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Showing posts from September, 2010

'Would you like a snow pea?' he asked. 'Why, thank you!' she replied.

I'd never grown snow peas before. Last year in the front garden bed we had a row of carrots. They didn't grow, and they took all winter to do it. They sulked and took up space that could have yielded something more useful than hard orange sticks good only for horses to chew. My fault of course. Probably didn't feed them enough. I'd heard of horse carrots when I was a child. Always wondered what they were. (Always wondered what those warning signs on the back of horse floats meant, as well. Caution horses , the signs used to read. I asked my father. He told me they were very careful horses, never bucked or shied.) So no more carrots. (And never believe your father when he has a smile playing about his lips.) We planted snow peas in winter instead. They grew, and they started sprouting snow peas a month ago. The vine winds about a simple three-sided pyramid of three stakes meeting at the top. The pods come out and dangle like earrings, or decorations on a Christmas tr

What comes out of a cow and isn't something that churns into butter?

The Heart Foundation is stressing about a rise in butter sales thanks apparently to Junior Masterchef . Relax, Mr Heart Foundation. Stress is bad for your health. It gives you heart attacks. Aside from that, don't they realise that that 9.3% rise in butter sales means more people are going to the supermarket to fetch ingredients to cook their own meals? With completely natural products? Would they rather people phoned out for pizza and burgers? That would really give them a coronary. But no; cooking at home instead of ordering takeout is a big health hazard if that toxic substance, butter, is involved: Heart Foundation healthy weight director Susan Anderson said MasterChef "does certainly seem to be contributing" to the problem. "When we ask people what's the reason for using butter, they say it's because that's what the recipe says," Ms Anderson said. "It would be great to see leading chefs use margarine in their recipes." What the he

Saturday afternoon.

The first warm day. It was latest arrival of spring I can remember. I sat on the beach reading the weekend broadsheet while the boys tore up and down the sand. Then, following a story I had read them earlier about a windstorm blowing a beach away, they threw it. I was the victim. The idea was I had to use the paper as a shield or a tent against the gale of sand. It worked well for them. Next morning my pillow was full of sand. Tracy joined us with the small one. The gale had subsided by then and they were ready for afternoon tea. Their mother produced fresh shortbread, still warm with the characteristic grainy texture provided by the use of a combination of rice and wheat flours. They sat and munched while the small one blinked tiny eyes at her first view of sea. What do they think? Later, I walked back to the house with Tom through quiet ti tree-lined streets. It was unnaturally still. Dead. Not a car. Not a human. It was a ghost town. It must have been early in the last quarter o

Old photographs.

Two weeks ago, my brother posted this photograph dating to 1971. The two aunts - sisters - at far left and third from left died in 2001 and 2008 respectively. By chance everyone else in the picture met again last week at the funeral of the middle aunt's husband. He made 95. My second-cousin, holding her grandmother's hands, is now in her early forties. Her hair is still the same colour. Second from right is my mother.

10,000 reasons not to wear polar fleece.

The drought is over and wool production is on the rise : The rain has come at the right time for wool producers. For three years sheep numbers have fallen and last year the state produced a record low of 50,000 bales of wool. This year growers are expecting to fill about 10,000 more bales. William wears vest by Grandma Annie. (Thomas as usual wouldn't stand still, but he'd thrown off his vest (same pattern, red/navy colourways) earlier. Alexandra wears hat by Aunt Kirsty. Get knitting, ladies. Those bales are piling up. And anyway, polar fleece is made from petrochemicals. (How many hats in a bale, at a minimum 110kg?)

Midnight special.

Late one night. Home from work in an office in the city by train that was late and dirty and full of those newspapers they give to commuters to stare vacantly at while they ride the rails back to suburbia, and then strew on the floor as they get off at Ginifer or Alamein or Mount Waverley or Mooroolbark. They call it Mx , but it's just tomorrow's Herald Sun without the Terry McCrann column. Close to midnight. But you have to eat. I turned on the radio. There are two classical music stations. Sometimes they play classical music. Other times the ABC one plays endless audience applause while the announcer draws out his vowels, ABC-style, and gushes. It sounds like a live weather report. Over at MBS the announcer tells you the composer's life story and then plays a two-minute minuet. I rolled the dial to an oldies station. Pasta shells with tuna, cheese and peas. I set a pot of water on the stove and salted it and threw in a few drops of oil and lit the burner. Yawn.

