What a wonderful world


Sometimes a flavour takes you by surprise

It might be because you have never encountered it before or perhaps it is made with familiar ingredients, but you hadn’t thought of putting them together in just that way.
Zucchini sauce for tacos. Who knew?
I’m picking maybe 119, 713, 203 Mexicans. Maybe not all of them.
I had tasted the aforementioned zucchini sauce over a year ago when I tagged along to a bbq made up of Mexican and Irish people. The crowd composition was intriguing for a start. I was one of two New Zealanders, there was an Australian, and then everyone else was either from Mexico or Ireland. I have thought a lot since then about what the attracting force might be between these two cultures. I still have not come up with an answer.
Anyway. The food was fantastic. Beautifully grilled meat, salads, tacos. But the star was the zucchini sauce. With the slight earthiness of the zucchini tempered by a little garlic and a little chilli. Smooth, a little spicy, good.
I tried to recreate it at home. It was a dismal failure. Perhaps one of my worst dismal failures. And then I forgot about it.
Until now. Now I have seen how it’s made. And I have had another attempt. I don’t quite have the deft confidence of my instructor or the seemingly innate knowledge of the amount of oil required, the exact size of stock cube to include and the extent to which the zucchini must be cooked; not too much, not too little, but just right. But I did it. And it’s good.
And I appreciate the discovery.

I laugh, I cry, I seldom understand things but it is more and more a sort of comfort

Perspective. It has a lot going for it.

How we see things, or more importantly, how we choose to see things can depend on a lot. I wonder, perhaps, if it’s about training ourselves to look for the good and not be bowled over by the negative.

I like to think I am optimistic, a seeker of possibility, a practitioner of wonder and awe, but sometimes I have a habit of noticing and dwelling on the one dark cloud I see in an otherwise blue sky. Maybe it’s when I am tired. Or already a little emotional for whatever reason. The scales tip in favour of the half empty glass.

Last night I went to the fifth Dinner Project. I have been to three of them. I have written about it here before.  The Dinner Project is an Australian not-for-profit venture raising money for charities through dinners created by chefs who donate their time, energy and innovation for the greater good. Chef, Thi Li started the Project in Sydney, brought it to Melbourne and has been very ably assisted here by pastry chef, Kimberly Chin. 

Last night’s dinner showcased chefs from Luxembourg, The European, RACV Club, Stokehouse and Cutler & Co and was held at B’Stilla in South Yarra. Four courses offering fish, meat, heirloom vegetables, a variety of textures, colours and flavours with beautiful beverages to match.  

All profits are going to SANE Australia.  Thi and Kim both feel that that people who work in the hospitality industry are often subject to high stress levels and antisocial working hours which can lead to mental health problems and they would like to support a group that is working to improve mental health.
The reason I mention The Dinner Project, apart from the obvious fact that Thi and Kim see life from a different perspective and seek to use their talent and experience to bring goodness to others, is that I ate a dish which blew me away. And this dish was the result of a mistake. 
Mark Glenn from The European roasted heirloom carrots over coffee beans to give them a woody, toasted flavour. He experimented with a blueberry sauce which didn’t quite go the way he expected, but in fact turned out better than his original idea. His carrot, shitake, jerusalem artichoke, coffee and grain dish was the entrée. For me it was the stand-out dish of the night. And he was competing with a blue eye cod and prawn boudin, a bavette with charred radicchio and fennel and a rhubarb cake, ginger soil, ginger custard and creme fraîche sorbet.

Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right destination and a step backwards, well that’s the first step in a cha cha.



I am currently downsizing my life.
This has caused concern amongst my friends. Is everything alright? Am I ok? What’s going on?
By downsizing, I mean that I am moving into a smaller, brand new and more reasonably priced apartment that I feel will suit the next chapter of my life. As a consequence, I am reducing the amount of things I own.
And I love it.
I have enjoyed all the items of furniture and clothes and shoes and other miscellaneous goods that have been part of my life for various lengths of time. They have provided the backdrop, setting, and costuming for some of my previous chapters.
And I am also enjoying not having as many things. It feels simpler. The people who have bought my various items or to whom they have been donated will also enjoy these pieces. It’s their turn now. I have had mine.
Perhaps spending ten days on an 11-metre sailboat has shown me how possible, and in fact, liberating it is to live in a smaller space without lots of furniture and things. It’s the people you get to spend time with in your space or in theirs and the ideas you think about and the possibilities you see and the lessons you learn. These are the things that matter. A big wooden workbench is lovely and looked good in my various homes, but we have had our time together.
Things are all well and good and I am not about to stop shaving my legs, throw away my deodorant and wave my arms around wildly trying to convince you to follow me in some sort of crusade against consumerism. (And I don’t mean anything against those who don’t shave their legs…)
Not at all. And that really isn’t the point.
Right now. For me, letting go of some things to embrace a new perspective and experience feels good. It feels a little as though I am clearing the way for something, allowing it to unfold. I am not quite sure what that something looks like, but I know that it will come. 


Today I went to Sunshine.

Having expressed a desire to know more about Vietnamese food and cooking, I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of a Vietnamese family’s preparation for a birthday lunch.

Tom Yum soup paste made from scratch, barbecued seafood, sweet potato glass noodles, and a lot of leafy greens and chewy mushrooms.

The extended family stretches to at least 20 people and I was told that with that many people, there is always a birthday. This is a good thing. Having spent the morning watching and inhaling and tasting and chatting and learning, I had to leave before lunch was actually served. This lovely family, horrified that I would miss out, have invited me to go back in two weeks for another birthday lunch and this time, I must stay for the day.