Some friends share.
GARY’S BEST EVER BREAKFAST.
Entre was an abandoned dance around the Café Neon, where Kominos the owner penciled food orders on the white marble counter top.
As a regular, my order of tomato salads and 8 drachma bottles of ouzo was often sneakily added to by friends who were travelling in Greece on a tighter budget.
They were days of bonhomie where sharing and forgiveness came easy. A lucky bet on a racehorse delivered me to Greece where ‘easy come easy go’ was my travelling companion for some years.
Main course involved crocodiling (as in a conga line)the traditional Greek dance into the agora wending to the cliff edge where Georgios precariously parked his oversized taxi.
Clutching mini ouzo bottles, our singing and laughing group of six, squeezed into the aged Ford which then struggled up the winding dirt tracks above the village delivering us to our destination; a kapouzi patch where early dawn revealed a treasure of perfectly formed watermelons.
Was Giorgio, as a seasoned devotee of sexual pleasure, aware of the powers of watermelon as a natural viagara? Was the kapouzi patch a vital step closer to the beach beyond the next village where evening flirtations were eventually consummated ?
As an innocent I knew nothing of Georgios nightly flirtation, instead my enthusiasm was centred on what I mistakenly thought was the purpose of this dawn raid on a farmers treasure . i.e. to find the perfect watermelon, pierce its hard skin, upend a bottle of local ouzo and patiently wait for the alcohol to soak into the flesh.
My role was twofold. Keep the party going and serve brilliant red slices of the best ever ‘breakfast’.
Gary Elton. Proprietor of www.happyandcofarm.com (Cambodia)
Growing up in California this was THE best way on earth to eat hot dogs.
After grilling the weiner my mom would cut it length-wise half-way up and then ‘straddle’ it vertically over a bun, like legs over a horse. Next, very carefully with the tip of a sharp knife, she would cut a hole in the centre of a large potato crisp and slide it just over the top of the erect weiner, like a cowboy hat. A few cloves would finish it off, making a face under the hat, and presto… every boy’s dream come true: a Cowboy Hot Dog.
Second, when I was about five years old we went over to some friends house for New Years Eve. This was a very big deal because they were reported to be serving popcorn balls. And sure enough, there they were on a tray, each about the size of a tennis ball, all stuck together with bright green sticky syrup. It was like the Martians had landed in culinary heaven. (When I sked what the green sticky stuff was, I was told – “kryptonite.”
Jeff Balsmeyer, (Director/Screenwriter.)
Nosh and Nostalgia
As in Roman times the 21st century’s principal forms of entertainment are sport, sex, violence and food – mostly home delivered by Foxtel and Netflix. Perhaps
food tops the menu, with viewers Strasbourg-stuffed with by cooking shows from MKR to the calorific seductions of James, Gordon and that woman named
like an icky spread. Nutrella Lawson?
As we commit suicide by knife, fork and fast food I remember the simpler diet of working class Australia, the nosh of a childhood spent on Grandpa Smith’s tiny
farm. The only electrical appliance was the wireless. Clocks, the record player and my Hornsby train had to wound up. No car, just horsepower – Blossom
pulling both card and plough.
Grandpa has The Age propped up on a bottle of tommy sauce, either Rosella’s or Nana’s. Before him, on a chipped willow-pattern plate, a few slabs of corned beef
– or roast mutton (never lamb – too expensive) with a dollop of mashed spuds, some slices of beetroot and tomato.
At Christmas there might be a recently decapitated hen to share – but I’d been traumatised by the memory of a headless chook running around the woodheap.
A slice of Nana’s plum pud was more palatable, unwrapped from its cloth shroud, with a couple of threepenny bits hidden beneath its steaming hide.
At other times ‘sweets’ were more likely to be four or five Milk Arrowroot bikkies arranged in a bowl and sprinkled with sugar – over which Nanna would
pour a little boiling water. The bikkies would swell – and voila! a gourmet dessert.
I can’t remember honey – but spread our bread with golden syrup or treacle. Or the fat salvaged from cooking – we’d often eat bread-and-dripping. That’s what poverty tasted like.
And we were dirt poor at 798 High Street East Kew just after the Second World War. Though from time to time Grandpa would win ‘a couple of crays’ in a pub
raffle and bring them home, alive and kicking and glistening blue, turning red when Nana boiled them in the copper.
