Friday, May 14, 2010

Food, Glorious Food.

While there are plenty of crafty type things I've been working on, this particular blog post won't feature any of them. Instead, today I'm feeling the need to take a wander down memory lane on the subject of one of the other great passions in my life. Food. 

I set a lot of stock in sensory experiences. I love to touch things, to smell things and to taste things. I listen and I look, sure, but certain tastes and smells bring back a lot of memories for me. The smell of velvet soap will always remind me of my Nana, because thats what she always smelled of. Last week while in a curiosity shop in town I found a box of a particular japanese temple incense that I had and used to burn at home when I was pregnant with Master Mayhem. One whiff, and I could imagine being back there in that space and time. When we lived in Bright, at the foot of the Victorian Alps, I remember very clearly the slightly metallic smell on the wind that meant impending snowfall - unique to itself, and while being subtle it was still distinct enough to cut through the smell of other peoples wood fires and the faint trace of leaves rotting on the ground. 

But taste - my goodness, taste. Talking last night, Big Mac and I were taking a wander through the memory of foods past. Certain meals or tastes that years on, we still remember the taste of if we think hard enough. My first food memories are of my mothers food, unsurprisingly. Her pumpkin soup (which try as I might I can never replicate), her vegetable soup and my favourite - her porcupine meatballs. I know the taste of her hand made pate very well, as well as the sausage rolls she made for parties. I smell her sausage rolls cooking, and I expect to hear music going, and be surrounded by a flurry of preparations for impending visitors and party guests. My parents used to hold regular dinner parties, and I remember the dessert she used to make - cherries with rose wine, soft juicy cherries served over a flaked ice concoction of cherry juice and rose wine. We never stayed up for the dinner parties and ate with the adults, but she used to save a little for me if I behaved. 
As a child I remember heading to the Dandenongs in winter for a market or festival, where my godparents were helping too. I recall the handmade coconut ice I got at the stall where my godmother was, and I recall the taste and the smell of the roasted chestnuts that Dad shelled for me, standing near the BBQ where my godfather was roasting them. Trips to visit family friends up in Mt Macedon there were sesame encrusted balls made of minced rabbit and spices served with a type of sweet and sour sauce - so tangy and delicious! The same family friends were polish, and their grandmother made these donut things which I still remember thinking I would NEVER taste anything as good as them. 

But.. I grew up. And when you grow up, a whole new world of flavours and dishes open up. Talking last night we came up with quite a few meals that we both remembered clearly. Some of them I'll never be able to get again - some are open for the taking. We often say that I tend to navigate around my state by food. I'd say that's a pretty accurate assumption. The food memories intersect with people along the way, making memories of places even stronger though. 

*In St Kilda, on Fitzroy street there are two memories - a small italian - ish restaurant called Ciccios. Their woodfired hawaian pizza was to die for, but most of all I liked their focaccia. Covered in slices of potato with cheese and a rosemary pesto it was homey and tasty and full of flavour. I know someone else who might be reading this post remembers most of all their choc mousse cake, so rich that one slice was difficult to finish on your own if you were a newbie to the experience. Ciccio's is no longer there, but I know I am not the only one that laments its loss!
*Further down Fitzroy street, Monroe's where I had one of the most fantastic Lamb Souvlaki's ever, after a night going to see Henry Rollins. 
*At the Queen Victoria markets there was a churro van which sold churros by the bag covered with powdered sugar. I've had a lot of churros since, and while some have come close, none have ever really measured up. 
*Also at Queen Vic markets, our Saturday ritual of going shopping for fresh fruit, veg and meat, then stopping off for a bag of crostoli for the trip home. Crunchy!
*In Bright, on a Friday night there was a small food van that sold burgers, piled high with ingredients and handmade chutney and relish that made them something very special. We discovered it on the very first Friday we moved up there - and re-discovered it just about every Friday thereafter while we were living locally. 
*Lygon Street, Carlton. Il Gusto always did (and still does) do the best risotto I have ever tasted,              *Lemongrass does the nicest and most innocently potent cocktail (the Siamese Princess). 
*and Koko Black will do you a hot chocolate that is so good it can only be described as pure evil, in a cup. 

*All Seasons Hotel in Bendigo once did us a steak, medium rare in a red wine jus, with tiny crunchy pomme noisettes around the outside of the plate, and served with house baked pumpkin dinner rolls. 
*Should you ever be in Toorak Rd, there's a couple of stops you should absolutely do - Browns Bakery does the most amazing Garibaldi, crumbly and sweet, soft and crunchy all at once with thick raisins sandwiched between its pastry layers. 
*Directly across the road, M-Bar - where I did fill in work for a brief couple of days, and where we had my husbands christmas break up two years running. Their chocolate torte will blow. your. mind. High quality chocolate blended with a berry and balsamic sauce is bitter and sweet all at once with an unforgettable texture. 
*Blue Chilli's in Brunswick Street did a very raunchy rendition of a Beef Rendang with Roti bread, super hot but so full of flavour at the same time. 
*Brunswick Street also yields a delicious all day breakfast at IddiBiddi, poached eggs with hollandaise sauce on sourdough. Oooh boy. Just the thing at 1pm on a Saturday when you had a long night the night before. 
* Moonee Ponds - Jacks Satay Bar. Roti Rolls are an experience and a half, and one that I try to get every time I go to Melbourne. The Ducksi Goreng is also awesome, but Mac and I agree if there was such a thing as a 'number one' on this list, for us - this would be it. 

Final mentions need to go to the amazing chefs I worked with who allowed me (and everyone else) to taste some really mouth watering stuff. Naomi's hand made pasta with fresh peas and proscuttio, and Micheal's Irish Soda Bread and Coddle. I wish, so much, that I could still go back now and get those dishes from the people who originally made them. But I can still taste them now, and that, I will have to be content with. 
The thing that this list tells me the most is that food does not have to be fancy or involved in order to be memorable. Sometimes the most basic of ingredients combine to pack such a punch, a single flavour addition can make such a difference that someone, somewhere will remember it for a long time. Hopefully for the right reasons, and not the wrong ones.

I could ramble on all day about memorable dishes but I won't. I do want to know however, if anyone else out there reading this has memorable dishes too. What were they? Where did you have them? Are they still available? 
I wonder if it's possible to make a map of Australia, with food highlights, both past and present. 
(and then I wanna go on a great big tour and try them all!)


Anonymous said...

Fish and Chips at Kiama, NSW

catsmum said...

Well as you well know my mother was one of the two worst and least enthusiastic cooks in the entire world so no GOOD memories at all there
Italian MILs lasagne ( and canneloni and ... ) before she got too ancient to do it properly.