in which i am disappointed by packaging


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I thought they’d be just like the pictures. I was imagining a whole series of miniature, dried up sushis. But they looked like this. But, strangely, they tasted like every sushi on the packet. All at once.

fahim’s fast food do orsm tandoori

194 Enmore Road, approximately.
We ride our bikes there from the hood. You can get the train to Newtown then walk up Enmore for a few blocks, past the theatre til you get there. It’s crowded and busy and not super clean. They do really good tandoori and really good naan. The rest is neither here nor there. Go there for the meat-on-sticks. They have some veggie dishes, it’s not very expensive to eat a whole dinner there, and you can take your kids. If they eat hot food. It’s a little more than Skip-hot curry, but not as hot as Indian-hot curry. As the doods at Bismi used to describe it.

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8 songs about food

8 songs with lyrics about ‘eating’. And when I say ‘eating’, I mean ‘sex’. Well, mostly. Some are actually songs about food. Probably. But not the Fats Waller ones.
There are approximately 60 squillion billion jazz and blues songs about ‘food’ and ‘eating’. These are only 8, but 8 that I really like, or that we sign around our house, or that are just plain good.
Bessie Smith’s ‘Gimme a Pigfoot’ is the best, because it’s a song about simple culinary and social pleasures – a pigfoot and a bottle of beer. And she’s not going to be payin’ 25c to go in NOwhere.

things i have done regularly lately

Cooked a large piece of meat in milk for a long period of time. Pork, chicken, whatever. I’ll cook it, you can eat it.
While searching blindly in my backpack, felt something soft and hanky-like, pulled it out and discovered it was a single maxi-sized pad*. This has happened: at the bi-lo checkout with a middle aged woman cashier, trying to pay for bread with a cocky indie boy salesman, rummaging for cables at the DJ booth while sitting next to a very-christian tech-dood (this happened twice in one weekend with two different christians), looking for a hanky, desperately, while trying to obscure a post-sneeze-excitement nose. The one time I actually _needed_ a maxi (as in badASS absorbency) pad I couldn’t find the fucker.
Played more than one song from The Spoon Concert album while DJing for a bunch of spazzed out lindy hoppers. It’s like a sickness. Not the lindy hop – my playing stuff from this album. I just can’t help it. I need to get some sort of clue.
Wandered why mormons bother with plural marriage** where the arrangement is one man + many women. While I know that many women is a fully sick option when you’re looking at running a conference or a university degree or planning a lindy exchange, I’d have thought the ideal solution is one woman + many men within a marriage. Because I sure as fuck know The Squeeze is run a little ragged riding back and forth between the couch and DVD shop and could do with a sub some time soon.
Thought I might like to re-watch Aliens, mostly for Bill Paxton.***

I like imagining him ranting “Game over, man, game over!” when the Law discovers he’s a polygamist.
Wandered why I didn’t believe people when they told me Veronica Mars was good. I used to enjoy that bit in Deadwood when Kristen Bell was eaten by Woo’s pigs. Now I can’t believe I wasn’t into this shit.
Wished we had broadcast TV. But only when people are tweeting like motherfuckers about freakin’ Masterchef. Whatever _that_ is.
*as in PERIODS.
**this is what happens when you re-watch Big Love.
*** Big Love, again.

