And I Can Cook, Too

Sunday, April 29, 2007

May 1, 2007

Sorry no blogs this week. Four days of pouring rain has made it hard to get out of the house. So I've been in the pit. It's sunny today. I'll try to crawl out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Butcher Bad Moods

When I feel myself falling into the pit of despair, the best thing I can do is get my sorry self on the bike and hit the beach path. I did my usual route, and then decided to stop in Semaphore to pick up a few movies at the video store. After locking up my bike, I noticed an organic produce shop just down the block and decided to stop in. It didn’t take me long to fill my cart with vine ripened tomatoes, sweet onions, round eggplants, baby squashes, radishes almost as stunning as those recently encountered in Provence, and little tins of broad beans in tomato sauce and stuffed grape leaves. Deciding that I wasn’t ready to go back to the house just yet, I continued down the block and ducked into a butcher whose window display simply stopped me in my tracks. Gorgeous porterhouses and ribeyes, lamb racks and the largest chicken breasts I’ve ever seen lined the window. Inside, I discovered marinated kebobs, stuffed pork loins, a myriad of other prepared foods, and rows and rows of sausages. I heard a friendly “How you going?” and turned to find the butcher and his wife gazing at me with some amusement. It appears I had been muttering sweet nothings to the sausages. We made introductions, and they were amazed to hear that someone from Hawaii had made her way to Semaphore. They told me a bit about the town, asked extremely intelligent questions about my masters program, informed me that Semaphore/Larg’s Bay is the only place I’d ever want to be in South Australia, and told me not to be a stranger. I won’t be.

P.S. Spicy Italian, chicken with pine nuts, and metwurst.

P.P.S. “The Good Girl”. Jennifer Aniston was actually very good. Season 1 of Hamish Macbeth, which just made me think of Kim and Leia.
Friday, April 20, 2007

Party in Larg’s!

The luau research for my final paper didn’t just make me homesick; it also made me hungry. I had only two questions: 1) Could I find luau ingredients in Adelaide and, 2) Could I convince my classmates that Larg’s Bay isn’t really that far? I’d hit the Central Market on Thursday and managed to acquire more than reasonable ingredient substitutes, and as I rubbed pork shoulder with salt, black pepper and Magi Seasoning (an absolutely offensive substitute for the Liquid Smoke that cannot be found in Australia but more on that later), I wondered if people would come. The first two guests arrived bearing wine and an absolutely addictive cilantro pesto that we devoured on toast. Little by little more people trickled in until almost everyone who was actually in town for the break had made their way to Larg’s. After a quick tour of the property (and general agreement that that I’d won the housing lottery), we poured our wine into paper cups and made our way to the beach. We stood on the pier and watched the sunset, and by some magic all actually managed to avoid mentioning school. Back home, I laid out the luau and we dug in. There is a reason they say a carpenter is only as good as his tools.

The Kalua Pig was disgusting! Vile! Absolutely nothing like the real thing! I’d never used that Magi seasoning crap before and I will never use it again! (Truth be told, I was the only one who thought that. As one of my classmates said, “We think it tastes great. The only reason we know it doesn’t taste right is that you keep telling us.”

I’d found all the right stuff for Chicken Long Rice (after all, Asia is directly up), so it was delicious as usual. I was quite complimented when a classmate from Taiwan told me it tasted like home. The luau leaf was almost ok, made with spinach and coconut milk; I’d added another depth of flavor with a dash of fish sauce. The lomilomi salmon was surprisingly good – the surprise being how good the salt salmon was. I was a little worried; because I’d only salted it the day before, and the normal salt time is two to three days. But it was cured through and through, and was quite flavorful to boot. The poi, however, left something to be desired (even more so than those who don’t like poi would imagine). I used Chinese taro, readily available in Adelaide. It was a much lighter shade of purple than Hawaiian taro, and not remotely as sweet as fresh poi can be. Several people, however, commented that it was a nice compliment to the lomilomi, and although technically that’s supposed to be the other way around, it once again appeared that I was the only person who was unsatisfied. Lastly, I served the haupia. I’d used brown sugar (what I had on hand) and added vanilla because I like it, but other than a slightly different color and a slightly different flavor, it was just like the real thing. After dinner, my classmates wandered out to the yard with cocktails. As I tidied the kitchen, I glanced out the door. They had lit the candles that sit on the lanai table, found a few balls that they were tossing for the dogs, and were simply kicking back and enjoying each other’s company. The house echoed with their laughter and it occurred to me that the house could use a lot more of that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

April 18, 2007

Look Out, Lance!