Bread was white – either ‘square tin’ or ‘high tin’ that- resembled a pair of buttocks. Butter was cut from the block at the grocers, where most things were
sold ‘loose’ – though cheese came in little blue packets – Kraft cheddar, with the taste and texture of Velvet soap. Confectionary was also sold ‘loose’ at the lollyshop, though one could dream of a Violet Crumble. Ice-cream? Peters. ‘The health food of a nation’ came as a cone, a wafer or a dixie with its little wooden spoon.
Food retailing was clearly defined. Shops arranged in logical sequence down our High Street and a thousand others. Groceries from the grocer. Fruit from the fruit
shop. Meat from the butchers. The idea of mixing everything up hadn’t occurred.
The disruptive technology of the supermarket was decades away. Ridiculous.
That’d never catch on.
Our High Street also boasted a bootmaker’s – shoes were endlessly repaired.
And a blacksmiths!! Where bellows, hammer, anvil and flying sparks produced shoes for Blossom.
Eating out? Never happened. Didn’t’ see inside a cafe until my early teens. Three meals a day, home cooked. Augmented by homemade jam, mostly plum, and
Nana’s jam tarts. Plus the surplus of the veggie garden preserved in Fowlers Vacola jars. The brand survives, now 105 years old.
You’re all invited for dinner. Afterwards some recitations and sing-along.
Grandpa does a great “Road to Mandalay” and “the Green-eyed Dragon with the Thirteen tails”. Being working class we eat early. See you around 6.30?
Broadcaster/ raconteur, advertising whizz kid, friend of our film industry, good mate.
(I’ll be there Phillip! I’ll bring the Lamingtons and a pot of Passionfruit Lemon Curd for “afters.”) Ed.
“PROPER” CHINESE FOOD.
Years ago, in the late 1950’s and early ‘60’s, on important occasions, my father, who used to consider himself to be an adventurous eater, would take the family to the Australia Hotel in Sydney to have a Chinese meal at the celebrated ‘Bamboo Room’. White table clothes, white fried rice with peas, and sweat and sour stacked with tinned pineapple, it seemed quite the sophisticated approach to exotic dining. That is until we went to Hong Kong in 1961.
I remember very little about the food in Hong Kong and Kowloon. I suspect that we either weren’t game to try anything too different or that in that part of the colony, food catered more to British tastes. However, a Chinese couple, who were business acquaintances of my father asked us out for lunch one day in the New Territories.
I can still remember the New Territories in those days, green hills and lots of small farms with little houses attached to them.
The restaurant was on one of these hills. It was unglamorous, but had an amazing view and was packed with Chinese diners. We were the only Europeans in the place for which our hosts apologised, but explained that in Hong Kong these were the sort of places where you could get proper, authentic local food.
And it was.
As the plates of food arrived in quick succession at the table, we were overwhelmed by what was laid before us. I can’t remember the names of the dishes, but I can still remember the depth of flavours, the excitement as each new taste sensation arrived and was tasted. I do remember when one dish arrived, my mother whispered to me, ‘I don’t think I can eat this, it’s pigeon.’ We looked at eat other, shrugged and Mum then said, ‘What the heck,” and dug in. I still remember the tender little pieces, cooked in a sauce that was totally magic. This food was a revelation to all of us.
Sixty of so years later, I still look upon that memorable meal with fondness and realise how lucky we were to access food that most Australians at the time had no idea existed.
And I don’t remember ever going back to the “Bamboo Room”.
Liz Adams. Bookseller & Book Editor. (ret.)
So French, So Fantastique
There we were in France, in Avignon, way back in the 70’s, and a friend had told us about a certain auberge – an inn – which had really good food, so of course, we reserved for a lunch. And what a lunch it turned out to be! It was a small, quiet place, with that kind of professionalism one finds all over Europe –smooth, unflustered and totally assured.
Perusing the menu, we noticed a few things we had never heard of and which are now quite common in restaurants all over Australia. The first course- tapenade with cornichons and toasts ( black olive pate with small gherkins), was unusual for our then unsophisticated palates, but since then we have become more or less addicted to tapenades, both black and green. This was followed by a bourride with rouille ( a thick and delicious fish soup with a hot, garlicky mayonnaise-type sauce) and a crisp salad, the leaves from the inn’s garden. For dessert, there was a light-as-air iced pear soufflé, all of this accompanied by some really lovely wines.
At another table, an older woman dined alone, and we marveled at the attention of the waiter, who tossed her salad over and over again, until every leaf glistened with locally made olive oil and lemon juice.
