Thursday, February 18, 2010


Recently I find myself talking about cooking as though it were a spectator sport. I'll have forgotten two ingredients for a curry dinner but only remember at the last minute. I come up with a pie that is equally satisfying, if not better, and after dinner I'll go to Josh 'That was a good save, wasn't it?' and he'll go 'Yeah, it was an awesome save!". I'll bake the chicken for quesadillas instead of pan-frying it to save the pan from two rounds of washing and I'll call it a 'brilliant move'. I'll applaud Josh's rare displays of excellent knife work on some fish and congratulate him on wonderful skills. Conversely when he tips ingredients into the pot in the wrong order I'll scream 'What are you doing? Arrrghhh!' and clutch my hair and jump up and down. I could be watching a terribly exciting football match for all you know. Should I now address a delicious and deeply skilled dinner as a 'goal'?
Now can I blame the ever increasing popularity of food media?; Masterchef, the lesser and even more appallingly scripted My Kitchen Rules taking up excessive amounts of air time and SBS seems unable to get re-runs of Japanese Iron Chef (please don't show the American version ever again. EVER.) off Saturday nights.
Or is it just because I have no life?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's all brown to me

On Monday I was making dressings at work. I mistakenly grabbed the Worcestorshire sauce instead of the balsamic and whisked that up with the mustard and oil. It was pale brown and tasted vile. To fix it I just tipped in two cups of balsamic (which is in the same shaped plastic bottle; anyone could make that mistake!) which effectively masked the Worcestorshire sauce taste and turned it the proper blackish brown shade. Saved my arse. Unless someone from work is reading this, in which case I have effectively fired myself. I'm not sure what's wrong with me at the moment, but I seem to be making mistakes left and right. But I didn't burn anything! That anyone knows about. Tea towels aren't food at least. It is a funny thing to see a wooden spoon on fire. You just don't expect it.

It's also very bizarre reading the Epicure's jobs section and discovering your workplace is looking for a new someone. I thought I really was fired for a second because at first glance I just saw GAS-need-breakfast-cook and thought that this was one of those B movie moments where the tragic eventual hero discovers he has well and truly hit rock bottom in a most brutal fashion. Then I remembered that I haven't cooked breakfast since my last day there before giving birth, which was of course the worst work day of my life. I'm a 'general' cook. I hope they find someone nice, efficient and not me for the breakfast cook position.
If any of you ever do end up hiring me in the future for some reason or other, I'm not really like this all the time. Generally I'm known for being at least somewhat quick and creative in the kitchen. And when not pregnant or spending my entire days away from my baby son, the only things I ever burn are my own flesh and the fine hairs off the back of my hand. You don't even realise they're there till you've burned them off.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nobody Knows

Did anyone catch SBS2's screening of Nobody Knows (dare mo shiranai)? I'd never heard of it before, but in 2004, Yuya Yagira, who played main character Akira won the award for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival. Don't read on if you plan to watch this yourself or if you are quite squeamish, but God what a bloody captivating film. In in a young mother and her eldest son Akira move into a new apartment, fooling the neighbours into thinking she only has one child by transporting her two youngest in suitcases while her eldest girl is snuck in from the train station in the middle of the night. Only Akira is allowed to leave the apartment, of all the children, so that he may to grocery shopping and pay at bills. At first the mother seems loving and genuinely caring despite herself, appearing to work all day and return home late but happy to play with her children. That is until she abandons them to marry a man who knows nothing about her children. Suffice to say we spent the whole film clutching each other on the couch, begging the powers that be that someone discovers them and gives them the help and protection they need. 
At the beginning of the film is a disclaimer mentioning that the story is based on real events. Naturally I had to find out what really happened, to get closure from the film which left things quite open ended. I almost wish I hadn't; the true story is far more gristly and tragic. In the press the story was called 'the affair of the four abandoned children of Sugamo'. The real mother had five children, none of whom were registered. Her youngest son died from illness not long after birth, but rather than telling the authorities and giving him a proper burial, she wrapped the child in plastic sheets with some deodoriser and hid him in the closet. When she abandoned them to live with her boyfriend, she left them only 50,000 Yen for living expenses. The eldest son befriended to other young teen boys who took to hanging out at their apartment. One boy became angry with the youngest girl, two years of age, for eating a bowl of ramen he'd brought for himself and he beat her to death. The eldest son and the other friend packed up her body and buried her in a shallow grave by some nearby mountains. Eventually the landlord discovered them and called the authorities. They had been abandoned for 9 months. The mother saw the story on the news and turned herself in. She spent only three years in prison and four on probation. She even got custody of her two surviving daughters. Charges were made against the eldest boy but dropped and he was remanded to a care facility; he was only 14 at the time. The two friends were sent to a reform school.
Children will do stupid things, especially when they have no example to follow and are given responsibilities far beyond their capabilities. The film portrays the eldest son as more of a generous but flawed hero, and his friends as mere delinquents. But I can't believe a woman could abandon her children like that, without a thought to how they might survive and then only get such a short time in prison. 
If you ever have a moment where you feel like you're a bad mother, perhaps you should watch this. You'll feel better about yourself, but rather a lot worse about the world.

