Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Just a whisper...

Thanks to Miss Mummy Daze's prompt for this week... "Whisper"

When I was a little girl my home was something from a story book. Not an idyllic fairy tale with princesses and unicorns... more like a magical comedy.

My family is full. However like most large families that is never actually the case, we seem to grow exponentially, attracted through marriage, birth or acquisition of long term friends. My pop would have said, "throw another cup of water in the soup", always welcoming a stranger to our crowd.

It is the noise that sticks with me, a background hum, tick and tumble that marked the ebb of our life together. As an adult I still crave it. I find myself doing housework with the t.v. on, writing essays in my local pub and finding anything to giggle at or sing along to just to fill that void.

We grew up and we spread around the world. The distance is deafening.

It was almost a surprise to me that my saturday morning coffee ritual suddenly wasn't as precious in my silent weeks. That buzz and hum gave my alone time value.

It pops back to me in little bubbles that home, leaving me with a little vignette as it breaks.

The downstairs of our home was hewn in to the side of a hill it was cool and dark. Showering the light would filter down through a shaft, golden and dust filled. The air in there hung with the faint scent of chemicals from a photography lab that Dad and I would set up in the holidays. The small brown squares creating a mosaic of poor workmanship under my feet. You soon learnt where to step for fear of scratching or slicing.

Then it fades.

A loose floorboard, no not a floorboard, a skirting board. Just a few inches of skirting board jammed between two doorways. It could be slid out if your fingers were small enough. In that little gap I buried a note to myself fifteen years ago. tucked under the floor is a tiny map of a tin my baby brothers and I buried at the far end of the yard. Still longing to unearth it,

and it fades.

I have a new family now, my boyfriend, my friends and workmates. Collected and stacked higgedly piggedly in my heart, Slowly building a chatter, a squeal and a din.

Its still there though, the hands and smiles encassing mine, still moulding me and bringing me age in whispers. Its just a whisper, but its enough to sustain me.

Friday, 8 February 2013

It's better than sex.. it's my city

I could tell you some love stories. I have a knack for falling in love, wether it be for five minutes on the sidewalk with a perfectly formed rose, for a summer with a glorious Riesling or for five years with my first boyfriend. I have a deep affinity and belief, in living for love.

But the minute I read miss Mummy Daze’s post all I could think about was the first time I remember having a strong feeling of what I liked and loved about my  life. I was just starting to get to know me as an adult, my life was begining to bud. I fell in love with my city.

Through the last eight years (as with all of us I’m sure) I’ve had a few challenges. There have been great loves and small loves, heartaches and breaks, death and loss, and of course above all, joy.  I moved to Adelaide with an ex boyfriend but have always been and had to be, very independent. Through out these events sometimes there has been no one here to hold me, no one to warm me, and no-one to keep me company. But I have always had the broad tree lined streets to hold me, a lonely coffee in a familiar café to warm me and a wander through the bustle of the central market has been enough calamity (and cheese) to help any girl forget herself.

A series of small constant relationships, like stars in the night sky. So I guess it is no wonder that when I have visitors I cant but help indulge myself by showing off my love, like a new beau or sometimes (the true treasures) a gorgeous faithful friend.

Here are four little loves, like little meals that have sustained me. Pick me up when blue, act as escapes for my heart and my senses. I could share these affairs for pages with you, but a girl has to keep a little something tucked away in her heart for next time xx

Morning Glory
Nothing wakes me up quite like the promise of a hot organic bacon and egg roll on a winters morning. It’s so cold your breath snaps at the air and you’re nervous to buy a coffee before you’ve warmed your hands. “Bacon and egg roll” doesn’t really do it justice, the bread is a heavy soft sour dough, home made almond pesto, add the chutney, twice smoked bacon and a googy egg. Wrap it up in paper and set off for a stroll around the market. There are cheese wrights, a French patisserie, the most succulent orange juice (my nephew has the gent trained to give him a mandarin icy pole in exchange for a chat and a giggle, well done all round! even if your lips are blue little one). Home made breads abound, scattered with ancient grains and seeds. I can never help but stop at the old French lady selling rillette, aioli and pate. She’s chatting of her ducks and geese like they are her children and then she offers up their innards – perhaps more akin to a Hansel and Gretel tale – but delicious all the while. Next to her grins the lavendar man, i'll have a glass of lavendar cordial before my coffee and perhaps a choc-lavendar brownie for later...

