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Showing posts from September, 2009

September holidays.

Tracy is on holidays from the special developmental school at which she teaches. We're at the beach for a week and my mother-in-law is with us. The boys' Scottish accents are coming along nicely and they are being fattened up on shortbread. Nice work, Grandma. On Saturday her team won the Grand Final. Not really 'her' team, but the team her late husband - the boys' Grandpa - followed. So a sentimental moment. "We are Geelong, the greatest team of all ..." to the tune of Toreador.

Silverbeet: one word or two?

No-one seems to know, but I prefer one. Spelling aside, there is a forest of it in the new garden bed we cut into the front lawn last year to save money; or rather, divert money from buying vegetables to watering the garden bed. (Latest water bill: water usage $25; utility charges $160. And they want us to save water?) Don't grow carrots. Their yield is not worth the investment in garden space. They are cheap anyway. Cos lettuce: brilliant. We had a constant supply of leaves for Caesar salad through autumn and early winter. Rocket: far too much. Plant rocket in between ornamentals. It's a waste of vegetable garden space. Which brings me to silverbeet. I grew up on silverbeet, the earthy-tasting green otherwise known as Swiss Chard and probably sixty-three other names. Silverbeet always entered the house riding rampant, like a triumphant knight's fleur-de-lys, on top of the box of vegetables my father walked in with after his Tuesday visits to the Victoria market in th

Table manners.

Thomas bit the head off a broccoli floret and threw the stalk full force across the table at William. So he eats his vegetables but he throws his food. What do you do? You can't reward and punish simultaneously. The dilemmas you face. The fact is, he likes broccoli so much he eats it raw. It is growing in the garden. You pick a floret and he will eat it right there. It was half past six on an early spring evening, an evening that was still glistening with rain. That was the rain we needed. The forecast had been cloudy and the first drops had fallen around ten in the morning when I had been driving along Bell Street and down the ramp onto the freeway where Moonee Valley falls away and you feel like you're landing at Essendon Airport. The drops only made a red mud of the windscreen dirt that had blown in earlier in the week on the dreadful winds, but by lunchtime the rain had set in properly. My rain gauge (the wheelbarrow) was full by morning. * Thomas's next move

New varieties of things just keep popping up.

Welcome back to At My Table 's Neil who writes of a waiter, when asked for the name of a particular variety of French mustard, returns from checking the name on the jar to announce, "It's called moutarde!" Reminds me of the Coles checkout girl who, when scanning a parsnip for my pot of winter vegetable soup a few months ago, enthused: "Wow! A white carrot! How long have they been around?"

Solving a sticky problem. And a quick recipe.

Reader Johanna asked me how I got my pasta strands not to stick together. I replied: with difficulty. The stock answers to the question are (a) use a larger pot and more water, (b) salt the water well, (c) add oil to the water, and (d) do all of the above. I've had pasta strands stick together in all of these cases. Furthermore, the solutions are not always practical; for example, we don't salt the water when cooking pasta for the children. I suspect other factors are at play. Pasta quality is one, obviously. Water quality might be another. Water hardness inhibits soap suds; perhaps it also inhibits the action of boiling water 'sealing' each strand of pasta. I don't know. I'm no scientist. I'm just wondering. My solution is to stir the boiling water gently while adding the strands one at a time so that they float off around the pot like logs setting off down a river. Laborious if you are feeding fifty people. Or even five. But you get used to it.

Oh, there it is.

It's the little things that get you. Like when you reach for something you absolutely must have at that particular second, and it isn't there. Because if it isn't there, it could be anywhere; which means whatever you are doing in the kitchen will be ruined by the time you make enquiries of the rest of the household as to the whereabouts of the missing item: your best knife, the corkscrew, the only colander in the house, an oven mitt, the kitchen sink plug. Whatever. All of these things have a number of potential alternative uses in a household that comprises inventive or enterprising people. Take my favourite small dish, for example. It was just the right size to hold olives or a pat of butter for the table. Emblazoned with the University of Melbourne crest and the words Melbourne University Union House Cafeteria in black, the white porcelain bowl also made an excellent talking point. (And no, I didn't steal it.) One day, a long time ago now, I had taken a stick

Spring: brought to you by ricotta and tomatoes.

Was that the fastest winter ever? Well, yes: actually, it was. I've had this conversation before, so skip to the recipe below if I'm boring you. Time seems to disappear into oblivion faster as the years go by, because each is a smaller amount of time relative to one's entire lifetime. Prove that , someone said to me once. Time is just perception , I replied. It exists only for sentient beings. Several sentient seconds went by, and then: Prove that as well, followed by, also: billions of years of Earth's existence before human life appeared says you are wrong. A rock doesn't know how old it is, I replied, quickly. The great thing about not being a scientist is you never have to prove anything. Fettucine with ricotta and tomatoes. Cook some fettucine until just done. Drain. Toss through a little olive oil. Break up some fresh ricotta (you can buy it still warm from Elli's Deli in Sydney Road although the horde of elderly Greek ladies waitin