Caesars I have known.

Long-term readers might recall, or they might not, my search for the perfect Caesar salad 'experience'. Once, I encountered, in fact ate , a particularly nasty one in a food court at the law end of Bourke Street. Another, ordered at one of those mezzanine outdoor cafes at the base of a St Kilda Road tower, was quite good but blew away before I could eat it. It was a very light salad of dressed lettuce and wispy croutons served in a shallow bowl. The café was like a wind tunnel and bits of eggy lettuce kept blowing off into the air, probably ending up up in the plane trees on the St Kilda Road median strip, or maybe even on a tram into town. My dining companion that day said I should have ordered the lasagne, which she declared the best she'd ever eaten, as well as not blowing away. My worst Caesar salad ‘experience’ to date was in a café in the Keilor Road, North Essendon, shopping strip one day last year. It was served from a chiller display cabinet in which they put all t

Time travel.

Once upon a time, I read a science fiction story about a scientist who discovered that time passed in a helix pattern, rather than in a straight line. Through experimentation, he fused the present with an earlier time strand, and found himself in the past. I can do that by reading a book. A month or so ago I had plenty of time on my hands. Unable to find my copies of A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu , Poor Fellow My Country or Clarissa (I did have them, didn’t I, somewhere?), I hauled out my copy of Lord of the Rings (the single volume 1970s Unwin edition with the yellow cover) and set off on the journey once more. 37 years is a good space of time between readings of a book; you remember the plot vaguely, but you have forgotten enough to enjoy the story again. And that’s exactly how it turned out. I hadn't forgotten about the Ring, of course, but I had forgotten characters such as Ghan-Buri-Ghan and Finuviel. (The new baby came this close to being named Finuviel or Galadriel.

The answer was on their how-to-vote card.

The 'independents' are only installing a government. There is no guarantee they will pass legislation. Their sanctimonious 'parliamentary reform' should include a rider that independents in a position to decide government are obliged to choose the party higher on their how-to-vote card.

The last fish.

Life is hard. Now you have to count fish so you know how many are left. People glare at you in the fish shop when you stare hungrily at the ‘endangered’ one, juicy and glistening on the slab and just begging to be drizzled with some delicious sauce or marinade and barbecued. But how many have to be left before you can eat its brothers and sisters? What's the morally acceptable number of fish in the sea? What are the ethics of all this? I'd hate to be a fishmonger. Customer: "That silver fillet lying there. Did he have family? Or did you kill them all already?" Fishmonger: "Nothing to do with me. I didn't catch them. Talk to the fisherman." Customer: "You're the middleman. You’re just as much to blame. Like the pilot who flew the plane that dropped the bomb." Fishmonger: "You're the customer. It's your fault. Don’t eat fish. Go next door to the butcher and buy yourself a steak." Customer: " Are you kidding?

Tomorrow, I'll go out for coffee.

The first of spring, it rained most of the day. At lunchtime I walked from Collins Street up narrow Church Lane, where noodle shops and tiny cafes gaze at each across cobblestones. Water was escaping from an ancient round iron manhole cover and running across the stones. Umbrellas collided apologetically, and smokers banished to the wet street huddled into shop windows and shielded their cigarettes from the rain and the sanctimonious. I crossed Little Bourke where Church Lane becomes Church Street, because it is wider, and runs behind the AMP plaza, a 1969 tribute to rake-angled brown marble and corporate sculpture . The buildings and plaza were completely encased in demolishers’ hessian, like a Cristo installation. Is it coming down or being ‘renovated’? And what have they done with Clement Meadmore's Awakening ? Don’t know. I got a sandwich - chicken, avocado, tomato and cheese on sourdough - from the food plaza in Bourke near King Street and went back to the office. Later, w