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 Crunch.com

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.

Here are some amazing facts about barracudas.

Barracudas are muscular fish with torpedo-shaped bodies that are streamlined. They are fitted with an amazing collection of teeth that are razor-…

Here are some amazing facts about barracudas.

This article is reposted because it is more authoritative than my entry from 25th September 2020. Barracouta is a fishy narrative.

The inclusion of this story follows a return to a family farm at Apollo Bay (thanks Robin and David Knox). Chatting around the fire one evening talk turned to the barracouta and fishing there. It so happens when a fresh catch is sent from Apollo Bay a Colac fish and chip shop still sells it. On our journey home Jennie ate a tasty reminder of a common weekly meal. (She hadn’t seen the story above.)

Photo, Author

Forty spots

Entry, page 11/12 Birds of Victoria Gould League

Years ago I found grounded, a dead bird,

Stiff and cold. My damp palm swallowed its whole

Strangeness — mine to learn of a fowl dead.

Exquisite bird, miniature creature,

Said new to me. Unrecognised, Geoffrey

Enunciated, “A spotted pardalote.”

Time ticked slowly. Home – facelift begun.

A midget bird flew in nearby tree tops

Swooped low to the foundations busily

Constructing a home. Weird bird nesting in

The dark earth, unique, beautiful creature.

Absolute unto land, nests low — lives high.

Up in the eucalyptus — eating lerps.

Its forty spots endangered by mankind

Forever. Denuded ecology 

Awful progress a threat to extinction.


Birds of Victoria was a first bird book of Andrew’s in 1974. In 2020 Professor John Woinarski of Charles Darwin University predicts the life of the Spotted Pardalote is endangered.

A little word

Image. Thesaurus.com

Today i have watched Sean Connelly’s acceptance speech at the AFI awards. In 2006 he was given the tribute of a Life Achievement Award. I watched the program today as this is the week he died at 90. In his speech he acknowledged he had in inauspicious beginning. He left school at 13. I was shaken when, of all the things he might have said, he marvelled at how his life changed when he turned five. He said, “ I got my break, big break, when I was five years old, and i t has taken me more than 70 years to realise it. It is that simple, and it is that profound.” This man who became the character James Bond, 007 owed his success to those who taught him to read.

To read is life changing. We caught sight of it in our judicial child. At four she “transcribed” from a favourite work the words use to explain the tale. Drawing page after page of scribble — each sound representing the word she understood we spoke. As a teenager she noted the words she didn’t recognise it a text book in order to later check the meaning from a dictionary and note that beside the entry. 

I, with some glee, report the company Adani changed its name this week to – Bravus. Presumably they assumed it meant “brave”. The company is far from brave. It was controversially given the opportunity to open what is proposed to be the largest coal mine in the world in the Galilee basin of Australia’s far north.  At every stage, Adani has thumbed  its nose to all complainants. 

Whenever it reaches full production, the coal will be shifted offshore to India to produce thermal electricity without any acknowledgement of the contribution it will make toward global warming.  Therefore, it was with great mirth to read students of Latin pointed out bravus would never have meant brave. The appropriate word in English is fortis. The Guardian Australia reported the word meant something else. In fact, it was the opposite of brave. They wrote, “Mining company Adani has changed its name to a Latin word that means “crooked”, “deformed”, “mercenary or assassin”, after mistakenly thinking that it meant “brave”. Knowing the true meaning it appears the company has chosen its new name very carefully as it is most appropriate.

My own education was not as clear cut as it was for Sean Connelly. I had trouble learning to read because I now understand what made it difficult was dyslexia. 75 years ago, no one had a name for it. My teacher thought by sitting me in a corner called, “the dunce’s corner”  I might get over my disability and be shamed into reading. 

I realised words and I did not get on together early in life. Learning to read was painful and it took me years to master. Learning to spell was as difficult.  At school a training exercise was to learn five words as a spelling exercise each night for homework. Early next morning our teachers tested our comprehension and spelling of those words in the subject, Dictation. Day after day i failed to write the words I was expected to learn. 

