Category Archives: brunswick

No Meat Week: Monday (& Sunday)

We’ve been living the CSIRO lifestyle for a year or two now, and while I like the lighter evening meals (without carbs), we’ve been struggling, ethically, with the amount of meat the diet includes. Also, it’s bad for your guts. So I’ve instituted a week without meat.

I’ve lived the vegetarian lifestyle here and there over the years, most prominently in a share house in Melbourne between 2001 and 2003. I’d moved to Melbourne from Brisbane, taking the coward’s approach to ending a long term relationship, and moving into a huge terrace house in North Melbourne with a bunch of younger students. They were all about 20 and I was about 26. I loved it. It was a delight to no longer be living unhappily in an New Farm flat with one other person. It was wonderful to suddenly be eating with a household of 5 other people (including ever-present boyfriends and girlfriends). I had my own shelf in the larder, my own milk in the fridge. I took my trolley to the Vic Markets every week, and I walked everywhere. I gave up meat. Alliances shifted within the sharehouse, and two of us began cooking together, tired of being third or fourth in line at the stove each night. We now occupied two shelves in the larder.

At the end of that first year, two of us left the strange sharehouse anchor guy to set up house in another, smaller terrace in Carlton North with a new housemate. Vegetarianism turned into vegan coeliacism as one of us discovered gluten intolerance and hardcore eating issues (masquerading as ethics). Each week I bought a trolley full of veggies from the Vic Markets, a trolley full of tofu, various not-wheat grains and dried goods from the Melbourne uni co-op and a trolley full of assorted canned goods and giant bags of rice and rice noodles. We were three fairly hardcore athletes. I was a newly addicted social lindy hopper, dancing two or three nights a week and walking or cycling everywhere. One housemate was a serious cyclist/climber/runner with a similarly-afflicted boyfriend in his very early 20s. The other house mate was equally active, but male and voraciously hungry. All. The. Time. We ate all the time. I ate two dinners almost every night. I got skinnier.

In 2003 we moved to another house – a gorgeous free standing colonial in Brunswick. We gained a house mate, the coeliac’s boyfriend. I gained a Squeeze. Eventually the coeliac had to call defeat as her doctor gave her supplement injections and demanded a return to nonveganism. Eggs entered our diet. Milk.

During those three years we ate a lot of what we called ‘veggie slop’ – misceleneous vegetarian curries drawn from Kurma‘s book or our increasingly beleagured imaginations. I remember one particularly awful meal in our third share house together. Kidney beans. Rice noodles. Some sort of rubbishy greasy sauce. But those years also brought kicheri and a new appreciation for tofu. Firm tofu, cubed, thrown into a coconut milk/tomato based vegetable curry. Tofu marinated in lemon juice, honey, miso and ginger then stir fried with vegetables. Brown rice. Basmati rice. Jasmine rice. Arborio rice. Pulao. Biriyani. Fried rice. Rice pudding. Rice noodles: flat, narrow, sheets, fresh, dried. Mung bean noodles. We made delicious dinners, for the most part, though I’ve never really eaten that way since.

But this week we’re going to revisit the vegetarian days of yore. We’re going to eat the way we used to in Carlton North, crowded around the dining table or camped out on the second hand, re-covered sofas in front of the television.

It’s already been a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. Last night we had spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Something I started eating in Brisbane, along with a million zillion other people, when San Remo included a basic spinach and ricotta recipe on the back of the cannelloni boxes. But we substitute a chunk of fetta for some of the ricotta, and we use fresh spinach rather frozen. Delicious.

Tonight we had this easy Cauliflower (queen of vegetables) and onion dish (recipe c/o Madhur Jaffrey’s Invitation to Indian Cooking):

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 inch long, 1 inch wide piece ginger peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large head of cauliflower (I just used half a big cauliflower)
8tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 medium fresh or canned tomato, peeled and chopped
1 tbs chopped fresh coriander (I used more than this)
1 fresh hot green chilli washed and finely sliced or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I used 1/4 ground chilli)
2tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp garam marsala
2tsp salt
1tbs lemon juice

Blend onion, garlic and ginger with 4 tbsp of water and blend to a paste.

Break cauliflower into small flowerets, not longer than 1 to 1.5 inches, and not wider at the head than 1/2 to 1 inch.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed 10-12 inch pot over a medium flame, pour in the paste from the blender, and add the turmeric. Fry, stirring for 5 minutes.