every day is blog amnesty day for me

…because I feel no shame, and publish every entry I begin. For which I apologise.
I was just thinking: why do I alway recognise an Ellington song? Is it the arrangements or the soloists? Ellington’s band carefully showcased each soloist with personally tailored and arranged solos/parts for specific people. So I guess it’s a combination: parts and whole.
Then I was thinking about my obsession with various jazz pianists. I thought I might do a post with little bios and pics of each one. Then I got distracted. But here are some I love:
Willie ‘the Lion’ Smith. Wasn’t a big band leader, but did a zillion songs with a zillion bands. One of my favourites is a song called ‘4,5, and 9’ with Leadbelly in 1946 from a CD my mum bought me at the Smithsonian in Washington. It’s (the song, not the Smithsonian) fairly sparse – piano, guitar, harmonica, male vocals. It has a rolling, rollicking rhythm that makes me want to roll and rolllick around the house. You can’t lindy hop to it. You can only roll or rollick.
Fats Waller Duh. Was a band leader. Died younger than we’d like, but not surprising considering his lifestyle. His band was famously loyal and stayed with him for a very long time. He began his career with bands like the McKinney Cotton Pickers in New York. I love his light, tinkly playing, his chunky left hand rhythms and his lovely lyrics. I love the combination of light-hearted humour and melancholy.
Mary Lou Williams You tend to find women in jazz bands at the piano or behind the microphone, mostly because they were considered ‘ladylike’ musical pursuits. No tubas here. Williams was in Andy Kirk’s band, and was important not only because she could play like a demon, but also because she was a badass arranger. She didn’t sing (that I know).
There are plenty more, but these are the ones I’m currently interested in.
I was going to write something else about something else, but I’ve forgotten what it was.
Oh, that’s right. I’ve been playing Flight Control on The Squeeze’s ipod touch. I’ve been getting quite high scores. I don’t like any of the other games. I don’t play computer games at all, usually.
I was hardcore into sourdough recently, but my interest has waned. I am now interested in … well, nothing much else, food-wise.
On other fronts, I’ve been doing an awful lot of reading about jazz, jazz history and jazz studies. Soon my brain will blow up. I think I’m procrastinating about another book I have to read and review for a journal. I’d better get onto that one quick-smart. But I just can’t be arsed – I know how it’ll end, it’s not hugely well written, and while the content is very interesting, I just can’t stick with it.
My foot has been much, much better. But yesterday and today it was a bit sore. Podiatrist in about a week for an update, and a verdict on whether or not there’ll be dancing again in my future, ever. Let’s cross our fingers, shall we?
There is a cafe on the main drag of Newtown called Funky which made me a freaking wonderful prawn raviolli the other night. It was home made pasta, in large sheets, folded around some perfectly prepared prawns, in a light, fresh tomato, tiny-bit-of-cream and smidge-of-butter sauce. It was simple and perfect. I was amazed. The manager is a lovey and always seats me carefully when I come in on my own every other Friday evening for a quick before-DJing dinner. It is a delight to eat there. Especially as the cafes on that strip can suck bums. But it’s really too nice to be called a cafe. And on the last few Fridays they’ve had a small, very excellent latin combo playing in their tiny restaurant. They had a double bass, guitar, bongos, vocals and … something else last Friday. They were so good I wished I could dance salsa. I didn’t even feel I needed to read my book, they were so nice to watch and listen to. And I do like a quiet sit-and-read on my own over a nice meal in a restaurant. I know it’s not cool, but it’s one of my greatest pleasures – eating alone in a restaurant.
That’s all I’ve got for now, I’m afraid.

hygiene – we haz it

I just made an awesome dinner that involved cooking some beef in some slop on the stove with a bunch of other things for an hour. I just had a look and found a bunch of tiny beetles floating in it. Who knows where they came from, but I’m suspecting a grotty unsealed bag of paprika. What was I thinking.
I picked out all the bugs.
Should I start again from scratch? They’re tiny bugs. But there are a lot of them. I think I got them all.
Ten years ago, when I had a crazy Brisbane organic herb garden, I used to just make sure I chopped the herbs really small so the inevitable bugs and caterpillars were smashed beyond recognition. But today I’m not so cool about bugs. All those years in Melbourne, land of no-bugs, has made me weak. Weak and squeamish.
I think we might eat it anyway. The Squeeze, king of picky eating, has declared it safe. But then, it’s big pieces of food he’s particular about. And these bugs are real small.

today i:

