Category Archives: domesticity

Women’s History Month: *facepalm*

So you might have noticed a lack of WHM posts lately. Here is my litany of excuses:

– Hayfever has put me down for the last few days. Big time.

– We discovered a leak into the concrete slab of our flat last week, and have spent a week moving our ONE HUNDRED BOXES OF BOOKS and associated bookcases UPSTAIRS so we can then rip up the carpet in smaller sections to expose the slab. It is now ‘drying’. Sydney has had a spectacularly damp and mild summer, so this ‘drying’ is not happening. We will not discuss leaks, mould and allergy connections.

– I have some other projects on the go which have sucked up my spare brain time. I have, however, quite sore shoulders from so much computer work, so that’s a good thing. I guess. Writing: I did it. Websites: they are maintained!

– The theme I set myself just didn’t inspire me the way the month of women dancers did last year. It seems I am a dancer first and a music nerd second.

– I have a limited block of time set aside for dancing during my day/week, and that block has been filling up with teaching, admin for the classes, various DJing gigs, getting rid of some dance commitments (why is that harder than actually doing the jobs in the first place?), a workshop thing I’m running in May (which will be SQUEE), thinking about promotions and advertising in a long term way (rather than just responding to things), trying to sort out new sound gear for one venue (gee, that task has totally not been done), and then I take on ANOTHER DJing project, which will be super fun, but is perhaps overly ambitious for someone who is supposed to be giving up ocd impulses.

I told you it was a litany.

I had some ideas for posts:

– the role of all-women bands in the first fifty years of the 20th Century, and the contribution they made to jazz (big);

– women in the early days of the recording industry (in which vocal blues and blues queens played a big part, and in which race records are really important, because they marketed those blues queens to black audiences so effectively the white labels started trying to screw them over and steal their ideas and artists), most especially the women working for record labels;

– other stuff.

A couple of books have just arrived from teh interkittens, so I will read some of those and then forget to write anything down. But first, I’m going to ramble on with a long, poorly-referenced bundle of ideas which really need some proper thought. I should really have written about women in jazz history, shouldn’t I? But this is an interesting topic, and one I keep coming back to in my own reading. When I get done with two of my new books, I’ll have some more cleverly thought out things to say. But for now, here’s a big ramble.

I’ve also wanted to comment on Peter’s Jazz and the Italian connection post because it touches on some issues that I’ve thought about for a while. And that are bizarrely relevant to Australian mainstream politics at the moment.
To sum that one up, I’m not suggesting that this is what Peter is doing (because the man knows his shit), but I do think it’s misleading to argue that the exclusion of the ODJB was a consequence of ‘reverse racism’ or ‘political correctness’ favouring black artists. Which is what is argued by a number of truly dodgy scholars in jazz studies (I’m going to have to check my notes more thoroughly for those references – bare with me, k?)

From what I can tell, however, Peter is arguing something slightly different: that it is important to discuss the ODJB in a history of jazz. For all sorts of reasons. I’d certainly agree.

My interest would be in how the ODJB presented a more palatable ‘white’ jazz to mainstream audiences at the same time as race records (labels targeting black audiences) were selling ‘black’ jazz to ‘black audiences’ and live music venues were also presenting jazz in quite racialised terms (the Cotton Club itself is a good example – black musicians presented for white audiences). As Peter also implies, the ‘white’ and ‘black’ dichotomy isn’t all that useful. The Italian musicians (and French and… everyone else) were definitely ‘othered’ at the time – they weren’t ‘white’ (ie Anglo celtic), but they read or looked white, and that was important when the look of an artist was being established as a key marketing tool. So my question would perhaps be ‘What was to be gained by, and what were the consequences of making the ‘otherness’ of non-anglo celtic musicians invisible in jazz histories?’

What I think happened is that the favouring of black artists was a consequence of racism in the 1930s and 40s. In those moments when ‘the origination of jazz’ was first being written (by white authors) the ‘popular jazz press’ (ie newsletters, magazines, etc) and other writing about jazz favoured black musicians because this approach favoured myths about race and creativity.

