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


Coffee on a bend in the Merri Creek.

The coffee was surprisingly good, given that the machine is set up in a makeshift shed and chickens peck in a pen just beyond the post, rail and wire fence. Not that sheds and chickens are a bar to good coffee; but if the coffee is this good here, then there is no excuse for bad coffee in an actual coffee shop.

We were at CERES - the Brunswick farm on a bend in the Merri Creek - for its Wednesday morning produce market. CERES stands for something but I prefer its original meaning as the goddess of agriculture. The Wednesday morning produce sale is like a farmer’s market but without the novelty stalls and the jostling, poking weekend crowds. If you're shopping mid-week for fruit and vegetables, this is as good as it gets. You wouldn't go to a supermarket.

It was one of those mornings you dream about. Brilliant autumn sunshine, warm but never uncomfortable, a faint whisper of a breeze and cotton bud clouds drifting about in the blue sky. We walked in from the north, across from Sydney Road and along the Merri trail and into the rear entrance of CERES, over the crest of the hill and past the outlying fenced-off paddocks lying fallow. The café is tucked into the eastern corner, the market section faces north looking out on more paddocks and pens and the plant nursery is closer to the western entrance.

We sat on huge timber-slab bench seats along enormous timber tables and sipped the bitter, hypnotic brew. Unlike other tastes, coffee cannot be likened to anything else. It tastes only like coffee. Three sugars for me; none for Tracy. Coffee at your destination makes a long walk a journey of delicious anticipation.

What would we do without coffee? It is an addiction without consequences; the most seductively delicious brew in the world. And yet, to me, coffee without sugar tastes like bitter mud (which disproves a point I made in the previous paragraph). If there were no sugar I wouldn’t touch the stuff. (Which is why I avoid coffee shops that serve your coffee with one of those paper tube things containing about half a teaspoon of sugar and glare at you if you ask for more. It’s never enough.)

I digress, as you do when drinking coffee while sitting in the sun on a perfect morning. The produce comes from all over: potatoes from Colac, garlic from Swan Hill, salad greens from Cockatoo in the Dandenongs. Coliban potatoes, giant grapefruit, two-legged juicing carrots for $1.50 a kilogram, radishes, several varieties of pumpkins and a few oddments such as amaranth, described on its cardboard price ticket as the spinach of India, but I thought it was more commonly referred to as Chinese spinach.

We staggered home. Vegetables are heavy.


The CERES Harvest Festival is on this Sunday March 30. Click on events. The flyer advertises: Free Entry. Foods from the world's community kitchens. Feast Food, $5 per plate served all day.

Eat light the day before.

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