i really like the monster cuffs on my new hoodie.
Monthly Archives: May 2006
wednesday, after a harrowing morning spent buying a fridge (and then later finding out it was $100 cheaper online, with free delivery, but would you buy a fridge online? wouldja?? in retrospect, yes, i would.) me, my mum and maeve retreated to the much more warm and welcoming arms of sopra, upstairs from fratelli fresh, where we stood in line for twenty minutes? half an hour? who can tell, when yer starving. anyway, the truth is, my mum stood in line while maeve tried to dismantle a display of bulk-bagged italian chocolates artfully arranged at the feet of a classical roman statue of a lady.
i last ate here more than a year and a half ago, when i lived just down the road, and my mum was in town, and maeve was just a few weeks old, strapped sleeping to my front. back then i ate antipasto, because of the inclusion of what is listed on the menu as “egg mayonnaise”, and arrives a perfectly boiled egg, halved, with a slurp of tangy real mayo over the still moist, golden yolk. after months of being careful about properly cooked eggs, it was exactly what i wanted.
wednesday afternoon it was sort of what i wanted too, but after we were seated, and the waitress approached, the words out of my mouth were, “oyster mushroom salad, with asparagus, kipfler potatoes and caciota“, the last of which i thought would be some sort of cured meat, but turned out to be a curdy white cheese. which was just the first pleasant surprise, because when the salad arrived, it was a mound of mushrooms, an entire small harvest really, and little discs of sliced potatoes, both of which had been grilled to the point of crunchy bits, in butter and oil and salt. and the blanched asparagus and cheese, and some mesclun, for light relief.
i wanted to eat and eat, so it was just as well that maeve was intent on guzzling the innards of her own bocconcini-and-tomato panini and was disinterested in my lunch; after losing the battle with her over the strawberry granita, it was only right that i got to eat every last mushroom.
and then having only had a light lunch of mushrooms, i thought it was necessary to have dessert. i sort of wanted the buttermilk pudding with mixed berries, but i truly, madly wanted the eton mess with strawberries.
“and um, could i get the eton mess, please?” is what i said to the waitress.
she beamed wide. “of course you may!”
it came, this great big dollop of pink on a plate. just strawberries and their juices folded into cream, atop chunks of sticky-on-the-inside meringue. oh yes. “i could eat this every day,” i told my mother, although for $12 a pop, i was being figurative. maybe.
“really?” she said. and then she had a spoonful. “oh, it’s quite nice.”
because, as you may remember, my mother does not like sweet things, i was not too concerned with the dent she was making in my pud. but the battle with the baby had already begun. she didn’t quite match me spoon for spoon, and i was making sure that my spoonfuls were bigger than hers, and really, it wasn’t hard to just keep shovelling this magic into my mouth… but at the end of it, i wanted another one, just for me, to eat very slowly in sunny sopra.
anytime now, though i’m not sure in which order, my child will awake from her nap, and my mother and my aunt will arrive on my doorstep. this will be the cue to bundle everyone off to bar italia for a late sunday lunch. who knows what treats and surprises will be in store: a tiramisu-affogato? a great big sugo stain down the front of my shirt? in fact, while getting dressed earlier, i took the child’s grubby paws into consideration, and put on a black tshirt.
there is a bar italia in london too; you’ve probably been reading about it at stellou for several months now… “the boys at bar italia this… the boys at bar italia that…”
the first time nellie took me there was about 10.30 on a tuesday night, post-drizzle, and more importantly, post-”fame, the musical” at the aldych. we were still gobsmacked by what passes for musical theatre these days (and outraged at the lack of the song, “fame”), and felt we had to sit down to something sweet to recover our sense of balance. while the hot chocolate and tiramisu were ultimately forgettable (and really, i can’t even remember if that’s what i actually had), the street theatre that unfolded before us — drunken, dischevelled yobbo taunts dapper black bouncer — was an enjoyable few minutes.
but we were back for lunch a week later, and a pizza was ordered. what a pizza!
all thin, crunchy crust with a modest amount of melty cheese. and on top, just left to wilt at their own sweet pace, several handfuls of rocket and great sheets of prosciutto. a large bottle of chili oil had preceded the pizza, and was put to good use. one of the best pizze ever, oh yes.
addendum: no saucy stains on anyone, not even the baby! a ricotta cannoli split five ways was our reward.
[ via chocolate suze... ]
…who’s been working in the kitchens of a pancake restaurant, and gets to make herself whatever she damn well pleases for lunch. lucky!
since nothing happens around here except for vile illnesses, i thought i’d tell you about the sunday morning in london, about two and a half weeks ago, when we waited for the rain to stop before deciding that, yes, we would catch a bus up to the columbia road flower market.
at the bus stop, a slightly dishevelled woman tried to sell us a suitcase. “£20 in the shops, but i’ll let you have it for ten.” we demurred. it would have been hell trying to drag that thing through the thoroughfare of the market. for what we discovered is that the sunday market is a stretch of road with stalls set up on either side, selling all manner of potted plants and cut flowers. aside from the brief moment where nellie stopped to buy a mint plant — how’s the mint plant, nellicent? — we were just propelled down the middle of the street, people shoving, stepping on my shoelaces, being nudged in the heels by the wheels of our pram.
