And I Can Cook, Too

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Tooth Fairy is Cheap

The bike went to Tasmania along with Carol, Louise, and the dogs, and I’d been looking to replace it with a used one. Visits to various pawn shops, cash & carry’s, and bike stores, however, were leading me to the conclusion that buying a bike was going to be out of reach. Just as I was starting to feel my thighs return to their non-bike state, my fortune turned. I was getting out of the shower when I heard a strange noise coming from the side of the house. It sounded quite suspiciously of a stranger moving the garbage and recycling bins away from the fence, lifting a large object over the fence and depositing it, and returning the bins to their proper positions. Naturally I was curious. Careful to keep the towel on my head well balanced, I tiptoed into the yard and peeked around the corner.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Di and I carried on the following day, still determined to see the sights that South Australia has to offer. After a quick breakfast of toast and coffee, we checked out of the hotel and were off to the Sir Richard Peninsula Coastal Reserve. Along the way we stopped at the mouth of the Murray River (one of Australia’s most important waterways), and for lunch in the town of Goolwa, the first non-European slow town.

Not only is it slow, it’s awfully fun to say. “Goolwa.” Go ahead, say it. You know you want to.

After lunch (which was delicious but indeed slow), we hit the peninsula for a walk on the beach. Now I’ve done some beach walking in my day, but this was different – to get to the beach we hiked over huge dunes covered in brush,

and the beach itself was covered with lovely shells and very pretty (albeit dead) jellyfish.

A two-hour walk wore us out, and after stopping to admire the

pretty birds we were on our way back to the city.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Victor Harbor Voyage

Unwilling to let the Mclaren Vale Sea & Vine Festival debacle crush my spirit, I was determined to get out of the house and have a good time during my break. To that end I suggested to my classmate Di that we find some way to spend a few days out of the Adelaide greater city limits. Di quickly proposed that we take an over night to Victor Harbor. My bag was packed before the words were out of her mouth. We met at the Adelaide Central Rail Station (and Casino), I hopped in her car, and we were off. Our route took us straight through the now deserted but unsurprisingly littered streets of Mclaren Vale, and I recounted my experience at the festival. We determined that Victor Harbor would make up for it all. When we arrived at Victor Harbor, we found a sleepy little seaside town easing its way into the winter season. Our first order of business was lunch. After popping in and out of a few mom and pops and discovering that they were either, a) closed, b) completely devoid of customers, or c) lacking the requisite liquor license, we asked a shop keeper where we could go for good fish & chips. “Yeah” she started, “I guess you could go just there. That should be alright.” Fortunately my friend Di speaks Australian. We arrived at Anchorage Hotel & Restaurant and made our way to a dining room complete with roaring fire place and ship-shaped bar.

Fish & chips ordered, our conversation turned to finding a place to stay for the night. We had brochures for such places as the Comfort Inn and Victor Harbor Motel, but I suggested that since we were there anyway, why not ask about the rates at the Anchorage. At the front desk, the receptionist informed me that they had three types of rooms available at three different rates, and offered me keys so I could inspect the rooms. Room #1: I didn’t even make it all the way in. It only took opening the door halfway to know that we weren’t sleeping there. Room #2: Fine for me, and mostly likely fine for you, but Di is in a stage of life where one appreciates the finer things. Room #3: Divine. Huge bay windows displaying an ocean view, four-poster queen size bed, and the best feature of all: the spa tub from which you could enjoy not only the ocean view but also the tv. Out of my price range, but hey, Di would enjoy it. I returned to the restaurant to find Di picking at was undoubtedly the worst fish and chips I’ve ever seen in my life. As she lamented her lunch, I mentioned that she might want to take a look at Room #3. She did, and loved it. Lunch not worth eating, I went back to the receptionists desk, where I was immediately offered a substantial discount off the previously mentioned rate. “How many spa rooms do you have available?” I inquired. They had two. “What if we take them both?” I pressed. Taking them both put the cost of the room smack dab in the middle of my budget.

