27 June 2008

the mc-what?

I use web-based email. I know: pleb. Anyway, it’s free, I've had it forever and I find the celebrity gossip - that I must dedicate half an eyeball to as I log in - mildly amusing.

This afternoon though, I almost inhaled my chai when I saw an ad for McAfrica. That’s right, McAfrica!

As in, the continent with more starving people than anywhere else on Earth! Brought to you by the corporation almost singularly responsible for promulgating a 'food culture' (much licence taken) resulting in mass rates of obesity in the west.

But why McAfrica? Are they using zebra patties? Is this a cunning new alliance with World Vision to get those of us with half an iota's flea of a social conscience through the automatic doors? Perhaps I’m clinging to stereotypes of place-based poverty. Anyway, I was compelled to investigate (note to relics: this is precisely why we’ve exceeded our download limit every month since my arrival).

Like any McInteraction, I felt instantly sick and regretful. (The site has apparently been revamped, and is all wobbly and intuitive.)

Anyway, there are no zebras in the patties (though I doubt there’s much real cow in them either, despite the listing of 100% beef in the ingredients list, which I’ve always thought to be a more innocuous way of saying ‘we use all the parts of the cow’). Apparently what makes this burger a McAfrica is that it’s “dressed with an exotic African sauce of mayonnaise and spices”.

Spices? What spices? Mayonnaise? Isn’t that a European condiment? Granted, the French influence in African cuisine is strong. But when were burgers ever part of a traditional African diet!? I’ve been to one African country and there were lots of pastries (hail the French), lots of tagines, not so many burgers. (Though I did pass one McFoodhall on my two-week Moroccan circuit.)

On closer inspection,
it appears the "African sauce" is actually “Harissa Mayonnaise”, though what makes it “Harissa Mayonnaise” is indecipherable from the ingredients list, which between all the numbers, refers to chilli puree and vague listing of “spices” and “herbs”. So by waving the "exotic" wand, they’ve absolved themselves from giving any particular reason why this maketh an African burger!

At 2000 kilojoules and over 40% fat, they should load up a few plane-fuls of McAfricas and set off for Zimbabwe, where inflation is running at 100,000 per cent (or was in April,
according to AFP) or to Sierra Leone where the cost of rice has risen 300 percent. Just aim the plane somewhere at the continent and you're bound to find a country that's been affected by food/fuel riots in recent months/years.

My investigation got stranger and stranger. The Olympic colours billowed across the website burger. Marketing spiel attests to this being a “Limited Edition Olympic Games Burger” (sic - and sick too).

Daft I may be, but the link to the Games is lost on me. If they had half a bland marketing brain at their global disposal, they might’ve dreamed up some sort of - just thinking wildly here - Chinese dish, perhaps served in a cute cardboard takeaway box. Which, benefit of the doubt etc, I’m sure they’re saving for the actual Games and working their way there with a continent a month or something midly strategic.

Anyway, sorry for ranting, I just had to share.

apologies to MOTH

I cringed as soon as I clicked publish on the last post. I know, my whingeing is unbecoming. And repetitive. Thankfully, I’ve moved on. But not without a (very lame) apology to the household.

(See how I hold myself up for public ridicule in an effort to repent? Well you will, read on...)

[queue trumpets, dervishes]

Open Apology to Members of the Household (MOTH)

Sorry sorry sorry
for shooting bristles and splinters
‘Tis the devils within and the lurgies of winter

I’ve laundered my manners
and found a stash of good cheer
In fact, I’ve got stores to last me the year!

Well may you say:
“This sounds grand on the page,
But the terminally impatient can’t wait the next rage”

“That sounds like a bet!,” I decree
“Let’s see if we can spend a month sans hostility”

I’ll corral my opinions
not shout at computer bumblings
While reciting serenity mantras to his rants and mumblings

And you’ll save multi-part technical questions
for when I’m done juggling pots,

serving dinner and offering wine suggestions

He’ll be all joy
Delighting blackbirds a-twitter
And rejoicing the cat when he misses the litter

The victor’s due?
A fine pinot and a block of dark* too!

*Victor may nominate alternative booty to similar value, but as you see, I expect to WIN!

Rules of the competition: hostility includes, but is not limited to, any grumbling, mumbling, growling or detectable ill-will in the company of, or in the audible or visual range of other Members of the Household (MOTH), whether directed at MOTH or not. This includes inanimate objects. Multiple winners and multiple losers allowed. All losers will furnish or contribute to furnishing booty for all winners. In the case of dual victors, the total pool of booty shall be doubled and split equally between each victor. In the case of a single victor, the nominated booty or alternative of similar value shall be awarded. Entry to the competition is limited to MOTH, is not required of MOTH and may proceed with two or more MOTH. The competition commences on 1/7/2008 and closes at midnight on 31/7/2008.

