$ 5.00 Goon

My local shopping centre bottle shop is a cozy place – albeit floored with plastic wood veneer and ringed with refrigerators and cool rooms. The decor is to-the-point: bottles and cans stacked neatly, offered for sale. There are wine racks and beer fridges and a bargain tub up the front. The staff are polite and friendly and I really want no more in such an establishment. I do not need music or great art or vague descriptions of vinous products.

It also has a wonderful feature – the cask wine racks. These are in the Australian tradition of providing booze at cheap prices. And for the most part, the stuff that is boxed is quite drinkable. It is never sterling, yet rarely drack. If it is to be consumed with a casserole, or BBQ, or evening cheese and olives, one need never feel disappointed. Goon is goon, and as long as you are prepared to recognise it for the cardboard packaging exercise that it is, it can sometimes be vin extraordinaire.

That is the regular $ 20 for 2 litres stuff. Red, white, yellow, or pink, it can all be sloshed down with little shame. But when it comes up against the retail laws and date stamping, it can become a pirate’s treasure. You see, when wine gets to the ” best by ” date it becomes largely unsalable to the upper classes. They would never consider such humble pleasures. And the retailer may well be stuck with it.

Stop laughing. Goon boxes are never going to be considered Chateau Lafitte by anyone ( possibly Chateau La Feet…) but even they have stamps on the side. Hit that month and they either pour it away down the storm drain or…

Mark it at $ 5.00 a box.

Friends, it is not poisonous. It is not noxious. It is not nauseous. It is $ 5.00 goon and you can afford to have a glass whenever you like. It goes perfectly with cheese toasties or leftovers au gratin. You can cook with it. You can clean with it. You can chug it while reading a detective novel. It can be decanted into an expensive bottle and served to your painful sister-in-law.

Trust me on this. If she likes it you have achieved one of life’s pleasures for 65¢. If she screws up her face and looks aggrieved you have achieved one of life’s pleasures for 65¢.

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What Do You Do When You Look At The Map, Eh?

If you are looking at the map of North America and stray above the 49th Parallel you give a little start and say

” Oh. Canada…”

And in many cases you will be correct – save perhaps if you go too far north and are looking at Alaska or too far east and are looking at Quebec. Most of the rest is still Canada.

It’s not the Dominion of Canada, except to us old emigrants who cleared out of the place before 1982. The current flag is a red-and-white affair with a maple leaf on it* – symbolising a hockey team that rarely wins. This is considered quintessentially Canadian – both the hockey and the the not winning.

I suspect the current Prime Minister is also somewhat of a red-and-white affair as well, though it is naughty of me to say that. After all, he is someone else’s choice, saviour, and burden, and it’s not for me to mock the afflicted – or their afflictor, either. As Prime Ministers go, he will….eventually…and unless he takes out Australian citizenship I am safe. There is a whole planet full of molten lava between he and I.

I do miss Canada on some October days when the memories of the autumnal woods and the clear air return but then this is the start of Australian spring and the weather turns cheery here too. There is always solace in Canadian Club, maple syrup, and Red Green Show re-runs.

I am a little nonplussed by what our local hoteliers think makes for a Canadian celebration on Dominion Day – 1st of July. There is a great deal of foofle about Clamato and poutine  and no recognition at all of butter tarts. Remember these got a Prime Ministerial vote of approval in the days when Prime Ministers were real. I should be prepared to make a suitable Canadian menu up but some of my friends would be horrified at what was on it. Many of the dishes were developed before there were gluten or food allergies and quite a few of the ingredients were on the hoof, fin, or feather prior to being on the plate.

I shall celebrate the day with a highball and work on a model of a plane for my little RCAF airfield, wearing my plaid shirt, moccasins, and Red Green braces. It might not be the Inner Canadian that the novelists bang on about, but it can at least be the Inner Former Canadian, eh?

* A corporate logo. The old red duster for me. A proper flag with a flag and a crest on it.

 

Fries With That

My recent trip to Melbourne saw me going through the Federation Square premises of the National Gallery Of Victoria with some trepidation. Previous visits were enlivened with rooms full of brightly coloured phalluses and vulvas – always a favourite with the art-lovers – and a full-scale fire alarm and evacuation on one visit. Plus some exhibits of real beauty. Fed Square is a grab bag…

This time was no different, though most of the exhibits were delightful. I am not a fussy connoisseur – give me a brightly coloured vulva and a bag of peanuts and I’m happy. So I welcomed these three pieces of comfortable furniture:

Nostalgic diners of the 70’s and 80’s will have them in a minute. They even evoke the remembrance of smell, though they had no odour themselves.

Call me a cynical citizen, but I reckon that these would be major sellers as lounge furniture if one could overcome the copyright laws.

Note that the Sausage McBiscuit is a North American product – probably closely allied to our Australian Sausage McMuffin.

Sauce Pot!

Keen-eyed readers who like mystery novels and television shows may wish to turn their detective powers onto the heading image and see if they can figure out what we are having for dinner.