Got up earlier than usual so as to begin preparing for my (fuckful) early teaching starts in a couple of weeks. Not too early (only 8.30), but I find it very difficult to change my sleeping pattern, and it’s a long road from 9.30am to 6.30am when you’re going at half hour intervals. I’m considering just moving all at once, but I don’t like the way I’m going to feel that one day of craptitude. I also find my body just ignores that sort of massive all-at-once change. I am a creature of habit. This will, of course, make late night DJing tricky. The early start is a Monday, with a day of lectures and tutes, then a day of tutes on Tuesdays. So Saturday late night DJing will be a bit of a pain. Last semester I found the traffic noise on our busy road very difficult to deal with and had to resort to ear plugs. I hope – and don’t think – that’ll happen again as I’ve adjusted to the noise.
Rode my bike to Petersham for lunch (why Petersham? Well, two words: Sweet Bellam the ‘cake boutique’). Had bunny and a nice broad bean salad at a Portugese joint. Watched a bunch of middle aged blokes from the train station eating whole chickens and chips. Then realised that they were actually only young men, just carrying the bodies of middle aged, beer-belly-wearing, overweight, unfit men. It was a bit scary. I’d seen the same lot having lunch there the day before. Bunny and salad was kind of a special meal for me (it was quite nice, actually, though I hurt my tooth on a bunny bone), but to eat chicken and chips every single day? I was just thankful they had to walk up the hill to the restaurant. Though they probably drove. I wanted to yell out “Don’t! Don’t eat that again! Have a salad! Have a sandwich!” but I figured it wasn’t such a good idea. I did plan on a cake, but decided to push on to my next destination first.
Printed out a road map from our place to Newtown. Petersham, I discovered yesterday, is only 10 minutes (if that) from our place. Which is such a tiny distance. On the map, that’s only about a third of the way to Newtown. But the main roads to Newtown are scary: narrow, busy, fast-moving traffic on a single lane, poorly surfaced road. All bad news for a baby bike rider like me. Then I noticed this:

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Street view showed me this:

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Which is pretty exciting. You can’t look at them using street view, but Sydney has a whole system of these sorts of alleys. They’re not cobble stones like Melbourne’s, though – they’re sealed. Now, alleys are notoriously dangerous ways of getting around by bike. Things come out of blind corners, cars drive down them at speed, weird blokes grab you off your bike (that’s my nightmare).
So I was kind of careful. But I chose to ride along this one anyway, all the way to Newtown. I’m really glad that I did. I saw lots and lots of good scrumping opportunities. Lemons, Grapes (ripe! accessible!), longans (you know I have no clue what to do with them), plums… all sorts of neat stuff. I also came across a few doozers and their mini digger. I couldn’t get past on-bike, so I had to carry my bike over the ripped up concrete, and then up and over the edge of the digger. The doozer bloke (young, mediterranean, well-trained) offered to carry my bike. I smiled and said “no thank you” and hefted it over. I’m glad I’m not one of those steel-is-real nuts. I’m also glad I didn’t bring a big bottle of water this time. But dang, I felt tough. It was all very interesting. And riding there from Petersham was ridiculously easy and quick.
Dropped in on a friend’s shop to say hi, then went up the road to the bike shop.
Bought stuff at the bike shop. I bought a new helmet (because mine was old and skanky and really kind of crapped up through mistreatment), new lights (because we’ve lost our lights and I needed new ones for getting home from yoga) and new grips for my handlebars. It cost me far too much money.
I also looked at cleats/click shoes (I am mad keen on these ones, but not too hopeful). I’m not sure of their names, though I did ask the bike guy. Wikipedia tells me cleats are just specialist sports shoes with spikes. So who knows what you call the cycling ones. Basically, they’re special shoes that have a little locky thing on the sole that clicks into a locky thing in your pedal. Why bother with that rubbish? It makes pedaling more efficient – you make better use of your muscles and your foot moves around less on the pedal, stopping you wasting energy with wiggling. So to get this set up happening, you need special pedals and special shoes. The shoes are quite stiff and can be super-daggy or fairly ok. I think I only want them because The Squeeze has them. New click-wearers tend to stack it a few times at first until they learn how to work the quick release.
I’m not sure whether these things will make me cooler/a better cyclist/a consumption stooge. But for a girl who’s been browsing far too many (make sure you check out the little movie on that one) bike sites, it’s actually pretty impressive that I haven’t suddenly decided to dump my perfectly serviceable Apollo road bike for something ridiculously expensive and terribly sexy. ..