“it’s empty!” hissed an indignant woman.
“they just brought it along to bang into people with,” replied her fella.
because clearly we like to drag this unwieldy charriot out and wrestle with it on sunday mornings. no, silly english people, because if a baby was sitting in that pram, someone would have crushed her legs and another one, maybe you, would have taken her eye out with a potted cactus.
i don’t know how long that stretch of road was, or really even how long it took us to get through it. but some time later, we came to the clearing, and there was sunshine and fresh air, and also the real reason we had come all this way: treacle.
i had read in some travel magazine, before leaving australia, that the best cupcake shop in all of england was to be found at the columbia road flower market. they are only open when the market is, those scant six hours every week. we sold our mother this excursion on the promise of flowers. she played along.
the plate glass window was all brown diagonal stripes, and inside, past the vintage and modern and modern-vintage crockery, was a glass counter with drawers full of cupcakes. they were small and large (well, regular, then), and randomly decorated. oh those little cupcakes!
we could only pop in and out of the shop quite furtively at this stage, because we were waiting to meet friends for a tapas lunch across the road, and by the time we were ready for cake, the numbers had dwindled. there were just enough for us to make a modest selection: the baby had her own mini chocolate cupcake iced in blue; nellie had a vanilla cupcake topped with smarties; and i think i got the best one: chocolate with pink icing and red sugar (and rogue blue sprinkle). the cake was light, moist and very chocolatey, and frosting just the right side of sweet. the sugar was crunchy.
after i finished it, standing outside by the kerb, i wanted another. unfortunately, we were in polite company, and also, we had a plane to catch. sigh.
here are two hot chocolates i had in london.
the first one — doesn’t it look enticing? — was from carluccio’s, the special florentine chocolate, which turned out to not be made to order. instead, it was dispensed from a constantly churning little tub perched atop a shelf high above the espresso machine. it has to be constantly churned, because, as i found out, if left to sit for any period of time, a skin quickly forms. the drink itself is like a runny pudding, and tastes a bit of cornstarch. whuh?
the second one was from the tate modern. you can get a plain hot chocolate, or one with cream and marsmallows. they skimp on neither.
well folks, i’m on to my third variant of cold in about five weeks, horrible squishy bouts of spongyhead and phlegm in hues spanning the spectrum from clear to bright green to murky brown. in between each cold are endless spasms of residual asthmatic coughing.
tonight i washed down an antihistamine, a couple of puffs from a purple inhaler, and a vitamin c pill with a glass of tea. i’m not sure if this renders the medication useless. at least, i mean, it can’t be bad; not like washing down valium with bourbon, for example. we shall see.
the tea is from a can that i’ve had in and out of the fridge for the last year or so (though i wouldn’t be surprised if it actually turned out to be two years old). what happens is, i put it in the fridge, planning to drink it, and then in the meantime an influx of new groceries makes me take it out again to make room. but so tonight, it is finally over, this in-and-out tea saga.
this is what the can says:
“It’s time to Pure. Pure life,
pure time, with pure mind.
Pure taste, with heart.
Little sugar, just black,
pure tea. In Famouse House.”
you see why i had to get it.
[ back cover, "apples for jam" ]
last week i bought a new desk ornament: 300gb of space, cleverly hidden in a compact block of industrial plastics. when i say “last week” i mean “thursday night”; around dinnertime, i clicked my mouse on the purchase button, and shortly after lunch on friday, a courier knocked on my door with the parcel in hand. if only all internet shoping could be like this. i bought an external hard drive once, years ago. it was all of 2gb, and cost me $800. so i’m much happier with the new one, which cost less than half that, and which allowed me last night, for the first time ever, to back up my computer (which has been making a disconcerting whirring noise of late). if you live in sydney and would like to pay substantially less than retail for all manner of computer stuff, and have it delivered to you before teatime, you could try shoping here.
this weekend i bought a lovely book of colourful and tasty treats, “apples for jam” by tessa kiros, despite my vow not to buy any more cookbooks ever. having finally decided that i didn’t really need a copy of “falling cloudberries”, i was ambushed by this book. it’s sort-of italian, and the food is photographed on vintage tablecloths or vintage china, and there are kids’ drawings, and a recipe for pudding made of greek yoghurt and condensed milk. and a bookmark of pink satin ribbon. right beside it on the shelf was the next book that i vow not to get: nigel slater‘s “kitchen diaries“, which has none of those things that make “apples for jam” so warm and sparkly, and which reads like what this blog would be if it were better. hem.
next week, fingers crossed, i will be buying a ticket to pearl jam. ridiculous! aren’t we too old to be doing this? (clearly, no, because while i haven’t rushed out and bought the album, i did hand over good money for the latest “rolling stone” with eddie of the cover) i have seen pearl jam five times. in 1995, i slept out overnight on the pavement outside the ticketing booth, showed up late at my newish job the next morning, and watched the band, small as ants, from the nosebleed seats. in 1998, deep in the throes of that job laying out pop magazines, i wrangled my way into three shows, two of them in the moshpit. in 2003, post-rothskilde, there were no more moshpits, and no more pop magazines. the seats weren’t too bad: the band were as big as… large ants. who knows what this year will bring. next week i’ll be sitting here, finger poised on my mouse, hoping the ticketing site doesn’t get shut down by traffic overload, hoping the seats won’t be too crap in an arena twice the size of previous shows — stadium rock!! whatever. there’ll be guitars, and eddie will start singing, and it’ll be really, really good! waarrgh!