Winter has arived in Perth with prescribed burn-offs in the bush and lowering temperatures. The crayfish salad and tiny cold delicacy on the vast white plate has given way to food that will actually fuel the boiler. As the local fast food chains have decided to eliminate taste from their products – having gotten rid of nutrition some years ago – and the pubs have finally given in to their accountants and started charging $ 75 for a piece of steak ( Saw the menu the other night – still on oxygen. ), I’ve decided to make our own dinners.

This dish is no closer to traditional Italian cuisine than the local IGA supermarket shelves. As the checkout girl has dark hair I pretend she is from Milano and that makes it all authentic. If I lived in North Perth or the City of Stirling it might actually be, but I suspect the people who make the sauces and the pasta probably came from there a hundred years ago so we’ll go with that. And none of this nouvelle cuisine serving stuff – when we get a plate of dinner we want more dinner than plate on the table. Oozing over the edge is not considered a flaw.

There will be red wine and it will be extremely cheap. Like $5 for a 2 litre cask. It’s time-expired Yalumba from the local bottle shop and if you drink it without letting it hit your taste buds it is fine. Actually it IS tasty, and the business of ” best by ” dates is a bit of a frandoogle when you are talking about basic blended goon. It is cheaper than drinking lacquer thinner or motor oil.

 

The Fast Life In The Slow Lane

I try to hit all the stops. And then I really do stop.

Like last Sunday – I was jerked bolt upright at 8:30 AM by the realisation that I did not have to go to work in the cotton fields. Of course we don’t live in Mississippi and I’m retired anyway, but there was still that feeling. And once up, you can’t go back to sleep. The cat will make sure of that.

Then it was off to the shower, the shaver, and the sh….umm..let’s change the subject.

Breakfast. They say we must start the day with a substantial breakfast. Toast is substantial. So is oatmeal. So is rum and motor oil, for that matter. Don’t get near me when I burp.

Out to the Little Workshop. On with the radio. Olde Tyme Wireless from Wireless Hill. So you can avoid the horrid music of millenials by listening to equally vacuous stuff from  baby boomers. And it is true that we pluggers can identify a piece of music from the first two notes – if it is one of the only three that the station owns and plays repeatedly. Anyone fancy a Walk In The Black Forest?

Lunch? Don’t mind if I do. The chicken and celery soup is attractive, seeing as it is left over and doesn’t need any effort to heat up. No-one else in the family will eat it, so I get as much as I want.

Shall I work or shall I nap?

And dinner. I must prepare dinner. Fortunately there is an electric oven and as long as you let things cook over a slow heat they will be fine. Too many people think that an fan-forced oven run at welding temperature will be more efficient, but they are eaters for efficiency, and are welcome to it. I cook for flavour, and if this takes 3 hours rather than a blowtorch, so be it.

And the dinner need not be hurried when it is ready. It’s Sunday night and the family is home and there is nothing more important to do than the roast and three veggies. And the glass of red wine. And of course one must not drive or operate machinery after this. Safety in all things.

 

Durian Smoothy? Don’t Mind If I Don’t…

Apparently they cleared out a Canberra public library quick-smart today after someone smelled a gas leak. The gas turned out to be an abandoned durian fruit – but the library visitors were probably grateful to be out of the place anyway – such is the reputation of the thing.

I have also seen notices in Singapore prohibiting it in hotel rooms, elevators, and public transport – because of the vile odour it emits. This is said to be somewhere between sewer gas and faeces. Hell of an advertisement for a food, eh?

Hell of an advertisement for the people who want to eat it, as well. I understand that lots of things can be acquired tastes, but acquiring a taste or faeces seems to be a pretty remarkable culinary achievement. What’s next? Franchise hamburgers?

Perhaps it is like the chili-eating contests that pit smartarses against each other to see who can feel worse – while the locals stand around laughing behind their fans. There is a certain cultural revenge inherent in seeing people eat offal and garbage if you have tricked them into it. It’s what accounts for poutine during Dominion Day celebrations outside of Canada.

Wait a minute. I think we’re onto something here. The durian poutine. Faster than a speeding pheromone – able to penetrate submarine hulls – capable of knocking a French Canadian off a gut-wagon…

Nice Cake…For Store Bought…

If ever there was damnation with faint praise…

But we cannot help it. Even if we are not bakers ourselves, we can always look askance at other’s cooking. And we do it for the best reasons – we do it to honour our mothers.

Every mother makes three memorable classes of food; the stuff that isn’t as good as that made by our mate’s mother – the stuff that we don’t like to eat – and the recipes that are the correct standard of the world.

It might be sauerkraut, it might be banana bread, it might be oatmeal with gravel…but whatever it is, there will be one dish that we remember our mother cooking that was the correct way to do it. All others are pale imitations, no matter how well done. And we resist any suggestion that we are biased.

Our wives do something that is correct, as well – or we might do it if we are the cooks of the house. Our children will remember this. The difficult part is when our wives do a version of what their mother did, which is a version of what our mother did…and the three dishes are remarkably different, even if the ingredients are the same. Three women cooking the same dish in three correct fashions whilst eyeing each other off over the sharp knives is a daunting prospect.

When they present you with three different tasting tablespoons  to tell which is the right recipe…run.