When I first got on the bike two months ago it was my goal to be able to ride for an hour without dying. At first that meant riding from Largs to Outer Harbor (the opposite direction of Semaphore, the town next door) and back again. Then a few weeks ago a strange thing happened - that didn't take an hour anymore. So I started riding from Largs to Outer Harbor, back past Largs to Semaphore, then back again. Today, I got to Semaphore and I'd only been on the bike 40 minutes. To ride for an hour I had to ride from Largs to Outer Harbor back through Largs to Semaphore, through Semaphore all the way to the end of the bike path and then back again.

Another ex-Mennonite takes the tour...
April 17, 2007

The Right Place at the Right Time
(Or: Always Listen to Kim)

I was falling into the pit of despair when I noticed that Kim was on Skype. I gave her a ring, and joyfully she answered. After a brief catch up, I mentioned that I was headed to the pit. “Don’t go there.” Kim instructed. “When you see a sign saying ‘Pit of Despair’, go the other way.” I suggested that the stormy weather from earlier in the day seemed to have calmed, and if I got my act together enough I could load my computer into the basket of my bike, ride to someplace for a glass of wine, and work to a beautiful sunset. Kim immediately instructed me to do just that.

As I sat at my table at the Palais, typing away to the surf and a nice Riesling, I couldn’t help but overhear the woman at the table next to me asking whomever was on the other end of her phone to judge the up and coming “Cooking in Schools’ Competition.” I hesitated for only a moment.

“Excuse me,” I ventured when she had finished her call, “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help but hear you mention a Cooking in Schools Competition. I’m a student in the Le Cordon Bleu Masters of Gastronomy program, and I was wondering if you could tell me more.”

She could. She could tell me that the competition was for high school age culinary students and that she was looking for judges. She could tell me that she owned a catering company and they were always looking for help. She could tell me that she was on the board of Food Festivals South Australia and that they had dozens of events coming up. Lastly, she could tell me that here was her card and please be in touch because there’s a lot I might be interested in.

So much better than the pit.
April 14, 2007


It was Tanunda Town Day at the Barossa Food & Wine Festival and Leena, Adam, Andrew, Mel and I were off for a day of festivities including, but not limited to, the Tanunda Town Day Grape Stomping Competition. We arrived before the crowds, and easily found parking near the festival entrance. Food was the first order of the day. Andrew, the only Aussie among us, determined that we would start our day with “snag in a dag.” Entendre aside, I was naturally curious. Turns out, I’ve enjoyed a variation of snag in a dag in a previous life. “Snag” is the Australian slang for sausage, and “dag” is the bread it rests in. Top it with grilled onions and a little mustard, and you’re ready to go. Not necessarily as good as my previous life but that’s another story. After a few wine samplings and a couple of Barossa plates of cured meats, local pickles, cheeses, and phenomanally good beetroot chutney, it was time for the grape stomping. We changed from our reasonably nice festival clothes into our reasonably nice grape stomping clothes, checked in, and waited for our heat. The grapes were mounded in 3’X3’ boxes, which were set atop 3’ high platforms designed with a drainage system to catch the juice. The heats were of three groups of stompers at a time. Leena and Adam (team Vanilla Coke) took box number one, Andrew and I (team Bruce!) were in box number two, and who cares (Who Cares) who was in box number three. The whistle blew, and the stomping began. The first thing Andrew and I noticed as we clung together and stomped was that the floor of the box was slippery. Very very slippery. Then we noted (while stomping of course), that if one of us slipped too much, there wasn’t much to break our fall to the street below. Ah, well, we reasoned (stomp stomp), we’re young (Andrew is young stomp stomp), we’ll heal (stomp stomp). We had crushed all the grapes in our box when we noticed we were ankle deep in juice. Quickly we developed a new “sweeping of the feet” technique to shove the mushy mess into the drainage grid, through the pipe, and down to the waiting bucket below. Crush crush! Sweep sweep! We moved as much mush as we good until at last the whistle blew again, and we were done. As we climbed down the ladder to the ground and the waiting wash bucket, the MC made an announcement. Team Bruce! had set a new record! Team Bruce! had successfully stomped the least amount of juice ever recorded at the Tanunda Town Day Grape Stomping Competition!