Mothering Madness

I think I'm going to be one of those mothers who over-protects and nearly over-feeds her children. I had a bit of a panic yesterday and bought extra groceries on our market shop to prepare various lunches and dinners for Wolfgang. I've gotten a little over-excited about new foods, with Wolf already trying chicken, fish and cheese in the last week. But he seems to be enjoying them and hasn't displayed any allergies or generally unpleasant reactions. I have food to last him the next couple of months: chicken and sweet potato, chicken and potato to be combined with green vegetables later, fish and potato, zucchini tasty cheese and brown rice pasta, pure unsalted chicken consomme. Partly this sudden desperate mothering is because I start working on Sundays as well as Mondays. Two days is not much work at all. But for some reason I feel as though being away from him another day means I won't be able to stay on top of things and I should prepare food like a war is coming in case anything should happen to me. I can't seem to express enough milk to make me feel 100% comfortable leaving him, so I suppose I'm trying to make up for it with solid foods. It's quite silly I know.
Paranoia. I think the two words that best describe me would be generously paranoid or paranoid-ly generous, depending on my state of mind. On a more positive side, this cooking was inspired by gifts from my friend Rachel, one of the genius writers of the Hungry Girls Cookbook. She and her gorgeous daughter visited the other day, bringing with them half a dozen eggs from their own chickens and a huge zucchini! I have to say it's one of the nicest gifts I've received, ever! There is something so beautiful and generous in giving of something you have grown yourself. So on Friday Wolf tried his first pancakes, albeit one's made with just egg yolk, flour and milk. The egg yolks were a beautifully vibrant orange. 
Admittedly he didn't like the little pancakes much, as tasty as they were. Wolf hates warm food so he sort of shuddered when he picked one up. But he did have a good go and tore them apart. However he loved the pasta made with Rachel's zucchini. Much sweeter and less watery than store bough vegetables. Thank you Rachel!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Intersection of Death

What you're looking at is the intersection of Montague Street and the Docklands Highway and Lorimer Street in South Melbourne. Every work morning this is the intersection I have to get through on my bike without dying. I'm actually riding on the pedestrian path along the left but have to cross at a hundred odd lights to even make it through to the other side. It takes forever, it's scary, noisy, dangerous and there are hardly ever any other cyclists around. It's either this or ride all the way up Spencer Street. 
This is what one gets for moving to the industrial side of town. Next time Google Earth updates there images, there will be a big pink splodge somewhere on here which will be me and my bike having been run over by 50 uncaring motorists. 