We still remember this lunch with enormous pleasure – both for the wonderful food and for one of our first encounters with a really first-class, though unpretentious, French restaurant.
Patricia Rollins (Journalist/ former Managing Editor, Women’s magazines.)
BLOOD OR BLACK?
It was WW2, the Germans had invaded Denmark and used its farmlands to feed their army, so food was very scarce. Imports stopped, so there was very little fruit. I had my first orange when I was 5 and it was a huge delight. We had to have castor oil every second day. It tasted vile but rich in vitamins. Even so my friend got rickets.
I lived with my grandparents in the country, on a farm, because Copenhagen was full of German soldiers. So we used to pick wild berries, trap rabbits, grow few vegetables and ate a lot of porridge with sweet red syrup.
I remember seeing and hearing a pig killed by the farmer, and how nothing was wasted, not even the blood, which helped about 12 people through a long winter as fried blood pudding sprinkled with sugar. Delicious. I thought all this was normal, and had a wonderful childhood.
Kirsten Garrett. (Former Exec Producer, ABC Radio, “Background Briefing.)
(Here in Australia, I remember my mother buying “Black” pudding” as a great treat. While dubious I didn’t doubt her and ate it. Later when I knew what it was I was less enthusiastic! Our local European market at Rudi’s in Taree sells a delicious Black Pudding that my European partner, Boris, adores.) Ed.
Kangaroo Tacos at Huntington Beach.
When you’re a green as grass 22-year-old country kid stuck in an underground coal mine and hating every day without sun, who out of the blue gets the opportunity to live in Southern California, right on the beach, sharing rent with a bunch of rugby players and a job hand silk screening surf shirts chucked in so long as you play rugby, it’s hard to say no.
At home I played for the love of it. It was the only thing that kept me sane. Mum and Dad were not too happy, but to live where the Californian surf movies were made, meant I was hellbent on going.
It was 1975. The beach house was a few blocks off Huntington Pier and there were wet suits and boards in the house I could use and soon enough I was all set. It was a share house with other rugby players soon to be my best mates.
The first meal was like something I had never seen or experienced. I think other than Mum’s cooking and my own special meal of Spag Bog, that was about the extent of my dining experiences.
The guys were in the kitchen cooking what they called ground beef.
‘Do you eat Mexican in Australia?’ they asked from the kitchen.
‘No mate, never tried it.’
A bowl of chopped up tomato was placed on the table. This was followed by shredded lettuce and a bowl of grated cheese.
So far so good I thought. I eat all this stuff at home.
Next, they put a smaller bowl of red sauce that looked hot and dangerous to my tomato sauce eyes.
Next came a frying pan with hot meat sauce. Proper bloke tucker I am thinking. No bells and whistles, just lots of food.
Then finally came some hot bent over crispy things they told me were Taco Shells.
The guys were all big fit blokes and were drooling but Stan the Captain stopped them. Stan an ex-Marine was a very big man indeed and looked at me and smiled.
‘Well boy, I came over here from Philadelphia and I had never eaten Mexican either, but let me tell you, these are great, God damn boy you’ll love em.’
‘How do you eat them then?’ I asked.
‘Watch and learn,’ he said with a big smile.
He took one of the shells and put in some meat and piled on tomato, lettuce and then spooned a small tea spoon of the red sauce, adding the shredded cheese.
‘You might go easy on this stuff it’s pretty hot for a novice Aussie like you.’
The lent over his plate and took a massive bite.
Me and the hungry rugby team mates followed Stan. I went easy on the hot sauce.
It was wonderful. Like a mix of hot and cold food that came together just right. I quickly became a lover of Tacos. Perfect bloke tucker.
So much so, that I began to cook the mince like I made spaghetti sauce at home with some spicy flavouring and the guys loved this adaptation and soon my Tacos became known around the team as Kangaroo Tacos. We had Kangaroo tacos once or twice a week.
We ate out a lot and had all kinds of Mexican but none ever tasted as good as eating Tacos at our beach house.
After 2 seasons playing rugby and seeing as much as I could of the good ole USA I came home, thankfully met the love of my life and told her about tacos. She loved them too.
I have no idea how many people we have ‘turned on’ to Tacos over the years with many variations.
Me, I am still eating them as I did in California – Kangaroo tacos crunchy shells. Bloke tucker. The messier the better.
Do you have a favourite food memory?
Fairy bread? Squashed blowfly bikkies? Bread and dripping? Share it with us!