Monday, October 26, 2009


Every now and again I set myself a home kitchen challenge just to prove to myself that when I finally go back to work, I won't collapse in a sobbing heap in front of the stove. Josh's favorite mac and cheese for dinner, roast chicken sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise and raspberry friands for mothers' group tomorrow. All made at the same time within an hour. And then leave the kitchen spotless. Done. I can be a mother and a cook. I can return to work. But can I do it in good conscience?

Pram Envy makes your money disappear. Or at least your partner's.

'Pram Envy': An emotional experience that occurs when you are walking your baby in his or her pram/stroller and you see another mother with a model superior to your own in every way. She is probably also wearing better clothes that do not have breast milk stains on them. Associated with turning an unappealing shade of green and hoping that your child will grow up to be mentally superior to the other woman's child to make up for it. 
When you try to wheel your Land Rover of a stroller into a busy cafe but find that you are mowing down chairs and tables in your wake. Meanwhile a mother with a much more compact model, wheels her child in with ease and cuts in front of you because she is not flustering over upturned tables and other peoples' squashed toes. 

I'm more of the latter. So like other first time mothers before me, I purchased one of those massive all-in-one pram, stroller and car seat systems. It seemed a good idea at the time. Mostly because I was 7 months pregnant and walking around in Baby Bunting was both frightening and tiring and I couldn't find anywhere to sit down. That, and there was this Russian couple eyeing off the same Steelcraft system as us and one of the shop staff had mentioned they only had a few of them in black left. I get like that when I see someone considering something that I have vague ideas about purchasing; I have to have it so they can't. That's reasonably evil, I know. It didn't seem to matter at the time anyway. Wolfgang wasn't here yet. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted in a pram other than it had to be safe for my yet-to-be-born. And it had to look OK. I was NOT going to buy a pram from Kmart. Plus pregnancy brought on some long lost infantile tendencies, so I think I might have been stamping my feet and demanding that we just DO THIS and GO HOME.
Anyway it's been pretty jolly good for the first few months. Mostly because I only ever use the stroller bit when Josh or my mum are around, so I've got someone to help me carry the bloody base down the filthy concrete stairs of our apartment block. It has these bloody massive back wheels which is quite good for bumps but are a total bugger when you are trying to actually go in anywhere. I took it to Hausfrau; my mum insisted that we take the pram even though all the cool young Yarraville mums were using slings and cross-over carriers. I took out a couple of tables and a man's foot. It took up the space that three people sitting down would have. Very bloody embarrassing. I mean I've already mentioned in earlier posts how bloody annoying big prams are in cafes and restaurants. The number of times I've nearly totalled myself and someone's poor child by running into it with armfuls of hot food or stacks of dirty plates. Please people, but the brakes on your prams wherever you are. It may look like a flat surface but it certainly isn't a stationary environment! God that bloody video of that woman whose pram and baby went under a train. Bloody hell is all I can say. If they play that clip one more time my heart may actually leap out my throat and land on the new rug in front of the telly.

Anyway. So pram envy. Not the kind where you stare at bloody Bugaboos and go "Ooh. That cost one and a half grand. Very niiice". No, no and no. Bloody Bugaboos. You are mad if you get one of those. Mad and unfairly wealthy. Go donate something to help starving orphans in Sudan or something.
I was starting to get very embarrassed about my giant pram. Today I convinced Josh to fork out a couple hundred for a new stroller. Say hello to the Silver Cross Fizz. Less than 5kg. One handed folding. Nice upright sitting position for a 4 month old who is already utterly fed up with reclining. And I got it in the 'Humbug' design so it is a very sexy black and white. Goodbye Pram envy. Hello trying to explain to my mum why I saw fit to spend money on two prams. I might have to have another child to justify that one. But man am I ever looking forwards to mothers' group tomorrow!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The look of understanding

I love places where you can sit with your noisy child and across the room you will share a look with another mother that says 'Yes, I know. But it's all right.' I just love it. Sitting with Wolf propped up on the communal table at Hausfrau and at least three other mothers coming in with toddlers and babies gave me that shared smile and empathetic glance as Wolf gurgled and yelled at the top of his voice. I love Yarraville. It's full of people who actually realise that the swathe of cloth across your chest is a baby sling, not an oddly noisy, wriggly bag.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sleeping through

Wolfgang is now four months old and has finally started sleeping from around 11:30 pm till about 5:30 - 6 am. One never appreciates sleep so much as when one loses the opportunity. Wolf is finally getting the rest he needs so not so hyperactive and crazy as he was before. He even naps properly during the day. He used to go hours and hours without sleeping and would progressively get louder and require more attention. I could never put him down! Now in the night we catch him giggling and smiling in his sleep, which is gorgeous. But occasionally we run to his room at the sound of sobbing and we find him tossing and turning with his eyes shut tight, crying from some unseen disturbance. Can a child so young have nightmares? I hope not. I hope he can keep sleeping peacefully just like this.