Told you it was lame.

24 June 2008

to the girls in the office (and Ian)

I emailed my former boss and asked her to say hi to everyone for me. She did and then wrote back saying that every time my name is mentioned, the unit erupts in a fit of envy at the thought of me scheduling sailing trips and writing commitments, conducting food and wine tours about the region, and generally swanning around with gads of freedom and enjoying copious amounts of sunshine.

OK, it’s fair to say I’ve done a bit of free-wheeling over the past year.

But it’s time to set the record straight.

I have been in a big ‘in-between’ patch for a while now and feel obliged to illuminate some of the finer points of Life After Desk:

1. It does not pay (very often or very much). I have taken a most spectacular free-fall through the tax brackets. Which I was able to do because I scrimped long and hard, have no debt or dependents and have significantly pared back my cost of living. For the first time since student days, there is a concession card in my wallet. Completing my tax return is going to be, well, a (very quick) laugh.

2. Enforced cutbacks. As mentioned previously,
I have ceased to be a full economic participant. I'm not talking cutting back to one night out a week. Think self-administered haircuts and cask wine. My last cultural outing was in April: a half-price movie at The Nova. My last splurge meal was two sushi rolls and a Brother Baba Budan coffee. Recent purchases which passed the frivolity filter: op shop socks, calendula seeds, some Green and Blacks and a second-hand book about a family who survived 37 days at sea after their boat sank (endeavouring to remind myself of people worse off and the like).

3. I live with my parents. And spend 96 percent of my time in their space. Enough said. See previous posts if further enlightenment on the subject is required.

4. A nomad’s existence. I hardly see any of my friends or get invited to stuff anymore. I was so thrilled to be invited to streeteditors drinks in Brisbane last week that I considered checking out cheap flights, before my consumption conscience kicked in. Also, all my stuff is in storage, which kind of sucks after a while. I haven’t slept in my own bed in 15 months. I have a few bibs and bobs with me. The rest of my stuff is two states away. I can’t just pick up one of my books, or a card from an old friend, or use my sandwich press, or… etc. Also I had to give away loads of stuff I couldn’t store (including my indoor rock plant - thanks T for greenkeeping finesse/channelling Don Burke - and all my pot-plants). Maybe I should just buy a camel and a hessian sack and be done with it.

5. Quest angst and the wide sea of guilt: “Is this a viable existence?… Am I using my time productively or just skiving off?… Should I shelve the quest and go and earn some money?” etc, etc. Of all the fine points, this one has the sharpest end. Some days the questioning never stops.

So there! Swings and roundabouts. Life is life, no matter which side of the desk you're on!

23 June 2008

botanic banditry and a footpath encounter

On Saturday, Mum and I went to the Foster Farmers Market. We loaded up with good things and headed back to the car, where we loitered so I could finish my coffee. We were parked beside some lovely landscaping fronting a public building, adjacent to the market. A fair amount of foot traffic trundled by.

Mum proceeded to appraise the plant-life, pointing out a couple of beautiful, er, shrubs. (Alas, I did not inherit the botany gene.) As is her usual practice, she surreptitiously snaffled a few cuttings. As she scouted a striking banksia with burnt umber and yellow blooms, a little old bereted lady toddled up from behind.

“You’re not going to take that, are you?”

Oh-oh. Busted!

I took half a step back and held my breath.

Things took a rather amusing turn.

Mum came clean and Little Old Beret responded in plant-speak: “spinulosaintegrifolia… cultivar… prostrate form”, etc.

They traded plant names like ping pong balls and a slow, rapturous realisation spread on Mum’s face.

Little Old Beret: “Do you know who you’re talking to? I had one of these named after me.”

Mum: “Ce-li-a Ro-ss-er? Not the Celia Rosser? Oh my…”

The Celia Rosser talked on like a normal little old lady in a woollen beret doing her weekly shopping. Mum beamed sideways at me. I gathered we were in the presence of some kind of botanic greatness.

Some kind of botanic greatness turned out indeed to be the Celia Rosser, OAM Hon MSc Hon LLD (Monash), acclaimed botanical illustrator who has painted every banksia species, a body of work spanning 25 years and three published volumes. She has not one, but two, banksias named after her.

Even I, non-comprendis botanicus, was impressed (albeit upon my belated enlightenment).