Just like the Ken Burns ‘Jazz’ doco, this approach follows particular individual musicians, positioning them as unusual, almost magical figures who overcame poverty/geography/BEING BLACK because they were somehow touched with a magical gift. In reality, these few figures were hard working people who worked within black communities, and then the wider American culture, experiencing racism every day. Their skills weren’t ‘god given gifts’ but the fruits of hard labour as well as talent and community support, and the advantages of being male musicians in an industry that made it very difficult for women to get gigs. This is something George Lipsitz discusses in his work “Songs of the Unsung: The Darby Hicks History of Jazz.”

This approach to jazz history – telling stories of miraculous black achievement as an aberration from the norm – reinforces racist archetypes. If the stories were told as stories of hard work, the musicians positioned within communities which fostered and encouraged their creativity – the authors would have to revise their ideas about black and white creative practice. They’d have to accept the idea that musical genius happens in all communities, regardless of race or class or gender. But that the factors which make it possible to realise this genius are absolutely defined by class and privilege and power and opportunity. Here’s a long quote from Lipsitz discussing these things:

The story of jazz artists as heroic individualists also overlooks the gender relations structuring entry into the world of plying jazz for a living. Women musicians Melba Liston, Clora Bryant, and Mary Lou Williams can only be minor supporting players in this drama of heroic male artistry. Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday are revered as interpreters and icons but not acknowledged for their expressly musical contributions. Although [Ken Burns’] Jazz acknowledges the roles played by supportive wives and partners in the success of individual male musicians, the broader structures of power that segregated women into ‘girl’ bands, that relegated women players to local rather than national exposure, that defined the music of Nina Simone or Dinah Washington as somehow outside the world of jazz are never systematically addressed in the film, although they have been investigated, analyzed, and critiqued in recent book…” (15)

The ODJB was one of a number of white bands working at the time, and they were well positioned to take advantage of a new recording industry and the possibilities of clever promotion. I think that they are/were glossed over by many music historians not because they weren’t black, but because they didn’t shore up racist archetypes.

The other interesting part of Peter’s post discusses the role of Italians in the early days of recorded jazz (and jazz history). This is much more interesting. There’s a chunk of scholarship about discussing the role of jewish musicians in early jazz and radio, which I think can be helpful. And cities like New Orleans (and New York for that matter) had large migrant populations: jazz is (as Winton Marsalis goes on about, ad nauseum), a gumbo. It is a mix of cultures and musical traditions. So it makes perfect sense to explore the Italian contribution.

Lipsitz, George. “Songs of the Unsung: The Darby Hicks History of Jazz,” Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004: 9-26.

(Try To) Write About Jazz


(Photo of Amiri Baraka by Pat A. Robinson, stoled from here).

Long time no post. I’ve been busy with a few different projects lately, most of them impeded by vast quantities of randomly-generated anxiety. I’m bossing some DJs for MLX11, I’m bossing some DJs locally, I’m sorting some solo dance practices, I’m looking at venues, I went to Church City Blues, I’m doing lots and lots of exercises to help my knees, I’m trying to improve my own DJing, and I’m working on at least two websites. They’re actually all the fun things. Also, we’ve started cooking meat at our house. The less said about that the better.

Perhaps the most challenging part of all this is trying to get my brain in gear for writing coherent sentences. More than one at a time. Ones that link up and make paragraphs. Anything more than that is really a little too ambitious right now. Writing. Why are you so demanding? The hardest thing in the world is writing properly when your brain won’t stop buzzing and fretting. Dance workshops? Actually quite good when you can’t make your brain shush. Forty minutes of slow, careful strengthening and stretching exercises every day? Quite calming, actually. But anything creative or requiring sustained creative thought – choreography, writing, editing… that shit is impossible. So here is something messy. Because it’s like learning to dance fast. If you never actually do it, you’ll never be any good at it.

Right now I’m thinking about writing about music. Again. I think it’s because I like to write about music. I’m also a woman. Wait – that last part is important (have vag will type). And because the things people write and say about music shape the way dancers and DJs think about music. And that affects the way they dance to music, which bands and DJs they hire to play their events, whether and how much they pay musicians and DJs, and what sort of music they put into the event programs. I know this is kind of old school literary studies/cultural studies/media studies stuff. And I even wrote about it in my PhD.