.. it is sexy, though.
Anyway, after a little wander through the bike shop and a quiet (private) mock of the fashionista bloke buying his first fixy (enjoy that no-gears, no-break thing, dood – especially with your perfectly white dunlop volleys, immaculately shaved and tanned legs and perfectly perfect designer shorts), I left Newtown.
And went to Petersham for a cake. The flourless chocolate cake at Sweet Bellam is fabulous. Their coffee is ordinary, but it’s a very nice place to have a sit and a read and a cake. Petersham was rocking with groups of senoras on the lookout for spunky older gentlemen and “coffee! coffee!” so I had to be very careful making my way down to the other back-roads path home.
There is a system of back-road designated bike routes which I don’t really understand. The one I used a lot is the ‘L5’, though I’m also into the ‘L10’. I thought they were prepaid only bus route numbers. But there’re also pretty well-signed bike routes. Roads are usually shitfully bumpy and crap, but they’re quieter, wider, safer roads. Don’t seem to join up properly, but that could be because I’m not following them properly. Anyways, they’re worth the look.
Looked at lots of bike pron. I’ve just waded through a heap of sites, including:
this RTA bike route map collection which I can’t seem to understand.
the city of Sydney’s new Cycle Way, which ties into the Jan Gehl assessment of Sydney (as discussed here on City Of Sound. I don’t really understand the new cycle way yet because I don’t know the city roads or areas well enough to understand the practicalities and issues involved.
– a lecture on the Powerhouse’s bike collection via their their weekly lecture series
bike bus project website, where I felt a little bit frustrated. I’m not interested in getting into the freakin’ hardcore yahr! masculinity of the real-steele/fixy scene (mostly because I’m packing a uterus, and they’re not really appropriate in that scene – apparently you’re harder hardcore if you risk your gonads wearing them on the outside while you cycle), but I’m not really into these semi-lame government/council initiatives, either. I’m just not sure where I stand, really. With my friends or The Squeeze or on my own, probably.
– and, finally wished I’d seen this rider spoke thing earlier.
Had a little think about my ‘goals’, as a badass cycling feministah. I’m very attracted to the steel is real/fixy thing. If only because it is so tattooed, no-cleats, RAHR! badassin’ hadcore. And male-dominated. I like to think of myself as all those things (sans tatts, though), and I do like to push myself into male-dominated scenes. I also like it as an alternative to the happy-clappy, hand-holding hippy cycling world. Or to the shave-your-legs, wear-lycra, ride-down-highways-really-quickly crowd. But I don’t think I could really be bothered.
I want equipment that’s tough and hard-wearing, so I don’t have to replace it.
I’m not really interested in brands, but I’m not like those fixy-fashionistas who peel all the stickers off their bikes to be cool in a sort of faux-op-shop Revival sort of way.
I want to get maximum efficiency from my body by using the right equipment, but I don’t want to buy stuff ‘just because’. My old bike is perfectly adequate. My flouro yellow rain jacket is daggy but safe (and kind of stinky atm). My new helmet isn’t skatin’ rad, but it is safe and good quality. Do I need clicks? Do I need lycra pants? In the latter case, I definitely need some sort of new shorts situation – I’ve lost so much weight none of the shorts in our house fit me any more.
All of this is, of course, some sort of desperate attempt to distract myself from not dancing. It’s classic transferral. I need to resolve my feelings about not being able to dance. Or I could just throw myself into another activity obsessively. I’m sure as shit not doing any sewing these days. But gardening… that’s another story (remind me to blog our seedies’ progress).
So it’s been kind of a big day. I’m so glad I’m back on my bike, and back exploring Sydney. Next I’m going to find some way to explore the beaches. Possibly a train/bike combo.
Yes, please.