There is Barry that makes his own spices, a marvel and a treat. He has tiny shovels he uses to share and encourages you to lick it from the palm of your hand, great carbon neutral dinning I say. Two older women sell the sweetest lettuces and hottest chilli’s, quite a pairing. I think my favourite though is a gent who’s name I can never quite catch, he mumbles and has no front teeth. He isn’t always there, he’s grows organically and picks the morning of the market. Sometimes he has goods to sell and other times he can be found sitting watching the crowd with a coffee. 
He grows the most beautiful veg, mounds of broad beans, pumpkins, snake beans, tomato’s and eggplants. Never all at once, its famine or feast, true seasonal growing. It’s the most delicious surprise to see what he’s plucked that morning. I collect my prizes, shoulder aching with the haul and retreat up the hill to my favourite café. Its lined with books (mostly cooking books) I sip a long black, check the daily soup (the braised lentil and spinach is supreme) sketch out possible meals with my freshly bought treasure. Now who could want for better love, company or adventure with all that at your door step?

An Afternoon dalliance
In all the world, there is no where I would prefer to be than in the afternoon sun in my brother’s back yard. On his lawn and with his family and I can see us there; three short one’s, a bub and his lovely wife. She’s probably produced a jug of home made lemonade or some chevre on rye with garden tomato’s and basil. The kids would have picked them from the garden four minutes before and it’s lazily and loving passed around. In the dappled sunshine the baby would be on a rug on the grass, the boys have constructed medieval weapons and hats, and my precious niece sitting with the ladies, loving being that touch older. Its not just the family though – and I know it will come as no shock or disappointment to my family when I write this, but it’s that the dappled shade is cast by the most glorious fig tree.

You have no idea what a tease she is, she is statuesque dominating a corner of the yard. The huge fat leaves shade the trampoline and create hide and seek for her gem like fruit. She fruits twice a year in February and then again just before winter … but it seems an age as I watch her little bosom’s swell in to jam like fruit. They are un-like any fig I’ve had before. At the lightest pressure the thin green skin splits in to deep red jelly.
Don’t you see? She’s worth the wait.
At some point before the chill descends, the crusade that has occupied the boys will end and the six of us will wander a few blocks to the beach, mutt in tow. Sand will be kicked, races held, bargaining a plenty. Wander home, pants soggy, tired faces and promises of bedtime stories.
And then, once the short ones are heavy in their beds, we’ll break open a local bottle of Grenache and retrieve the figs we picked earlier. Perhaps we’ll wrap them in salty prosciutto from the markets, caramelise them in a pan and splay them on crackers with cheese, or throw them, as is, in a salad. Logs are thrown on the fire and we settle in.
So there it is, she’s my afternoon love (most probably unrequited). She embodies to me the essence of being South Australian. Perhaps it’s her who taught me how to love my new home. The produce purchased locally or grown, kept simple and shared. The wine collected from a small vintner down the road, all a stroll from the beach. She may be a flirt, but thank god she’s consistent.

 NO, I didn’t tell my friends about you…
I have rituals. Little rituals like putting my nose in the hot water of the shower before the rest of me, and larger ones like lighting a candle and drinking sweet wine on the birthday of a friend who passed away. I guess the one I’m going to share with you now really only happens once a year. Once a year…on my birthday. I work in hospitality and the thing about working in hospitality is that when you want to go out …so does every body else.. but its your job to serve them, not necessarily join them.