It is so good to be known for something.
April 11, 2007

Wild Kingdom

Buster and I were having our usual morning stroll down the beach, when suddenly I realized we were not alone. A pair of giant pelicans had decided to join us. The four of us went from Largs Pier to Semaphore Pier (the town next door), Buster and I on the sand and the pelicans just off the shore. At Semaphore, the pelicans remembered they had serious business elsewhere and were off. As Buster and I made our way back to Largs, I caught something new out of the corner of my eye. No further than 20 feet of shore, a small pod of dolphins had stopped in to say hello. The dolphins kept us company until we were back at our own pier and it was time to head home. Buster was unimpressed, but I think I’m in heaven.
April 7, 2007

Boguns Not Allowed

My friend Lucy never says die. She also never says cook. She was determined to find an open restaurant in the vast desolate wasteland that was the Adelaide Easter weekend. I don’t know if beer is their religion or if they’re simply rebels, but the Belgians had stepped up. The Belgian Beer Bar was open for business. Lucy and I were among the few customers seated at the restaurants spacious lanai. As we sipped delicious white beer and forced down less than good Croque Monsieur (our own damn faults – we forgot we weren’t in France), we noticed a sign etched by the restaurants front door.

Dress Code Strictly Enforced
Absolutely No

Ripped Jeans
Visible Tattoos

I got most of it, but flannelettes threw me. We called the waiter over. “Excuse me” I asked, “ We can’t help but notice your sign. Can you tell us what a flannelette is?”

The waiter looked stumped. “Well,” he started, “I don’t know quite how to explain it. It’s a shirt, made of cotton…you know, the kind a bogun wears.”

“Uh.” I replied. “Can you tell me what a bogun is?”

“Uh,” he stammered, and called another waiter over to assist. “A bogun is a bloke who just sits around, on the couch…”

“They’re not very smart…” added waiter number two.

“They just cause trouble,” continue number one.

“Does a bogun have a job?” I asked.

“Occasionally.” Offered number two.

“Does it involve an axe?” I furthered.

“Usually.’ Said number two.

“Lumberjack!” shouted number one, clearly glad to have thought of a descriptive word in American English. “A bogun is like a lumberjack!”

“I wonder,’ mentioned Lucy, off on a different train of thought, “if those rules are just so you can keep the riff raff out.”

“What do you mean?” asked number one.

“Well,’ continued Lucy, I wonder if you allow people who are breaking the dress code in, as long as they aren’t boguns.”

“What do you mean?” asked number two, who was not listening the first time.

“Let’s put it this way,” I said, “A young, beautiful woman walks into the bar. She’s wearing jeans with a rip in the knee, and a flannelette patch on the back pocket. She’s in thong sandals, and a tight tank top.” “And she’s got a tattoo of a slightly parted pair of lips, “I went on, bringing my index finger to my breast,” right here. Do you let her in?”

“Absolutely!” said number one.
“Oh she’s in!” number two breathlessly added.

Well, that explains what Lucy and I were doing there.
April 6,7,8,9

Jesus drank.
(Kristinians 1:1)

Australia takes its Easter holiday seriously. Not content merely to give folks an extra long Good Friday lunch hour to get their foreheads dirty and offer discount ham at the groceries, the ENTIRE CITY OF ADELAIDE (and surrounding beachside towns) completely shuts down from close of business Shrove Thursday until the open of business “no longer part of the Easter holiday” Tuesday. Easters Saturday and Monday are part of the holiday. The stores, the markets, the gas stations, even the restaurants. All closed. We were advised to stock up on anything we might need for the holiday Thursday night. Naturally we all ran to the bottle shop.
April 5, 2007