pumpkin: pwn; fish:pwned

fom.jpg I’m sure I’ve crapped on about this great little cookbook before (potato salad, orange salad). It’s called Flavours of Mexico (in the ‘Good cook’s collection’, published by Fairfax in 1998). Yesterday, as we searched through The Diet Book for something even remotely interesting, I suddenly remembered this nice little Mexican cook book and its lovely salads. This book is about how I like my cookbooks – large pages, bright, coloured photos. I could do with something a little more substantive (82 pages isn’t quite enough, thanks), but when every recipe you’ve made from a cook book has been gold, you kind of figure you’re getting all-wheat, no-chaff.
Tonight we made ‘Squash with Green Onions’. I was actually cooking a fish in the oven using a recipe from the book (Roasted Garlic Fish) which didn’t turn out so well. The fish was a poor choice – I’m just buying everything one by one, figuring out their strengths and how they should be cooked as I go. So far The Squeeze (who’s only new to whole fish and was at first entirely suspicious) is a big fan of the Coral Trout. I’ve forgotten this one’s name, which sucks. I should have gone with my instincts and gotten Snapper, but I didn’t. But as the oven was on and I was flicking through the book for a nice salad dish, I came across the squash recipe.
I didn’t have any squash, though. Just pumpkin :D It was freakin’ wonderful. As it was cooking, we almost expired from delight.
Here’s the recipe:
1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped
350g yellow or green patty pan squash (those cute little yellow ones that taste like zucchini)
4 carrots, peeled and halved
2 tsp finely grated lime rind
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
155g feta cheese, crumbled
Green onion dressing:
12 spring onions, sliced
3 mild fresh green chillies, sliced
1/3/90ml cup olive oil
1/4 cup/60ml apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
Ok, first thing to note: don’t leave anything out (except those yellow squash – we did). Everything is essential.
1. Chop up your pumpkin and carrots. I cut them so they’d take the same amount of time roasting – so bigger pumpkin, smaller carrots. The Squeeze likes his pumpkin sloppily overcooked (he’s just new to pumpkin too, but he’s all over it now), I don’t. I don’t mind my carrots having texture. He does.
Grate that lime rind over the veggies. Do it – don’t leave it out or substitute with lemon! And grate it very finely so it gets everywhere – not big chunks. Add that olive oil (even less if you can – you don’t want this to get greasy). Grate some black pepper over it – to your taste (don’t go nuts, but don’t be too stingy).
Ok roast those suckers til they’re done – golden and soft if you have a good oven. Cooked and kind of damp if you have a shitty oven like ours.
2. Make the dressing. We actually only had 750g pumpkin, 2 carrots, no yellow squash. So I only used 6 spring onions. That was a lot. Perhaps too much, as you’re using white and green parts. But while you can reduce the proportion, do be generous with your onion – it’s meant to be a key feature, not a tiny little decoration. Slice that onion diagonally – don’t make tiny little circles.
Add the chillies. Don’t leave those out. We only used one small red one, and we ended up with a salad that was a tad too sweet. Use those chillies. Use nice green ones, too. Add that olive oil. Add all of it and then be stingy with the final dressing – don’t screw up the proportions before hand.
Add that apple cider vinegar. Don’t use any other type of vinegar – that’s your only option. You want that appley taste.
Add that lime juice. Do it.
Whisk that dressing.
3. Cut your feta cheese into chunks. Crumbled gives you a kind of feta slop.
4. Ok, put your roasted veggies on a serving dish (breathe in that fabulous pepper/lime combination – yum!). Add the feta. Pour over the dressing.
It’s so good, it’s just freakin’ amazing. If you’re not sure about the oil, then reduce the amount of dressing you add at the end – don’t stuff up the proportions. It’s actually quite a wet dish – you can afford to reduce the amount of dressing you use.
This dish is so freakin’ good, we made do with it and tomato/mint/coriander salsa when the fish turned out crap. The fish tasted like dirt. I’m sure it wasn’t mullet.
BUT the recipe was quite special:
1.5kg whole fish such as bream, snapper, whiting, sea perch, cod or haddock, cleaned
1 lemon, sliced
2 fresh red chillies, halved
3 sprigs fresh marjoram
7 cloves garlic, unpeeled
30g butter/splooge of olive oil
1/3 cup coconut milk.
1. Ok, get your garlic and roast it in a pan. I used a cast iron pan. You want the cloves to get charred and the garlic soft. When it’s done, tip it into a bowl and squeeze out the guts. Get rid of the skins. Lick your fingers here – this is one sweet taste.
Add the olive oil. I substituted olive oil for butter and think I preferred it. I also didn’t use very much – just enough to carry the flavour of the garlic.
2. Shove some lemon slices, the chillie and the marjoram inside the fish. Don’t skimp on the chilli – you won’t taste it much. Don’t exclude the marjoram – it’s essential.
3. Rub the garlic slime over both sides of the fish. Put the fish in a grill-proof baking dish. Cover with foil. Cook until flesh flakes (20-30 mins depending on your oven and the size of your fish).
4. Remove foil, place under hot grill and cook for 3-4 minutes until skin is crisp. Serve with a drizzle of coconut milk.
We didn’t bother with the coconut milk. The fish tasted yuk, but the sauce was fabulous.
I did find a copy of this recipe book here. Look for it second hand. I’ve made many things from it and loved them all. It’s kind of Mexican for beginners, but it makes you realise that some things are very important in Mexican cooking:
– limes
– coriander and mint (fresh of course)
– salady bits
It doesn’t have any recipes that use mince. It does have recipes for roasted chili duck and quail with rose petals. It uses a lot of different types of chillis, most of which are hard to find in Australia (in both Melbourne and Sydney), so you might want to grow your own. If you’re a hardcore Mexican foody, this will be too basic for you. If you want a few tasty salads and vegetable dishes and some simple, low-fat but high-taste recipes for meat and fish, this is a good option. We love it.