Add the tomato, green coriander, chili or cayenne, and fry for 5 minutes. If necessary, add 1 tsp of warm water at at time and stir to prevent sticking. Now put in the cauliflower, coriander, cumin, garam masala, salt and lemon juice.
Fry and stir for 1 minute.

Add 4 tbsp warm water, stir, cover, lower flame, allow to cook slowly 35-45 minutes. Stir gently every 10 minutes or so. The cauliflower is done when each floweret is tender with just a trace of crispness along its spine.

Easy.

We had it with rice: brown half an onion cut into rings in some olive oil, add some finely chopped spinach, half a tsp of ground coriander and half a tsp of sweet paprika. Mix it all in. Add some washed basmati rice, mix it all up. Then add water and cook it absorption method style. I do all that in the rice cooker.

And finally, I grilled some haloumi cheese we’d bought on impulse. And we ate it all. The rice was particularly delicious – the browned onion and greasiness of the olive oil making a perfect match for the cheese. The cauliflower was just a little sour around the edges, from the lemon and ginger. Delicious.

I’d had dodgy rice cooker risotto for lunch, using up tomatoes, zuchini, capsicum, mushrooms, some herbs from the garden. It was a bit boring. Needed some rehydrated porcini mushrooms.

I’m not used to all these evening carbs and feel decidedly full. Tomorrow I’m going to reduce portions and drop the hardcore dairy. I’m thinking the ‘asian style’ pumpkin soup from Stephanie Alexander’s big orange book. Or something involving chick peas. I adore chick peas.

Monsieur Truffle on Smith St




Monsieur Truffle on Smith St

Originally uploaded by dogpossum

We are fooding and lindy hopping our way through Melbourne, visiting all our old favourites and discovering a few more. Monsieur Truffle on Smith St in Collingwood is run by a bunch of hippy chocolate nerds. The truffles were so rich, this is all I could manage – half of these three. I just said to the guy “just a few little blobs to taste, please. With a milky coffee.” The Squeeze got angry coffee and a gluten free chocolate cake.
It’s a lovely shop and it smells nice.
We also went to Books for Cooks on Gertrude Street to buy books. I got a big, colourful one about Cajun cooking – expanding from my passion for Mexican fewd to cuisines within gastronomic proximity.
And we began (after a painless bus trip down Bell Street to Sydney Road) at A1 bakery for baked goods. It was difficult to pass my favourite Italian patisserie on the corner of …. Moreland and Sydney Roads? Perhaps it’s a little higher. And I was also a bit keen for serious felafel or doner kebab at the Kebab Station in Coburg. But I held off for pide goodness.
And then, finally, we bought ourselves much-needed shoes. PHEW.
Oh, and last night we went to day 1 of MLX9. It was fucking crowded. Hot. Busy. Exciting. The band was made up of dancers and was really very good and fun. With dancers coming up to sing or take a turn on an instrument all night. My favourite was arriving as the brass section wandered through the crowd (as they did all night) playing ‘When the Saints’ at a slow, sauced-up funereal pace.
This is the biggest MLX so far, and it’s the biggest event in Australia. I’m DJing a prime lindy hop set tonight at 1.30am and I’m a bit nervouse. Doing some hardcore prep now.
We’ve also done some quality family time (visiting the elderly, yet seriously bad-ass nanna yesterday morning, a father at lunch time, and tonight we dine with the aunt and mother) and spent some time with our extra-favourite buddies.
Oh, and last night we had tea at the Town Hall Hotel, and I was reminded of the awesomeness of Melbourne pubs and the fuckedness of Sydney pubs.
I will continue to nom and dance my way through the weekend. My ankle is a bit sore, but not as bad as expected. I did not bring enough Tshirts to get me through the weekend. Thank goodness it’s cooler!! Knock on wood….