But now, I want to write and think about it again. Because I am organising DJs for MLX, and because I’ve noticed a clear trickle down (or bleed out?) affect from the developing online dancer discourse to the face-to-face. Yes. My PhD has come to life. Basically, Faceplant, blogs, podcast, youtube and all those other goodies are having a clear effect on face-to-face dance practice. Dancers are writing more about music (and dance), Faceplant has increased the penetration of this writing, and dancers are now reading more about music and dance. And this is having clear effects on how dance events are run. And on the interpersonal and institutional relationships and power dynamics of the international lindy hop scene. Yes, I will make that call. I can’t help it. I’m trained to see words as articulating power and ideology. And discourse as at once articulating ideology and creating it. I CAN’T HELP IT. I HAVE LEARNT TO USE MY BRAIN. ALL THIS THINKING WILL NO DOUBT RESULT IN THE COLLAPSE OF CIVILISATION AND RISE OF OUR FELINE OVERLORDS (WORSHIP THEM).

So what I’m saying, here, is that I’m getting that niggly tingly itchy feeling in the back of my brain that tells me there’s something going on that I need to pay attention to. Some dots are being joined. Unfortunately not by my conscious, rational brain, so you’re going to have to muddle through some fairly irritatingly vague, malformed or downright wrongtown blog posts til I get it together. If this was a magazine or an academic journal you’d be reading coherent sentences. But it’s not. So you’re getting dodgy stuff, but sooner. The fact that I’m still managing all those buzzing-brain anxiety issues means that it’s going to take me longer than usual to make this all into proper paragraphs. But then, I figure it’s a goddamn improvement on the past few months that I’m actually able to set fingertips to keyboard and make with the sentencing.

Words: why are you so demanding?!

I’ve been trying to get an idea of how jazz journalism works, both in historical and contemporary contexts. I’ve read a bit about the history of jazz journalism/criticism, a lot of which is really concerning. Lots of white, middle class guys writing about jazz, to paraphrase Amiri Baraka. Very few not-men, very few not-white anyones. To quote Baraka:

Most jazz critics began as hobbyists or boyishly brash members of the American petite bourgeoisie, whose only claim to any understanding about the music was that they knew it was different; or else they had once been brave enough to make a trip into a Negro slum to hear their favorite instrumentalists defame Western musical tradition. Most jazz critics were (and are) not only white middle-class Americans, but middle-brows as well. (Baraka, Amiri, “Jazz and the white critic”, The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, ed. O’Meally, Robert G. ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998: 137-142. pp 140)

Yeah! Baraka brings the smackdown! Old school 60s politics style!

What I have read has, for the most part, been really annoying. It’s kind of frustrating to see jazz studies – jazz criticism – failing to really get a grasp on gender and race politics. It’s like the 60s didn’t happen for so many of these guys. And it’s maddening to read the arguments that jazz histories emphasising black contributions are ‘racist’. Reminds me of those fuckwit people who try to argue that affirmative action policies are ‘reverse sexism’. …wait, I’m going to derail here for a bit of a rant:

IF we were all starting from the same place on the running track, it might be reverse sexism. But, dumbarse, we are working within PATRIARCHY, so affirmative action policy isn’t ‘reverse-sexism’, it’s simply an attempt to get us all at least onto the running track together. Of course, you’ve got to be a real ninja to actually pull off that sort of affirmative action effectively. So it’s ok, dickhead. Your power and privilege really aren’t in a whole lot of danger. We still have quite a bit of work to do. And anyway, most of our most important successes have been sneaky, and you haven’t noticed them. But, FYI, just like that beefcake guy in that rubbish film Crazy Stupid Love says, convincing women they’re learning to pole dance ‘for fitness’, that’s not a feminist victory. Convincing women stripping for money is empowering: that is not feminism. That’s old school sexism. So you’ve pretty much scored a point there.

…but back to my story.

