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Showing posts from March, 2005


The road through Gippsland rose relentlessly out of Leongatha. Soon we crested the top of a hill and an amazing vista lay away to the right to be marvelled at, should you happen not to be driving. I was driving but I snatched a glimpse or two in between not running off the road. Corner Inlet is so far below, you look at it like a cat looks into a bowl of water. Beyond that, Wilson's Promontory stretched up and away again, a line on the horizon going up and down like a crazy graph. We dropped into a valley and the vista disappeared. The road curved around a few more hills, nearing the coast. We turned left at Toora and rose again into the hinterland. Wilson's Promontory appeared again - in the rear mirror - and fell away as we completed a long, slow descent into a valley. We crunched along a long, dusty road and pulled up outside my sister's place just after lunchtime. * The converted cow milking shed was much the same as it was last Easter . A new concrete floor, a skylight

That is not a word.

So I'm banning it. 'Artisanal.' It looks wrong and it sounds wrong. So I'm saying it is wrong. But I don't know what the correct word would be. Maybe just 'artisan' itself. As in 'artisan cheese' or 'artisan pasta'. (And what's going on with blogger date? My post from two days ago is under today's date. Maybe I accidentally forward-dated it. I don't know.)

Osso buco, out of season.

I've been doing this for years. It's a robust, homely recipe that is forgiving of change. I don't mean by putting pineapple in it. I mean by using different herbs, using more or less tomato, that kind of thing. I usually do it in the depths of winter, but this year I couldn't wait. I seasoned the veal shanks by shaking them together with a dessertspoon of continental flour and some salt and pepper in a plastic bag and then I browned them in some olive oil. After removing them to a plate I added one very finely diced onion, one very finely diced carrot and one stick of very finely diced celery to the pan. (I do tire of very finely slicing things but it pays off in this recipe.) Sweat the vegetables for five minutes, giving the pan a good shake every now and then. Then I added some of my home-grown tomatoes, very finely diced, together with the rest of the tomato puree from the jar in the fridge (lightly covered with olive oil so it wouldn't spoil). And four cloves of

Three buckets of tomatoes.

That's all. Better than no buckets of tomatoes. But not as good as ten or twenty or fifty buckets of tomatoes, like other years. So we're enjoying them while they last. A golden early autumn evening. Warm outside in the garden, still light at eight o'clock. Fresh sliced tomatoes straight from the garden tossed through linguini with crumbled fresh ricotta, a splash of olive oil and a shower of cracked pepper. Fresh bread and a glass of red as the sun goes down. Heaven.

They grow how high?

My neighbours, a retired couple, looked at me nervously over the fence. It’s OK, I don’t bite, I thought. ‘We, er, were wondering if you would mind cutting the tree,’ they said, indicating the tall pine tree on my property near the fence. ‘What, right down?’ I replied, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘It is a nice tree.’ ‘Yes, it’s a little close to our house,’ they said. I understood their nervousness in making their request, because they have three of exactly the same kind of tree in their back yard right up against my fence - giant green sentinels - forty or fifty feet tall. At their widest point, about six feet up, they slightly overhang the fence. On summer nights, the sun sinks behind them. Well, of course, it does every night. But on summer nights I sit outside and enjoy the sun going down behind the trees. In winter they provide a break from west winds. All year round they are home to families of possums. So they want mine out and they think I’m going to say ‘What about YOURS up again


What were the uncles doing while all this cooking was going on? They were having a beer and singing a few songs. Uncle Pat sang the most. Uncle Pat would have a few beers and then launch into his favourite songs. He had a high-pitched voice, almost a falsetto. Everyone loved hearing him because he was so amusing. He was - is - a very funny man. Everyone loves Uncle Pat. Uncle Pat would be telling some joke and laughing and then he'd start singing Danny Boy and he'd get halfway through and then he'd start crying. And then everyone cried because you can't not cry when Uncle Pat is crying and singing Danny Boy. I'll tell the story just for St Patrick's Day (my, how quickly another year has flown!) * One morning in the dark days of 1940, Pat's two older brothers, Daniel and Lawrence, walked out and enlisted. Daniel was barely old enough but Lawrence lied about his age. They were just boys. Pat said goodbye. He must have been nine or ten, the youngest of five.


When I was a kid, we used to visit our Aunties for birthdays and other occasions and there was always lots of food. There was Casserole Auntie. The food she served at her parties was mainly casseroles. Huge steaming casseroles full of delicious stews and curries and lasagnes and macaroni bakes and savoury baked rice dishes and then, afterwards, more casseroles full of baked desserts like chocolate puddings and apple puddings and orange puddings and more delicious sweet things that rose dramatically in their dishes in the oven until they were just about overflowing with yumminess. She must have had an oven the size of a barn. Then there was Tray Auntie. Tray Auntie only served food on trays. She was always hauling out another tray from somewhere. There were platters of sandwiches filled with all sorts of things from asparagus to curried egg to chicken and mayo to avocado and bacon to cheese and lettuce to ham and pickles to roast beef and chutney to tuna and onion to turkey and cranber

A night in town.

