Monday, 7 April 2008

Camping with the Nances

Sometimes I think that Barb and I are crazy. We made the decision to stop buying presents (stuff) for family that they don't really want. We've decide to purchase or organise fun stuff and experiences instead. A couple of Christmas's ago we bought our extended family tickets to Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, as done by Belvoir St theatre. It was a really fun day out. 

Last Christmas we decided to organise to take Barb's extended family camping and we would cater for the weekend. It was surprising how soon March 14th came around.

Barb and I had a really stressful and busy week leading into the weekend away. We were exhausted. I had a couple of job interviews on the Friday we were going away, we'd just had some bad news that we were starting to come to terms with. We'd also had a relatively fruitless early morning trip to the markets, that we'd assumed that it would save us time and $$. (we came back with a box of figs and a couple of herbs). The week sucked.   

Barb really put in that week. After trying to teach 5 kids with autism she came home to prepare a goulash and a tex-mex special so we could reheat it on the weekend. She spent Friday morning preparing camping gear and packed the car when I returned from my interview. Everyone should have their own personal Barb.

We camped at East Beach, Kiama. All Nances and Walkers (Liz's family) came. We were also fortunate that Jo's new beau, Matt could come along. Matt was great to have along. He patiently taught those interested how to use a river kayak in the surf. 

Everyone pitched in their own way. We borrowed a tent for the Walkers, Carol and Rob pitched a giant tarp, Jo brought lots of lovely beer and the Walkers  brought enough apples and grapes to feed the entire camp ground!

I still find these events stressful. I love being with everyone but I'm not so good with the chaos. Being around young children can be fun but also reminds me of what Barb and I don't have. I struggle to not let this show too much. 

It was fun to be together. No one had to rush to another engagement or had an important errand to run. Our job was to be together.   

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


The latest Food Appreciation Guild (FAG) outing was to Bagan, a new (and Sydney's only) Burmese restaurant in Strathfield. I had read a review in the SMH that stayed with me. You can search for the review: 

We were greeted by velvet covered menus that could have been mistaken for a Indian wedding album. The menu was full of pictures, labeled with names that gave you little indication of what the meal contained. Mitch ordered, with a lot of help from the waitress.

We order the famous pennyworth salad, fried whole fish, lamb curry, seafood hot pot and a couple of other dishes. The food looked influenced by Indian and Chinese cuisine. The curry was divine.

We were joined by Renjit, who was in Sydney after his recent move to the USA and his old flatmate, Caroline. I want to come back and try some of the other dishes on the menu.

Macadamia Nut capital of the world

There's not a lot of photos of my friend Libby on this blog. That makes me a bit sad because the reason for this is that she lives in a small town outside Lismore called Dunoon. She moved up there about 5 years ago due to her circumstances at the time. I would tease Lib by saying she lives in the "macadamia nut capital of the world".

I recently spent three days hanging out with Lib after leaving my job under difficult circumstances. I really needed some time out We had a great time of catching up, reflecting on some of the difficult things we'd been through and were currently experiencing. We drank lots of Cooper's green and Campos' coffee, and I had the occasional rolly.

We visited the famous markets at The Channon and spent lots of money. Lib kindly modeled some clothes I was thinking about buying for Barb. Lib bought a very cool bookmaker's hat. I really enjoyed hanging out walking, talking, browsing and buying.

We went to Byron Bay one arvo to watch Into the wild. We had to have a couple of beers afterward.

I miss Lib. I miss having a schooner or two of Toohey's Old at the White Cockatoo in Petersham. I miss inviting Lib over for a curry. I miss drinking too much coffee and beer in her backyard. I miss chatting and laughing together. I miss growing up together.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Rob at the cricket

I took my father-in-law, Rob, to watch the final of the Pura Cup. NSW was desimating the Vics. We both had the day off: Rob - because he was retired, me - because I was unemployed. When we arrived we took a seat in the Ladies Stand. As you can see by the photo above there was plenty of room!   

Rob recounted that he hadn't been to the SCG since he was a child. I think he mentioned that he came with his Dad to watch The Don.

The food choices were severely limited. Pies, chips, beer and warm coffee were on offer. I had to take a photo of Rob eating chips. He lives off a very healthy diet, smothered with salads, thanks to his wife Carol.  We then had ate lunch at Thai place in Surry Hills that we found along the walk to Central Station.  

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Last Dumpling

The final event for FAG in 2007 was a visit to Hong Fu North East Chinese Restaurant in Parramatta. Mitch ensured us that the pork dumpling were to die for. I guess that's why we had two servings.

Speaking of near death Barb has a great story of when she burnt her face when she ate a very hot dumpling at a similar place in Chinatown. As she bit into the steaming hot dumpling juice from the hot meat squirted across her cheek leaving a red hot burn mark. Barb used the very cold can of unopened coke that I had ordered to cool the burn and continued eating. What a trooper!

Northern Chinese food came into my life when I was 21 years old. My friend Glenn took me to the legendary Seabay Restaurant on Pitt Street to eat hand made noodles and dumplings for my birthday. The host, a tall thin elderly man greeted you with a warm smile and cheesy music. I have eaten here several times, with different groups of friends, some who I've lost contact with. Each time I visit Seabay it brings back memories of both the food and the people I've shared a meal with.

