No, I’m not going to tell you where I live or what time dinner is served. I’ve done that before and the results weren’t pretty. 32 people turned up expecting to get fed because the food was free.
But I’m perfectly happy to feed one person for free – as along as that one person is me.
I come home from a lot of events that happen through meal times; dance shows, weddings, club meetings, etc. and I’ve frequently been too busy to grab a bite at the regular time. No problems – I just set my clock back a bit and figure to eat later. After all, there are plenty of fast food outlets clustered around my house – all I have to do is call in and get dinner, right?
Wrong. The fast food outlets may sell fast food, all right – but it is food that encourages you to fast. Greasy, sugary, bland, and tasteless – and that’s only the soda pop. The semi-solid stuff is worse. Plus they charge multiples of $ 5.00 bills for everything. I have a loving relationship with my $ 5.00 bills and I grieve to see them go.
So I come home, rather than go out, and cook here. There is nearly always an alternative dish here that can be up and running within a half hour. My go-to meals include:
- The cheese toastie. With garlic and herb sprinkle and some cracked black pepper, a properly made Australian cheese toastie can stand in any culinary company. If I include sliced tomato I can even count it as healthy despite the fact that it will burn the roof of my mouth. Burns are a small price.
- Staggs chili. Canned, admittedly, and probably made of recycled Mexicans, but a delight nevertheless. One bowl will fill you for half a day. Let’s not wall it off…
- Sardines on toast. You have to make an extra slice as someone always drifts by and takes it. Use lots of salt and pepper and some seafood sauce and it becomes a world-famous savoury.
- 2-minute Indonesian noodles with added extras. The extras can be anything that has not yet escaped from the ice box; green pepper slices, chicken meat, bacon, sun-dried tomato slices, dubious mushrooms. You can 2-minute boil ’em in a wok and then throw the water out and spend another 2 minutes stir-frying in whatever you have found to make a real dish. Get yer Asian on.
- Onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic; fry ’em up, and then all you need is a couple of slices of toast upon which to heap it. Oregano and basil are nice too. No meat? No matter.
Note that for all these good things you pay nothing – because the wife has already stocked them in the pantry or they are leftovers in the ice box. You keep your $ 5.00 bills safe and comfortable in your wallet. And you eat well.
No house is ever all done. It is never all ready, all clean, or all fixed. Nor is it all broken or all dirty.
It is every one of those things, all the time. all together…
I was drawn to this conclusion while surveying the new concrete driveway and car park pad AKA The Hardstand. It was a clean pad of exposed aggregate in a sea of brown dirt. One day the brown dirt would be flower beds, lawn patch, and bushes…but firstly the good thing done was the driveway.
This would be a terrible prospect if all you could thing of was the end of the the endeavour. The journey finished and every part of the house and garden 100% completed – what my wife likes to term ” up to scratch “. Well, since we are not commanding tens of thousands of Hebrew slaves, this pyramid will never be up to scratch. And even if we got close, I’ll bet it’d just get to near Easter time and they’d all piss off east and we’d never see them again…I’ll pass over the consequences of that one.
The back yard, the bathrooms, the carpets, the ceilings…they could all do with attention, and if you wanted to try to bring all to one standard, you would be shovelling money out the front door like coal into a steam engine firebox.
I think the only sensible approach is to take the joys of a new appearance as they come – in spots – and not look forward to some symphony of renewal.
Renewal, after all eventually gets old.
Australians run on beer.
From the little toddlers clasping their cans of Fosters with the rubber nipple on the top to the octogenarians sitting at the bus stop with their yards of ale and matchlock pistols, the whole nation is permanently on the grog. Morning recess at the primary school means collecting a bin full of empty cans and even the WCTU Prawn and Piss Night is renowned for the spectacular fist fights after 10:00 o’clock.
This has been made possible by the establishment in every town and city of some sort of a brewery. Many large cities have multiple breweries and there is a constant trade across state lines of container trucks and trainloads of beer. But one part of the trade has become a puzzle in the last few years – the imported beer market. I cannot figure out why it has arisen.
Oh, I realise that there are different tastes in beer from different traditions. And some people genuinely like one thing over another. But that may also have been the case in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s…and no-one died of beer drought when there was no import trade. People drank what was brewed locally – and the growers of the ingredients prospered along with the bottlers. Now I cannot see that they might – if everything that is bottled comes in on a container ship and the trade is conducted to enrich only the middle man and the shipper.
How much cheaper might we get our beer, in spite of local taxes, if the cost of the importation and all the overseas transportation were to be removed from the brewery’s balance sheet? Trust me – the beer would be just as cold and just as tasty if it were all made here by Australian firms.
If you were me you’d be overjoyed. If you were a billionaire you’d be furious.
That’s what having money does to you.
I’ll amend that statement – that’s what having too much money does to you. Whether it is your own or someone else’s, the stuff will eat into your soul and leave holes. Then other things come and live in those holes, and it is darned hard to get them out.
The trick is having just the right amount. Not too little – so that you are pinched and sad and sick – nor too much so that you are arrogant, anxious, and aggressive. Just enough to eat well, play well, and sleep well. If you get it by working well, so much the better.
If you get it by desperate drudgery, criminality, or vile practices, so much the worse. These will take their toll and eventually the doors to the happier parts of life will close.
I think I have the right amount at present. I can do what I want to do as long as I do not want to do expensive things too often. And I am fortunate in that I honestly don’t want to do expensive things. Though I would like roast beef for dinner.
No, I’m not talking about Taiwan.
I mean the oblong plastic containers that h0ld the remnants of last night’s takeaway. They are the most valuable asset that you can find in the fridge:
- If you were not a cook last night, it is doubtful whether you will be one tonight. Skill with cuisine doesn’t set in at 3:00PM . Those leftovers are what stands between you and hunger at midnight.
- If you look critically at what is in the containers you’re likely to encounter meat, vegetables and rice in considerable quantities. I’ve no idea whether it has gluten, lactose, fructose, sucrose, or twinkletoes, but if you eat a little from each container you are likely to have a balanced meal.
- It is all tasty. Depending upon which uncle or cousin was cooking there will be various Asian spices in the mix and enough variety in the textures to make for an interesting dinner.
- It is paid for, and will not last longer than another day. Eat now, or waste money. Which should not be a matter for any debate.
- We need the container for model airplane parts so hurry up and wash it out.
- That’s all that is on the menu tonight. Eat or starve.
- You’re allowed to drink Goon with Chinese leftovers with no loss of social status.
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¢.
I went into the first floor cocktail bar of the Intercontinental on Collins Street in Melbourne at 5:00 one afternoon. A day of shopping – mostly successful – and I was ready to sit down and peruse the iPad. And I needed perusal oil to do it with.
I went to the bar and asked for a Highball.
The look of confusion on the face of the young man there should have warned me.
” You want a highball glass? ”
Yes, with a Highball in it. It transpired eventully that while he was familiar with the glassware, he had no idea what the drink for which it is named was made of…
So I told him – ice, rye whiskey, and ginger ale. In a highball glass…
He rose to the challenge, though his inexperience caused him to put two shots of rye in the glass before the ginger ale. I did not think it right to complain.
The next day the highball was served by a more experienced man – and it contained only one shot of rye. Ah, well, you can only win some of them.
Highball: rye, ice, and ginger ale. Named after the American railroad signal that all is clear and you can go ahead at full speed. The British railways do it with a whistle and a flag and the German railways do it with a red disc on a paddle. The American railroads do it with a lantern.
I do it with rye.