a particular coincidence of action

I read about Cartier-Bresson on Saturday. Apparently he was “renowned for spending long hours wandering the streets of Paris with his camera; sometimes waiting for hours on end for a particular coincidence of action to occur…’.

A particular coincidence of action. I like it. It resonates for me. Are we not all wandering around waiting for a particular coincidence of action to occur? For that moment where we stand outside ourselves to appreciate the synchronicity of life. We happen to be in a certain place, at a certain time and wonders unfold. Or, through a series of events and seemingly unrelated actions we end up in just the right place at the right time for love or creative fulfilment or discovery or progress. In those moments, we smile and experience the thrill of somehow being connected in to a bigger picture.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism and a developer of street photography or the life reportage style. He was around for most of last century, given that he was born in 1908 and lived until he was 96.

Most of Cartier-Bresson’s photographs were taken on a 35 mm Leica with a 50 mm lens. He had three rules: he never contrived a picture, never used artificial light and never retouched the results. He thrived on accident and being alert for serendipity; those “happy accidents” or “pleasant surprises”; when you find something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.

The argument, here, is of course that Cartier-Bresson was searching for it, or, at least, waiting for it. So does that mean that there is an element of ‘build it and they will come’-ness to his appreciation of coincidence. Perhaps we see what we want to see because we need or seek to see it.

Carl Jung was the first figure in modern times to articulate the issue of coincidence and serendipity and gave the phenomenon the name synchronicity. For Jung, this was all tied in to his ideas about archetypes and the collective unconscious. Now, they are pretty fancy names for concepts that we all feel or are aware of, but decline from labelling them as such. We just live them. So, to explain, an archetype is a universally  understood symbol, term, statement, or pattern of behaviour. Similar to a prototype, or an original version of a thing. According to Jung, in our humanness, we inherit certain universal psychic behaviour patterns, or templates of human experience and these inner ‘understandings’ colour the way we perceive and operate in the outer world.

We have to have an archetype or an unconscious view of the world to believe in, notice and give meaning to coincidence. Otherwise everything is random and the idea of coincidence is simply that, exact correspondance or a concurrance of events with no apparent connection.

My own response to a particular coincidence of action is Yes. Without the particular coincidence of action that occurred to bring me to this point, I would not be at this point. Obvious? Perhaps. Over-stating it? Certainly. But I like it nonetheless.

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Scarf

 

I remember when I first started work waiting tables in a restaurant. I was a bundle of nerves. There is so much to remember and as well as remembering all the systems and trying to balance plates up my arm in a nonchalant sort of way, you have to be welcoming and friendly. There’s a lot going on. Imagine what it must be like for young people who come disadvantaged backgrounds; new migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, or Australian youth who are passionate about working in the hospitality industry, but unable to find work.

Scarf is a not-for-profit social enterprise which seeks to assist these young people by providing them with hospitality knowledge, skills and experience from mentors in the hospitality industry.

Participants embark on a 10 week programme where they take part in wine education, formal service practices, cocktail training, beer education, coffee making and more. The programme concludes with a dinner service, the now famous Monday Night Dinners. Scarf trainees get hands-on experience in a real restaurant environment whilst being guided by their mentors.

On this particular Monday night, the venue was The National Hotel in Richmond. Or, The Nash, as it is affectionately known. A beautiful big old pub that has been stylishly and industrially renovated. I was in a party of seven, seated at a solid wooden table. Our earnest waiter, Josh, enthusiastically poured water, took our drinks and then food orders, watched over by his very encouraging mentor. He did a great job, even if his anxiety was palpable.

And Scarf are doing a great job too. Creating a meaningful community. It’s a cosy, bright accessory to keep out the chill of modern urban malaise.


お任せ

omakase

It’s up to you. I entrust this experience to you.

We like this way of dining. We expect the chef to surprise us with his or her innovation and artistic flair with the food. We like abdicating all responsibility and having the evening unfold before us of its own accord, or at the mercy of the kitchen and waitstaff. We don’t want to pore over the menu and wonder if we are ordering too much, too little or missing out on the very thing we should have ordered.

As you wish.

And we increasingly have the possibility of having others run our lives for us, making the decisions, telling us what to do. If you have enough money and are willing to part with it, you can have an omakase lifestyle. Personal shoppers, mortgage brokers, dégustations, even ghostwriters on online dating services…you don’t have to live your own life any more if you are too busy or not quite up to all the decisions.

I like omakase. As a dining experience. I like being surprised by food and combinations of flavours which are unfamiliar to me. I appreciate the chef’s training and talent and I am more than happy to allow them to shine.

I don’t wish to omakase my life. I want to make my own mistakes, as painful as they are. I want to work out my own style, which changes depending on the day. I want to present myself to others as I am, not be promoted to the world or potential suitors in the way that will best sell me. OK, so I’m a little awkward, a little quirky, I don’t always get my outfits right, but here I am. Me.

you can fix everything with enough duct tape. and spit.

13 year old philosophy. Actual 13 year olds said this. In passing. They didn’t even look up from filling in the gaps of an exercise testing their knowledge on French indefinite articles (that is, the word for ‘a’ in French). Dead pan. One girl’s homework diary had ripped. Her neighbour said ‘I don’t think that’s fixable’, her friend replied with the now immortal words, ‘you can fix everything with enough duct tape’, and, without missing a beat, the original pessimist acknowledged this with a nod and added, ‘and spit’. Deadpan. For them, it was a throwaway exchange, up there with a 14 year old comment I heard today, ‘if you picked up as much rubbish from around the centre (for NZ readers, please insert common room at this point) as you do boys, we wouldn’t get in as much trouble for being messy’.

Gold. From youthful mouths.

