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Showing posts from October, 2006

The birth notice.

Ring. Ring. Hello, classifieds? Yes, I'd like to place an ad. Pardon me? The 'Celebrations' or 'Milestones' section? It's a birth notice, so I suppose it could be in either. You decide. It's your newspaper. You'd like to start with the surname? Sure. It's spelt K - E - ... pardon me? Larger point size? To make it more prominent? It's a birth notice, not a used car ad. (PAUSE) No, I'd feel like I was putting all those other new babies in the shade if we ran the surname in 72 point. Thanks anyway. The text? Sure. I'll read it out to you. ... born October 23. Thanks to all at ... excuse me? 2006? Yes, I do know it's 2006. I wouldn't be placing the ad if the baby was born in any other year, would I? (PAUSE) They what ? People like to cut out the ad and blow it up and place it on the wall and that way they know what year the baby was born? I see. I think. Then again, I suppose people forget their children's names as well. OK, now,

Dr O. prescribes congee.

I'm really not good at posting pictures. If it's not sideways teapots, it's something else. The first post with Thomas' picture disappeared into Blogger space so I created a new post. Now I realise it was there all the time, so there are two pictures and posts, nearly identical, but with a couple of minor variations like those 'pick the difference' puzzles they used to have in the newspapers years ago. * Thomas came home on a cold Wednesday to a warm house, but I was out again almost straight away to take William, who had become ill over the previous twelve hours, to see Dr O. Unusually, there was no wait when we arrived at Dr O.'s rooms late at about six o'clock. However his waiting room looked like eighteen toddlers had had an afternoon party there without any adults present. Dr O. has more toys and books in his waiting room than the average department store toy floor, and none of them are put away. Most are the same ones that were there when I took m


Here he is, sleeping in his white wicker bassinet which sits in filtered light near the window in the front room. We have had a sustained cold snap after last week's heat and he is well rugged up. Dream on, new baby.

Thomas asleep.

Here he is, sleeping in his white wicker bassinet which sits in filtered light near the window in the front room. We have had a sustained cold snap after last week's heat and he is well rugged up. Dream on, new baby.

William has a brother ...

... whose name is Thomas. Thomas came along on October 23 at about a minute, maybe ten seconds, before midnight. Thomas is red and chunky and has dark hair and a good appetite and a sweet little cry that sounds like, I don't know, a large mouse, a tiger cub, a baby eagle in the nest? Kind of husky with three different notes. He is a healthy 9lb 6oz or 4600 grams, which is a lot of grams when you think about it. Tracy certainly thought about it - she is only a tiny slip of a girl and we thought William had been large at 9lb 1oz. Nevertheless, all went well and Tracy didn't end up attached to a forest of tubes and drips and wires and as many medical instruments as they could cram around her bed like she did last time. This time there was just her and the midwife and a soft light in the corner and the gentle hum of the hospital airconditioning; and afterwards, the baby laying on her chest, eyelids opening and closing on deep brown newborn eyes. There will be a photo in the next da

Shaken, not stirred*.

Melbourne experienced its largest earth tremor (it takes no regional 'u' while favour, colour, labour and rumour do: why?) since 1961 around 10.30pm last night. Radio talkback callers reported rattling china. Maybe my teapot knew something after all and dropped its handle ahead of time. Chez Kitchen Hand, we didn't hear or feel a thing. We were all tucked up in bed and sound asleep after a delicious Sunday night supper of smoked kippers with buttered sourdough bread and mashed potatoes on the side. I poached the kippers and added some butter and parsley to the water at the end, reduced it and poured it over the kippers, adding some capers and a squeeze of lemon. There is something very Sunday night about a meal like this. (By the way, ignore the dateline. I must fix it. It is Monday morning here right now.) We are already operating on Eastern Summer Time around here, rising with the sun, craving lunch around 11 and planning dinner by 6 o'clock. This morning we were a

The teapot and the drought.

I bought it at a Myer annual sale many years ago. The maker is Duchess, the style is Genevieve and it is numbered 426 and marked Bone China and Made in England . As you can see (although you would see better if I could learn to post a picture the right way up) my teapot still looks brand new, because I look after it very well. I rinse it after every use and sit it on the mantlepiece above the stove to air dry, next to the grey and yellow canisters containing, respectively, flour, sugar, coffee and tea. This sturdy, trusty vessel has poured approximately 87 billion cups of tea, of which I personally have drunk about 86.9 billion. That's a lot of tea. In fact, that amount of tea would fill the Thomson Dam, which is almost empty , raising the question: am I responsible for the drought? I think am! I've drunk all the water! In cups of tea! Anyway, let's not worry about the drought just now, because there is a more pressing issue at hand: the teapot broke! Quite some time ago,

Home cooking.

