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Showing posts from September, 2007

Flag comes home to Victoria, accompanied by cold blast and driving rain.

And so, after seven years, the Premiership flag or cup or whatever it is they hoist in the air at the end of the Grand Final comes home to Victoria, if not quite to Melbourne; which means my team, Essendon, remains the last Melbourne club to triumph on that One Day in September. But today, the people of Geelong are the happiest in Australia , especially if they own a bottle shop. I have some sentimental attachment to Geelong. My sister lived there in the mid-seventies; I visited her frequently in the winter of 1976, driving my first car, a Falcon XP base model with the 144 c.i. engine, no heater or demister and a radio that kept playing Fernando. I hated ABBA. Later, Geelong was my regular halfway stop on journeys to and from my family's house at Birregurra. Today's weather seems as cold as those faraway drives down Geelong Road. Last week's taste of Spring has been snatched away from us like a toy from a toddler and replaced with a cold blast blanketing the city in rain d

Salad days.

I was at my second office reading a forty page powerpoint printout about some marketing genius's idea of what 'sets a company apart'. It was full of words like 'innovate' and 'respond' and 'focus on the customer' but it was devoid of any common sense at all. My second office is the front bar return, tucked in next to the wall, near the orange juicer, at Brunetti's. The bar is of solid marble and it is wide and there is space enough between the padded stools to unfold a broadsheet and not take anyone's eye out or knock their coffee over. I was up from the beach house for a meeting in town and I had to read some background notes before going to the early-afternoon meeting in some airless skyscraper in St Kilda Road. Since when did background notes comprise forty pages of powerpoint jargon? Probably since companies have had marketing departments full of people on $250,000 a year. Coffee first. The coffee was good. Then lunch. Something light. So

Sound waves.

Sydney Road to High Street is a long walk with a stroller, but it was a good day for a long walk. The early Spring sunshine was warm without biting and a nice fresh breeze was making little shirred ripples on the wider parts of Merri Creek as we went south along the bicycle path. We picked it up at the Harding Street suspension bridge and followed it all the way to Arthurton Road, stopping at the Ceres outdoor cafe for coffee. The coffee was okay but their food prices are a little on the high side. The cafe was doing great business with a slew of tired-looking parents whose kids were tearing around in the toy-filled sandpit. William joined them. Then along Arthurton Road past St Georges Road towards High Street. Music could be heard in the distance, waves of sound in turn growing louder and then fading, as distant music does on a blustery day. A little closer and you could smell the barbecue. * The annual High Street festival is more about music than food, but you wouldn't have go
Slowly, the shed door creaks open, and from the darkness within emerges a black metal monster set on four industrial-strength castor wheels. Four feet high and six feet long, it is dusty and it creaks. It looks like an antediluvian mechanical monster that has been in a dark cave for too long. It's my barbecue. It's out for summer. I'll dust the lid and grease the grill and oil the wheels and scrape out the ashes I left in it after the last cook-out seven months ago, and then I'll just look at it and admire it and wonder what I'll cook on it this summer. In terms of detail, it's a basic affair with no bells or whistles; just a large grill in the middle over a coal binnacle of just the right depth, trays at either end and a storage bin below. But it barbecues better than anything else I've ever used. The whole thing is made of cast iron. It is heavy. You wouldn't want to get it on a hill and take the castor-wheel brakes off. * Incidentally, I procured this

Changeable weather, and a potato and bacon frittata.

Melbourne weather is changeable at the best of times but in Spring it goes nuts. I spent a pretty blue-skied weekend clearing all the rubbish that the Ti-tree and Moonah insist on throwing down. They might be pretty but they make one hell of a mess. The mess was burning nicely - better now than in a summer bushfire - by late afternoon Sunday, when the sky turned that ominous shade of purple-tinged grey that says 'storm approaching'. Within five minutes a westerly gale-force wind whipped across from Point Nepean, sucking behind it several cloud-loads of rain which seemed to move horizontally. The rain failed to put out the fire and next morning there was a fresh load of wind-scattered tree rubbish to be picked up. Today is a diamond. Still and warm. The bay is twinkling again and there is a slight haze on the bay, blurring the horizon. What's for lunch? Potato and bacon frittata. Fry two finely sliced onions and two chopped rashers of bacon in a little oil. Beat five eggs wi

Four wheel drive.