They say these things and move on to LOL-ing and OMG-ing and screaming about One Direction and all hope for the future of the world is lost, but in amongst the inanity, there’s gold.

Now, we, the older ones know full well that you cannot fix everything. Even with lots of duct tape. Even with spit. And let’s not dwell on that particular image, even though I know you have gone there in your minds. It’s an inevitable consequence of such image-filled prose. But cynicism aside, the phrase does strike some sort of optimistic chord. Who else out there is thinking Macgyver?

“A paperclip can be a wondrous thing. More times than I can remember, one of these has gotten me out of a tight spot,” from the man himself…but, and more potently, given that these children were born in 2000 and have no idea about Macgyver…:

Pete: His name is MacGyver. He can fix anything. He could fix a computer with a hairpin and a piece of duct tape.

AND

[Murdoc is pretending to be MacGyver] Murdoc: I could fix this if I just had some duct tape.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuiFuh3KxcE

Wow.

flavour profile

I’m sensing a theme. It’s a very inadvertent theme. But perhaps that’s how it starts. Last week, it was Naked for Satan. This week, slow-roasted kid goat followed by la fiesta de la vispera del dia de los muertos.

Complete coincidence of a thread running through there. Really.

I came up with Naked for Satan at the request for a cheap place for dinner. It’s a pinxtos and vodka bar on Brunswick Street. It’s a name that conjures up all sorts of images and a concern about who amongst your friends you can actually suggest this to. The name refers to Russian Leon Satanovich who fled to Melbourne from Russia in the twenties and worked as a caretaker of a premises on Brunswick street. He unearthed some big old copper boilers and with them created vodka stills. During the hot summer months, Leon, or as his Australian friends called him, Satan, would strip down to his undies, to tend to the stills. The code phrase, Let’s get naked for Satan, referred to slipping along to a clandestine gathering at the still and drinking the heady liquor.

The copper still dominates the decor and there is some kind of Basque Russian fusion going on as the food on offer is an array of pinxtos, tasty morsels of cold meat or seafood or vegetarian delights served on bread and skewered with a toothpick. The system relies on honesty as you help yourself to as many $2 pinxtos as you like and take your pile of toothpicks up at the end to pay. Happy times.

Then there was the http://www.eatwithme.net gathering at Gorski and Jones. eatwithme seeks to connect people through sharing food and eating together. Once you join the online community, you can join events which have already been suggested or come up with your own idea for a food experience. Tuesday night is kid goat night at Gorski and Jones.

Gorski and Jones have a wood-fired oven and they’re not afraid to use it. The chefs down there on Smith Street delight in coming up with new taste sensations from the aforementioned wood-fired oven, sensations that aren’t pizza. Their latest offering is slow-roasted kid goat. Divine. And you may note the deliberate insertion of a more celestial adjective to counteract the seemingly dark leanings of my food choices. So I ate baby goat with 7 strangers and I liked it.

Lastly, there was a day of the dead eve down at Pantry, where Melbourne’s most renowned Mexican restaurant, Mamasita, came to Brighton. The Pantry hosts Masterclasses every now and then where they invite chefs to come and share their passion for food and last night it was Scott Eddington, the very talented 26 year old Head Chef from Mamasita. 

It was very rock n roll. The owner of Pantry yelled a superstar intro into the microphone and the music blasted as Scott Eddington took his place before the assembled 100 guests. Appearing unruffled by the camera and phallic microphone right up beside him, projecting his every move onto a large screen behind him, he deftly prepared dishes and explained the hows and the whys of his recipes. It’s street food, basically. Street food is so hot right now. And speaking of hot, Scott explained that the food that he and his team create at Mamasita is not about the heat of the chillis, but is more about the flavour profile. The chilli lifts and enhances the flavours of the other ingredients rather than cancelling them all out through a fiery and numbing shut-down. We tasted ceviche and guacamole on tostaditas, or little tostadas; tongue and cheek in a soft shell taco; pork fillet rolled in herbs and spices and served on a walnut sauce and a little chocolate flan. We even did a tequila tasting. Who knew there were highlands and lowlands and the tequila from the highlands is sweeter? I’m picking quite a few people knew that. I didn’t, but I do now and I feel happy in the knowledge and certainly happy to have tasted the chocolate and cinnamon notes in the highland tequila.

Mamasita is known for its queues. Last weekend they did 640 covers on Friday night and 630 on Saturday. That’s a lot of tacos, tostadas and tequila infused sultanas. I may even join the queue one of these days…or invoke the spirits to get me to the front of the line…

 

noir desir

Chocolate.

That’s all I have to say because just the mere mention of the word and people go off to their own special place, salivating, sensing the desire for rich chocolatey goodness, convincing themselves of the health benefits of good quality dark chocolate, grabbing their housekeys and heading out the door in search of the life-giving, essential food.

Chocolate.

It’s a little wasted on me. Anathema, I know. I like it and all, but I don’t crave it or get excited at the thought of a big box of chocolates or block of the stuff.

So, it is a puzzle to many that I joined some actual choco-philes on a chocolate walk through Melbourne’s many laneways and grand arcades.

Walk Melbourne is a new company that seeks to walk visitors and Melburnians alike around the best places for chocolate or the choicest dumplings, good coffee, interesting designers and emerging artists. Monique, the founder of Walk Melbourne is a passionate woman who loves to share her love of food, coffee and life.

The idea behind the chocolate walk is to take her guests to artisan chocolatiers, those who really care about chocolate and strive for perfection: Chokolait; Haighs, Koko Black and Ganache. Plus La Belle Miette, who produce beautiful macarons, but who find their place on the chocolate walk because of their sublime chocolate macaron.

Tasting, appreciating the quality and the knowledge behind the purity of flavour, allowing the aroma, the texture, the mouthfeel of the small lump of dark brown-ness to pervade the senses.