brunswick rocks

We’re moving to Sydney quite soon (at quite short notice), and have been hurriedly trying to get rid of five years worth of accumulated junk. The Squeeze has trundled the shopping trolley up to the church charity bin round the corner at least a dozen times this week. We’ve sent our friends off with bag after bag of bits and pieces. But the very best bit has been feeding the Brunswickian scavengers.
On the weekend we put a range of items out on the footpath with a sign saying ‘Free’. Everything was gone within an hour. Today we put out a bunch of other things – gone within 45 minutes. It helps that we’re not putting real junk out – everything is useful. But it’s an odd collection. The green plastic base thing you put a fresh christmas tree in. Four home-covered couch cushions. A couple of tables (formica – 1, pipe-and-board – 1). The plastic bats from a totem tennis game. Two pieces of wood left over from shelves. A drawer from my desk. An old printer in a box. An old skate board. Everything worked, but nothing was amazing. And everything has just disappeared.
Today I managed to catch a glimpse – an Italian poppa making off with a huge, heavy single futon bed base under one arm, two shelves under another (I kid you not – I couldn’t lift either on my own). A few minutes later he was back with his grandson to carry off the couple of extra things we’d added. The only thing they won’t take is the totem tennis pole. I don’t understand why – it works fine, just needs a new ball-on-a-string (which only costs a few bucks at Kmart).
It’s weird and also eerie. The Squeeze is delighted. I am wondering if I could get them to carry off the five garbage bags full of fabric scraps (choice quilting action here!). But it’s more the male of the species that sports an acquisitive streak. The female (the better target for fabric) is a little less likely to wander the streets looking for things to carry away. But it’s been magical – people won’t come and collect stuff if we ask them, but if we put a sign saying ‘free’, they sneak it away on their own. Fully sick.

pussy galore

I blame my obession with lady bits on the fact that I’m surfing the crimson wave and talking a lot about feminism in classes at the moment.
Whenever I ride or walk around my neighbourhood (which is everyday) I count kitties.
Today, walking back from the shops and a marking meeting, I counted 4. Two orange kitties (one on Lillian Street, one on a second floor balcony just off Hope Street), one black one with a weird head, sitting couchant on a front door mat, one white and grey one with small ears in a front garden. I called out to each of them but only patted the last one.
I am very, very, very allegic to kitties, so I had to wash my hand as soon as I got home, to stave off the itchies and rashies and snotties.
The other day I counted 6 kitties as I walked up the road one early morning. And one dead one on the footpath (that was a surprise, I can tell you).
One night we counted 8 riding back from the pub at night, including 5 feral kittens in the parking lot next to the Upfield bike path near Nino and Joe’s.
When I was much, much younger and horse-obsessed I used to count white horses (this was easier when we lived in country NSW and I was a pony club person). It’s very satisfying.

animal encounters

Last night riding home from die Spiegeltent (where I am currently doing a few DJing gigs – Nov 4th and 18th and Dec 2nd if you want to catch up – it’s a glorious venue, there’s a cheesy dance class (which every one loves – especially the kids) and there are cheesy performances (which you can’t help but enjoy) and cheesy jokes (and I don’t care if it’s only me who adores them) and some fricking AWESOME DJed music – all for $10. Though it’s $10 for a beer(!!!!) )
… yeah, so on the ride home, we saw ten cats. I kid you not – ten cats. I usually see three (often the same ones, though not always), but last night we saw four ordinary cats and then six feral cats down near the railway line. I don’t know who thinks feeding feral cats is a good idea: if you do, you’re ON CRACK. The Squeeze got off his bike and tried to chase one to give it a squeeze. He stopped when I warned him that he’d have to sleep in the shed if he caught one.
I don’t much care for cats. I certainly don’t like to see them out on the street, looking for things to kill.
We have also seen a lovely small corgi tied up outside our local shops a couple of times lately. Last time it was outside the Safeway, yesterday it was outside Nino and Joes. I think I’m in love. I suggested The Squeeze squash it into his backpack and then make a quick getaway, but the owner overheard and didn’t look too impressed.
That is one fine corgi – it is gentle and sweet and has lovely fur and huge ears. Unfortunately, generations of inbreeding have left it with stunted feet.
Tomorrow is dentist appointment #3. The second one wasn’t so bad (just two small fillings), but tomorrow is the follow up on the surprise root canal. I am a bit scared, as it seems that side of my jaw is more sensitive than the other. I have promised myself another trip to the cinema (we went to see Children of God tonight at the Nova) and I think I’ll let myself see anything I want, even if it’s Little Miss Sunshine which The Squeeze wants to see as well. Either that or that dullish biodoco* about that architect bloke. I like films about buildings. Really, I’d prefer a chick flick, but they’re all out of them at the cinema. And I doubt they’d have it at the Kino, which is across the road from the dentist. Nor the Nova, which is my second choice.
So I guess I’ll just have to settle for some insane spontaneous CD purchasing instead.
*Sounds like something I’d buy at Nino and Joe’s, huh? Nope. But I did buy a lovely rolled turky roast this weekend. I love turkey, and this was some great action. Stuffed with something sweet with nuts (shh, don’t tell The Squeeze – he hates nuts but didn’t realise). Took two bloody hours to cook, but man, was that some tasty giant fowl.
–edit–
Note to self: turkeys aren’t big on the swimming.

tell me place and geography aren’t important here

There’s been a bit of talk about Helen Garner around the traps recently:

