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Showing posts from March, 2009

Rabbits on guard at supermarkets.

For seemingly months now, since the last rolls of Christmas wrap were pensioned off in discount bins, supermarket entrances have been lined with tinsel-wrapped chocolate rabbits standing in rows and staring at entering customers like mute soldiers. People have generally been sensible enough not to buy them yet, but occasionally one gets dragged off its cardboard sentry box and thrown unceremoniously into a trolley, never to see the light of day on Easter morn. Hot cross buns are a little further in, near the bread wall; but in their own racks, like a baked goods minority sect. They seem to be selling better than the rabbits, but there must be plenty thrown out. They won't keep until Good Friday. I prefer to wait for Easter for Easter things, but even so I won't be buying any hot cross buns from any supermarket. I have my sources and they are not far from home. One Eastery thing, however, does come early for me. Of course, smoked cod is available all year round but I associate i

Quiet night in the suburbs.

There comes a time when you cook for yourself again, instead of cooking for children and eating their leftovers. Then you regress. It's one step forward and two steps back, most of the time. (Was that a song?) One evening last week William and Thomas had been packed off to bed, having eaten good dinners of spaghetti and meatballs made with mushrooms and cheese and diced zucchini and oatmeal and silence had descended on the house, hesitantly, like a reversing moon module trying not to stir up the dust. A small dark brick of rare roast beef was sitting on the board, resting prior to my carving it, and its ex-oven aromas were twisting around each other in the air like invisible double helices, radiating nucleotides of red wine, garlic, pepper and herbs through the house and to our waiting olfactory cells, which obligingly passed the news on to the cortex, which translated this into plain English as: "Dinner ready, smells good, eat now!" Then crash! went a door. And crash! we

Pumpkin detective required.

They grew from seeds that survived the compost, so I don't know their varieties, apart from the Queensland Blue Heeler. No, wait ... that's a dog.

A return to green. And my first annual plant awards.

Suddenly, green. St Patrick's Day was just a coincidence. Yesterday, I noticed green everywhere. Patches of it spreading across lawns, parks, nature strips. Perhaps the yellowing foliage is assisting the illusion. But a week or two of reasonably consistent rain is the real reason. Plants are resilient, some more than others. And so, following a summer vicious beyond belief, below are the top five garden plants for surviving in the heat, as judged by an expert panel of one. In 5th place: the pumpkin vine. Long vines grew out of small sections of garden, snaked up supports and across lawn and their broad foliage was like layers of parasols for the caravan of fruit that sprouted below. Ingenious and fascinating. Harvesting continues. We're up to a dozen. In 4th place: viburnum. Heatwave? What heatwave? They do get some shelter in the afternoon and so lose points for that unfair advantage. In 3rd place: weigela. One of the legion shrubs that are sadly ignored these days in fav

Fegato all veneziana: Italian cuisine on the cheap.

Liver is out of fashion. It should not be. This delicacy is consistently cited by nutritionists for its easily-absorbed iron and vitamins of various letters of the alphabet. It is also delicious when cooked in the right way, i.e., not overdone. It is also inexpensive, a factor that is starting to trump fashion. I bought a calves liver for $3 at Victoria Meats, one of several very good butchers at the top of Sydney Road, a precinct that now beats the Brunswick end of the street pointless for value and variety. * As the onions in the following recipe melt down with the lemon juice, wine and nutmeg, the resulting aroma will have your neighbours at the door if you're not careful. Lock it from the inside before you start. Chop three onions finely and fry them on low heat in half butter and half olive oil - about a tablespoonful of each - to the point of translucence. Add a cup of white wine (that cleanskin from Dan Murphy's is just fine) and the juice of a lemon. Grate some nutmeg i

Do you really need that newspaper?

You read it everywhere. It's a cliche, a platitude, an unoriginal idea. It goes like this: Did you know if you cut out that cup of coffee every day, you will save six million dollars over fifty years on the average eighty trillion dollar mortgage? (My figures, and not to scale.) The banks have been parroting it for years in their puff pieces about how you could sack your mortgage in a puff of smoke if you follow their cost-cutting tips (and take out an expensive mortgage offset account or wealth package). Now that there's a recession, the newspapers have discovered the idea. Do you really need that cup of coffee? they challenge chirpily, as if we had been living under a rock. I read it again yesterday and I will read it again tomorrow and next week and the week after that, ad infinitum. Or at least until there are no newspapers any more, which is looking extremely likely, because advertising is drying up, fewer actual newspapers are being sold and no-one pays for online conten

Get out the atlas.

I was in the canned vegetables aisle of the supermarket looking for some capers. There they were on the top shelf: two brands to choose from. The first jar's front label read: Sandhurst Fine Foods Baby capers in wine vinegar Underneath that: Sandhurst The All Australian Company The back label read: Sandhurst Fine Foods Italian Specialities made for Australian tastes! And underneath that: Product of Morocco The second brand revealed that the capers were made in Australia from imported ingredients. How do they do that?

Half a century apart.

Thomas, 2009, at home. Kitchen Hand, c.1959, Alexandra Gardens, Melbourne.