Saturday, June 27, 2015

International Community Banquet

Move over Masterchef and whoever’s kitchen thinks they rule. Tonight at Poatina’s monthly open to everyone Community Tea we had a feast to tempt the taste buds from all corners of the globe, a somewhat strange term I’ve always wondered about seeing as the planet isn’t a box. Maybe it comes from when the Earth was considered flat. Be that as it may, we were dazzled with dishes from so many countries I lost count.

Italy, China and India were well represented with several varieties of pasta and rice, noodles and pappadums. Then things got more specific. Moroccan lamb, Aussie wallaby stew and bush tucker warrigal greens, Kenyan/Ugandan kunde, Belgian stumpf (that one had me stumped), West African jollof rice, French quiche, Mediterranean baked fish, German Kartoffel Brei – mashed potato with all sorts of stuff including sauerkraut, very tasty, and the good old favourite Pommie bangers and mash.

Sitting around the cosy Chalet open fire conversation was animated, bellies were satisfied, and then there was dessert. I lost track of what was on offer, but in amongst the trifle of Trifle was English bread and butter pudding, Indonesian Pisang Goreng – fried bananas, so yummy, German Thuringer Kirschkuchen, try ordering that at a restaurant. It’s a cherry cake, and very impressive too.

I slaved away in my kitchen all afternoon and dutifully made my national flags so no one would be confused about the inspiration for the dishes I created, but I think the consensus was that most of my contributions were somewhat dubious in their origin.

Ice from Iceland - a bucket of ice cubes
Greens from Greenland - a green tossed salad
French Dressing for the Greenland Greens
Roasted herb potatoes from Ireland – descendants of the one solitary potato that survived the blight of 1845 which marked the start of the Irish Potato Famine
Something cold from Chile – red jelly
And finally my one genuine offering from China – spring rolls served on a china platter made in China.

I had considered making Bombe Alaska, but figured that might have been stretching my culinary skills just a little too far.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Winter Solstice Day

As the mercury rose from minus .5 to minus .2, I figured it was warm enough to head out the door, seeing as other locations around Tassie have had to suffer overnight temperatures as low as minus 7 degrees this past week. The yard was white and crunchy underfoot, so too the valley below as I wandered along the frosty track to take in the winter solstice sunrise, not a spectacular one compared to some we've had of late, but greeting the rising sun always gives me hope. No matter what happened yesterday, last week or however far in the past, a new day was dawning, a clean slate, full of possibilities if I dare to recognise them and take the risk to follow them through.

Headed up the bush to replenish my dwindling kindling supply, became absorbed with the delicacy of ice crystals on fallen timber, a discarded drink can from who knows when, and the rusting remains of what was probably once a forty four gallon drum.

As I gathered sticks, I became aware of snickerings and whisperings and as I looked closer discovered an odd family of woodland creatures. They were happy enough to jump in the car with me, and seemed content to find a new home in the backyard. I was a little concerned about the conversation going on between these two, one definitely didn’t look impressed, but in the main they remained aloof, avoided eye contact and weren’t exactly interacting much.

Neither was the massive petrified serpent or prehistoric creature of some description that had seen better days but had met his demise through whatever means in our very own patch of bush.

Decision to curl up on the couch in front of the fire to watch a chick flick while having my afternoon coffee with ginger nuts was dashed by my sound system spitting the dummy. Rats, means no more music either until my ancient setup receives an overhaul. Did some cutting and pasting instead of my favourite Darwin trip photos into my journal, reminding me how important and special those forty eight hours were, then curled up with a book to compensate, Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, appropriate I guess at this time of year. After reading her novel The Poisonwood Bible a while ago, I’m finding this one just as exquisitely written.

The temperature climbed to a creditable 6.3 around 2.30pm, a tad warmer than yesterday, then by sunset two hours later was back to 5.2. Mind you my thermometer is on the southern side of the house, so despite the sunny day that followed the frosty start, the reminder that winter is now upon us was made clear in no uncertain terms. As I write the mercury is back on its way down and currently at 3.9, but the lounge room is a moderate 18.5 and I’m already looking forward to a hearty bowl of soup and warm crusty roll for dinner before putting my feet up for the evening.

