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Showing posts from June, 2010

How to eat spaghetti.

It was the coldest Saturday morning I can remember. I walked out to get the paper and it felt like Sir Ernest Shackleton’s third expedition. I must buy a scarf and a hat. The sun came out mid-morning but made no difference to the temperature, and then it disappeared again, probably to sulk behind a cloud. It stayed cold all day. We went out for lunch, to a warm place with hot food. The warm place with hot food had brown brick walls inside, and we walked through to the back and past the kitchen and under a brown brick archway and sat at a dark-stained timber table in a dining nook far from the wind and the rain. Pictures on the walls showed a house by a sunny lake in Umbria, and cottages of many colours cascading down to a small bay of electric blue water. Either would be nice right now. * Writers are ambivalent about Lygon Street. The first line of Michael Harden’s Lygon St. - subtitled Stories and Recipes from Melbourne’s Melting Pot - reads ‘ Lygon Street is one of Australia’

Bread and wine.

Everyone hates garlic bread. Waiters hate it because they have to 'sell' it - 'Garlic bread, guys?' (And don't call me 'guys'.) Customers hate it because they dislike having to refuse it when waiters sell it - or its close cousin, 'herb' bread. Chefs hate it because someone has to prepare it and it sure as hell isn't going to be him. Or her. No-one likes garlic bread. But I do. Because I make it at home. I never order it in cafes. Never have. Cafe garlic bread spoils your appetite. (There is a third kind of garlic bread: supermarket garlic bread. This 'product' is ideal for taking on a picnic to Coburg Lake: you feed it to the ducks while you eat proper food.) Home-made garlic bread is entirely different. For one thing, it can be just about the entire meal when accompanied with some very good red wine and maybe some cheese. You don't need to cook anything else. Gourmet supper: sourdough garlic bread. I chopped six cloves of

793 sausages.

It was just after 8 a.m. on a very cold, grey Sunday morning. I was standing in front of a large grill in a tent outside the Bunnings Hardware store. Four of us were in the tent to raise funds for the kindergarten by cooking and selling sausages in bread. One to prepare, one to cook, one to sell and one to take the money. I cooked. I had the easy job. Despite the day, the time and the weather, vehicles - many of which were utes - were pulling into the vast carpark in front of Bunnings. Must be a lot of renovating going on, I thought as I turned sausages. We did shifts. In three hours I cooked 793 sausages. I knew it was 793 because we went through seven short of eight 100-packs of serviettes. I also cooked six buckets of onions. There must have been a hundred onions to a bucket. Onions are important. What really gets people is the onions. The smoke from the sausages cooking on the grill is one thing, but the aroma of cooking onions is a showstopper. People are busy these days. Th

Streets of your town # 2: Nicholson Street, North Carlton.

Nicholson Street is a twentieth century shipwreck of architecture. It is a magnificent mess. It is a proud dowager wearing a faded dress and cobwebs. It is a jumble of Victorian shopfronts and Edwardian houses and 1950s grease monkey workshops and accountants’ offices and suburban law firms and Thai cafes and factories making God knows what. Nicholson Street is tattoo parlours and ugly video stores and bicycle shops and newspaper publishers and pasta manufacturers and student houses with Tibetan flags across their front doors, bikes on their front porches and naked bulbs glowing in uncovered windows. And trams run through it. * I was on foot, heading south on the west side, the North Carlton side. It was dusk, almost six o’clock, and bleak. A tram trailing phosphorescent dust flew north, loaded to the gunwales with scarved and wired commuters bound for the home fires of East Brunswick, and red wine, and Mozart. I walked past Bande a Part, a pizza place for Franco-cinephiles where

Something else, again.

Of course, these days we eat leftovers. You have to when you have children, otherwise you’d be throwing out enough food to feed an army. I find it difficult to throw out food, another reason I could never be a chef. In my waiting days I was always astounded at the way people paid a fortune for food and then left half of it on the plate. A thirty dollar steak becomes a sixty dollar one (on paper) if you eat only half because it was too well-done for your liking. Why not stay home and cook it yourself – to your liking – and toss screwed-up fifty dollar bills into the fireplace afterwards instead? Because they’re plastic these days, I hear you say; and you can’t toss them because they float and flip in the air and land well short of the hearth and you’re right. It was a shame when paper money was phased out, because you could no longer liken yachting to standing under the shower tearing up hundred dollar bills. A waste of a good metaphor. We started this paragraph eating leftovers and end

Old photographs: #3 in a series.

World bantamweight boxing champion Lionel Rose photographed by my father at the 1971 combined Mercy Sports, Arden Street oval, 1971, at which two of my sisters were competing. Rose is pictured with Mother Superior who is holding a sports program wrapped around an aluminium baton. Was she contemplating running an anchor leg of the 4 x 100? A well-dressed boxer engaging in polite conversation with nuns at a catholic schoolgirls' sportsday? Yes, it was a long time ago. These days the boxers wear the hoods. * Earlier photographs in this series here and here .

Where to drink coffee.

It was half past nine on a late autumn morning that had a golden haze in the air. I drove up out of the valley and into the main street that ran along the top of a ridge. Out of town, the ridge turned north and I was looking at dark blue shadowy hills in the distance. The ridge drops away on each side here. Down below you can see well-balanced cattle grazing on the steep green hills. Friesians. I drank their milk on my cereal this morning. Thanks, cows. Most of Victoria’s milk comes out of these hills. Farther along, the spine of the hill dropped into a chasm. You couldn’t see into it because it was covered in a white sheet that was cloud, and the road was so steep it felt like we were descending in a plane. Suddenly we were in the cloud, and all you could see was white mist flying past at a hundred miles an hour, or so it seemed. Want to eat cloud, boys? I called over my shoulder. I pressed the button and the window rolled down and the blast that came in the car was cold and clean