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Showing posts from October, 2004

Planning a barbecue step one: analyse the weather.

The Melbourne Cup is on Tuesday and I had planned a Cup eve family barbecue. It's a matter of picking the right break in the weather, so it can be like, OK, Monday evening's looking fine, do a phone-around ... 'Barbecue's on!' However, the forecasts can be erratic at this time of year and it looks like yesterday's Derby Day was the pick of the carnival for good weather. They are now forecasting rain for Monday and possibly Tuesday, so yesterday, we called everyone up and changed our barbecue to tonight - Sunday - the first night of daylight savings for the season. Fortunately, this suited everyone OK. Everything is ready. Calamari, lamb kebabs, bratwurst sausages, felafels, salads, turkish and lebanese bread, hommous, eggplant dip, yogurt, fat black olives in a dish, hot tomato relish, hot mustard, pickled turnips and cucumbers, white wine, red wine, beer, fruit juice, trifles and crumbles, vanilla ice-cream swirled through with crushed pistachios an

Well, I wanted rain.

And I got it. It's been hot and the garden was drying out. But, next time, weather-gods, could we arrange maybe just a light shower in the morning? Just enough to water the garden? My brother, who formerly lived in Queensland, once complained to me about the predictability of the weather, the endless blue skies, the monotonous sunshine, up there in Hervey Bay , near Fraser Island. You know, like paradise. He was missing the changeability, the volatility, the sheer capriciousness of Melbourne weather. You gotta be kiddin', bro. He lives in Alice Springs now. The wild weather in spring means you never know what you'll be eating. You kind of feel like eating different things when it's 30 celsius than when it's 13. Take my leeks, for instance. They may have ended up in a simple frittata - good for a picnic or eating out of doors - but it turned cold so I made leek and potato soup instead. Not the pureed version, but my favourite chunky leek and potat

At the golf club.

It was a hot day in northern Victoria (it's always a hot day in northern Victoria - the clouds magically disperse once you cross the Great Dividing Range) for lunch at the golf club in honour of Jack. He had been a favourite on the fairways where the feisty five-foot-six-and-a-quarter dynamo with his trademark highly polished shoes was reputed to have the shortest backswing and fastest follow-through ever seen; and at the nineteenth hole where his wit and good humour endeared him to all. Some hundred-plus golf club members, friends and neighbours gathered; the speeches and anecdotes were in turn heartfelt and hilarious - many of course, to do with golf. One member recalled that Jack was such a bad driver that the others conspired never to let him take the wheel on their many trips to golf courses around the region; Jack had thought they were merely deferring to age - little did he know they had been whispering behind his back 'he's going to kill us if we let him behi

The service.

The speeches are one thing but the music is another. Will Ye no' Come Back Again followed by Skye Boat Song brought a tear to the eye, but Amazing Grace gets you and won't let you go. Before jointly delivering a eulogy and readings, Jack's five children leant against each other at the front of the chapel, arms around each other like so many little children, but there they were in their late thirties, forties and early fifties. Their mother gave a speech, brave and touching. Afterwards, tears, reminiscences and laughter preceded a homely but magnificent supper for family and friends at brother-in-law's house; prepared by in-laws, friends and neighbours. The scotch flowed. Will ye no come back again? Will ye no come back again? Better lo'ed ye canna be, Will ye no come back again?

Vale Jack.

He'd been ill for many years. My father-in-law, T.'s father, finally succumbed late last week, aged 78. Emphysema had set it in many years ago, when a doctor told him if he didn't stop smoking, he'd end up having to cut his legs off - doctors have such a sense of humour. A keen golfer, Jack took his advice. He may not otherwise have done so. Jack spent his latter years playing golf around the district, taking to the motorised cart when he could no longer walk. Later, he suffered a heart attack which he blamed on a corned beef sandwich my mother-in-law had made for him. A bout of cancer saw most of one lung removed. In recent years, Jack had suffered minor heart attacks, gout, asthma, diabetes and various other ailments. But Jack never panicked by doing anything silly like changing his diet or giving up the scotch. * My in-laws live in a small farming town 180 kilometres from Melbourne. Our weekend stayovers commenced with the offer of a whisky upon entr

Friday night = fish.

Well, these days, not always. But my memories of Friday night fish are as strong as the aroma, no - smell, that wafted through the house when I was growing up. As a child, I thought all cooked fish was hard and brown. But it wasn't! That's just the way mum did it! I didn't mind the smell and I didn't mind the overcooked fish. In fact, I loved it. Those crunchy bits and the blackened silver skin were delicious, especially with too much salt and a squeeze of lemon. Then I grew up and discovered restaurants charging way too much for blackened fish in some five-minute trend that went through in the eighties (There's nothing wrong with blackened fish, I'm just chary of food trends). The fish and chip shop around the corner did huge business on Friday nights. It was full from about six o'clock through to eight or so. People were out on the street waiting. I think they had a number system or something. But they were fast. And you can't beat the stea

Shades of red. And a couple of yellows.

The weather is still wild. We've had one calm, sunny spring day in about ten. The rest have been in turn unpleasantly blustery, rainy or stormy. Two nights ago the temperature at midnight was 27 degrees celsius. Yesterday was humid and cloudy. Shortly after lunchtime a white flash lit up the sky (lightning is weird when you're not expecting it) followed by the loudest clap of thunder I have ever heard. Every dog within miles started barking. Goldie was inside, she ran over to me and then started running around the house panting. Then the heavens opened up and it rained all afternoon. Clearly, the garden is enjoying the wild weather. The last of the camellias are fading, three in a row: a candy pink smaller flower, a large mid-crimson and a large deeper red with a kind of mottled pattern. Don't know the varieties. Similarly the two magnolias, the final flowers giving way to magnificent foliage which shades the west-facing bedroom window, just right for an afternoon si

A what's-in-the-cupboard dinner.