your trusty correspondent on the isle of wight, circa 1974, already cultivating a sneer of disdain for anything less than artisanal gelato (though still happy to guzzle whatever you might stick in front of her).
just as it was thirty years ago, it was my father’s idea to make a trip to the isle of wight this time ’round. what i thought was, eh, it’s in a beatles’ song; can’t be bad. we even rented a cottage.
in two days on the isle of wight, in-between car ferries, it is theoretically possible to have six, maybe eight, cream teas. this would depend on whether or not you’d have a cream tea at teatime, after substituting cream teas for all other main meals. the number of cream teas we actually ended up having is: two. hngh. but don’t hand-lettered signs like this make you want to go the extra mile?
no? what about this one?
the sign outside the first tea shoppe we tumbled into, late in the afternoon after a rainy morning spent in a flamingo park, which served up their clotted cream in hygienically sealed plastic tubs:
mmm… appetising… but after the lid was removed and the crusty yellow cream scum scraped off the top, all went according to plan.
the next day we had much more luck with cinammon scones and already-decanted cream.
but it’s not all about cream teas is it? what of the other regional british delights one may encounter on this wee island off the main island? amidst warning noises emitted by those who’d already seen behind the counter, my father ordered a cappuccino in a sandwich shoppe in an olde village. how they make it is, the guy behind the counter tears open a little sachet with the word “cappuccino” printed gaily on it, empties it into a cup, adds hot water and stirs. it’s even pre-sweetened. when it arrives at the table, it will be accompanied by a little square of good dark chocolate. if you ordered a normal coffee instead, you might whiten it with this:
“a blend of glucose syrup and vegetable fat”
i’m not saying the food on the isle of wight is not tasty. there was the first meal off the boat, in a greasy diner on the main street of ryde, where a mother sat fagging into her son’s chips, and the friendly counter woman warned me against the king-sized breakfast on the basis of it being really quite big (and also containing black pudding); the delicious and authentic indian takeaway later that night: curry, biryani and chapati eaten in the toasty warm kitchen of our cottage; and then dinner at the crab the following evening: a brie, mushroom and cranberry wellington, in which everything was wrapped in puff pastry and served with potatoes, vegetables and a jug of mustard-watercress sauce.
but it’s not all about gorging oneself on rich food is it? what of your father’s longing to rekindle the magic of your childhood, when no-one had disappointed anyone else, and years of recrimination and regret had yet to become an insurmountable heap? see, now he has a fresh baby with whom to begin anew.
i bought a bacon hock today, for the purpose of making a bean soup, and i was somewhat taken aback by how much the hocks looked like a pile of feet, lying all higgledy-piggledy in the glass-fronted trough of the supermarket deli. tasty, though.
for dessert, i finally ate one of the macaron that my mother was given, gratis, by the head counter girl at yauatcha on the afternoon of our departure from london, because — “eh, kakilang!” — they were both from malaysia. lucky for me, my mother does not really like sweet things. when we got back to singapore, i left the bag on the kitchen counter overnight, under the misimpression that it was hermetically sealed. hey, i checked! but in the morning, i discovered that it was fastened only with a pretty pink ribbon, and that the cluster of brightly coloured macaron were quite imploding from the tropical humidity. let me explain: if i so much as nudged one, it gave. i was so alarmed, i whisked them into the fridge, and refrigerated they have remained, all the way back to sydney.
while we admired the macaron, back in london, my sister said that yauatcha didn’t make just any plain old flavoured macaron, and that these would be raspberry -something or lemon-something or green tea-something. i couldn’t tell what the something was in the bright pink one i had tonight, but even in its slightly squishy, slightly crumbled, slightly jetlagged form, it was um, really good. maybe even better than one of the ones i had a laduree. maybe.
the laduree story is, one drizzly sunday afternoon, after a slightly fraught luncheon (in which the child discovered how to undo the fancy birdcage-style highchair in which she was perched, and refused to sit in it any longer, and had to be walked around the harrod’s food hall, which calmed us both down immeasurably) of roasted scallops on parmesan risotto with vanilla-infused oil, my sister and i had two macaron and a cup of laduree-blend tea. each. for the information, i think hers were lime-chocolate and caramel. mine were rose and chocolate. the tea was floral. my mother, being neither a fan of sweet things nor tea, sat back and nursed the sleeping baby. as we made our way through the macaron, we offered bites to our mother. she was very obliging, even as she nodded then grimaced after each one. “i don’t really like sweet things,” she intoned, and we offered her sips of tea to wash them down.
when it was all over, it was duly noted that our mother, who refuses sweet things and cups of tea, had had one whole macaron and a cup of tea.
i have been coughing for a month. i am very tired.