Parramatta is an underrated foodies paradise. Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants jostle with Lebanese and kitsch western food establishments like Hooters, Hog's Breath Cafe, Lone Star & City Extra. A couple of places to try are: El Phoenician (Lebanese), Istana (Malaysian), Temasek (Singaporean), Tingha Palace (Yum Cha), Flavour of Ceylon, Neelam (Indian), Orexi (Greek) and Sahra (Middle Eastern). That should keep you going for a little while. Thanks to

I would also highly recommend the Coffee Emporium in Westfields (Level 5, near the fruit shop). I used to drink coffee at the original shop in Bankstown. Check out their website:

Wobbly Dessert

When my friend Renjit turned 30 a couple of years ago I wanted to take him out for a quintessential Sydney experience. I organised for a small group of friends to go swimming at Palm Beach followed by an early dinner at Jonah's. Justin, Kate, Barbara, Renjit and I had all become close friends since Renjit re-located to Sydney, from Perth, via Melbourne.

I had met Renjit in December 1993 at the inaugural Marthoma Youth Camp which was organised by a team of displaced Malayalees living in Canberra. One of the group was Reji, Renjit's older brother. Renjit and I have shared a bond ever since. He still teases me about the bandanna and Roy & HG t-shirt (with an underpants emblem on the front) I wore at the camp. Yes, I was too cool for school.

We had a great time at the beach and had to get dressed after having outdoor showers. I imagine that Renjit, Justin's and my bodies would have been terribly distracting for the locals.

At Jonah's the view was a perfect metaphor for our friendship. We were sitting on the edge of the ocean all looking out together in awe. None of us really knew what was ahead of us but we all knew that we would share the journeys to come together.

The video below captures the moment we shared perfectly. Do it.

Tea for Two

Barbie and I shared a lovely morning tea at the Tearoom, Gunners Barracks. It's located in Middle Head, near Mosman. It was a lovely way to spend a Monday, that we both had off from work. After our meal, of pretty little things, we wondered done the path to Clifton Gardens to let Tima play on the beach. It's the perfect place to take your mum! 

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Bhajji and the Beast

Sorry for the long delay in updating my blog. I thought that a good place to start is on cricket, India and food - three of my favourite things. Most of you would have been aware of the recent tensions between the Aussies and Indians that exploded at the Sydney Test Match. I was fortunate enough to see VVS Laxman's delightful century with my good mate Lib. The controversy surrounds the interaction between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds. I don't want to dwell on the racism aspect of the furore but on the culture clash - i want to discuss the "racism meets food card".

Are we really happy to indulge in other people's food but want nothing to do with the people themselves?

Harbhajan is nicknamed Bhaji by Indians and the Turbanator by Westerners. In the picture below my friend Jamie, and his wife Anne, were stalking the Indian cricket team in Canberra. They were able to get some photos of Bhajji, sans black turban.

Bhajji's are commonly served as entrees in Indian restaurants. They are vegetables battered in chickpea flour and deep fried. My mum would often make bhaijis using onion, potato and cauliflower. We would dip the hot little vegies into sweet chilli sauce. Yummy.

Indian nicknames are curious. I have always found the use of the name "Baby" to refer to certain middle aged Malayalee men a little bit uncomfortable. My dad was known as Jimmy. He was a Jacob. I wonder what he would think of my cricketing nickname, "Scary Spice"?

Aussie nicknames are often dictated by shorten a name and adding an "O", like "Dave-O". Original it ain't. What I do love about some Aussie nicknames is the link to English rhyming slang or one's that have a cryptic edge. Cricketer Adam Gilchrist is known as Gilly by the public and "Churchy" by his team mates. Why? A young autograph hunter once approached Gilchrist and said: 'Excuse me Eric Gilchurch, can I have your autograph?".

Back to Bhajji. One of the strange cultural anomalies that was highlighted by the clashes at the Sydney Test Match is that India is becoming more like Australia and vice versa. This was exposed when some of the Aussie cricketers were involved in filming a Bollywood film at the SCG and at the same time the Indian players were playing beach volley-ball down the road at Bondi Beach.

Blond, fit and very fast bowler Brett Lee seems to have transended the hostility between the two sides and countries. His foray into Bollywood, and duets with Asha Bhosle, has shown his ability to see difference as an opportunity for connection. Lee has used his very blondness, good looks and cricket talent to create a wonderfully open and charming persona within the Indian context. Watch the film clip:

Perhaps the clash between Singh and Symonds has nothing to do with culture. Maybe they're two aggressive and passionate sports people who rub up against each other the wrong way. What has changed is that the Indian cricketers are willing to give as good as they get. The soft gentle gandhian like sterotype of the Indian is being eroded. I suspect that there will be a lot more clashes between these two cultures to come. The cricket field is one place that the public will be privy to the clash.

So do you think that we'll see the day when Andrew Symonds (the only brown man in the Aussie cricket team) and Harbhjan Singh do a commercial together eating Bhajjis?