So my December birthday tends not to be celebrated, sure perhaps I can get the night off but my friends work hospitality too… cake for one? I think not. So instead I have my little ritual. Somewhere in the afternoon I go missing, dressed up, feeling chic. I return to my favourite cocktail bar, the thing I like best about it is that the entrance is through a mall, at the back of a very grotty pub. Its almost hidden like platform 9 ¾. It’s a huge lonely empty loft, filled with random furniture. Morrocan lounges, bali huts, pods, cushions, vast wooden tables, chandeliers, provocative art, floor lamps. Through the curtains that hang like veils between furniture arrangements, I find myself at the bar and I order a dirty martini. In the past I’ve had the place fairly well to myself, till the office crowd rolls in after five. In their Christmas drinks out fits I don’t look so out of place. I don’t much care anyway; I’ve got my annual diary, an entry for each birthday, while drinking a martini for the last few years. I sit and write like a madman, and perhaps look a little like one. Once I have had my fill – as if I had waited all year just to put the words out, I leave. I walk through the park, through the central markets and I collect a honey joy (well it IS my birthday) to an alley of vintage and retro wares. Where I buy myself a birthday present, blow the price. After all a girls got to be her own best friend.

The one night stand...
It’s a shonky pub, all angles and leans. In truth until recently I had no idea where it actually was in the city. I just used to give the taxi driver its name. It speaks volumes really about this lost island of a pub, that it can be found only when you’ve had too many pale ales. In the front are flannel shirts and beards, beanies and knitted skirts. No one I know, but in the back is a sea of familiarity. Billy Bob stands at the BBQ selling snags in bread for a dollar, such a treat after a long night at work and the clocks after midnight! A crowded courtyard of old and new friends brings warmth.  Get your snack (hope there’s onions left), here there are only two things to drink, straight Jacks or dark ale. I never drink this elsewhere but it’s the done thing and it fits here, its familiar. Its like having Russian caravan tea at your granny’s, its gross but you’d be sad if you didn’t.

There’s a push inside as Billy Bob takes the stage with his musicians, they jam in between sets from local artists, who turn up guitars in hand to sign the sheet. Local live music, framed with professional talent, sausages and dark ale. What’s not to love. It’s a guilty pleasure, a reoccurring late night faux pas. Well its only a faux pas the morning after.. 

So there they are, my little loves, my dalliances, faux pas' and affairs. It is enough to make any grey day melt away with a deep breath, a brave step and an open heart. A city that is my companion, my lover, my friend.
Thank you Adelaide, you're a doll.
Your Girl,
Grace xx

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Hey Pesto!

SO lately I have been in the depths of study... not the depths actually.. more leaving the shallows as I finally exit my Masters degree (thats right.. it got a capital letter!). During this time I find it pretty hard to sit still. This ir mostly due to my sitting so often, typing, reading, marking, editing..... blogging. I find myself doing unnecessary things like making pesto for dinner from scratch. Now friends its not that this recipe is challenging at all... its that I have other things I should be doing! BUT the fresh green addition to  my salad as I sit on the couch marking has really brightened my day. SO I hope you give it a shot too.

Macadamia, Coriander and Chili Pesto

You will need to find yourself a blender, don't believe what they say- you don't need an expensive one. Mine cost forty dollars two years ago and I've never had  problem with it. I even use it to crush ice now and then. In this blender place your dry ingredients, I'd start with the nuts... traditionally you would use pine nuts, but of course mine is a macadamia base. I used about 300gms worth. Blend to a consistency you would like to eat. I LOVE finding the odd chunky nut piece in mine, so I leave mine quite rough. Then add two birds eyes chilli's. Mine were fresh from the garden theses winter chilli's are not particularly hot but give the paste a lovely warm spice. Then add two bunches of coriander, only the white parts of the roots removed, most of the flavour is trapped in the green coriander stem. Blend blend blend. At this stage you will probably notice that the blender isn't doing its smoothest job of combining them, remove the insert from your blender lid and while blending on a slow speed add olive oil. It is a little scary how much oil the nuts will soak up - don't get too stressed, the flavour will be worth it. You only need a small teaspoon of good pesto to set a dish buzzing so don't be mean with the natural fats! 

Your Pesto will start to come together and slowly change colour to a rich green. Once it is nice and pliable turn the blender off and turn in to a mixing bowl. have a little taste? Its not quite there yet...is it? What it is missing is a good squeeze of lemon juice, a FAT pinch of salt and a generous crack of pepper. Combine these through to taste. DADAAAH! isn't that magic? I hope it brings a little fun back in to your winter meals. I have used it as a topping for pumpkin soup, a dressing for salad, served it as a dip or of course as a sauce for a rather racy summer pasta. Enjoy my lovelies, Grace xx