We started cooking for William immediately he was ready for solid food. When we tried him with bottled or canned baby food, he refused it and hasn't had it since. I don't particularly object to store-bought baby food, I'm sure it's nutritious and balanced with vitamins and minerals and will guarantee your baby grows up strong and healthy into a 6'9" Essendon full-forward, even if she is a girl; and has no additives or chemicals and uses only free range chickens and organic vegetables and the label on the jar is recyclable. It's just that it tastes like ... canned baby food. Now he just eats what we're eating. Meals evolve. The other night we made a basic meat ragu, kind of a bolognese sauce, I suppose: minced pork and veal, canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, grated carrot, grated celery); and he ate that with some tiny pasta mixed through it - stellini, I think they were. Half the rest of the meat sauce we ate with some quick home-made gnocchi - j

A Shorter History of the Bean.

Broad beans were a kitchen staple 6000 years BC, Wikipedia tells me, but what would Wikipedia know about 6000 years BC? It's only been around since, what? Two years ago? Five? However, I have solid evidence that they have been around for at least 45 years; because my mother has been cooking them for that long. We grew up with broad beans as a side dish to a main course, for example, roast mutton. My mother cooked the beans for ages. She probably put them on when the roast went into the oven and they were served up next to mashed potatoes and a couple of thick slices of delicious roast mutton (which was drowned in mint sauce made from mint picked fresh from the garden and combined with boiling water, sugar and brown vinegar) and the beans sat there, grizzled and wrinkled like tiny old footballs and they squeaked when we ate them. These days we no longer cook our broad beans until they are like old footballs; but my mother still does. That's OK, she still goes into the bank to g

Record temperatures, grumpy stallholders, Readers Digest Condensed Books and toffee.

October means the Caulfield Cup, extremely annoying hay fever-causing wind and having to mow the lawn every five minutes. This year it means record temperatures. Yesterday was the hottest October day for something like a hundred years. But when I was a child October meant the annual school fete. Held over a Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday, our school fete was famous for having exactly the same stalls manned by exactly the same people every year for, I don't know, ten, twenty, fifty years? There was always the same old dear on the pot plant stall selling donated pot plants. After about ten years every family in the school must have owned each pot plant at least once. It was like having them on loan. You bought them one year and donated them back the next. On the groceries stall, another old dear sold packets of Cottees jelly, cans of Biddies peas, tins of IXL marmalade, jars of Pecks anchovy paste and tins of Bear Brand milk. The grumpy old man on the second hand goods stall w


You are running the hottest new restaurant in town. Two people arrive for lunch. One is a neatly-dressed, well-known writer. The other is a Z-grade celebrity wearing shorts and thongs ( flip-flops to our cousins across the water). Who do you throw out? In earlier times you would have thrown out the latter. Nobody wants to look at someone's toenails, even Z-grade celebrity toenails. But no. They showed the writer the door. Steven Downes didn't like being shown the door. That's fine. Writers write better when they're angry. And hungry. UPDATE Downes comments further, saying he isn't the only one angry at being thrown out. His newspaper's features editor was also told to take the air. The features editor of the country's largest selling newspaper is not a great choice of guys to throw out of your joint (as long as he is behaving, of course. And isn't wearing thongs.) Downes: The Herald Sun – to which I contribute a weekly restaurant review column — is h

Who put all that alcohol in my wine?

Many years ago, too many to count, when Kitchen Hand didn't know a colander from a coucousier or a baked bean from a beer nut, someone invented chardonnay. I was working in a bar at the time. In those days, when you ordered white wine, you would be asked, 'Moselle or riesling?' This drove me crazy, because I knew there was more to white wine than just moselle and riesling: there was hock. Just kidding. In fact, there was a number of other varieties and nearly all of them were better than moselle and riesling - which usually wasn't riesling but something else - but moselle and riesling dominated the market. Then chardonnay came along. In the early days it was called the red drinker's white because it had a complexity rarely found in other whites - which wouldn't be hard when you're talking moselle and faux-riesling - as well as a powerful dose of alcohol. At a time when white wines were generally between 9% and 12.5% alcohol, chardonnay was at the higher end

The grapefruit tree.