After unpacking we took a walk around “famed” Granite Island, known for its horse drawn carriages (we walked), whale watching (out of season), and penguins (there were none).

Back on the mainland, we spent a few minutes browsing in the town’s kitsch shops, and as they closed down realized that we’d done all there was to do. It was 4 o’clock. “Well…” Di ventured, “we’ve both got to be starving, let’s say we take an hour to freshen up in the rooms, then have an early dinner.” Five o’clock rolled around and we began the search for food. Steak house, closed. Seafood restaurant, closed. Multiple Asian countries food, closed. At last we found the Grosvenor Junction Hotel, Bar, and Pokies Room. We entered, and spotted a small buffet of vegetables steaming away in the corner. “I guess this is it.” Di muttered. And we placed our orders at the bar. As we ate (Butter Chicken and Veal Schnitzel with unlimited Vegetables), we commented on the people sitting in the pokie room. “I don’t know how people do that.” Di said. I explained to her my own gambling habit and that, while I truly enjoy a good game of poker, electronic or otherwise, pokies (aka ‘slot machines’) had never been and would never be my thing. Dinner over, we couldn’t help but notice two things: 1) the restaurant now had a line of old people extending out the door, and 2) It was 6:30. “Well” said Di, “What should we do now?” I shrugged. There was nothing to do. “Then I guess we’re going to play the pokies!” As we finally left for the hotel ten minutes later (hey, penny pokies just ain’t what they used to be) we realized that we now knew why people do that. They’re bored.

Back at the hotel, we said goodnight, and as I sank back into the spa, it occurred to me that I knew what this tub-with-a-view-of-the-tv was perfect for: porn. Sighing, I turned on the Simpsons instead.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