The Agony of The Feet

Summer, my fellow student from Hong Kong, decided that none of us had experienced proper dim sum. She arranged for a giant table and the 16 of us gathered at Ying Chow on Gouger Street, Adelaide’s restaurant row. Summer did the ordering, and moments after the tea was poured the food arrived. And arrived. And arrived. We devoured bao, dunked steamed dumplings with “asian vegetable” in mustard, and slurped wide noodles in spicy hoisin. We munched our way through anise seed tea duck, minced pork with eggplant, and tripe with Chinese barbeque sauce. Everything was delicious and we were all in heaven. Then the chicken feet arrived. One plate of feet had been simmered in a light ginger broth, chilled, and topped with more ginger and green onions. The other had been coated in five-spice powder and deep-fried. There were sixteen chicken feet. For sixteen people. “Everyone was to have a foot”, Summer explained, “you cannot have dim sum without a chicken foot.” “Especially not if you study gastronomy” she added, when she saw the looks on our faces. We each reached for a foot. I got one coated in five-spice powder and deep fried, and took a bite. Crunchy chicken skin, hard to go wrong there. Five spice powder, one of the classic flavors of Chinese cuisine. Then my teeth, and my tongue, and my taste buds encountered something all three immediately determined was not food. The gelatinous, flavorless, gustatorily alien tendons that hold the foot together. My stomach indicated displeasure, and after a few obligatory bites, I put the foot down.

I can now honestly say I ate chicken feet. Note the past tense.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wendesday, April 4, 2007

Ke Aloha Ku`u Home O Kahalu`u

My fist “major” paper is due at the end of my first course, otherwise known as next week. Following advice to write not only what you know, but also what others have researched for you, I decided to write about the history of the luau and how different cultures have bastardized the tradition. The University had a surprisingly large Hawaiian library, and I figured I had it made in the shade. That was, until, I spent the day in Hawaii. For hours, I looked at pictures of Kaneohe Bay, the Koolaus, old Waikiki, and Volcano. When that was done, I read about the history of the islands starting with Kamehameha the Great right up to Ms. Lingle, complete with facts, legends, and superstitions. Lastly, I scoured a book about the difference between Hawaiian and local, and the development of local people, culture, and food. By the end of the day, I’d realized my classic blunder, the first of which, of course, is never get involved in a land war in Asia.

If the train ran directly to the airport I'd be on the next plane out.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Dogs: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

I was walking Buster on the beach when I discovered something dog-owners have undoubtedly known for centuries. When dogs meet, their people do, too. Buster and I were minding our own business, well, rather Buster was minding the flock of seagulls business and I was minding Busters business, when along came a Huskie (or something) puppy who could only be described as simply beautiful, in a shockingly adorable puppy kind of way. Then along came his owner, who could also be described as simply beautiful, in a shockingly adorable grown-man-not-wearing-a-ring kind of way. Needless to say, I turned on the gaydar. And got no feedback. We simultaneously leashed our dogs, who were busy greeting each other in traditional doggie style, and stumbled over words apologizing for any inconvenience our dog had caused the others dog. As he was explaining his puppies need to learn how to behave with other dogs and I was blabbering about how simply beautiful, in a shockingly adorable puppy kind of way his dog was, our eyes met. We smiled at each other. Then my fourteen-year-old 60-pound dog bit his 9-week-old 10-pound puppy. I apologized profusely and he insisted that his puppy was fine, but the moment was gone. As they walked down the beach and away from Buster and me, I realized I hadn’t gotten either of their names.