We've been in this house almost a year. When we arrived, there was one tree in the back yard, a sad old grapefruit that had long outlived any function and had been badly neglected. At first I thought it was a lemon, until it fruited a couple of big yellow orbs, just for old times' sake. I guessed it was about forty years old, probably a relic of the time when everyone was madly eating grapefruit prompted by some idiot diet plan that was around for fifteen minutes in the sixties or seventies. The tree was a complete mess. It was dense and impenetrable. The branches were on the ground and there was no real canopy, just a jungle of branches growing in on each other. It gave no shade. Last summer there was really nowhere to sit in the middle of those terribly hot days. One of the first things I did when we moved in was to prune it heavily. I removed all the branches drooping to the ground and those up to about three feet up the trunk. Then I hacked my way inwards like the early exp

Six things to do with asparagus. And one thing not to.

I went to a dinner party once where the centrepiece on the table was six asparagus spears sticking out of six long, narrow jars all in a row. What's wrong with that? Plenty. It's dinner, not a game of skittles. I tend to limit my centrepieces to candles or flowers. Call me boring. I've seen pears sitting on flat rocks, miniature hedges of pampas grass that caught alight when someone lit a match, shiny black stones in a clear glass jar like a caveman showing off his life savings, tabletop water features that bubble away all night and giant flat dishes full of water with candles that float around like gambling boats in the bay, all lit up. But I remember the asparagus spears the most because five of them wilted and the sixth was eaten by a guest. So don't so that with your asparagus. Do this: 1. Steamed and simply served on a plate with poached duck eggs, shavings of finest parmigiano and a light shower of freshly cracked pepper. 2. Summer party entree: very lightly steam

Take a walk with Spike.

You might or might not have noticed a recently added link at the left. Spike's photoambulism is This Isn't Sydney , the weblog of a man, Spike, who goes on long walks and takes photos. The photographs are magnificent. Spike portrays period houses, landscapes, seascapes, weather, mountains, gardens, fences, whatever strikes him. He has an unerring eye for detail and composition but his work is devoid of the artifice that is frequently seen in photography described as stunning. Spike's commentary is equally devoid of artifice. He is very Australian and calls a spade a bloody shovel. Take a walk with Spike soon. You'll enjoy it.

Coco Roco Loco Joko.

Most newspapers have a food writer, or more usually, a writer who happens to write about food. Some are good, some ordinary. But who'd want to be a restaurant reviewer anyway? Hello, New South Wales Court of Appeals. This is nothing new. Leo Schofield was sued well over twenty years ago for describing a lobster he was served as an 'albino walrus'. That case would surely be thrown out today, but it wasn't then and Fairfax had to put $100,000 in the tip jar. Freedom of speech means being able to call a crap restaurant a crap restaurant. There's enough of them.

Garden party uninterrupted.

It was a perfect Spring day. There was warm sunshine and a breeze ruffled the white linen cloth on the table set up on the lawn in the garden. New flowers danced in the sun and some early butterflies staggered around in the air. Lunch was over. The adults were sitting around the table having another campari and soda and thinking about another piece of chocolate cake and the children were rolling a ball around on the lawn, except for Canisha and Shanra who were under the table. Why? I don't know, trying to work out which shoes belonged to which guests, I suppose. Canisha poked her head out. "There's a redback under the table," she announced. "Oh," I said. "What's it doing under there?" "Just sitting there in its web," she said, with a slightly sarcastic tone and a shake of her head, as if any adult could seriously be asking such a silly question. I thought the spider would most likely be another, less venomous, one; but I crawled under

My current favourite salad.

Is: Potato and Avocado Salad . Cold or wam, but warm is especially delicious. Chop four large potatoes - or more small ones - into reasonably thick slices, about the thickness of your little finger, and boil them until just tender, about ten minutes. Drain them and place them in a bowl. Chop two avocadoes into roughly equal-sized slices and combine with the potatoes. Add some very finely sliced greens - I used a few leaves of sorrel and rocket from the garden - and fold through. Now drizzle with three parts olive oil, one part lemon juice and plenty of salt and pepper. The perfect salad for this changeable Spring, when it's warm one minute and cold the next. Try it with grilled fish. * It's been a busy few days. I threw a Surprise Lunch for T.'s birthday and was able to maintain the surprise until under one hour from start time. T. went out for coffee mid-morning and I madly started throwing tablecloths everywhere, hauling glassware out of cabinets, setting up stacks of cro