Some of these jazz writer guys are entirely lacking in a sense of cultural and social context. And they really, really need to do a few introductory gender/race studies classes. Hellz, some introductory literary studies subjects.

But it’s worth having a look about at what has been written about race and class and gender and ethnicity in reference to and within jazz criticism. Queer studies? Yeah, don’t hold your breath, buddy.

So there is some critical (in the sense that these authors are engaging with the ideology and assumptions at work, rather than ‘being negative’) attention to jazz histories and jazz criticism/journalism. I’ve written a little bit about it before (in the post the trouble with linear jazz narratives + more and New Orleans jazz?), but I’m certainly not well read on this topic.


(Photo of Ellen Willis (with Bessie Smith), feminist and music journalist stoled from Ellen Willis tumblr)

That was made quite clear when I bitched (yet again) about the lack of women jazz journalists on twitter. @hawleyrose suggested I talk to @elementsofjazz (herself a woman jazz writer), who then hooked me up with Nate Chinen’s article On women in jazz (criticism) and Angelika Beener’s article Nice Work If We Can Get It: Women Writing on Jazz. Then I followed a million links from each of those articles to many more articles. The bottom line, here is that I mouthed off without researching the topic properly. I fell into that old ‘invisible women’ trap. Because I didn’t see women writing for big name jazz publications, I figured they didn’t exist. Just like that arsehat who recently bleated that there weren’t any women bloggers or tweeters writing about politics. With that bloke, the problem was a) that he defined ‘politics’ using the usual, very limited party-politics-institutions-and-polls definition and b) that he didn’t bother with bloggers and tweeters outside his usual sphere.

So my problem was a) I wasn’t looking in the right places (I was only looking in the conservative ‘official’ jazz journalism public sphere), and b) I hadn’t bothered to do much work to find those women journalists. Now I know better. And I’m delighted to be wrong. There are lots of women jazz journalists. Particularly when you broaden your definitions and include independent media, especially online media.

I think it’s worth talking about the history of jazz criticism here. And how small independent print publications were so important to the development of jazz criticism and writing from the turn of the century. But it’s also worth giving an eye (or ear) to the larger print publications like Esquire and Downbeat. I’ve written about this before, quite a few times, so I won’t go into it here (search for ‘magazines’ and you’ll find some old posts, or follow the links from More Esquire Talk).

What I do want to say, here, is that I’ve been thinking perhaps I should be asking “Are there any women writing about early jazz?” I’m wondering if the usual industrial and labour divisions of the early 20th century made it harder not only for women to get published, but for women to get read in the early days. And if there’s a resistance to writing about early jazz in the modern jazz publications and sites. Surely I’m once again voluntarily making women writers invisible. Surely. Time for more research, yes? YES!

No Meat Week continues… and continues…

vegetables Laura linked me up with the Guardian article “Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: the joy of veg” and it reminded me that I’d been talking about our no meat week here and not reported on it recently.
We are still not cooking meat at home for dinner. It’s been ages, and we’ve only cooked meat perhaps 6 times since we started the no meat week thing. And we like it that way. We didn’t plan to go vegetarian, or even to keep not cooking meat, but we just like it. We like the way it makes us feel, we like the food, and the variety of the food, and the fact that we are eating seasonally simply because veggies taste better in season. I think we make more interesting meals, and I’m certain we’re eating more balanced meals.
The transition was pretty simple for us because I’ve lived in vegetarian households before, and know how to cook quite a lot of vegetarian dishes. And The Squeeze prefers eating vegetarian food and hates handling meat, so he preferred the change. Since we stopped cooking meat (98% of the time) our house smells much better (that was something we noticed straight away), it’s easier to wash up and we stopped relying on the fats in meat to make good flavours in our meals. Win!