Still, lesson learned.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

I decided it was time to pull myself out of my funk. Rather than another quiet dinner at home, I decided to bike to one of the beachside restaurants along the coast, watch the sunset, and enjoy a romantic dinner alone. At six o’clock I braided my hair (better to weather the bike helmet), donned said helmet, hoped on the bike, and was off. Fifteen minutes later I was locking up at The Palais, a pub/nightclub so recently turned restaurant that smoke still hung in the air. There was one outdoor table left, and I got it. I sipped a local Riesling (quite delicious and dry here unlike some of the sweeter Riesling’s I’ve had in the States), and watch a stunning sunset over the water. Once the sun set, I ordered my dinner. I had resigned myself to the Pizza Margarita, when suddenly the night’s special, Parmesan-Herb crusted Barramundi (“fish with big scales” in Aboriginal dialect), with side salad and chips caught my eye. I switched gears and ordered the fish. I sipped a second Riesling (I’m not kidding it’s really good), and watched Filet Mignon topped with Prawns in Sherry Cream Sauce, Mixed Seafood Pie in Puff Pastry, and what was clearly Coopers Battered Butterfish and Chips walk by on their way to other tables. (What can I say; I was having a romantic dinner alone. I had a lot of time to read the menu) Finally, my dinner arrived…much to my disappointment. Rather than the light, pan-fried fish with delicate herb crusting I had so looked forward to, I got a deep-fried (in what I overwhelmingly suspected to be old oil) slightly dried fish, chips that, while passable, were no where near as good as the Larg’s Pier Snack Kiosk, and a salad consisting of little more then lettuce and shredded carrot (they don’t seem to offer a variety of salad dressings in Australia but I’ll save that for another time). Ah, well, live and learn.

Despite my unfortunate dinner, on the way home I had two thoughts: I really like being able to bike to my supper and, how do I turn on the little light that’s on the handlebars of my bike?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Jokes On Me

My dissertation topic has been green lighted, and in an effort to pull myself up by my bootstraps I have decided to begin research now. The shockingly broad subject that I am going to narrow down into a dissertation is the use of food as stock characters in comedy in film and television. The example I give to the people who stare at me in disbelief when I tell them this is my focus is the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy bakes the bread. If you've seen the show, you understand that the bread is clearly the antagonist in the scene. I am looking for other example of food playing the antagonist, protagonist, ingenue, narrator (?), vamp, ensemble, etc., in film and television.

I am accepting all suggestions for food in comedy as I am depressed and need a good laugh.

PS: My poke was voted the most impressive dish at the party.
April 1, 2007


Today should've/would've/could've been my wedding anniversary. But instead it's just another day I'm spending alone in a strange country and a house that is not mine. I should have busied myself writing an essay on the transition from service a la francaise in the 18th century to service a la russe in the 19th century and the impact the change had on the field of gastronomy, but my brain was solidly focused on other things and only able to handle manual labor. I decided that cooking would take my mind off things, searched the kitchen, and got busy. It was only after I finished eating that I realized I'd made Italian Wedding Soup.

Italian Wedding Soup


1 Lb. Ground Meat (beef, pork, turkey, chicken...whatever)
2 Eggs, beaten
2 Slices Bread (white bread is ok if you absolutely must, but really you should use whole wheat), run through the food processor to make fine crumbs
1/4 C Fresh Parsley, chopped fine
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 C Sweet Onion, minced
1/4 C Parmesan Cheese, grated fine
1 C White Wine (and I have told you a dozen times NOT American Chardonnay)
Salt and Pepper
Oil or Cooking Spray

Combine all of the above until thoroughly blended. Using your hands, form as many 1-inch balls as you can. Heat the oil or cooking spray over medium heat in a large frying pan. In batches, add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Be sure not to over-crowd the pan - this could take several rounds of frying. Remove the meatballs. Add the wine to the pan, and as it reduces, scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon to remove any brown bits. Allow the wine to reduce to 1/4 cup. Remove from heat and save the liquid.

1 Gal. Chicken Stock or Broth (Obviously I prefer stock, but I only had bullion today so that's what I used)
1 Lb. Leafy Green (I used spinach, but you could use mustard greens, escarole, whatever you like)
1/4 Lb. Spaghetti, broken into small pieces
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Additional Parmesan, for garnish, if desired.

In a large stockpot over high heat, bring the stock or broth to a boil. Add the reserved wine from the meatball pan. Add the pasta, and cook until just becoming al dente ("to the tooth"), about 5 minutes. Add the meatballs, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 7-10 minutes more. Add the leafy green, and simmer until just wilted. Taste, and add salt and pepper as you like. Top individual bowls with the Parmesan, if desired. Serve hot, and try not to think about the past. Or the future. Or the present, for that matter. Enjoy.