June 8, 2007


I had submitted the final paper for my second course (National Cuisine of the Netherlands: Myth or Tragic Reality), and I was determined not to spend the following weeks break in the pit. To that end I decided to go to the Mclaren Vale Sea & Vine Festival, in which the regions wineries (including that winner Leaconfield) paired their best pours with dishes spotlighting South Australia’s fruits of the sea. One of my improv partners lives in the Vale, and offered a place to stay for the night. When the classmates I asked declined to join me, I decided that a little solo festival action wouldn’t hurt, packed my over night bag, left a message saying I was on my way, and boarded the train for Noaralunga, the station closest to Mclaren Vale. I’d previously scoured the associated bus schedule, and knew that from Noaralunga, there were busses a plenty that would transfer me into town in mere moments. Upon arriving in Noaralunga two hours later, I immediately noticed two things: 1) there was not a bus in sight and, 2) it was raining. After twenty minutes of pacing in the rain yielded no bus, I finally called the customer hot line. Turns out, it was a bus holiday! Rather than the routine service from the train to the center of the Vale, I would need to wait an additional 45 minutes, catch a bus going in the opposite direction, de-bus, wait 50 minutes more, and finally catch a bus to the festival. I was of two minds: 1) get the hell out of there and, 2) I’d come this far not to sit at home alone and dammit I was going to that festival. Attitude 2 won, and I spent another 25 minutes trudging in the rain to the nearest shopping center, where the cabbie in the front of the taxi stand line told me it would be $20 to get into the Vale. “Ah, well,” I thought, “in for a $1.25 train ticket penny, in for a pound.” $27.50 later I finally arrived at the Mclaren Vale Sea and Vine Festival. Rather, I should say the Mclaren Vale Booze Fest. I realize that under normal conditions I would call that a good thing, but given the trek to get there, this was another story. Rather than a festival center in which the differing wineries were operating kiosks, this festival took place at the actual participating wineries, requiring the attendees to make their way to 24 different locations throughout the strolling countryside. Which is fine if you’re not on foot, with an overnight bag. “Ah well,” I thought, “I’m here, there are at least 5 wineries on Main Street, I’ll just go to those, have my fill, and head home.” My fill turned out to me all liquid. (Again, not always a negative, but…see above). My first stop was Tintara, featuring a late harvest Riesling and bug cakes. The Riesling was far too sweet for my taste (my own damn fault, they told me it was a late harvest), but the bug cakes were out of sight. As in, I couldn’t see them. I couldn’t see them because they weren’t there. They were sold out. All I could see were the throngs of very drunk people dancing very badly to a rendition of Proud Mary being played very badly. “No problem!” I thought, “I’ll just get dinner at the next place down the road.” At said road I had, as is so often the case in life, the option of turning either left or right. According to the festival map, the wineries in either direction were a mere block away. I turned left. And for twenty minutes trudged in the rain (still with my overnight bag, hadn’t yet heard back from my improv friend) to Tatachila Winery, offering not only a foundation Shiraz from the barrel but also a lovely sounding Escebeche of Perch with caramelized onions. Upon my arrival at Tatachilla, however, I discovered that I had chosen unwisely. “We’re full at the moment.” The beefy bouncer guy told me, “But if you’d like to get into line we could probably have you in within an hour.” I eyed the line. About 100 people, all weaving very unsteadily, were starting to get grumpy about the wait. Have I mentioned that it was raining? Sighing, I conceded that the Christian Right and the lovely lefties in my life not withstanding, there’s probably a reason that they named right “right”, and not “wrong.” I crossed the street; turned to face my original direction upon my departure from Tintara, turned right, and started trudging. Along the way, it was hard not to notice the people sleeping in the bushes, the double decker busses full of screaming drunks careening through the very narrow streets, and the crowd of tanked twenty-something’s shouting obscenities at the single red-headed woman walking in front of them. Forty minutes later I encountered Shingleback, where bugs skewered on lemongrass with tomato coriander cous cous promised to be a great partner to the black bubbles of the sparkling cellar door Shiraz. The bubbles were in fact delicious, but once again the bugs proved elusive as the waiter informed that they were all out. Starting to feel a bit woozy, and noticing that people around me were falling down, I decided to give it one more try before declaring defeat. I marched on to Fonthill and Verdehlo with Moroccan Muscles. I got neither. The moment I was informed that the muscles had gone back to Morocco, I started the trek back into the main center of town. I was tired, I was cold, I was wet, and I hadn’t heard back from my friend with the place to stay. I just wanted to go home. I called for a cab, and unsurprisingly heard that due to the massive numbers of drunk people in town, it was going to be a while. I went to the nearest winery, discovered that their festival license had expired at 5 and therefore their prices had just gone up, ordered a glass of very expensive Grenache, and waited. An hour and fifteen minutes later the cab pulled up to the curb. $22.50 later I was back at the train station. Thirty minutes later the train arrived. Forty-five minutes later I was at the Adelaide Central Rail Station (and Casino). Another 45 minutes (and twenty dollars) later I was on the train home. Thirty minutes later I walked in the door. Three minutes later I called Pizza Hut.

Friday, June 08, 2007

June 5, 2007

It's Not the Cook, It's the Country

The pressence of salsa in the supermarket convinced me that Australians have everything they need to make proper nachos, they just don't know how. Tonight I made my own damn nachos, and they sucked.

At least they didn't have lima beans.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Life Lesson No. 63

June 3, 2007

When you are homesick, depressed, miserable, and have an entire week to get through without company, don’t go to the kitten room at the pet store. All of the kittens will look like this.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

June 3, 2007

Somewhere, In the Distance, A Dog Barked

I’m about to say something I never thought I’d say in my entire life:

I miss my dogs.

Monday, June 04, 2007

June 1, 2007

The Last Last Supper

Ruth had left for her trip and Carol and Louise were coming for dinner. They’d made me promise I would utilize the various bits and pieces we’d moved out of their house a couple of days before, and that I wouldn’t spend any money. So naturally I limited my purchases to a little chicken stock, fresh parsley, a small carton of cream, a pork loin, an airplane bottle of brandy and a bottle of Riesling. They arrived promptly at 6:30-ish, we opened wine, and while we talked about their final move to Tasmania the following day, I made dinner. I sliced the pork loin into steaks and seared them on both sides. I then removed them from the pan and added onions, garlic, thinly sliced mushrooms, and a variety of mushrooms. When they were almost done, I deglazed the pan with a little brandy. I added the pork back to the pan, topped off with chicken stock and a little cream. As it all simmered away I made a quick salad with mustard vinaigrette. While I was cooking, Carol lit a fire in the kitchen fireplace. Over the truly lovely fire, we ate our dinner and opened a second bottle of wine. After dinner, we spent the rest of the evening singing along to Carols tunes on the piano, scouring books to look for the porn, and playing “race Kristin from the office to the fire place on the wheeled desk chair.”
Lesbians like this just don’t come along every day.