I’d say we were spending less on groceries, but we seem to have replaced meat with things like organic juice and milk, simply because the taste is incomparable. You really cannot get better milk than organic milk. It’s amazing. So we’ve replaced meat with ‘luxury’ veggie products. Things we certainly don’t ‘need’ to eat, but things we are going to eat because they are DELICIOUS. So, budget wise, things are pretty much the same as the way they were before, except we’re eating better quality food. If we had access to a close organic veggie store, I’m sure we’d blow our budget on organic veggies. Because they are much tastier.
If we do buy meat, we only buy free range, organic stuff. That’s the deal. It stops us eating meat regularly (partly because other stuff doesn’t taste as good) and it makes us think more carefully about the meat we eat – we don’t just sling some mince onto pasta because we can’t be bothered. I’ve noticed that we don’t let veggies rot in our fridge the way we did before (and that was even though we have always been big veggie eaters), and we are definitely much pickier about the quality of the fruit, veggies and herbs we eat (and we were pretty picky before). No supermarket veggies for us (yucky – no has a flavour!).
I don’t know if we’re healthier. Meat isn’t particularly bad for you, unless you’re eating poor quality meat too often, and we’re certainly not avoiding other foods which are laden with sugar and fats. Not that there’s anything wrong with sugar and fat. But we have never been particularly big on processed foods (besides dairy foods and bought juice), and we’re a bit more interested in baking cakes and biscuits these days. The Squeeze definitely prefers the way he feels on this less-meat menu, but then he didn’t really like meat before. I love meat, I love good quality, well-prepared meat. But I quite like the way I feel eating less of it. I don’t feel ‘less full’, because we make filling, intensely flavourful meals that make us want to eat more. I haven’t ‘lost weight’ or ‘gotten skinnier’, because I’m still doing the same amount of exercise and eating the same quantities. But those things definitely weren’t on my list of reasons for dropping meat.

Basically, eating less meat makes me feel a bit less selfish. I couldn’t live with the thought of the way animals are treated by the food industry any longer. So I decided to opt out, a little bit at a time. We might go entirely vegetarian eventually, but for now we’re just easing towards ethical eating. And we like it.

Country Red Rice (from Sri Lanka, Jothi brand)

…with some leftover curry.

country-red-rice-closeup, originally uploaded by dogpossum.

This rice is DELICIOUS. It’s like brown rice, if you’ve rubbed off most of the brown, and the brown is actually a rusty red.

It’s sort of a broken grain, and clumps together when you cook it, becoming fluffy and delicious. It’s so nice, it’s probably bad for me.

I just found it at the local grocer (well, one in Croydon) and decided to buy it because I haven’t seen it before. The label looks like this.

No Meat Week: no. 65million – Red Slop and Nice Rice

We are still not cooking meat at home. Although we did last night. But that was an exception, and organic, free range lalala hippy la meat. That’s the rule. No cooking meat unless it’s from organic free range lala sources.

But that’s the only time we’ve cooked meat since we started this whole thing.

Recipes of interest:
– Pizzas with various vegetable things on top. Using bases from the baker in Haberfield. Why buy bases? Because they’re from the HABERFIELD BAKERY where the nonnas push you out of the way to get the good stuff.

– Spinach and ricotta caneloni. Still not old. Delicious.

– anything involving sweet potato because it is GOING OFF at the moment. In curries, roasted, every fucking where, because that shit is YUM!

Tonight we had Red Slop And Nice Rice. This is another dish from the old share housing vegan coeliac days. Except it has cheese in it. We used to make this one just so we could eat the nice rice. It’s very easy. And cheap.

Red Slop
– Saute a bunch of mashed up garlic in some olive oil. Don’t you dare use that jarred shit. Add a tbsp ground coriander and a bit less of ground coriander. Saute til the smell really rises.
– Add a can of tomatoes. Stir it all around. If you use fresh tomatoes, cook the slop for much longer – you want this to get really rich.
– Add a can of chickpeas (drained of course). Stir that all around. Use your soaked and cooked dried ones if you’ve got them. If you’re a chickpea nut, use the big fat juicy ones, not the littler ones.

I forgot about the eggplant. It usually has eggplant. Get an eggplant, cut it into matchsticks about a centimetre wide. Saute that in the oil before you do the garlic. Saute til the eggplant is cooked. Then proceed from the first step above. If you’re scared of all the oil this will require (and it will need a bit), grill the eggplant first with a brushing of oil, then slice it and add it after the chickpeas. Eggplant is YUM YUM YUM.