They chatted like only those who inhabit the same rare world can do: “oh yes I know Peter, I was in the same plant group as him”.

Others would have melted in a pool of adulation. Aside from throwing several plate-sized grins my way, Mum did a sterling job of holding it together. In fact, she even mentioned a thing or two about banksias that the Celia did not know.

(The encounter reminded me of a time about eight years ago when I met Jamie Oliver. The only difference being that because I fancied him, I could not utter even one proper sentence. In my defence, it was before the Cult of the TV Chef took hold, and it was quite a natural thing for a thinking girl to lust after a scruffy boy who could cook. I would have also included a photo of me with Jamie, except that the print is god-knows-where, a result of my worldly goods being scattered between three locations across two states. But I digress…)

We left with a cone from the admired banksia and an invitation to visit the Celia at her home/gallery. When the coast was clear, adulation was unleashed, albeit with max restraint: “wait til I tell A…”

20 June 2008

sunshine good, freeloading bad

The sun came out this week. On consecutive days! After days of icy chill, rain, hail etc, I cushied on my bedroom floor, ugg boots against sunlight sneaking in through the window. I cushied on the verandah, sans uggies. And remembered what it felt like to be outdoors without thermal assistance.

I frolicked outside with dirt, lettuce, parsley, coriander, rosemary, chilli, thyme. I even poured a very unseasonable glass of sav blanc, a little celebration to accompany an improbably perfect lunch of leftovers: potato, zucchini, feta and dill polpettes with risone (I want to kiss whoever invented risone, the most perfect pasta to eat with nothing but olive oil and fresh parmy). Accompanied by green leaves with grapefruit and kalamata olives.

Bliss, I tell you.

Sunshine also made me reflective. Have been feeling a bit hopeless lately about the quest. (You know, the quest, the all-consuming search for meaning/fulfilment beyond the desk that occasionally involves some form of income.) The freelancing thing is proving v demoralising, especially as a pitch to one of the section editors from the (formerly?) reputable metro daily resulted in … two of my ideas (one of which was fresh fodder, largely uncovered to date by any media outlet) appearing in their online version two weeks later. Gives new meaning to freelancing...

Freelancing: verb, to give away sale-able story ideas and then impale oneself on own sword upon seeing ideas in print, with someone else's name on the byline.

Am channelling all the Buddhist detachment I can muster. And yes, it could have been a coincidence. But grrrr!

Anyway, since the editorial gods are not going to play (or play fair), I’ve decided to direct energies craft-wards. Landing in a cold/flu quagmire this week, I turned the bedroom into a craft den. See here,

feather deckled notebook (from reclaimed paper & fabric)

My floor is mere cellophane offcuts/rogue cotton wool fluffs away from resembling a kindergarten play-room.

Am also working on some photo cards which I’m hoping the local gifty-type estabs will snap up. See here,

I’m quietly hopeful for a little success, quest-wise, once we’re over the solstice hump.

17 June 2008


I am writing this post, with not undue glee, from the warmth of my bed!

Which is in a completely different room to the modem!


The household recently acquired a wireless router and today, in a rare feat involving the weakling part of my brain devoted to computers (‘devoted’ being perhaps a tad excessive), I managed to install the beast and get it champing.

Haha! Again!

Meaning I can once again use my laptop without constantly shuffling between it and the household ‘mothership’ computer which has the sole internet connection. ‘Tis also the end of timeshare arrangements!

Our impending transition to the wifi world had been delayed due to bugs in the ‘mothership’, which after much hair-pulling and time-wasting I surrended to the local tech guy. We picked it up yesterday. After a total system detox, it's looking good. So good that I attempted the seemingly (for me) impossible.

Did I expect applause? I might’ve, considering the blunder-in-the-dark methodology I apply to any technological challenge. But the household merely pouted about the new look and feel of the computer stripped back to its original self.

I give it a day or two, til they discover that emails can be checked whilst perched over the heater. Or for that matter, from bed.

12 June 2008


suggestible (sah-JEST-abul) adj: Open to suggestion, esp hypnotic

It’s one of my finest-honed weaknesses. For those who may not know me so well – despite the general dearth of non-spam comments around the traps, earth stories has lurkers(!), bless their bashful cotton socks – I am one of those people who is easily led. And for some reason, all roads seem to lead to all-night orgies of indulgence and inevitable regret.

We’ve had visitors at Bingi for the past couple of days. Mighty fine ones too. They came brandishing such calibre of reds and cheeses from the Koonwarra provedore, that, well, it would have been downright rude not to reciprocate with some proper knees-up action. Both nights.