Movin’ Out, Part Deaux

It was hard to believe that 3 months on Fletcher Road had come to an end, but it had. I woke up at my usual time (7. Yes it is. For about 3 months now. No, because then I will be in a different time zone and my body clock will be a mess. You don’t have to believe me.) and was showered and dressed by the time the removalists arrived at 8. I had moved all but my overnight bag, my computer, a couple of books, leftover nibbles from the night before and a nice bottle of wine into Ruths the day before, so all I needed to do was pack up one bag and I was ready to go. As the removalists loaded box after box into the van, I stared at the clock and realized that the 9:02 train was imminent. Carol, Louise, and I avoided each other as they concentrated on their move and I tried hard not to think about mine. At last, I could stall no more. I picked up my bag, said a swift goodbye, and ran out the door. Carol and Louise stood on the porch waving goodbye, and I tried to hide my tears as I walked away from my second home in the last 4 months.

Thank god as you do or don’t believe him or her to exist (or not) they’re coming over for dinner tomorrow.

May 30, 2007

The Second Last Supper

The night before I moved out, the house was packed and ready for the movers (“removalists”) arrival the following morning. Hungry, but with nothing to cook and nothing to cook it in, the skinny L’s and I made our way to Larg’s Pier Restaurant, Hotel (and Casino) for the second last supper. Louise ordered a schnitzel, something loved by the locals but I have yet to try, and Carol and I opted to split the previously tested pizza margarita. Louise counted the men as they passed by our table on their way to the men’s room (she was facing the door purely coincidental I assure you) as we vowed to keep in touch and exclaimed grandly about the universe having brought us together in the first place. We then determined that we couldn’t possibly let this be our last night and made a date for them to come to dinner at Ruth’s two nights later.

I had a bit of Louise’s schnitzel and it was delicious.

May 28, 2007

The First Last Supper

Carol and Louise had returned home from their Ocean Road trip and immediately begun packing for their move to Tasmania. Although we’d enjoyed numerous laughs and as many glasses of beautiful wines, the weeks had slipped away and we were now just counting the days until we said goodbye. I’d heard many mentions of Thai food in the weeks they’d been home, and realized that I hadn’t had a bite of one of my own favorites in months. I hit the Central Market’s Asian store after class, caught the train home, and got stuck in. (I am becoming so very Australian). I went with my tried and true Thai standby’s: Evil Jungle Chicken, Eggplant and Tofu, and Garlic Cabbage. As we ate (and they showered me with praise which I only somewhat graciously accepted), we determined that we couldn’t possibly let this be the last night we had together, and we promptly made plans for a final going away meal the night before I moved out.

Garlic Cabbage So Good You’ll Wish You Had a Flip Top Head:

6-8 C. Cabbage, coarsely chopped
1-2 Cans Coconut Milk* (enough to just almost cover the cabbage in a pan.)
Lots: Garlic, minced. Use as much as you think you’re going to like. I used probably 5-6 large cloves, and it was wonderful.
Some: Thai Bird Chili.** Again, what do you like? I think one is hot, others need 5.*** Start with a little and add more if you want it.

Some: Fish Sauce. See above.
Oil for cooking

Put the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it is just starting to turn a golden color. Add the chili and cook another minute more. Add the cabbage and stir to blend. Add fish sauce. Top with coconut milk and cover pan. Simmer until cabbage is tender. You most likely won’t need salt and pepper, but by all means taste and add as desired.

Prepare to wish you had a flip top head.

