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Showing posts from August, 2008

A cold night in Melbourne.

The Spencer Street end of town. It was one of those bars with deep shadows and retro red furniture and lampshades everywhere; and cigarette smoke drifting through the open wall-width windows from the area smokers have to go to avoid choking the people in the bar. You can tell it's an industry function because people smoke in a different way when they're networking. Kind of mechanically and efficiently, while trying to converse above the music and keying each other's phone numbers into cell phones. It's a desperate game. Every contact could mean business. Waitpeople with leg tattoos and too-short skirts plied silver trays: chicken balls glazed with sweet chilli, rice rolls tied up like parcels with dipping sauce, savoury pastries, and things you couldn't make out in the semi-darkness. The paper napkins were sensibly black because you can't see the smudge of chilli sauce when you mop it away from your face. Things were bad, was the general consensus. Are you busy?

Abbacchio alla romana goes south.

Do pictures make a difference? I don't know. My considered guess is that sales of cooking books and food magazines would crash overnight if there were no pictures of food. It wasn't always the way. A review of publishing over time would probably reveal a slow decline in food writing together with a steady increase in photography and food 'styling'. (Food photography quiz: what's the hardest food to shoot? My answer at bottom, but your opinion welcomed.) What brought this to mind was a browse through a bunch of old recipes and food articles I keep in an old timber wine box in the back room. The older articles are mainly text, sometimes accompanied by a line drawing; for example, the excellent food column written by Steve Manfredi that used to be published in the Friday review section of the Australian Financial Review . The newer ones generally feature a prominent illustration or photograph. So if you want to make money in food, don't cook it or write about it -
'Buster' Tom in training to win 5000 metres Gold at the 2028 Olympic Games to be held at the National Sports Biosphere in Alice Springs, the new capital of Austrazealand following the collapse of Canberra after it was overrun by kangaroos and invaded by wombats, which dug extensive tunnels under the House of Representatives, causing it to collapse, trapping 128 parliamentarians for a hellish four days. The fledging nation combines previous South Pacific countries Australia and New Zealand, its national flag continuing to bear the Southern Cross but with the Union Jack replaced by the national coat of arms: the emu and the kiwi.


First there was FuelWatch, soon to be tossed out by the Senate , then there was GroceryChoice. A website is a policy? No. A website is a waste of time. Of course, some commentators have already stated the obvious in that those most in need of price comparisons are less likely to have internet or access to it. My mother thinks a browser is someone who spends Tuesday afternoons at the library. Associate Professor of Competition and Fair Trade at UNSW, Frank Zumbo calls the GroceryChoice scheme a dismal failure: ... (The) GroceryWatch website ... another version of the discredited FuelWatch. ... provides a very limited monthly snapshot that will be out of date as soon as it is posted on the web. GroceryChoice completely ignores wider issues such as breadth of range and regional variation of stock. Metcash, which the ACCC pointedly and unfairly criticises, stocks independent supermarkets under the IGA and other banners. In stark contrast to Coles and Woolworths/Safeway, these independent

Dual purpose sweet potato and whole orange fruit cake.

I don’t bake: Tracy does. Being of Scottish heritage, baking is like a sixth sense to her. Essentially, she opens the oven door and throws a bunch of ingredients and a baking dish in; and soon after there’s anything from a batch of muffins (chocolate and cherry was the last lot) to a fully decorated hummingbird cake on the table. The following recipe has been on high rotation here this winter. Unfortunately, Tracy is as vague as I am about quantities but this is as close as I can establish. Bring one and a half cups dried fruit to a simmer, then let cool, then drain. (Not packet dried fruit – we buy sultanas, currants, prunes and apricots in bulk from the nut shop.) Process a whole orange in your blender. Or two mandarines for a nice variation. Whisk two eggs. Cook enough pumpkin (or sweet potato) for one cup when mashed. Now: mix all of the above with two cups wholemeal and one cup white self-raising flour and a third of a teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon and ginger. Bu

Please consider the environment before you buy a newspaper.

Who knows what is true and what isn’t? I don’t. Take newspapers for example. It was lunchtime Friday and I was in one of those diner cafes that provide tables if you want to eat in, and newspapers on the tables to give you something to do while you eat. I ordered a chicken and salad sandwich and picked up the Australian Financial Review. A magazine fell out of it and hit my foot. It was one of those glossy numbers printed on extra heavy duty stock to show the upscale ads to best effect. Every second page had an ad for watches that are diamond-encrusted or waterproof to 300 metres or both. In case you drop it off the yacht late one night, I suppose. A panel on the front page of the newspaper was headlined: “ Luxury Magazine : Green Glamour.” The puff piece read: “Extravagance now comes with a clear conscience, as fashion designers, upmarket resorts and even luxury car makers embrace the environment.” I took a bite from my sandwich – excellent sourdough - and read on: “In this special is


It's the very last decent $2 coffee in Melbourne*, possibly Australia. It can be found at Coburg Coffee Shop, 7 Victoria Mall. The news is even better for short black and short macchiato drinkers who pay just $1.80. I feel guilty paying the price, because the amount of sugar I take would make serious inroads into the very slim margin. They even do extra strong for the same price. However, there is a tip jar. Contribute generously. You'll usually sit outside, because the coffee shop itself is tiny. There are two or three tables inside, a couple more under the verandah and the rest are scattered among the fast-maturing eucalypts that are a feature of the mall. How much do you pay for a decent coffee? (*Possibly excluding one or two outer-suburban shopping mall coffee lounges, but they don't count because their coffee generally tastes like someone dropped a jar of International Roast into the dishwater, scooped a cup through it, set it on a saucer and served it up to the cust

Q: What's so special about this cup of coffee?