Lost and Found Market

I love Lost and Found Market in Smith Street, Fitzroy. We used to go to the Chapel Street Bazaar all the time, but we rarely found any vintage stuff that we liked, and it was always super expensive. I'd expected the same of Smith Street but it wasn't too bad at all! I got these adorable Japanese pottery mugs at $29 for a set of six. And this macrame pot hanging thingy. I forget how much it was. But I love it!
We've bought so much stuff recently, and while we're on only one income. Not a very good idea. It is a beautiful 28 degree sunny day in Melbourne. It is time to show  Wolf the pleasures of lying on the grass and having a nap.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chili Night!

I love Chili con Carne. It is such a great group dish! Tonight we're having some friends over for it. I know I should use a cheaper cut of meat, but I can't go past a really nice big chunk of beef topside. It is just so tender that it saves me a hell of a lot of prep time, which I don't have much of anymore! And it has to have black beans. Yum. I made a nice light dessert for after as well; Apple and Rosewater Jelly.

Apple and Rosewater Jelly
1 litre sweet clear apple juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rosewater
2 tablespoons or
16 grams powdered gelatin dissolved in 200ml warm water
OR 8 gelatin leaves

1. Warm apple juice on stove and add sugar, stir to disolve
2. Take off heat, add gelatin and rosewater
3. Whisk lightly to ensure thorough mix
4. Pour jelly mixture into lightly oiled mould or bowl through a 
fine sieve to remove any lumps of gelatin.
5. Place jelly in fridge to set overnight. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Career Crisis

I know I've still got another three months before I should start work again, but I don't know what I should do! Should I go back to the cafe and beg for a cooks position again? Should I find somewhere new and closer to home? Should I go a completely different track and try something new? Would anyone even hire me? Is there even a slight chance that my useless Bachelor of Arts majoring in creative writing will mean anything in the future? What the hell am I going to do with myself?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Births, Deaths and Marriages

I was just reading AA Gill's article 'At last, Supper' in the September Gourmet Traveller. Mostly he talked about how most US prisoners on death row request junk food for their last meals; very few ask for anything very gastronomic or even for home-cooked dishes, which is what most chefs say when interviewed on the topic. Maybe in the monotonous prison system, the prisoners creativity and imagination failed them in their final hours and could only offer them what they remembered of their former lives.
One question that bothers me about this, is what if the meal prepared for you wasn't to your taste? You had requested steak but it was over-done and under-seasoned; would you be allowed to send it back and have another? If you had ordered chips but they gave you french fries, would they care? Say you wanted catfish, or barramundi, but they only had flake, would they find your preferred fish for you? Would they delay your date-of-execution if the chef had failed utterly to produce the correct flavours?
You can't imagine that prison resources stretch to include a genuinely professional chef, although it would be incredible to actually speak to the cooks who prepares those last suppers. Actually, I can imagine that being an amazing job, if that's all you had to do. Like the opposite of the execution, and more like the priest that visits prisoners for their last rites; an angel of mercy. I don't suppose there are so many executions these days that you'd be a last supper chef exclusively; generally crap prison cooks probably do it all and for a minimum wage. But if I were offered the job, I think I'd take it. Sure, they're murderers, rapists, the incurably evil; but the decision to end their lives has been made for them and they should be allowed to experience one last good moment of humanity to lesson the terror of facing the fatal injection. If you had a week of fair warning and interviewed the prisoner a few times, you would probably have enough information about ingredients, region, context and preferences to be able to prepare the best possible last supper for the doomed soul. Even if it's just pizza, their mother's lasagne, or an ice cream sundae, everyone's idea of flavour is different. Maybe only serial killers like Patrick Bateman (I know he's fictional but American Psycho is one of the greatest foodie books ever written) would request a lobe of fois gras or concoction of nouvelle cuisine. AA Gill mentioned Sedley Alley, rapist and murderer of a young Marine Corps Lance Corporal asked for milk and oatmeal cookies. He had pleaded insanity when convicted, and Gill called this requested of 'infantile pathos'. The most infantile request of all be for breast milk, which would be most of humanity's first meal. If someone asked for that, would they actually be given breast milk? Then again, we tend not to remember the period where we breastfed, and choices would very much depend on one's memory.
This brings me to think about meals in relation to the other two pivotal moments in human life: birth of a child and marriage. To the latter: when planning a wedding menu, to couples really consider their favorite dishes, or do such preferences give way to chicken or fish so as to satisfy as many of their invited guests as possible? From what I've heard, it's the latter. When Josh and I get married, I'm sending out menus with the invitations. Everyone can select a entree, main and dessert from three options. None of this alternate plate crap. There will be vegetarian choices.
Immediately after giving birth to Wolfgang, my number one craving was not for the foods that I had been denied during pregancy, like smoked salmon, camembert and soft serve ice-cream, but for a Twix bar. My labour had begun on a Tuesday evening and after Masterchef had finished, I realised that the pains in my abdomen were not Braxton Hicks, but real painful contractions. As I lay on the floor writhing in pain, I watched TV to try and distract myself and somehow a commercial for Twix bars embedded itself in my mind. The afternoon after Wolf had arrived that morning, I sent Josh out to get me a Twix. They didn't even sell any in the hospital canteen so he had to run down the street to find one. That's love for you.
The only conclusion that I can draw from all that? Food relates to all the important moments in human life. Hence the human obsession with eating.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More than four walls

