Saturday, February 25, 2006

Simply amazing...


...that's how I felt watching Mr Chang making chinese wheat noodles on Martha this morning. Did you see it? I have found a picture which can give a glimpse into the process. Mr Chang took a lump of dough and tossed it and flipped it between his hands until it became a stretched tube of dough and then went on to twist it and twirl it and put it on a board and twist it some more until he could pick it up and, without a knife or an Italian pasta machine, the dough fell into lengths of noodle. A miracle before my eyes! Gobsmacking delight.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Give it to me slow and hot....

Clockwide from left: Aga; La Cornue; Bonnet; a Camp Oven
If there is a Trad Pad icon, it's an Aga stove. Not that I'm picky you know. I just love slow combustion stoves. I did have a great set up once - I had a bush kitchen. I lived in Mount Isa in north-west Queensland in the late 70s to the mid 80s. This was not the place to have slow combustion stoves indoors. Mount Isa's summer heat did not need any additional assistance. But my favourite stoves found me. There were three stoves. Indoors, in the kitchen renovations, went the electric stove I had drooled over when I was a new bride in the early 60s. It was dated but good as new and we got it cheaply. It was an eye level oven with pull-out coiled hot plates and behind them a heated glass area for keeping things warm. But who (and I expect it was a male) decided to put grills in eye level ovens? Some masochist who likes fat spitting in his eye? Then came the wood stove for free and, for $30 at an opp shop, an Everhot slow combustion stove which only needed a new firebrick. My Resourceful Husband - who built a stone wall and did the backyard stone paving - organised me an outdoor kitchen. The wood stove, with cast aluminium plates sitting on top, did duty as a barbecue. Next to the wood stove sat this five foot long stainless steel trolley purchased at an auction at the Barkly Hotel. Just the thing for putting all the cooking stuff on. Next to that sat the Everhot. Resourceful Husband built a huge table on either side of which went two upholstered forms (like school forms) which also came from the Barkly Hotel. The outdoor kitchen was where all the proper cooking got done. The Everhot, as slow combustion stoves do, did justice to slow cooking roasts and casseroles and, requiring a hotter oven, bread baking.

The love for Agas came from childhood. At Merinda, there was a huge range. My father used to cook steaks straight on the hotplates. At Queen's Beach, the Aga was smaller. I remember my father once doing a wonderful Magpie Goose casserole after a hunting trip. They weren't protected then. But I am realist. I saw my mother have too many difficulties when things went wrong with the stoves - and the least said about that the better.

Now Agas have achieved great status. But I have discovered there are two stoves even higher up the status rankings - both French. They are the La Cornue and the Bonnet - that come with six figure price tags. The Bonnet is custom made - I think you probably order by the foot - and is in the realm of high end chefs and restaurants. How did I learn all this? From this article. It is rather longish but a good read on kitchen technology, how useful it really is, and the current status of kitchens.

It says:
If Aga has a rival, it is the La Cornue stove—“the Rolls Royce of stoves,” as one owner described it to the New York Times. “Vikings are good, but this one has all the beauty you would associate with a nineteenth-century kitchen in Provence, and it’s state of the art. It took us ten years to get it, and it has our names on it,” engraved on a brass plaque. Even more rarified is the Bonnet, a stove the New York Times described as “custom-made by hand in France in solid cast iron with an installer
flown over to assemble it on site.” It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.


But all this wonderful stuff doesn't turn people into great cooks. It doesn't make them even mediocre cooks. You are either a cook or you aren't - and a good a cook can cook anywhere on anything - an open fire or a camp oven. The following para horrified me. This is even worse than Kathy Lette getting rid of her dining table.


Eating together is now so unusual that the Nickelodeon television network teamed up with the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) and declared the fourth Monday in September to be “Family Day—A Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children.” Families pledge to eat
together and turn off their television sets in the hope of sparking spontaneous dinner conversation (the irony of a television network urging families to turn off their TVs and have dinner together was evidently lost on organizers of the event).


I mentioned this development to Herself. She wondered why it was necessary. Didn't U.S. families get together and eat at Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving? But if you don't understand good food, don't eat good food, and don't bother to cook good food, why would you bother to take time to sit around a table and make the whole food thing a social event?

Melbourne's 19th century style


One of Melbourne's favourite pieces of architecture is the Block Arcade.

It is beautiful, graceful and just a pleasure to be in.

There is a little lane that leads out to Little Collin Street.

This is what it looks like.



Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Blogging Blahs or How to Get a Real Life

Justin Hall, the first blogger

Computers have always tempted some members of the human race to hang around them ad infinitum ad nauseam. We call them geeks. Then a while ago along came blogs, blogging, and people like us who are called bloggers. Jane over at yarnstorm is taking a week off to read her eyes out of her head. Susan at Pea Soup is making apologies for her absence. I find that I have had to take time out not only for the pesky computer repairs but to get on with real life. But why apologise. The blogosphere is not real life - it is a description of life, it is a form of communication with similar people at the other end of the ether but it is not real life. Real life has family, kids, craft, books, art, travel, food, recipes, houses, decor, gardens, sewing, clothes, decorating - all things we can see and feel and touch and taste. And now I discover that Justin Hall, the very first blogger of them all, has given up blogging and is busy getting on with his own real life. His real life is comprised of writing articles about digital culture, making short videos, editing that wonderful gift, Wikipedia, and he's a graduate student in the Interactive Media Division at the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television.

Brocante Home is passing on the idea of a "no computer" day: having a blog free day - and tips on how you might do it.

If you want to catch up with some very good articles on the world of blogging and put it all in perspective, I refer you to posts over at The Eagle's Nest here and here.

We are saddened...

Stevie-Lee Weight, aged 15 (centre), Cassandra Manners, aged16 (right), Josephine Calvi aged 16 (left)
Read the beautiful article about Stevie-Lee here.

...because on Saturday night six young people in Mildura were killed. They were walking at the side of a country road, a car came around the corner, skidded in the gravel edges of the bitumen road. Five were killed instantly, the sixth died later in a hospital in Adelaide and two are in hospital seriously ill. Our Victorian government agonizes over its road toll. Victoria is a small but populous state but, even to me who comes from northern Australia, the toll seems horrendous. Although Queensland is so worried that it is at the moment in the middle of a summit with its community to try to find new ways to address the issue.
When young lives are taken, it is haunting for those left behind - particularly when young people are taken en masse instantly. Grief descends like a pall on the affected community. The grief of family and close friends - words are unable to describe. I think of their friends left behind. Grief is difficult for us all to articulate. How then do the young understand, work out, articulate their emotions? The funerals are yet to occur. I don't know these people or this community - but my love and concern and empathy go out to them. My heart aches for them.
My heart also aches for another family. An aboriginal family. A man who now carries a burden beyond comprehension and sits in a jail cell far away from his family and his community. I feel for his mother and his partner who don't understand how one they love is in this predicament. Above all, I am filled with love, compassion, and concern for two little children who are victims too. They were in the car with their father - a father who, perhaps, they may never know, at least in the way we understand fathers should be in relation to their children. What stories will they know about what happened last Saturday night? Will their father's burden become their burden as they grow to maturity?
Life is the ultimate creativity. The lives of all these children were fully of energy and promise - until Saturday night when the opposite of creativity - destruction - came upon them. Those who died will be remembered as ever young, ever beautiful. What happens with those who survive? Destruction leaves its scars - always. May our compassion for all of them be ongoing so that life can be creative and joyful for them once again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Winifred Holtby, South Riding & Saucer Cheese Cake


Currently, I am reading South Riding by Winifred Holtby.
In the novel, she refers in passing to a saucer cheese cake.
Can anyone tell me what this is?
Is there a recipe?

Life and growth


Calidore is thinking of life and its changes and passages. The best books I have read on this topic are Passages and New Passages by Gail Sheehy. Sheehy is a psychologist but does not speak psychobabble. She wrote Passages quite a while ago - back in the lat 70s or early 80s. Then a few years back she did a revised version called New Passages because she believed things had progressed so much that various changes were being extended or occurring later - on average by a decade. This is because people are living longer and healthier, they are better educated, etc.

A metaphor she uses and which I use frequently because it is so applicable is the story of the lobster. To grow the lobster must shed its hard carapace. If the lobster did not do this, the growing lobster would be choked to death by the hard, too small shell. So the shell is shed. However, while the lobster is waiting for the new protective carapace to form and grow, it is quite vulnerable and its soft flesh is exposed. We are like this too. In our growth periods, we shed what has been protective for us. As we move into the new stage or stages of our lives we are vulnerable. We are not there yet. Our new form of protection has not arrived, is not functional.

I find this so helpful. It helps to discern what is going on in me and my life: the restlessness, the crankiness with what is around me, the mistakes I make as I move in a new way. These, I now recognise, are my own personal growing pains. Old things are falling away as I grow into new areas. But I am human. I am fallible and I am vulnerable.

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