it is nice to see that there is order in other parts of my world. my immediate surrounds are teetering piles of papers and magazines, some destined for new homes, some headed for the great recycling bin in the sky, some — the tiniest little scraps, really — are somehow imbued with great sentimental value, and languish in the purgatory of my lounge room rug, waiting…
but the ceremonial red folding chairs were arranged just so last wednesday in the rather lovely leichhardt town hall, and the leichhardt celebrity brass band were resplendent in bright yellow, as i, amongst sixty others with interesting — if not purely long and challenging — names, became citizens of australia. yes, i have only been here since 1989, but here, as the mayor said, is where my migrant journey ends.
it was a jolly ceremony, with pop classics up front, and advance australia fair coming up the end, with friendly words, a pledge of allegiance and a gift of a baby tree in-between. the mayor, in his ceremonial, fur-lined robes, was proud to boast the live band — bugles! trombones!! — accompanying the national anthem, the made-in-australia flags which were handed out to all inductees, and the lamingtons in the back of the hall for the post-ceremonial reception.
and what lamingtons! first of all, they were huge. secondly, there were moist, with a good coating of rich chocolate and coconut. thirdly, there were enough that i managed to have three of them.
yes. the third one was actually surrendered by the kid a few bites in after she realised that she only liked the idea of having a second lamington. immediately upon handing it over, she started making eyes at the last remaining custardy fruit tart on the table. at this point, i steered her towards the door…
and on to dinner. what better way to celebrate becoming an aussie than to stuff oneself with italian food? the most mediocre of italian food, even. we were privileged to have ms d as witness to the naturalisation, and pleased to dine together at a laminate table in the balmy courtyard out the back of bar italia.
i have not been to dinner at bar italia for the longest time. some years ago, i ordered off the non-pasta dinner menu, and the size of the piece of broccoli which accompanied the meat stuck in my head for evermore.
when the food arrived, i was overwhelmed by the wonderful aroma of cake. i thought it was a nearby flat white, but once i started eating my veal marsala, it became clear that the sweet smell was coming from my plate. it was an enormous serve of soft meat in brown gravy — just as i remembered, and look at that broccoli! — but what had escaped my memory, and perhaps the dish has changed over the years, was that the sauce was so sweet that the meat seemed to be coated in caramel syrup. i thought the kid might like it, but she was quite repulsed. i expect it was the confusion of candied meat.
(but where was the problem? she likes candy, she likes meat, she likes bakkwa…)
we had a garden salad (dressed with the finest — not! — bottled dressing, ah memories of youthful folly) and a large bowl of chips (very nicely cooked, but so aggressively salted in parts that it hurt to eat them), and after it was all gone, we sought to right the wrongs (so wrong they were right, kind of) by eating copious amounts of gelati.
it’s insane how much gelati they can scoop into a flimsy plastic cup at bar italia. i was slow in naming my flavours so much of the cup was filled with an almost savoury, full-of-nutty-bits pistachio. the counter boy made up for it by piling the bounty gelato into a large cloud above the rim of the cup.
it was very moreish, unfortunately, packed with shredded coconut and a number of dark chocolate shards. unfortunate, because after the meat and veg, and salad and chips, and yes, the three lamingtons, i could eat no more.
here’s one for the album: eating my first lamington as a new australian (all the while keeping my eye on my second lamington).