Ok, so now you have red slop. It can simmer for a while on a low heat, getting thicker and richer and yummier.

Put your rice on in the rice cooker. I go the absorption method because I am lazy arse. But it’s just as good with looser grains. Use a long grain rice. We used basmati tonight. Cook it.

When the rice is done, put it on a plate to cool a little, and add a heap of washed, finely sliced fresh spinach to the red slop. Don’t use frozen stuff. Fresh is cheap and good. You only cook the spinach til it’s wilted. Don’t let it get brown.

Meanwhile (or earlier if you’re bored and impatient) put these things in a big bowl:
– some crumpled up fetta. Dodoni is best, unless you’re in a good middle eastern/mediterranean area, then find a good, tasty, bitey one. How much fetta? Well, you want to eventually mix it into the rice, so not too much, but enough to leave little bobbles on every forkful.
– juice of half a lemon. Or perhaps more if you’re cooking for four or more.
– some freshly ground pepper.
– some salt
– a fairly generous amount of finely chopped parsley

-> these amounts depend on the amount of rice you use. Basically, the rice should be flecked with green and bits of fetta and taste lemony but not too sharp or sloppy.

Then you add the rice, just after it’s cooled a bit. This dish is best if the rice is just a bit warmer than room temperature. You don’t really want to wilt the parsley or melt the cheese, but you want the rice’s warmth to set the flavours loose. It’ll suck up the lemon juice and kiss up to the fetta. YUM!

Now you put some nice rice on your place, a big plop of red slop next to it, and perhaps have it with some Greek yoghurt or a yoghurt sauce (olive oil, garlic, sugar, salt, lemon juice).

It’s a ridiculously delicious, simple dish. The most expensive bit is the cheese. Don’t be tempted to buy the cheaper ‘Australian’ fetta, and don’t even look at the low-fat stuff. This dish is so healthy you can manage a bit of full fat cheese.

I can imagine this would be brilliant with some grilled haloumi on top. But you don’t really need that second salty cheese in there.

The nice rice doesn’t really taste good refrigerated – it’s better at room temperature. Now I’m thinking about it, though, I reckon leftover nice rice (ha! as if there’ll be any!) would be awesome stuffed inside a capsicum and roasted. Or inside anything, really. A zucchini! A squash! YUM!

No Meat Week4: Monday


Four weeks already! There was that big bit of exchange in the middle, where I did cook meat, but still. It’s been four weeks since we decided to give this a go. And we’re not sick of it yet. I guess the next goal is to not eat meat for lunch.

We are still crook. I have no tastebuds, so I can’t smell anything and food is very unappealingly flavourless.

Tonight we’ll have either nachos or burritos. Both use the same ingredients, except one involves corn chips and one burritos. This isn’t at all ‘authentic’ Mexican food. It’s basic, easy cooking for when we’re totally buggered.

1. Red slop.
Ah, red slop. Central to all the meals I make. This one is slightly different.

– saute a brown onion til it’s see-through and beginning to change colour. I am going with the Indian approach to onions, where you cook it longer (but don’t let it burn) so it has a stronger flavour.
– add some crushed/chopped garlic. Get the garlic to change colour or whatever.
– add 1tsp ground coriander, 1tsp ground cumin, 1tsp sweet paprika, chilli powder to taste (which I can’t, so whatever). Give this lot 30 seconds or a minute til the flavour rises. …well, I just guessed that bit. Who knows what it smells like.
– add a can of tomatoes and a can of borlotti beans (kidney beans would be the obvious choice, but I don’t like them).

Let all this simmer quietly til you’re ready for it.

As you can see, this is a very simple, very unauthentic red slop. It’s better if it has a rich, red flavour, so you can contrast with fresher salsas.

Now, you’re going to need a salsa. I make a very simple one using:
– chopped tomatoes. Don’t bother with anything other than cherries at the moment, as they’re not in season. Or ditch tomatoes completely.
– some finely chopped onion (green onion, white onion, red onion, whatever).
– some finely chopped garlic.
– some finely chopped capsicum.
– some finely chopped coriander.
– a squeeze of lime juice.