i need that little nibble more

We are sitting on the malodorous settee listening to CW Stoneking (pwning present, Squeeze!) and playing on our laptops. I have just finished all the cashews. I have also eaten the last gingerbread tree biscuit. The Squeeze has eaten the last mince tart. Neither of us can bare another piece of turkey, though we are thinking about having meat cake* and tomato soup for dinner.
The Squeeze has been making his way through some chocolate hearts (the 2nd mother apparently has a standing order with her chocalatier). I thought I might fancy a nibble of milky chocolate.
“Can I have a lick of that chocolate?”
I look up to see him carefully transporting it from his mouth to the wrapper. It is largely intact and has only a thin layer of kiss. I decide I need that little nibble more than we need to adhere to The Rules.
*aka stuffing that has not been stuffed into anything.

things i’ve noticed

about eating out in Sydney:
– They are all about banana bread. I like it.
– On the whole, service in cafes is very ordinary – Melbourne does beat them out by a long yard on this. The number of times I’ve had to ask for water, for cutlery… and – this is the worst – there’s often no table service. That last one kind of blows my brain. I’m kind of wondering if it’s because Sydneysiders are generally friendlier and more laid back than Melbournians? I think it’s the warmer climate challenging a rigorous approach to service.*
– They have freakin’ AWESOME Thai food here.
– There are weird laws about licensing, so most places are BYO. I don’t drink, but it feels a little… less cosmpolitan… less grown up than Melbourne? This reminds me of Qld. I’m not sure it’s a good thing to be reminded of Bjelke-Peterson Qld.
– Pineapples, out of season, are always under $5. Civilization, at last.
– They don’t have a proper, community pub culture. Most pubs are full of pokies, shitful cheap furniture and crappy beer. Also, they advertise ‘$5 pastas!!!’ No thanks. I think I need to find a pub run by a nice middle aged gay man, where the food is good, the bar staff are friendly, and there are no pokies. Where will we meet our friends for a quick ‘arf on Sunday afternoon?
– The seafood is sweet.
– There are a few too many places serving hot drinks in cups without handles. I can handle that in a French cafe, but it’s just bullshit when we’re talking cups of tea. This made me irrationally angry at 7am this morning as I waited for my train.
– There are far too few places selling decent gelati. This does not please me – perhaps emigrating was a mistake? Same goes for pide – people just buy 2, 3, 4 day old pide like it’s ok. Maybe they just don’t understand? Perhaps I am just not checking out the right suburbs?
– They have tiny steamed buns that are then pan-fried. This is apparently a Shanghai thing. I like them, which is strange, as I don’t much care for steamed buns generally. I think it’s because they’re smaller.
Generally, I approve of fewd in Sydney. But I think they need to think more about their indoors recreation. Less with the giant flat screen tellies, more with the badass service. I don’t mind if it’s surly, so long as it’s quick and efficient.
[*Edit: I make this startling generalisation based on a sample size of about 20.]