Emma, The Walking Disaster

When I was working at the patisserie, I had a special nick-name given to me by the master. 'Emma Catastrophe' pronounced the French way. So basically every time I dropped a hot tray, rolled a wonky escargot, or someone mixed the incorrect quantities of ingredients together for anything (something that happened A LOT for some reason), my boss would walk in and go 'Ah la la, Emma Catastrophhhhh!'. It drove me nuts. As if I didn't generally feel like a royal moron already. There was a song that went with it too, but I won't go into that. 
Monday was only my second day back but the curse of being a walking disaster has already come back. Sure, on paper I look like a pretty competent and efficient cook. But when I'm bad, I'm pretty dumb. It's mostly burning stuff that I have a problem with these days. The incorrect quantities thing doesn't matter so much at Gas, as anything other than cakes and pastries are generally repairable. So I burnt some sausages when I went upstairs to express some breast milk (is anyone else other than me actually checking things in the oven?), burnt some pastries at the end of the day (again same question), knocked over the giant pepper mill a hundred odd times and nearly forgot two items of catering. Argh. I could have bashed my head against the wall. Sometimes I do wonder exactly what career I'm naturally suited to. I love being in the kitchen and I can't imagine wanting to do much else, other than write (and I don't think a major in creative writing did anything to inspire some talent in that department), but I was born a sort of absent-minded klutz and I suppose I will die by those very symptoms. Anyway I've got to buck up because I'm fairly sure I'm the most disposable member of staff at the moment. Sure it didn't help that it was 34 degrees and my brain fairly melts in hot weather, but now that it's not possible to just crash and burn when I get home, I've got to stay on top of things or risk falling off the edge of the Earth completely. Sound dramatic? I like over-reacting.
I nicked these pictures off the cafe's website. The above egg dish we don't actually make like that. It was invented for the promo pictures. It's delicious though. An enormous pan of it like this would feed about 8 people, but usually it's done in a miniature pan. Turkish tomato sauce, eggs poached in the sauce, topped with fried haloumi, parsely, paprika and served with toast. About the best winter breakfast dish in existence. The green olives were added just for the picture, though they go awfully well. 
And we have a wonky image of the sandwich display in the store. My only claim to fame is that I can be bloody fast. I'll make 55 flatbreads and baguettes in an hour and a half. That's the record! Everything else I do too fast. All speed and no brain. Should I have become a rare female motorcycle racer (but I have no sense of balance)? 
At least I have my own money now and can afford to take Josh out to dinner for his birthday next Monday! La Luna, his absolute favourite. And I bought myself Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall's River Cottage Everyday cookbook. His books are the most useful I've ever come across! Not only are the recipes seasonal, simple and totally delicious sounding, but he always includes ingredient alternatives or seasonal alternatives and appropriate accompaniments. It's the kind of cookbook that Josh can read and sort of understand. And that's an achievement. Not a picture of a bicycle in sight. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back at work

It was easy. I remembered how to do everything. The ride took a while but I enjoyed it and it was fine.
Phew! Back to being arms deep in super high quality lamb mince and paprika. Back to being able to throw together amazing dishes with speed and ease in a fully stocked and equipped kitchen. Back to the hilarious banter one shares with friends and cooks. Back to having adult(ish) conversations about serious(ish) topics. Though I was absolutely focussed on work, every now and again I did have a niggling feeling that I was forgetting something. Then I would be like 'Oh my baby! Where is he?' in my head. Then I'd remember he was home safe with his dad. I would have liked to see a heart rate chart for yesterday. It would have looked unnatural. Maybe like that of a startled geriatric. That was certainly my bike riding style anyway. I used to hate being passed on the road by overweight business-men on their expensive road bikes or cheap and ugly hybrids. Riding a fixie means people expect you to go fast and ride dangerously. But I can't be bothered to do either of those things anymore. Well, perhaps the latter, but that's only by accident. I did nearly take myself out going too fast around corners and was nearly run over by an enormous semi-trailer crossing lanes (which I was at perfect right to do) on Ballarat road. I hate trucks. Stupid driver gesturing and yelling at me. What did he want me to do? It was either cross to my lane or be run over by someone else. Anyway, it's nice to be earning money again and it's nice to be exercising. We may yet lose this post-baby fat. Nothing I can do for my hips though. Like someone's over large head pushing itself through the neck of a borrowed t-shirt. It will never be the same again.

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