*Now I know that we all know that coconut milk is inherently evil and a heart attack on a plate. I also know that in every English speaking country I’ve been to you can get ‘diet’ coconut milk. I also know that “The Debt to Pleasure” is a great book I highly recommend but I digress. My point is, don’t use low-fat coconut milk in this recipe. If this were a curry, or a tom yum, or something else where there was enough spice going on, I’d say go for it. But with this, you must use the full fat real thing. If you don’t, it won’t taste as good. And then you will never experience true happiness.

**It is a tried and true rule of the culinary industry that if you chop Thai bird chilis without latex gloves you will then immediately stick your fingers in your eyes. I keep latex gloves on hand for this reason and this reason only. For no other reason than this. Just this.

***I’ve read that it’s the seeds of the chili that holds the heat, so if you want flavor with heat, remove the seeds. I’ve read that it’s the rib of the inside of the chili that holds the heat, so if you want flavor without heat remove the rib. Every chef I’ve asked has answered the same way: “Yes.”
Party Hearty

Unlike that time when I threw a party and no-body came, when Ruth announced her party folks R.S.V.P’d at once. Ok, that’s not completely true. Ruth held the class hostage at our last lecture and demanded to know who was coming and if they were bringing anything. Everyone said they were bringing meat and deserts, so I decided to fill in the gap with a little garbanzo bean and brown rice salad. (Hey, I brought the poke last time, hosted everyone to a luau a second time, and paid for a party that nobody came to the third time. Besides, garbanzo bean and brown rice salad is good). I went over early to help set up/get introduced to the house. Gorgeous! Vaulted ceilings with tasteful artwork and a working fireplace in the otherwise modernized kitchen. I love it.

No one ate my garbanzo bean and brown rice salad because it “looked like something they could eat at home.” Fuck ‘em. I ate all the yummy leftovers at home.

Absolutely Lovely Garbanzo Bean and Brown Rice Salad:

2 ½ C Brown Rice
3 Cans Garbanzo Beans
1-Liter Chicken Broth
2 Tbsp. Butter
Juice of 1 Lemon
Salt and Pepper to Taste

a. Place the rice in a pot or rice maker. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans, and add them to the rice. Stick your finger through the rice and beans to the bottom of the pot or rice maker. Add chicken broth until it is touching the knuckle above the knuckle that the rice and beans are touching. Place lid on pot or rice maker. Either turn the rice maker on, or turn the heat on high under the pot. If you are using a rice maker, skip to section b. Bring rice and beans to a boil. Once boiling, either reduce heat to low (gas range) or turn heat off altogether (old, slowly operating electric range), or turn heat off altogether, wait five minutes and turn back on to low (new, quick electric range, including glass top). Allow to sit for about 30 minutes, depending on your range.

b. Once the rice is done, add the butter and lemon juice and blend. Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking.

Cheap, easy, and delicious. Everyone loves this salad. Especially those who can eat it at home.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

May 25, 2007

One of my professors is letting me housesit for a couple of weeks, and we thought a night out for dinner and drinks was in order. It had been a long week, and we wanted to stay local, so despite misgivings about the Larg’s Pier Restaurant and Hotel (and Casino), we decided it was the most convenient place to meet. When I arrived Ruth was already sitting at the bar enjoying a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I ordered a Dry Dam Riesling, and we chatted about life, the universe, and everything. Ruth is in her late 30’s, single, and recently bought her home a few blocks from the beach in Semaphore. She is an Australian citizen from Detroit, making her an ex-pat. Her PHD is in science, but her life-long passion for food led her to the master’s in gastronomy, and eventually into the LCB classroom. She speaks several languages (“well enough to get by”), and when not in lecture travels the globe giving talks, racking up frequent flier miles and experiencing new places. She drives a cantankerous old car that folks make fun of her for, but she thinks it fits her Australian lifestyle. She’d like to have a boyfriend, but likes her independence and puts her career first. She has a background in improv, and as a result thinks my dissertation idea is fantastic.


PS: we got the pizza margarita and it was actually quite good.