Winter arrived with a definite bite this year, and I now understand why the grey nomads head north for the winter. Without that option at this point I’m happy to embrace the particular delights of this season, the chill that makes you know you’re alive, and the warmth of home that cocoons you at the end of the working day.

Michael Leunig’s prayer from his book When I Talk to You says it succinctly for me.

We give thanks for the blessing of winter:
Season to cherish the heart.
To make warmth and quiet for the heart.
To make soups and broths for the heart.
To cook for the heart and read for the heart.
To curl up softly and nestle with the heart.
To sleep deeply and gently at one with the heart.
To dream with the heart.
To spend time with the heart.
A long, long time of peace with the heart.
We give thanks for the blessing of winter:
Season to cherish the heart.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Marooned on the Island

For the first time since my grandchildren were born, I missed a birthday party, a cardinal sin in my books. Zandar turned 6 two days ago and I was stuck at home after enduring two plane trips from hell after doing my back in for the umpteenth time three days ago. The three plane trips the day before to get me to Darwin were probably the catalyst but all was going fine until I was loaned a car to check out what Darwin had to offer. Sat myself down and ‘sproing,’ it wasn’t one of the springs in the car seat that went but the whole structure of my lower back which has given me curry over the last 30 years that decided to give up the ghost just at that moment. The phrase “Not happy Jan” came to mind along with several other choice words that will remain nameless.

Managed to visit two locations during the day, maneuvering myself in and out of the car with the precision of a shuttle docking on the international space station, spending as much time as possible in an upright position walking, and walking, and walking some more, for to sit or lie down was a decision fraught with danger. The NT Art Gallery & Museum provided me with several hours of walking and taking in some exquisite art, my favourites being both traditional and modern indigenous art, an exhibition of Year 12 art from late 2014, and a French exhibit featuring Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Letrec, plus Honore Daumier who I have to admit I’d never come across before. Daumier’s lithographs from the mid 1850’s were a sheer delight, earning him recognition as the forthright caricaturist and commentator of his time on French and Parisian society, and felt every bit as relevant as current day political cartoonists.
Leaving Tassie in 2 degrees and landing up north in 32 was a bit of a shock but bearable nonetheless, very thankful it wasn’t the wet season otherwise I would’ve been reduced to a whimpering puddle on the floor before even making it out of the airport terminal. Managing to locate a doctor late in the afternoon who thankfully prescribed the medication I needed to make the homeward journey of two flights somewhat bearable, my friend helped me into my shoes and socks seeing as I had no hope of reaching the nether parts of my anatomy, slid me into the car and deposited me back at Darwin airport a mere day and a half after arriving for the 1.30am flight back home. That’s right…AM…you’d be surprised how many people are jetting around the country at all times of the day and night.
Airplane seats are notoriously known for their lack of comfort, so while standing up at the back of the plane for half the journey from Darwin to Melbourne, I contemplated contacting Jetstar for a half price refund, a scenario I could see would obviously not work, but it did give me something to take my mind off the pain as I stood between the toilets doing stretching exercises while most people nodded off into stages of fitful slumber as we headed south.

Contemplating driving the car home once finally arriving back in Launceston, I had to take the bit between my teeth and exercise mind over matter, but what it brought home to me is that I have grave doubts of ever indulging in one of my fantasies of flying to Europe to spend my year in Tuscany, or Provence, or walking those ancient cobbled streets in a myriad of ancient cities.

Looks like I’m marooned on my little island, with my dreams of travel having to be satisfied by watching the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, and the delights of documentaries of foreign countries being traversed by others who are fortunate enough not to have dodgy backs. What it does do though, is give me renewed determination to visit the sights and meet the characters this delightful island State has to offer. If people from the other side of the world find Tassie fascinating enough to travel halfway way round the world to visit, then there must be plenty on my own doorstep to keep me occupied for years to come.

Shame to take Tuscany off the agenda, but there you go.

(Apologies if publishing portions of artworks contravenes any copyright laws)