Eat what you like

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There is no advantage being overweight if you do not like food. Despite my overweight status, I like fine food cooked , and eating in restaurants where taste is king. The linen is fine, as is the cutlery, so too are the waiters. All in all I say, goodness reigns.

 Fortunately, I have enjoyed many beautiful meals in such establishments despite having a beer budget and champagne tastes. It is my hope you do too.

At one stage during a period when fine dining was called “nouvelle cuisine” (1960+) chef’s lost the plot. From the many choices I offer two examples:

In the 1970s Daryl and I decided to take Michael to a restaurant called Pamplemousse at 200 Collins St. Melbourne. As a mark of distinction, this restaurant was on the 2Oth floor in a National Mutual building. (Neither the restaurant nor the company survives).

During the meal, high above the darkened city, a waiter brought us our main course. It was served on a huge plate. Maybe the plate was 40 cm across. In the centre of it in a swirl of jus sat the food. To give you an idea of its size, I calculate maybe a couple of match boxes would have covered it. In all, it was so attractive it would not have been out of place if it had hung from an art gallery wall. However, the course was not sustaining by itself.

Frank tells of a similar experience at a different place. The dinner was held to celebrate a very successful business trading year. The meal was seven courses long. In his words, to give you an example of a chef gone mad his description was. “The cook served a single leaf ripped from a Brussels sprout as a separate course”. At its conclusion the diners were so hungry they went the Scottish named take-away for bedtime sustenance before calling it a night. The message to take from this is — food must first be filling.

Of the thousands of dinners I have eaten, more than ever, I understand some meals seem tastier when we eat. Wonderful surroundings help, but the best cooks insist on simple food cooked well. It is helped when you understand the secret ingredient to every good meal is — good company.

One restaurant I would like to patronise in Melbourne is Atticia. The chef Ben Shewry has worked hard building its reputation. Before lockdown, it was placed variously in the top 100 places in the world to dine. Meals in this place carry a high premium, but that is not why I would like to go there. I know the food to be great. (It is however, beyond my retirees budget).

My reason is to support him is for his generosity towards hospitality staff who were stood down during during ISO. Of all the people who were unsupported financially with government aid during this time, wait staff represent a significant number. For more than five months most went without a pay-packet.  In recognition of their hard times Ben and food writer, Dani Valent cooked soup and gave it away each Wednesday to unemployed restaurant staff.  

These descriptions of my enjoyment of excessive attention dim if you cannot afford food at any price. That is why a free meal supplied by one of the best chefs is so exceptional. 

In Melbourne, expensive places are fewer. The Hare Kristina group offer very cheap vegetarian meals in many locations. A business named Lentil as Anything, before ISO, left it to the diner to decide how much they paid for their meal. (After five months closed its reopening however it is dependent on GoFundMe supporters to do so.)

Across the country, diners could once visit a group of diners named Sizzlers. After more than thirty years the last “eat as much as you can” place closed this week.

Times change and dining is no exception. As far as I know, you can no longer order Peacocks tongues anywhere. Excellent news for Peacocks. What else is food news? You can eat for nothing if you live in Tel Aviv, especially if you like chicken. In return there is good news for chicken, according to my friends at Future

FC reports the company, The Chicken, is feeding visitors free chicken sandwiches. This is good news for the visitors, and it is excellent news for chickens. No chickens die in order for The Chicken to make their sandwiches. “the chicken on the menu is grown from cells in a bioreactor in an adjacent pilot plant visible through a glass window. Diners don’t pay for their meals; instead, SuperMeat, the startup making the “cultured chicken” meat, is asking for feedback on its products, as it prepares for large-scale production of food that it thinks can transform the industry.”

Further, they explain:

The process is far faster and more efficient than raising animals. “Once the desired animal mass is achieved, it allows harvesting approximately half the meat every day,” says Savir. “It is metaphorically the equivalent of having a farm of 1,000 mature chickens, and harvesting 500 mature chickens out of that farm every day endlessly.” The “meat” is produced directly, without the intervening step of slaughtering and butchering. Done right, with renewable energy, the process can also cut the environmental footprint of meat, since it uses fewer resources.

Now the meals are free because no government has granted the company approval to sell their product. Today’s food lovers are simply testing food they proclaim, is as good as chicken.

My mixture of unrelated stories accepts good people continue to help the disadvantaged in: soup kitchens and food banks without any motive but to help. May their good work continue.

Cryptic Poem


Behind the bamboo curtain
We thought it happenstance
The sweat at the minced imp dance
A waste until it travelled freelance
And met us at home - that’s for certain.

What is it? Truthfully, I cannot do cryptic crosswords. I admire those who can and that is why I have set this test. The clever readers among you will be able to solve this easily – if I have made the answer get-able.

The answer is a single word on everybody’s lips this year.