I wrote this comment in the latter:

(dogpossum on 3 August 2006 at 1:29 pm)
Nice post, Weathergirl.
I remember reading all Garner’s work when I was an undergrad – I fell in love with her style. In those pre-GST days I had enough cash to splurge on books whenever I liked.
TFS almost lost me for her, but I changed my mind… no, wait, I think I was just distracted by other authors (C.J.Cherryh, most probably – nothing like a little hardcore SF by a woman writer to get things in perspective)…
When I first moved to Melbourne I’d pretend I was recognising places from Monkey Grip (though I was finding it easier to recognise places in Brisbane in the Nick Earls books I was reading, probably because I was busy enjoying be Away From Brisbane at the time). And Garner’s pieces in the Age about ordinary Melbourne stuff helped me feel at home in my new city (what can I say – I’m a stooge).
I don’t find it difficult to enjoy the way Garner puts words together, and yet also have some trouble with the ideas behind the words. Frankly, a nicely written bit of opinion is far more likely to convince me to consider a topic than something difficult or clunky… I like the line about energy, and the thought that nasty bits of writing can inspire us to do great thinking and writing and talking ourselves. I mean, that seems to define feminsim for me: being inspired to think and write and talk and act by nasty bits of writing and ideology-in-action.
As for Garner herself… I met her once at a party, and knew her daughter through Uni, but that’s all I can say. I wouldn’t pretend to know her through her writing – just as I wouldn’t expect to know a blogger through their blog, or a singer through their songs. But I might admit to vague feelings or unsubstantiated impressions.

And had this response:

(weathergirl on 3 August 2006 at 1:33 pm)
Dogpossum, thanks for contributing! I read a tiny bit of Alice Garner’s PhD thesis (something about holiday imagery on French beaches), which I think she then published as a book. She inherited her mother’s writing talent.
But please don’t mention Nick Earls on my beat. I like to think this is about interesting literature.