However, instead of being discouraged I took it upon myself to study vocabulary. I learned the foreign roots of words and little by little to decode the clues in order to read. I learned prefixes and suffixes, and the shape of words in order to scan paragraphs for meaning. Even at this stage of my life i find it easier to scan a text for meaning rather than to concentrate on each word. The downside of this is I still misread obvious errors, especially when rereading my writing, and I find form filling onerous.

To this point I have found you, my reader, accepting of my shortcomings in this area.

I love the sound of well read language. Many authors you like I cannot read. I cannot immediately identify words I use in speech unless I have mastered them before in print. It is possible i have a problem with English but as it is my only language I would be lost without it. As it is I sit somewhere between Sean Connelly and Adani when it comes to language, malapropisms excepted.

The gate swung wide.

Photo Author


Deep in the valley misty pastures
thrive on the swirling tide.
A young pioneer labours tough, ranchos.
The new gate swung wide.

Spatially isolate, feeling alone,
ground broken, preoccupied,
cognitive content from distant lands blown.
The new gate swung wide.

To rouse wanted help in came the mate.
Vivid fertility implied.
Pleased, fun was in the other gestate.
The new gate swung wide.

At first harmony. Wheels turned eagerly,
meshed by fortune’s dreams.
A wearisome routine chews bitterly.
The old gate swung wide

Love forsaken. Into the night she strode
broken dreams packed tight.
With nothing but thoughts of the long main road.
The old gate swung wide.

You are welcome to return Mc Calley.
All is forgiven. I confide.
Your life’s awaiting you in the valley
The old gate swung wide.

This poem appears in Red Room Poetry the Disappearing. https://redroomcompany.org/poems/?project=disappearing

Name the Shops

Photo – Film Victoria

As Boy Scouts once a year, (perhaps less often), we played “Name the Shops”. It was a game, influenced by Rudyard Kipling’s book “Kim” and known as “Kim’s game”. It was a simple game which required us to name the shops in the local shopping strip of 3260. They ran for perhaps a kilometre down both sides of the Main Street. We had to name them in the order they ran. It was relatively easy because the shop ownership rarely changed and it included big civic buildings like the court, the shire office, the cinema, the post office, the 7 banks, and three car dealerships.

Some we knew as hangouts. They were the milk bars, the bike shop, the fish-n-chips, and the hairdressers. We struggled to remember the solicitor’s offices, the dress shops, the florists, or the beauty saloons. We knew each of the grocery shops, the shoe shops, and the men’s clothing store, and the chemist. The bakers were easy to name. Harder to remember was the chap that ran the photographer’s shop. On the other hand we remembered the two newsagents because they stocked comics. (We didn’t specifically have them at home, I remember reading The Phantom, and one called The Chuckler’s Weekly.)

There were three stock and station agents – farm supplies stores – in town. We also had four hotels for a population of about 2,000 town folk. Going home in the evenings we would stop and peer through the window of the electrical stores (after 1956) at the fuzzy black and white television sets. It was a strange thing to see, because the picture was frequently all white. This was because we lived in an area of poor reception and the antennas were too weak to pick up a clear picture. (In those early days none of my friends had tv so it caused no envy to look.)

In remembering this game I think I could still score pretty well. The fruiterer operated in a side street as did the doctors, the dentist, and the plumber’s supply shop. Some shops like the boot maker and the jewellers I remember easily because the operators were odd. Maybe the smell drifting from the shops helps me remember others. The smell of ink is a constant reminder of the newspaper office. I get a different, but similar, reminder when I pass a pub on foot.

Nothing remained open after five pm except the fish-n-chip shop and the pubs. They closed at six. The chippery remained open until around ten pm. On Saturdays most shops opened from nine until noon. After that the town was locked down until Monday morning. Saturday afternoon was given over to home maintenance or sport. Sundays were the day of rest. Over 9O% of the people went off to one church or the other. (I can count five different denominations) The church goers would dress in their Sunday best clothes. On the way to church they would nod, or wave, to their neighbours heading off in another direction to a different church.