I don't want to look out my window and see three rastafarians smoking dope on the lawn. I don't want to hear the man downstairs yelling at one of his four sons as he chases him around with a switch in his hand. I don't want to hear hoons in their ugly, souped up commodores screaming down the street with the bass booming. I don't want to smell cigarette smoke, curry on fire, or stale beer. I don't want to share walls with people I don't know. I don't want to shop at the supermarket. I don't care about fashion, clothes, latest music, where to eat, where to drink or where to be seen.

I want a water tank, solar panels, garden full of fruits, vegetables and herbs, chickens, ducks, a goat, over-size kitchen, walk-in pantry, garage full of old bicycles and cars, tree, neighbors who don' piss me off, a lawn-mower, a clothes-line, and to be able to leave my filthy boots and umbrella outside and not have them go missing. I want weekend markets, sitting outside on the lawn, neighbors who I don't hate.
I thought I was a city girl. I would max out my credit card, spend all my pay in a day, obsess over where to eat, where to go at night. I would spend an hour getting dressed and my hair was never ever right.
Now four months mostly living within the walls of our generally lovely two bedroom apartment, I realise that I like domesticity. Feeding my son, cooking, cleaning (ok so maybe not so much the cleaning...), taking long walks through the park, growing herbs, haggling at the market, eating food that I cook. But I want more of it. I don't need the city anymore, and I don't like outer suburbia.
I want to move to the country.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I'm in love

Environmentally conscious mothers. Bike lovers. People who can't drive (like me). Look at this bike. It is a work of art. It's by Maruishi, a Japanese Bike Manufacturer and it's called a 'Fracker's Como'. No they don't import it. Which is so utterly unfair, because this is the best of infant-toting-on-a-bike that I have ever seen. Fully integrated, adorable, comfortable looking seat. Safe. Happy! It is so unfair! If you want one of these you will have to go to Japan, buy one, dismantle it, and try to get it home. Life is so unfair! I want one!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Waking for food

When I'm sitting with Wolf at my breast at 5 in the morning, I think about just a couple of years before when being up before dawn meant something entirely different. Dragging myself out of bed at 4:30, getting dressed, brushing my teeth then heading out into the quiet darkness to walk to work. I'd be far too sleepy to be afraid of what I might encounter on my way. On Sunday mornings I'd have the benefit of seeing drunk and exhausted youth at the end of their big night out; I'd sometimes find boys passed out in shop doorways. It was strange that I was around the same age as those kids, and just when their night was ending, my day had already begun. 
And then I'd get to the front door of the patisserie and find that my keys weren't in my pocket. I'd get a cold wash of terror then. I was meant to be inside already, warming up the oven, pulling out trays of croissant and brioche from the prover to be egg washed. Having no keys meant that my Boss and teacher would arrive in an hour expecting the all important pastry products cooling on trolley only to find me freezing on the sidewalk, cringing. Following that would be a good chewing out but no opportunity to grab some breakfast. 

Life is so much better now. I would much rather wake early to the cries of my hungry baby boy than the beeping of an alarm and the prospect of a good arse kicking. Sure, I eat museli instead of croissants for breakfast. But I would rather be feeding Wolfgang than fattening the masses before dawn. 

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