I did start writing a response to the response, but I ended up feeling like an idiot. Some things are best written on your own blog (especially when they stray into true blogging territory: long and boring). So here it is:
I feel like I’m dragging the discussion off into irrelevent territory, but one of the things I liked about Garner (and Nick Earls, John Birmingham and Shane Maloney*, actually), is/was the way they write about cities and construct/represent ideas of community and place. I choose those three because of their accessibility, their popularity. I choose those three in particular because I was reading them before, during and after my move from Brisbane to Melbourne, in book and newspaper-column form (the latter is a reference to Garner’s spots in The Age). I think that in that period of moving to a city where I knew perhaps 3 people, away from family and friends, I was busy making new social and professional networks – making this new city home (I want to reference the space/place thing, but I don’t have the brain right now).
I was interested in the way these authors use lots of specific references to local landmarks and people to create a feeling of ‘knowing the city’, or more usefully, ‘knowing the community’ in which their stories are based. It’s an interesting idea, especially when you take into account things like Garner’s decidedly middle (or upper?) class experiences in Melbourne today, compared to the Monkey Grip days, Earls’ Brisbane of the 80s, Birmingham’s Brisbane of the late 80s and early 90s. These are quite definitely experiences of a city inflected by class, gender, sex(uality), education, market forces, etc etc etc. Yet they are all represented as ‘common sense’ or ‘normal’ or ‘familiar’, particularly in the case of Garner’s work (which seems to rest so firmly on the strength of ‘common sense’ or ‘diary-esque’ writing as a tool to convince. I, for one, am a little sceptical of Garner’s (occasionaly quite irritating) use of ‘oh, this is just what I think, and I’m probably wrong, but…’ arguments. Can you spell passive aggressive?).
But I’m interested in the way, while reading these people at that time, I could say ‘hey, I know that place’, or more scarily (esp in the case of Birmingham), ‘I know those people!’, and found that so comforting.
This is the sort of thing that comes up all the time in discussions about Garner’s work (and in this thread above) – the idea of ‘journal-diaryistic’ writing and ‘journalism': levels of ‘real’ and ‘true’ and so on. I think it’s worth my pointing out, at this point, that I take Earls and Maloney as writing with as ‘diary-esque’ a style as Garner, largely in response to the incredible detail about ‘real’ places in their work. While Garner writes using her ‘real’ (and autobiogaphical) emotions as a bit of a blunt object in the ‘reality’ stakes, Earls and Maloney use ‘reality of place’ in much the same way.
That I could point to a building or street in Melbourne and say “that’s where Helen went swimming or rode her bike or saw a band” or think “I remember that shopping centre in the Queen Street Mall”, was kind of comforting for a person alone in a new city. It certainly shaped the way I thought about my place within my current and past home-cities. Nothing new for ‘the media': kind of the point, really, constructing consensual notions of place and community**.
But I do think that it’s a key part of Garner’s work, and there have been quite a few comments already [in the LP thread] about the way she uses phrases like “Any woman who has left home for university could fill in the gaps”: inviting us, explicitly to identify with Garner (or her characters), as if it was a natural and inevitable thing.
Isn’t that interesting, that the language of domesticity (and Garner is all about domestic spaces) and ‘home cities’ and ‘the familiar’ is such a useful tool for convincing us that the author’s point is ‘just common sense’? That an ‘emotional honesty’ in writing is somehow more relevant or convincing than an objective account?
You can see why, at this point, I hesitated to post this comment on LP.
But my attention was caught by the way Weather Girl dismissed Nick Earls as ‘uninteresting’ work. Sure, he’s no great literary talent, but some time was spent in that LP thread making similar observations about Garner – she’s no great literary talent. But many of the commenters in that thread (and most of whom were women – perhaps just an indication of LP’s reader/commenter -ship) declared an affinity or affection for Garner based on her use of the personal and the invitingness of her lovely prose.
I’d argue that Earls has similar appeal – the use of the personal, and an inviting style (in his case, though, the invitation was to share the joke, rather than marvel at a lovely turn of phrase). With Maloney, the appeal lay in the minutiae of everyday life in Brunswick/Coburg/Melbourne (my new home suburb), and of local politics (which fascinated a girl who’d just completed an MA on women in Qld politics). In addition, I’d argue that they’re very Australian writers (though from different age/social groups), and I like to read in the vernacular.
Though we must keep in mind the fact that Garner’s books have stuck around, while Earls feels a bit stuck in that ‘grunge fiction’ moment – do people still read him, or is it just me? Maloney, on the other hand, has made his mark on the pop culture landscape, especially with the television programs based on his work.
I know that I’m a little biased, but isn’t this bias kind of the point? I was attracted by the invitation to share the everyday lives and everyday experiences of these authors’ lives, and that made me feel ‘at home’ in a new city. I certainly wasn’t ‘sucked in’ to believing that this was in any way a ‘true’ story I was being told. But that was part of the appeal: I was reading one person’s interpretation and experience of a city, and that very subjectivity was part of it’s appeal. It invited comparison with my own experience, and a dialogue with the text.
I should note: I was so interested by The First Stone when it came out that I did a pgrad essay project on the topic, exploring the newspaper responses to the book, and to their representations of ‘feminism’. This was a sort of test-run for my eventual MA project.
…and all of this has strayed quite a bit from the love/hate/niggle-fest that began in the original articles on Garner and her writing, but, well, like I said: blog.
*It’s worth checking out the ‘official’ Shane Maloney site and noting the background image of the site: Melway maps of Brunswick.
Tell me place and geography aren’t important here?
**I’m paraphrasing old school Stuart Hall there
–EDIT: fixed the dodgy link up there at the top – sorry everyone–

melbourne is obsessed

The adult population of Brunswick is somewhat subdued today. Last night’s finals match between Australia and Italy offered everyone in this part of Melbourne a team to barack for, whether you’re born in Australia, Italy, Greece or some other part of the soccer-playing universe.
In one of the most Italian cafes in Brunswick the owner wasn’t in, but there was a vigorous play-by-play discussion of the match carried on by the Irish and Scotts staff.
At Nino and Joes, there were only two butchers working, neither of whom was moving very quickly. There was no bantering.
And the mediterannean supermarket was deserted except for a few skips wandering vaguely up and down the isles, fondling all sorts of things but really only coming home with a dozen cans of diced tomatoes.
It’s the second week of the school holidays here, and the parks and streets and front yards in my neighbourhood are full of unsupervised gangs of kids playing complex variations on the regulation soccer match, adapted for concrete pitches and passing cars. It’s only 8 degrees, the wind is bitingly cold, but it seems appropriate.
I haven’t seen any of the soccer, but it’s everywhere. Melbourne is obsessed. And Brunswick is particularly so. Perhaps my favourite story is from the bus ride home the other day. The Italian bus driver (the one who steps down to welcome people onto the bus, or stops the bus to chat with passing friends) was busily engaged in a complicated discussion of the matches to date with a young skip alternakid and a tall and elegant African lady. After the tentative “who did you go for?” and “Australia of course” responses, they assessed the socceroos all the way to my stop.