The non church goers attended the Salvation Army Hall, or they went to the Seventh Day Adventist Church on a Saturday. Even the non believers attended one type of church or the other because even in those days of full employment few people jeopardised their job by declaring their lack of faith. Few jobs were advertised because they were usually filled by word of mouth. Some jobs were closed to people of one church but they were open to those of another. (Those days of fundamentalism were pretty dreadful. (It was possibly the stories I heard like this (long ago) that opened my mind to the evils of all segregation. Otherwise I have no personal experience of this type. It is my hope you never have to experience it either.)

[Unlike today, no one sold phones, (no mobiles). If your family wanted a phone it was supplied on loan from the Post Master General (PMG). All personal communications came from the PMG: mail, telegrams, and phone. It might be of some interest to learn telegrams were a sort of paper delivery of every SMS. Except people usually only got a telegram irregularly. The sender paid so much per letter and to reduce costs the sender just told their simple message briefly.

You could call the messages crude. “SAD NEWS DAD DIIED PEACEFULLY FUNERAL TBA “

Or you might have got one like we actually received when Andrew was born. It reads

CONGRATULATIONS WELCOME TO ANDREW LOVE TO ALL THREE BILL RYAN FAMILY

The message is addressed and was delivered to the hospital ward by the Telegram boy (who possibly rode a push bike to the hospital in a post boy’s uniform.]

Our shopping strip was a practical place. It never changed much as it was a place were all commercial activity took place, year in – year out. Today the buildings remain. Many of them have swallowed their neighbour and they have been enlarged. Some are empty yet the streetscape remains. Down the centre of town runs the avenue of Elm trees planted out by school children in 1876. It is a wonderful oasis to rest on a hot day. In the middle of the avenue is the wonderful bequest,the Thomas Manifold clock, built in the style of Westminster’s Big Ben in 1897.

When you visit Camperdown take pride that your great grandfather, Abraham, for a period, maintained and preserved this significant plantation,now recognised as a important heritage area in the State of Victoria

It is unlikely you will ever play “Name the Shops”. In the unlikely event your suburb has a main shopping strip, even if you learn the names of the shops it is unlikely they will all operate as they do today by middle of next month. Such is the speed of modern change.






The Streetscape

Or

Passers By Cannot Name The Shops.

O’er a gross of years

Ulmus procea – Finlay’s Avenue

Has cut east west along

The Manifold corridor

The giant brick red time piece

punctuates the town’s north,

chimes for southern enterprises,

where grey nomads pause for victuals.

Cafes court calorie counters

counting calories they consume;

breakfast, lunch, or snacks,

take a break – before heading south

to clamber down Loch Ard Gorge.

Snap London Bridge. Drive

on – taste the west’s chronicle.

The Great Ocean Road.

Melaleuca lanceolata Common name – Moonah

Photo Author

Anything that is four times older than me, and still standing, is entitled to lean on the ground, instead of standing all the time. A sure sign of resilience is the ability to rest on an elbow and still stand. We see examples of this in this ancient plant, the Moonah. . The prevailing wind will sculpt and prune it so it is taller on one side than the other. When the wind is too strong the bough will resist until it bend to and meets the ground. There it will rest and send forth new growth.


In my home town we have a few remands of ancient scrub that were old trees long before William Buckley lived amongst the Wadawurrung people. (William Buckley was an escaped convict who was rescued and improbably lived with local tribal for 32 years before he resumed his former life and was pardoned.) The tribes people he lived with had great respect for this tree they called it Plenty. It gave plenty back to the tribe in nectar and medicinal properties. Botanists have named it Melaleuca lanceolata. (Lanceolata reads as if it is a “lotta” plant actually the word refers to its lace like leaves). Its long abundant flowering season from October to February is rich in pollen and a food source for bees.

The tree in the photo stands on the Esplanade at the Eastern end of Gilbert St. It should probably be recorded as a tree of significance – however this is unlikely; first as it is one of the last wild trees left on that part of the Bluff, and secondly it would bring attention to it in the summer when the town is overrun with all manner of individuals. Some, likely as not, uninterested in plants. The trees are not endangered, so I suppose that is another reason it stands unnoticed and alone.

The Moonah tree is known throughout the country as a strong plant, well capable of withstanding salty wind and rain. Indeed in many parts of the country it is planted as a tree good at fighting salt degradation – as we observed in many over-farmed mallee sites. It helps to lower the water table and in doing so draws salt deeper into the subsoil.

