I belong to a wonderful womens group which does a major project each year. This year we’re working with local fibre artist Ann McMahon, who asked us to bring along to our last session a piece of writing and a container that were meaningful to us.
I took one of my woks (a 12″ flat bottomed one) and this extract from Marion Halligan’s book Eat my Words:
Children like being around adults who are busy with their hands, because they know their minds are available whenever they want them. Mine would sit at the kitchen table drawing or colouring in, or make train tracks down the hall, or build Lego castles, or do their homework, while I made gateaux of pancakes with two different fillings and a sauce, or stuffed frozen orange shells with sorbet, or boned chickens to make galantines, and we were all busy and contented. They made desultory conversation, but didn’t always bother; the companionship was enough. Whereas if I’d sat down to read a book or write a novel they’d have been clamouring to talk to me because they’d have known my mind was somewhere else.
I look back on the days of my complicated culinary activities as a kind of golden age because it was nice practising these skills with my children about me. Happy families, with comfortable aproned mother pottering around in the kitchen, as children’s books these days aren’t supposed to show lest they reinforce stereotypes.
We were supposed to talk about why it was meaningful to us. I cried a little bit, but kept on talking.
[for meat-eaters, but can be converted to vegetarian]
In my (reasonably broad) experience of men, each likes to have their Signature Dish, a culinary piece that they’ve stumbled upon or invented (or mother used to make) and have tweaked to make it utterly Theirs. It is carried with them through the years, brought out to impress the chicks, and then served to the family proudly over the years and passed down from father to son etc etc… ok, maybe that last bit’s an exaggeration, but most of it rings true, no?
Best Beloved is a enthusiastic but slightly nervous cook. He travels widely in the foodie universe, but never without a guidebook. This following dish is one of the very few things he will cook without a recipe; it is a family favourite, and went nameless until I decided to blog it, upon which Bumblebee decided that it should be called Mount Yum. Before this, it was always know as ‘your/my chicken/nut dish’.
To celebrate the fact that it is made without a recipe on the bench, I will not be providing ingredient quantities. You need to think about how much each person can eat and provide enough of everything to divide between the number of people eating. There’s no right or wrong; substitutions are not only welcome, but encouraged. There are endless possibilities. Best Beloved rarely strays from his favourite combination, but the other day we had no pine nuts and I persuaded him to use slivered almonds rather than popping down to the shop. Lo! It worked! (Sigh.)
Please excuse the crockery, we’re waiting for it all to break. If BB had known I was doing this before he started, he would have brought out his collection of 60s Poole pottery!
Zucchini, how I love it. There is nothing more delightfully buttery or charmingly versatile, or, for that matter, quite so easy to grow. Mine are bursting at the seams right now, pushing over the chook wire, and trying to run over the ground, fruiting in black and green stripes, with a pattern like 1960s barkcloth. Having just had a quarter of a year’s worth of rain in one weekend, they’re turning into marrows. And, as I am dead broke until the arrival of the Kevin Bucks, it’s time to get working on ways to use this luxurious, yet cheap, food.
Zucchini Muffins look so damned good the boy recanted his anti-zucchini stance and tucked in. They are also easy. Take a giant marrow or a few small ones and grate until you have 400 grammes worth. Then add: 1 cup white flour, 1 cup of polenta or some polenta and wholemeal, 1 tsp of baking soda, 1 tsp sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 lightly beaten egg and 60g of butter you’ve melted in the microwave. You can add flavourings such as a big handful of grated parmesan; a small handful of shredded herbs; six semi-sundried tomatoes sliced up; a big chunk of crumbled feta; ham, bacon, salami or smoked salmon in chunks; a handful of lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts. Or any combo. Mix it all together until it just comes together into a lumpy mess and put big spoonfuls, lumps and all, into a lightly greased muffin pan. Bake at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes in a shiny new electric fan-forced oven, if, like me, you have one (I truly love my oven), but any one will do.
There are lots of different kinds of food blogs, and space for them all, so I really don’t think there’s much point attempting to judge across genres within food bloggery. For instance, there are some blogs which frequently have competitions, or run events or that type of caper and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. Those blogs are no less a labour of love than this one or any other food blog.
That said, I have found it a bit confronting sometimes when following a newish (to me) blog to all of a sudden find a cheery product review for a jar of sauce or somesuch plonked in the middle of say, reviews of molecular gastronomy restaurants. (A real example, but not an Australian blog.) There are so many blogs out there that the appearance of a discordant review tends to make me hit delete – or at least ignore the mounting posts – in the feedreader.
Because most food bloggers aren’t comped things frequently, I think it’s good practice to say when something is free. If I’m reading reviews in a newspaper culinary insert or magazine I assume samples of all the products have been provided by eager marketeers, but I don’t make the same assumption with food blogs.