Basically, this is a fresh, bitey ‘salad’ to balance the rich red slop and everything else. To my mind, this is the most important – the essential! – part of the dinner. There are a million different recipes for salsas, using everything from mangoes to olives. Choose one that suits what you have to hand. I think the fresh herbs are an essential part of this – coriander, mint, parsley are all good things.

Make a guacamole. I used to get really fancy with guacamole, but I’ve recently decided that simpler is better.
– mash up an avocado.
– add a bit of very finely chopped (if not grated) onion.
– add a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.
– add some freshly ground salt and pepper.

You’re done. I’d even ditch the onion, or replace it with garlic or just not use it at all. The point is that the avocado is just ripe and perfect. I prefer lime to lemon juice. You could add a smear of very good olive oil if you like, but it’s not really necessary. Make the guac fresh, or not at all. And don’t waste your time with pre-made guacamole. It’s just as cheap to buy an avocado and it will taste a million times better. A pre-made guac doesn’t save you time. Mashing an avocado is as quick as peeling open those annoying plastic containers.

If you’re making burritos, put onto the table a bowl of each of the salsa, the guacamole, the red slop, some baby spinach or other salad greens, some plain yoghurt (I don’t like sour cream as I prefer sharper flavours, but you could use that instead), some cheese (that’s where things get really inauthentic), some finely sliced chillis, anything you think would be nice wrapped into a burrito. I quite like those gherkiny pickle things that you can get from Mexican joints, and I also like those pickled giant yellow chillis.

Now: everyone make their own!

If you’re making nachos, you’re going to need some good corn chips. Nachos is a bit of a lazy/special occasion/holiday alternative for us. I like to get the organic plain corn chips from the deli. Whatever you get, don’t get a flavoured brand, and avoid big brands like Doritos. They are yucky. You want a really corny flavoured corn chip, and it’s best if they use a bit of sea salt and a decent oil. The corn chips are a base for other flavours, not the main event. This will be the most expensive part of the meal if you’re using fresh ingredients.

Spread the chips on a plate, spread some red slop on top, then some cheese. Again, this is inauthentic town. Put the plate under the grill til it goes melty or brown or to your preference.
You have to serve this with salsa, and I like to add gaucamole, yoghurt, spinach, etc. I’m also very conservative with yoghurt. The salsa is the main event.

I never make either of these dishes with meat any more, as I prefer the tasty, thicker flavour of the beans. You could use a pulled pork or grilled fish or chicken instead. But the most important parts are the salsas. You can make more than one. The point is that the rich red stuff or pulled pork or grilled fish or whatever is a base for the exotic, interesting flavours of the salsas. It’s also important to use fresh ingredients. Don’t bother with premade guacamole. If you can’t get a good avocado, ditch it altogether and have yoghurt or sour cream alone. The point is that the flavours are tasty and fresh.

If you make a heap of red slop, you can freeze it for next time, and it makes an easy, quick dinner at a moment’s notice.

No Meat Week3: roasted veggies with perfect poached egg

Yes. We had it for dinner AGAIN. Once again substituting a poached egg (c/o Dave the Brilliant) for grilled haloumi.

Roasted veggies:
– eggplant
– carrot
– dark green zucchini
– red capsicum
– cherry tomatoes
– baby white onions
– 1 small potato
– orange sweet potato
– mushrooms

Dressing
– lemon juice
– olive oil
– chopped flat leaf parsley

Mix some salad greens in with roasted veggies, pour over some dressing, Mix.
Plop egg on top.

No Meat Week2: Tuesday

Tonight: steamed veggies and lasagne.

This is usually a total win dinner, but not so much tonight. I was all ‘WIN!’ because I had a bunch of red slop in the freezer from the Borlotti Bean Moussaka so I could just do all the layers and put it in the oven. But there were problems.

1. We are SICK and TIRED of that particular red slop. I should have made a fresh one with fresh flavours.

2. I didn’t have enough of the red slop to really layer the layers. The red slop is really important for cooking the lasagne sheets.