Of all the wonderful plants I love I have chosen to write about the Moonah because it is not showy. It is not really splendid despite its delicate tiny flowers. After living 300+ years it is often just a stubby black tree with twisted branches, prickly tough leaves, and flowers almost too small to be noticed. Yet this tree is tough. Farmers find its wood makes everlasting fence posts. It makes a wonderful wind break. (Not even the wind will get through it’s tight canopy). As a result it is a popular tree for birds to roost in. Possums love to sleep through the day hidden among the mess of its branches.

Commonly we find it growing in masses of thick undergrowth where it seldom gets much taller than four metres. Along the Anglesea estuary it adds stability to the shallow, poor soil. Under the canopy – at the proper time of year the undergrowth hides the most spectacular native orchids: the Fairy Orchid grows underneath the moonah others grow nearby, the twisted Sun Orchid, the Sharp greenhood , the Wax Lip Orchid.One hundred kilometres away the tree survives in the undergrowth of the Manna Gum – a favourite of the Koala.

Photo Author

In Torquay we are lucky to have at least one streetscape where the trees (photo included) where trees stand 10 metres tall. This stand (also a remnant) is inland, about 100 metres from the surf beach. Here, the tree are protected from the the inshore wind and they reach up to 10 metres into the clear sky. Because they have been protected they are tall and have grown without the handicap of neighbouring plants holding them back.

Like all plants of the Melaleuca family the flowers grow from a filament that when spent remains on the flower stem as a little hard nut like growth. As the plant grows “nuts” from previous flowering’s remain.


Photo https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Gderrin Wikipedia

The Plenty Tree

The twisted Moonah tree
turns is back to the wind
hunkers down low,
resting on heavy limb
in the dusty dune.
Perhaps the Wadawurrung
sheltered beneath this bough
the day
a possum skin
became a ceremonial cape.
Even so it grows.
Annually flowering
millions of petals
so bees
use this generous pollen store
as food we
harvest.

Photo Author

Ekphrastic Review. Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending


The Lark Ascending

In the style of George Meredith prompted by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Williams’ piece is one of classical music’s most popular tunes.


Drawing on past experience,

With curious indifference,

wind-surfers twist at Eagle Rock.

Two air-gliders soaring – Peacocks!

At Aireys, warm air rises, beach wide

as on Grampians mount, birds preside.

Oven-crisp wind lifts, whirls, skirls

The still, open area swirls

detached – silence broken – undone.

Lest the noisy cockatoo’s pun,

recall a complete parakeet,

Ariel acrobatics replete,

Plunging, over red clover, roll clear

Country air of blissful freedom.

Calling on past material

I recall how our ethereal,

birds screech loudly, as not to sing

like they do for a British king.

Little brown wings stretch over the earth,

all George Meredith’s verse wordless mirth.

Alauda arvenis – “The Lark

Ascending”, neat words promoted

120 lines of poetry devoted

blending- never condescending.


Shrill,irreflective, unrestrain’d

Rapt, ringing, on the jet sustain’d

Without a break, without a fall,

Sweet-silvery, sheer lyrical,

Perennial, quavering up the chord

Liike myriad dews of sunny sward (1)


Meredith’s bird singing – Dylan

Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams

In five note pentatonic scale,

Wrote a radiant telltale,

Of music fit for English kings –

opening chords – violin strings.


(1) excerpt from The Lark Ascends, George Meredith.


Forget my poem. Please find Vaughan Williams tune “The Lark Ascending” and relax for 15 or 16 minutes with one of the most beautiful tunes.

A Few Good Men

Overgrown vegetables Author ‘s photo

This is spring. Unlike the last twenty Springs this year we have had average rain. Accustomed as we are to below average rainfall it has been a dismal one. The vegetable patch still has its uneaten winter crop in a state of overgrown profusion. Each remaining plant has gone to seed. In the last generation if we had left over plants they were ripped out early and replanted with spring varieties that leapt out of the warm ground. My only trouble with them was with how thirsty they were.

Now we are told a phenomenon called La Nino has cooled the Pacific waters heading our way from Peru and we are going to have a Spring and Summer of average rain. The thing is we have become accustomed to parching unseasonal weather caused by an opposite system called El Niño.