Thomas was born with a shoulder that appeared to the doctors upon examination to have suffered some very slight damage at birth. To them, he appeared to be favouring it, although the layman would have noticed nothing amiss. A few sessions of gentle physiotherapy had it functioning to their satisfaction. Then, when Thomas started crawling a month or so ago, it was on one hand and one elbow, bumping along like a car with a flat tyre. However, without the need for any further physio, he gained strength naturally and now is the fastest baby on all fours. He chases William around the house. Yes, they make noise. * The kitchen has never been busier. William eats practically everything; while Thomas is, of course, on solids. Having recently superseded the fully-pureed stage, he is currently eating semi-pureed with a number of discrete pieces and is starting to accept small items by hand, such as a tiny square of bread. Neither William nor Thomas ate commercial baby food, not that we object to

I came, I saw, I ordered Caesar salad.

Caesar salad never goes away. I'm sure that some chefs wish it would; like seafood cocktail and chateaubriand, but it will probably stay right on the menu as long as people like me keep ordering it. I have eaten Caesar salads all over town, most often at the kinds of lunch places that aren't quite as good as high class restaurants and aren't quite as bad as greasy diners. You see them up and down St Kilda Road. People in suits tear in, bolt their lunch and tear out again. Except on Fridays when everyone is a little more relaxed. I order Caesar salad almost by default. It's the acid test of a good lunchtime eatery. Most Caesar salads around town are pretty ordinary; occasionally they are excellent and every now and then you strike one that is truly appalling, such as the one I ordered in a cafe in Bourke Place, the busy food court down the legal end of town. Whatever green remained in the rust-edged lettuce leaves failed to show through the grey oozing mass that wasn'

Turn that oven down.

Stuffed red peppers : Boil two cups of rice. Toast half a cup of pine nuts. Cook half an onion and a clove of garlic in a little oil, add minced meat. (I used pork and veal, conveniently ground together by S&R Butchers in Sydney Road.) Then fresh herbs from the garden - mint, parsley and a little sage. Combine cooked mince, moist boiled rice and toasted pine nuts. I like about three parts rice to one part meat. Throw in some spices - I used sumac, about a tablespoonful, and salt and pepper. Cut the tops off the peppers, clean out the seeds and the membrane and stuff them with the rice mixture. Place their lids back on and stand them to attention in a baking dish. Surround the peppers with a can of chopped tomatoes, add half a cup of white wine and the same amount of water, depending on various dimensions, including peppers and dish. Bake about an hour. OK, so mine went a little black on top, but then I'm not a food stylist, I'm just a ninth-tier blogger; and that back

Remember those personalised pencil cases we had when we were kids?

They still exist.

Duelling botanists.

The view looking East from the front porch, 8pm. "Coastal Moonah Woodland is dominated structurally by Moonah Melaleuca lanceolata subsp. lanceolata. The Moonah trees, which are often twisted into fascinating shapes, range in height from five to ten metres. Canopy cover of the community usually dictates classification by Specht and Specht (1999) as a low open-forest. However, Gillison ... refers to woodland as a ‘structural plant formation usually with a graminoid component, dominated by perennial woody plants over two metres tall which do not have their crowns touching’. As Gillison (1994) points out, this broad definition overlaps the open-woodland, woodland and open-forest definitions of Specht and Specht (1999)." Thank you. That white thing is the moon.

A busy day with a nice meal at the end of it.

The morning of the first day of Spring called for a visit to the Mornington Peninsula market. It is an everything market: produce, second-hand items, food, plants, craft, bric-a-brac. It doesn't pretend to call itself a farmers' market, but regular stalls are held by small-holding local farmers. We came home with a bag of Peninsula apples, three varieties, and some fresh vegetables; several potted African daisies, the ones that not only survive drought but spread; and a second-hand rotary lawn edger for $10, the kind that you push and gives you a cleaner edge than motor-driven ones. * These early Spring afternoons are made for work and I spent three hours in the garden of the beach house wielding a hoe in bright sunshine. The weeds gave way easily. There had been rain, the garden bed is elevated and the soil is slightly sandy. You could have filled the compost bin four times. I made a mound in the far corner. The weeds can break down in the open. What to put in the ground? It w