boys sat either side of me in the same spot, maybe the same chair, and we looked at the curling photographs. See that bloke with the waiter, I said. Kevin Sheedy. Taken a few years ago. See that other bloke in the black and white photograph? Elvis Presley. It was around lunchtime. We had pasta and I had coffee and the boys had those frozen watermelon things, granita, but I finished them because they were not sweet enough. We had cake.

That was a few years ago, and that was the last time I saw the man with the cravat.

Thanks to Mark Knight for the image.


Pod cast.

The broad beans were good this year and gave plenty of fat beans of the same soft grey they used to paint Bentleys with.

We got the children to pick them and pod them because that is what children's fingers are supposed to do. Also they don't have devices anyway. They put the beans in a bowl on the table and threw the pods on the floor to be swept up later.

Then we cooked them.

Pasta shells with broad beans, cauliflower and walnuts.

Boil two cups of broad beans until they turn bright green and swell. Drain the beans and return them to the pan with some olive oil, a finely chopped clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon and some ground pepper. Fry on low heat for a few minutes.

Cook your pasta shells and add some cauliflower florets towards the end.

Meanwhile, warm some halved walnuts in a pan ensuring they don't burn but just develop a nice deep tan. Then drain the pasta and cauliflower, toss the walnuts through, and top with the beans along with any retained lemon juice and garlic. Add crumbled blue cheese which goes sensationally with walnuts. For the kids, stick to parmesan if they won't face up to blue cheese.