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Showing posts from April, 2009

Turkish takeaway.

I am making my way through the cookbook section (among other sections including motoring, biography and fiction) at Coburg library. Who can afford to buy books at the rate we are reading them these days? Early this week I took home Turkish Cookery edited by Sally Mustoe (Saqi 2006). A prologue by culinary historian and writer Turgut Kut to the book (it also has a preface and an introduction) mentions the ‘first Turkish cookbook’, Resource of Cooks , which was published in 1839 and went into nine editions until 1888. The author of the early cookbook, Mehmed Kamil, had studied old books and selected recipes for the most delectable and rare dishes to ‘bring relief for those who had previously to be content with tripe soup’, a fast-food staple of the nineteenth century markets. Turkish Cookery does the same almost two centuries later for those, at least here in Melbourne, who equate Turkish cuisine with Sydney Road’s scores of kebab houses. It’s a sampler of favourite Turkish dishes subm

Something to do with the trees.

Half page ad for Safeway supermarkets in today's Herald Sun (I wasn't reading it; I just happened to be on the tram) promoting "100% pomegranate juice" in "four delicious flavours" . If it's 100% pomegranate .... ah, forget it.

Anzac Day afternoon.

The weather turned, at last. Anzac Day dawned cold and steel-grey and the weather deteriorated into the afternoon. Two football teams shivered onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground to play a game that Collingwood was always going to win and Essendon was always going to lose; especially when, after two minutes in, ruckman Hille landed awkwardly after a leap, smashing an anterior cruciate ligament. He weighs a ton. Cruciate ligaments are built for gazelles. So Ryder has to take over. Ryder is a footballer in a high-jumper’s body. Remember Bob Beamon in ’68? No, wait, he was a long-jumper. Ryder should be over the road at Olympic Park, flopping over a bar onto the mat, not here in the middle of the Melbourne Cricket Ground trying to fend off eighteen grown men by leaping and flopping. Impossible. The sky grew darker. The game laboured on. The score see-sawed. Late in the game Collingwood lifted, moved ahead. A three-goal break. You know the game is over when people move like ants towards the
Oh, dear. Not again. The other arm this time. On the bright side, he seems to have abandoned his trains for my cooking tongs. Move over, Gordon Ramsay.

A late dinner.

Easter Sunday’s status as a day of tradition and ritual, even if it just involves chocolate, makes subsequent Sundays feel conventional and routine, in a mundane village-life kind of way. And now it is a week after Easter and instead of hiding eggs early in the morning, I am hauling half a kilogram of store catalogues out of the newspaper hole over the letterbox, reminding myself for the twentieth time to put up a No Junk Mail sign, although I would prefer the words Letters Only, Please . An hour later, Tracy leaves the house to walk to Bunnings and chop onions at the kindergarten fundraiser sausage-sizzle stall set up at the entrance to the hardware store. (Yes, W. is at kindergarten now. It seems only yesterday that he arrived, noisily.) Then it is lunchtime and I am standing at the sink mixing water and a tablespoonful of Keen’s mustard in an eggcup - just like my late father did for years - for the sandwiches of corned beef left over from two nights ago, and wondering whether the

Rolling in the mist.

Easter Sunday, early, around seven. Kettle on. First things first. I went out on the veranda. No mountain. The view was closed: mist had dropped like a theatre curtain bang onto the stage. You couldn’t see past the back fence. Even the newly naked lemon tree was ghostlike, shrouded in fog. The kettle whistled, summoning me back inside. I made tea and picked up yesterday's newspaper. This is a nice time of morning, before the boys have woken and start stomping around like elephants. I got to read about two lines. * Mid-morning. The boys are out on the lawn with grandma, who is introducing them to an Easter tradition from Scotland, and other places I suppose. We're going to have one of those who-thought-of-it-first conversations again. The tradition is egg rolling and it is meant to have something to do with rolling away the stone from the tomb. Somehow, a tune comes into my head and stays there. Grandma has hard-boiled some eggs and the boys have painted them and they are going

Into the mountains.

Once upon a time Good Friday used to be quiet, in a strict, muscular kind of way; as if no-one dared to make any noise, or hold parties, or mow the lawn; for fear that someone would object. This year, Good Friday had an uncertain calm, an unusual serenity, for which people seemed nevertheless grateful: as if they had suddenly discovered that occasional peace, immobility and silence were actually a good thing. Then, somewhere in the distance, in another street, a car’s engine screeched and roared. So forget all that and let’s start again. Saturday was steel grey. Late in the morning, coffee in the swarming mall. Papers on the table and two boys in their double stroller, picture books in hand and not seeing the crowds tearing past in a frenzy, as if the 'closed' signs in the shops on Good Friday had been a bad dream. Early afternoon. The freeway was a silver ribbon in the grey gloom, sweeping across the state. Then off and up towards the mountains. A strange thing happened. Colou
Happy Easter to you and yours.

Google your books.

What's the most important part of a cook book? The pictures? The recipes? The author's puff piece on the back cover? No. In fact, some of my most useful cook books have no pictures at all. I already know what food looks like. The most important part of any book about food is its index. The indexes (-ices to be pedantic) of my cook books are my personal search engines. I could type 'cabbage' into google and get 60 billion results but I don't want 60 billion results about 'cabbage'. Fifteen or so would be enough. 60 billion dinner ideas is far too confusing. How could you make decision? There's far too much information these days, and most of it is useless. I had rather a lot of cabbage for some reason. It has always been a favourite vegetable. I grew up with the stuff. My mother used to boil it up in a huge pot and it became a side dish to whatever was on the table, especially winter stews and the like. We would add sections of it to soups in the way that

Salman Rushdie on Tolkien; me on Alvin Toffler.

In a recent article on film adaptations of novels , Salman Rushdie considers The Lord of the Rings films superior to J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy. The case against film adaptations thus remains unproven and, when we look below the level of great literature, a plausible argument can be made that many cinematic adaptations are better than their prose source materials. I would suggest that Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films surpass Tolkien's originals, because, to be blunt, Jackson makes films better than Tolkien writes; Jackson's cinematic style, sweeping, lyrical, by turns intimate and epic, is greatly preferable to Tolkien's prose style, which veers alarmingly between windbaggery, archness, pomposity, and achieves something like humanity, and ordinary English, only in the parts about hobbits, the little people who are our representatives in the saga to a far greater degree than its grandly heroic (or snivellingly crooked) men. I can't add to the discussion,