3. I put the wrong thing on the top layer. I just had slices of tofu with cheese on top. WRONG. It should have been slices of fresh tomato and basil the way we usually do it, but I’d forgotten that.

4. The layers were dull. Baby spinach, slices of firm tofu, red slop, sweet potato. I did the order incorrectly. It was all a bit dry and not so great. I didn’t approve.

But we ate it.

This is where the wheels could come off this thing. A few dud meals, a few boring meals, and we’ll get bored with the whole exercise and fall back on old dinner plans. I think it’s time Dave did actually make those stir fries. That’s his special ninja power.

Other dishes we haven’t made yet:

– Nachos. This is one of our favourite dinners, with a beany sauce (onions, canned borlotti or some bean other than kidney as I don’t like them much, canned tomato, chilli, ground coriander and ground cumin, garlic), decent corn chips (not shitty Doritos), a good salsa (tomato, onion, garlic, coriander, lime juice, etc), a good gaucamole.

– Stir fries of different types.

– Red Thai veggie curry.

– Other Indian curry options, including egg cury.

– Pasta. I’m thinking puttanesca, even though it has anchovies in it. But I love it. Chilli, rich.

Can you see a theme here? Yes. Too many canned tomatoes, you’re right.

…actually, I can’t remember the other dinner ideas. But there were more. We need to get it together in this house, STAT!

No Meat Week2: Monday


(Jalebi, my superfavourite sweety)

Today I forgot to have breakfast. Then I had take away Indian for lunch. YUM. Ashfield is brilliant for quick lunches: 2 or 3 Nepalese joints (there’s quite a strong Nepalese community here), Chinese of course (mostly Shanghainese, and lots of dumplings and noodles), Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Malaysian and now a couple of new Japanese joints. An Oporto’s has just opened, which would worry me, if it wasn’t for the fact that two Japanese, one Nepalese and one Indian/Nepalese joints opened in the same month in the same block (for real). There’re also a few rubbishy places in the food court of the Smashmall (Ashfield Mall), but I wouldn’t eat there.

Though you can get badass bubble tea at a couple of joints, there is a distinct lack of coffee and European baked bread action in Ashfield. There is a ‘European’ bakery, run by a Lebanese/Indian couple, but the coffee is rubbish and the cakes are meh. They don’t sell bread. There are a couple of Vietnamese bakeries, but I don’t like that sweet white bread. There’s a Bread Top, but that’s very sweet and not really European style bread. There’s a Baker’s Delight in Smashmall, but it’s totally shit. There is one ‘cafe’ further down Liverpool Road, but it’s actually a Chinese cafe, and not really good for coffee. There is one cafe in the Smashmall, but it’s not good for coffee.
The newest cafe is an internet cafe, opened just next to the Station on our side of the tracks. It’s run by an Indian family, has a coffee machine, and while one side of the cake cabinet is full of ‘European’ cakes, the other half is full of amazing Indian sweets. You can score cheap pirated Hindi language films there too.

So Ashfield is not a good place for ‘European’ food. This is a big change from Brunswick. It’s also been a very good change for my belly, as I eat far fewer sweeties, as I just can’t hack the hardcore sugar in Indian and Chinese sweets. We do travel over to Haberfield for bread and cake and coffee on the weekend, but we are Smashfield people. But Ashfield is a brilliant place for cheap, interesting lunches. Just not so great if you’re looking for a sandwich. One of the things I have noticed in Ashfield, is that sitting down to a meal of shared dishes at lunch is a very common thing for this Chinese community. Everyone does it – from high school kids to mums with sprogs or oldies in a gang. It’s nice.

Tonight, at our little flat in Ashfield, we revisited last Thursday’s roasted veggies dinner. This time we did the dressing without oil, just with lemon. It was a bit sharp. We also added some fennel to the roasted veggies, but it wasn’t really a good place for fennel. I think I’d stick with what we did last time, perhaps. Dave’s poached eggs were as brilliant as last time. He has a talent. He should take it on the road.