The advertisement promises 43 beans

Count the beans

Just down from the Mercer St Corner, opposite the Myer Store in Yarra St Geelong, was a cafe. In the cafe, on the tables, sat woven straw – covered glass Chianti bottles. Lodged in each bottle was a candle. At night the candles lit the otherwise gloomy room. Behind the counter the staff busied themselves serving their customers cups of steaming cappuccino. Such was the mystery of this enticing bohemian facade – all too frequently I postponed preparing my trainee teacher class lessons, due the next day, to sup late in the wicked atmosphere. This was my first mischievous deed in the world of adults three generations ago.

It was not my first cappuccino. I had had one earlier at Circular Quay in Sydney a few week before. On that occasion I met my sister Elizabeth traveling home on the liner “Oransay” after her first visit to Scotland. These big noisy drink makers took sometime to change the drinking patterns of this nation but they did. Before they became ubiquitous we endured some terrible brews. Let me introduce you to a journey through coffee.

We were (we are still) first a tea drinking family but our pretence at sophistication meant coffee was served on special occasions way back – when? War time privations meant coffee was unavailable- especially to families like ours. We made do with a delicious drink – Bushels Essence of Coffee and Chicory. This syrup was poured into a cup, to complete the ritual you then poured hot milk or water over that – And you were expected to enjoy it. Yuk.

Image Museums Victoria

It really was bad. If you would like to transport yourself back seventy years it is still possible to buy its modern substitute. Bushels Coffee Essence with added Caramel is still sold in supermarkets. (If you like the product you should stick to your choice, just don’t confuse it with a drink of coffee.)

By the time I left to start a home of my own the coffee we drank depended on how stretched our budget was. When it came to coffee we drank Instant Coffee. (It was only when I started to write this entry I made the discovery instant coffee was introduced around the years our fathers were born.) Possibly the biggest name internationally was Nescafe. In our time we have drunk litres of coffee infused by this brand. At various times we have tried dozens of other brands. You might know, or remember them. Some of them were awful. How would you rate Maxwell Hose, Pablo, International Roast, Moccona, Nescafé, Lavazza?

Sixty countries, or seventy – if Wikipedia is your source, grow coffee. The most common varieties grown are c, robusta and c. arabica. It is assumed they all originated in Ethiopia. Robusta, is to my taste, more bitter. Perhaps that is why Turkish coffee is so sweet. Perhaps it explains why an espresso in Europe is so short. Similarly no one can reasonably explain why an Americano tastes as it does. Here in this blazing dry land when it comes to fresh coffee most of us are served Arabica.

Coffee has heaped my ignorance into mountains at various times. I remember with pride producing my first coffee made in the eight cup, Sunbeam electric percolator we purchased. To make it I ground some expensive beans in a manual grinder. It took the best part of half an hour to turn out half a cup of coffee grounds. That was the quantity needed to fill the infuser. After filling the body with water, I turned it on and it percolated until the brew was as black as coal and just as tasty. We kept that thing for many years. The longer we had it the less it was needed. No one liked what it produced.

From that point I decided against filtered coffee and eventually bought a two cup Bialetti Stove Top Coffee maker. This was the first machine that we had that produced a reasonable drink. We kept that little gadget for ages. In fact we kept it until I was the only one in the house drinking coffee. By that stage I was addicted to my one strong cup a day. On Tuesday’s I lashed out and spent an hour with my former work colleague H. For nearly thirty years we have been chewing the fat over a Flat White each week in coffee shop after coffee shop.

Some time ago I expressed my individuality and spent more money than a “one-cup-day” drinker should and I bought a Rancillio Silva manual coffee machine. Now everyone will join me when I make my coffee each morning. My Faerie will have one with me if it is an Italian sweet called an Afagatto. This little drink is a double espresso poured over a serve of ice cream. (Hasn’t that caused some trouble over the years?) When we first started journeying around the country it was impossible to get one. The best reason given for not making one was given to us in a small cafe in Charlton. The waitress give us the pragmatic answer to our question. She said, “This is Charlton – not Carlton.” (Carlton is known as a centre for all things Italian.) Now it is possible to find one almost anywhere as most places can afford to buy an automatic espresso machine. However not all coffee is equal.

Good beans are more necessary than a good machine. Country stores are still reluctant to purchase good coffee, what scientists tell us it will soon become very expensive.The first reason is – coffee has replaced tea as the drink of choice. The second reason is – as the globe warms traditional places where coffee grows will become too hot. Growers are now searching the globe for new regions in which to grow it. Another major problem is the great distances the beans have to travel. Currently we are buying our Fairtrade beans from Timor Leste. This still means a journey of 5,000 kilometers before we get them.

Interestingly coffee waste is worthy of a story of its own. This will be my next story. Please revisit my site and learn a little more about this busy bean.