El Niño is mean. It was responsible for the horrid events most of the country experienced last year. Fire, floods and famine followed. Thousands of acres of land were burnt in months no one could ever remember it being so dry, or so wet. Now we have this soft system – La Nino – and all it can do is rain like it would any other year and frankly I am over it.

How dare the weather be cool. How will the climate change deniers accept the globe is warming from the affects of mankind induced climate change when it rains every day? And it is too unpleasant outside to plant spring vegetable so close to the summer months. Frankly it is ridiculous.

The funny thing is this is an ordinary year. Ordinary as far as the weather goes. It is far from ordinary by any other measure. We are in the grip of a pandemic. Millions of people have lost their livelihoods. The global movement of people from country to country has paused. The world’s economy has collapsed. Governments are grappling to contain a deadly virus. One that for the most part is uncomfortable but unpredictably lethal for far too many. As I write the effects seem worse all over the world.

The crystal ball needed to halt the virus is as elusive as is the vaccine needed to stop it despite the presidential announcements from: The White House, The Kremlin, and Brazil. It could be said the world is in some sort of hiatus. Nothing ordinary is ordinary anymore. The optimistic are holding on to a belief things will spring back to where they were. Others, too many, have lost belief in life and are now living in the hell of despair.

In these times we need not be either optimistic nor pessimistic. Life is too unpredictable to require from us more, or less, than pragmatism. In this way we must face whatever comes our way as ordinary. Some are calling we accept this as the “new” ordinary. There is nothing wrong with accepting ordinariness is what is happening.

It is ordinary not to act stupidly and take precautions. We accept when in a car is a sensible thing to wear a seat belt to avoid injury. Just as we accept protected casual sex is a sensible precaution against disease. The ordinary thing to do is to ensure you do not spread the virus to those you love and wear a face mask when you are outside your family circle.

We might rail against this advice, but science advised us, to act otherwise is reckless. Many things previous generations did was reckless. And it cost lives. Builders of great architecture sometimes rode with the building steel from the ground to great heights without any protection. The loss of life led to rules about safety and safety equipment. It is illegal to act otherwise because when people cut corners they put the lives of innocent people at risk – to say nothing about themselves.

I am happy to admit to being ordinary. I write without any fulsome plan as some authors I admire use. For the most part I have written essays of a certain length. In them I have expressed my innermost prejudices – perhaps even without awareness. Lately I have written more poetry (I call it poetry even though it doesn’t measure up against classical poetry. It ((sort of)) resembles the style of modern poets.)

Writing like this requires me to use words economically. A haiku of seventeen syllables might be easy to some, on the other hand I have difficulty. Just as I have difficulty painting pictures with words in my longer work.

Facing difficulties is an everyday human test. Most of the time we have learned from previous experience yesterday’s test no longer bothers us. We don’t even think what we need to do, we just do it because it is the easiest way to get by. Sometimes the test, is a bit like this Spring weather, it is uncomfortable to become wet, or get blown about in the wind. Past experience has taught us to wear a jacket and just get the job done.

If my writing today reads as if I am preaching, my tenor is wrong. If you were here to talk with me about what I have written you could set me right. Fortunately your grandmother is quick with her slant to balance everything I say.

As a last word I observe the more opinions one hears on a topic the more likely you are to get to the truth. In other words don’t jump to conclusions based on only one side of an argument. Be like one character in the 1982 film, “A Few Good Men” says, “You can’t handle the truth”, and listen for it.


Before you leave today please tell me what you think.

Kaleidoscope

Patterns of light. Manipulated internet images.

Kaleidoscope

What did you children do

days before streaming television programs ran?

The lad remembered,

Halting, before emphatically answering,

“I tinkered in the shed”.

Aphonic in exasperation the teacher

coerced a longer answer.

Boy bought to mind grandma’s psychedelic curio

found on a kitchen shelf

known to make uncommonly beautiful patterns

of light caught in crystals.

Fractuals recede to infinity – every twist.


An earlier work The Shepherd’s Song is read and explained here

https://matthewtoffolo.com/2020/10/08/interview-with-poet-bruce-waddell-the-shepherds-song/