I didn’t claw out of bed til 9 this morning and then required ‘some time’ for my head to stop beating.

And I’ve been trying so hard to keep a normal working week.

Then of course the laptop bugs came out to play (again) and the rest of the day/week/attempt to sustain life beyond desk, etc went up in a poof of expletives and simmering growliness.

Etiquette and tech challenges aside, even the status quo poses continual thrusts and parries re my suggestibility. I’m secretly toying with re-naming the parental abode. I think ‘bar relic’ is very laneway/rooftop… I also like 'bar bingi' but don't think it will quite fly with the Liquor Licensing Commission.

Perhaps I can claim to be simply enjoying a very Mediterranean diet. I’m sure Michael Pollan would approve.

10 June 2008

poo to stupid utopian food fantasies

It was written in the previous post: too good to be true. And so it is.

After the best part of a morning’s labour making bread and the verily-anticipated mushroom soup, I spied little white worms in the pot.

Argh! Maggies in the mushies!

cannot sufficiently describe the devastation.

or capitalize

to hell with punctuation too

Like every brilliant romance I’ve ever had, it’s ended in tears. And no, it is not better to have loved and lost. Do you know this means they were probably in the pizza too, and now doing god-knows-what in my gut?

It’s back to huff-and-puff forest walking for me. And eventually, when I get over my loss, stupid-market mushrooms.

09 June 2008

hooray for wild foods (ode to the fungi-licious)

Over the past couple of years I’ve heard grand tales of wild mushroom harvests at Bingi. Of platefuls of black-eared goodness gathered from the forest. Of such quantities that after eating them fresh, stewing and freezing, stewing and freezing, the surplus was (horror!) given away. Each year I’ve salivated from afar. So naturally, I’ve dreamed about mushroom season since arriving here... two months ago (more horror!). I was convinced the first fungi would flourish the day I uprooted for Tassie. And that I would again be left pouting. By the grace of the wild food gods, I was wrong.

Enter, my current lust, the forest mushroom. The season has burst, big-time. Every afternoon for the past four days I’ve been mushrooming. Yesterday’s bonanza: two trays of too-good-to-be-true, russety helmets:

Days have vanished in ode to the ‘shroom. Aside from the ritual gathering, there’s been much daydreaming about how to eat them. On stoneground wholemeal pizzas with thyme, pinenut and pecorino was a good start. Now, for the perfect soup recipe...

In my love-state I've been marvelling at the perfection of wild foods: nourishment superior in every way to the tasteless offerings of industrial agriculture. These are poor-man’s truffles. Picked and eaten same day. I walk and breathe fresh air to gather them. Consequently I meet the locals (who invite me to extend my rounds to their paddocks). No carbon emissions, chemicals, fertilizers, cleared land, water diversions, embodied energy or waste. And what was that about a free lunch?!

Am fully aware of my near-delirium over the mushroom thing. (No, they are not magic.) As with most little joys, there is a flipside. Given my current, subversive, sucks-to-the-dominant-consumerist-ideology thinking – and to further illustrate the complete bureaucratic stupidity of the current paradigm, in case you needed more evidence – I will add that gathering wild foods from public land is illegal. In fact, gathering anything from public land is illegal.

Rather than coil and rant about the abject wrongness of this, I will continue to simply appreciate that which graces the roadside!

[Disappears down a dirt road in full swoon.]

05 June 2008

gfr and regional identifiers

Have returned from seafaring to discover a new resident at Bingi. Its doors are usually pretty well oiled by visitors – one even slept in ‘my’ bed while I sailed.
[Note subtle inference that bed is not actually mine, as I have been reminded on occasion, but for visitors, and I am merely squatting.]

Anyway... accustomed to visitors and all. But I didn’t expect to return to the likes of…

Note bullet holes. Indeed. GfR is the blackbird assassin’s new pin-up boy… for target practice! I laughed so hard I had to scrape myself off the floor.

Today I opened the local paper (I know, what kind of heathen am I becoming?) to discover that I might almost be considered a Yarramite. Almost. I'll stand up for being a Melburnian, a Victorian, former Brisbanite, even a Bingin-warrior... but I can't swallow this one.
Thank god for the thirty-odd kilometres between us and Yarram, which keeps me from being classed as imitation breakfast spread.

Oh, have also been asked to post a retraction to the egg defacing practice.
It is not, as reported, an aid to right-way-up stowage, but is rather a canny device for identifying the older eggs in the basket. Which, naturally, elevates the practice into the realm of ordinary, reasonable behaviour for a sexagenarian. Yip. Watch this space for a retraction regarding age brackets.