There was a can of mackerel , a can of beans, some eggs and not much else. Boil some rice. Boil two eggs. When the rice is cooked, drain it and quickly toss a generous amount of curry powder over it, stirring it through. Shell your eggs, chop them roughly and fold them through the rice together with some chopped parsley. Also fold through some beans. Mackerel over the top. Yum. Kind of like an instant kedgeree, I guess. Except the fish should be smoked. And there's no beans in kedgeree . Whatever. (I grew up with kedgeree - my mother always used the leftover smoked cod which we'd had with a white sauce flecked with parsley and mashed potatoes.) On the side, a salad of mustard greens * and chopped green onion with vinaigrette. *In the garden, the mustard greens have TAKEN OFF! And just when I tamed the rocket. The snails appear not to have touched it, maybe they don't know what it is. Beautiful broad showy foliage shooting up and flopping outwards like a fleur-de

Election day.

Late Friday, we were down the coast for the weekend. Up bright and early Saturday morning to walk Goldie along the beach and get the weekend paper. Breakfast reading the final election news and then off to the farmers' market - this week at Rosebud, a little further up the coast. It was drizzling and cloudy but expected to clear with the forecast of a fine afternoon. But first, to vote. We 'absentee'-voted (i.e, out of our home electorate) at a booth in Rosebud. Party volunteers were handing out their respective how-to-vote cards, along with plenty of jolly banter. It's generally a friendly social day and often volunteers for one party will take over handing out an opposing party volunteer's how-to-vote cards while they take a break. The House of Representatives ballot paper was manageable enough but the Senate, with something like seventy-odd candidates, must have been three feet by two in size. Something to do with minimum type or something. I had to fold

Why is rocket rocket? And who is Brian Cadd?

Because it takes off like one. So I pulled out four or five four-feet-high plants and stripped all the leaves. Now what? Rocket pesto! Chop it all up, grind it with a couple of cloves of garlic, a bunch of pine nuts, plenty of good parmesan cheese and olive oil. I like the rough consistency when it is ground instead of pureed. So on Friday night we had an early dinner of breasts of chicken stuffed with rocket pesto and a slice of cheese (I used a local soft cheese but I think you could use any cheese on earth because cheese is cheese and all cheese is good cheese) and gently poached in white wine in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. With silverbeet from the school garden (masses of it came home) cooked with a dash of water and olive oil, a scored clove of garlic and cracked black pepper. Then we went out to see a show by Brian Cadd , a white-bearded piano-playing rocker, kind of a cross between Leon Russell and Elton John I guess, who had a string of hits in the sev

If you don't like the weather ...

... wait five minutes. Just as well I mowed the lawn the day before yesterday as the perfect spring weather didn't last. Woke up yesterday morning to howling gale-force winds followed by thunderstorms later in the day. The gusts and rain continued all afternoon, broken by short periods of sunshine. The radar map showed thick ribbons of cloud being blown across the state by a strong westerly. Later in the day, conditions worsened. The launch of the new helicopter helipad on top of the Royal Melbourne Hospital was cancelled as the chopper was unable to land in the conditions. A hospital spokesman said - what's the use of that, it's often in conditions like this we most need the chopper! I presume he and the PR guy are not talking this morning. * I had been to the market where the short, fat 'white' (actually pale with mottled green) variety of zucchini were the hit of the day. Brought home a bunch of these, made some basic tomato risotto (introduce

Spring afternoon.

It must have been about three in the afternoon, a picture book spring day, and the air was so still you could hear the bees buzzing. Magpies were chortling in the old pine tree, birds of other types were flitting and swooping over the shrubs and the vegetables, coming to rest on the fence or the edge of a pot plant or a branch in one of the blossoming fruit trees, there to chatter away before flitting off again. Busy birds. The purple heads of the newly-flowering sage reached upwards from their silvery green foliage towards the warm afternoon sun. Likewise the deep crimson flowers of the green beans, growing by the day. Goldie dozed in the shade, her bone largely now devoid of meat and any further interest. A perfect spring afternoon, ideal for a nap. Then suddenly, R-R-R-R-ROAAARRRRRRRRRR! Yes, I just had to mow the lawn. A dreadful shattering of the peace, I know, but have you seen that stuff grow at this time of year? Goldie slunk off to her bed in disgus

Saturday morning at the market and a beef stew of some description.

A weekend down the coast found us at the Rye market Saturday morning, on the foreshore, literally metres from the gently lapping waves. It's mainly a local farmers' market but there are stalls selling second-hand lawnmower parts, hoses and tap fittings, used books and records (single 45s fifty cents each), home-knitted Barbie costumes, hand-sewn pillow cases and sheets, and various other sundries should you require anything along those lines on a Saturday morning. There's also a stall which sells nothing but socks. But most go for the fruit and vegetables, the potted plants, the eggs, the honey ... and the toasted egg and bacon sandwiches from the Rotary food van for $2.50. Have you any idea what grilling bacon and eggs and toasting bread smells like outdoors at 9.30 on a Saturday morning? Irresistible. The aroma drifts across the market and people literally stop in their tracks. We came away with green beans in their pods, young slender leeks, apples from the app