We checked into the hotel around midday. First, lunch at a favourite Asian cafe - Wing Loong - where the congee is superb. The waiter brought out a tiny dish of chile and dried anchovies. The chile was off the scale and the fish flavour was intense. (It reminded me of the little packets of dried squid that my older brother used to bring home when we were kids - one of his schoolfriend's family ran a Chinese restaurant in the city - I loved that dried squid.) We finished our congee and drank several more little cups of jasmine tea. Well, the waiter kept filling up the pot. Then, shopping. The meter's on - I'm good for an hour or two. Fortunately T. is the same and we tire of it about the same time, look at each other and say 'let's get outta here'. We wandered through the arcades and into the department stores. Mid-afternoon, sat at the window bar of the Myer Food Hall overlooking Little Bourke Street with coffee, watching Melbourne walk by. Then we drooled over


Where did ten years go? March 11 1995, a sweltering Saturday, 38 degrees. We were married in the Brunswick Town Hall , newly restored to its Victorian grandeur. The ceremony was in the atrium - here - where champagne was served afterwards. Then we moved into the hall proper (I'm sure you realise these are not actual wedding pics, just googled images of the location!), where the caterer had created a cosy atmosphere with potted palms, a low bandstand in one corner, a dancefloor in front of that and round tables adorned with crisp white linen. The main meal was served formally (canapes had accompanied champagne in the atrium). The bride was beautiful and the bride's father gave a speech few could understand and then he sang some mad Scottish song and danced a little jig that brought the house down and then the band played and everyone danced. Dessert was a 'buffet' selection with waiter service, kind of a big mobile display on ice from which guests could choose and have

Trail food: meat loaf sandwiches; chocolate crackles.

I was on the summit of Mt Donna Buang, about eighty kilometres from Melbourne, at six-fifteen on a very dark, very foggy and very cold Sunday morning. I must be mad. I had driven ninety minutes through blackness and nocturnal animals. I sat there in my car in the dark car park. Then the headlights of two more cars appeared. In the cars were two more of our running group. We left two cars there and drove in the third car to the Millgrove school, where we dropped off a cache of food and continued to Mt Evelyn, where four more were waiting in the early morning fog. From Mt Evelyn (which is a far outer suburb, not an actual mountain), we departed on foot back towards Mt Donna Buang, a half-walking, half-running trek of some 45 kilometres concluding with a brutal six kilometre and extremely steep uphill climb - straight up the back of the mountain. We were of necessity travelling light, hence the food drop at Millgrove, half way. Much of the journey was along the Warburton rail trail , a

Academics have all the answers as usual.

There was a double page spread in the Herald Sun (not online) about the growing incidence of child obesity. 75% of the article stated the obvious: children are eating more junk and exercising less. The rest drew the wrong conclusions. One 'expert' offered strategies including keeping raw vegetable sticks in the fridge for afternoon snacks. You gotta be kidding. Like I came home from school and ate celery sticks to stave off my adolescent hunger. The academics, bureaucrats and food-nazis are in denial. Reducing childhood obesity goes way beyond middle-class adult obsessions with low-fat foods. The 'expert' went on to suggest parents 'talk' to their children about healthy food choices. What, have a discussion with your kids - while you're driving somewhere in the car, or maybe sitting around in the loungeroom - about kilojoule content and how chips are laden with fat? No, that just plays further into the food obsession culture and teaches children to regard fo

Where the HELL is my cake?

I love this anecdote from the Food Whore. I do this all the time. Usually it's just smaller things, sunglasses, phone, maybe a pair of muddy running shoes after a race. Whatever. But once I drove through the small town where I lived with a carboard box with a cake in it on the roof. I was driving a Volvo wagon so it didn't fall off (slow off the mark, you see) and people were staring and waving. Small town hospitality, I thought. I waved back with a big smile on my face as I drove down the main street. Aren't they all so friendly? Then there was the time I went to the service station to vacuum my car at one of those giant vacuum stations with the big long stretchy hose. I finished the job and replaced the hose. I drove out of the service station and home, about a kilometre. A couple of people standing by the bus stop waved. I'm just about thinking I must be famous with all the attention I get, just cruisin' down the street, and then I get home and do the big three-

Twelve things to do with homemade pesto.

When you have made too much. 1. Smear it on toasted sourdough and top with poached eggs for a late breakfast. 2. Make bruschetta for an appetiser before dinner - toast some slices of a baguette loaf and smear with pesto, top with diced tomatoes mixed with finely diced onion, basil strips and balsamic vinegar. Include a slice of bocconcini or some ricotta for a variation. 3. Stuff a chicken fillet with pesto and some gorgonzola then wrap it tightly in prosciutto, sear in oil then poach in white wine. 4. Halve some cold hard-boiled eggs and top them with pesto and caviar as a picnic item. 5. Barbecue some swordfish steaks quickly and top with pesto just before serving. 6. Cook some linguine, slice an avocado, toss it all together with pesto and top with shaved parmesan. Amazing taste sensation. 7. Take a large hunk of your favourite cheese and top it with a smear - or more - of pesto. Wash it down with your favourite wine. That's all. Is there a better indulgence in existence? Didn&#

Summer's last day.

The last day (summer here ends February 28) was hot. Unlike many of the days of this summer past which has seen record rain, record low temperatures and a dismal tomato crop. I took Canisha and Shanra to the local pool. Their mum - my son's partner - had a doctor's appointment - routine - she had a bout of cancer as a teenager. All OK. 34 degrees. The girls splashed and shrieked in the toddlers' pool. The elephant (it used to be grey when I was a kid, someone has since painted it pink - why?) squirted water through its trunk and they splashed in and out of the cool gushing water. * Later, we picked through the garden. Shanra is three and wants to do everything everyone else is doing. As you would at three, with all those brain cells growing and developing. She is hard-wired to learn just now. The basil had gone wild, but few tomatoes. We picked the basil. She carried it. Two fat dimpled hands full of basil bunches. What to do with it? Pesto. Shanra sat on the wide bench and