Sunday, March 24, 2013

From Spam to Sublime

Hard to think of a circumstance that involves Spam, in either the edible or electronic form, in which my heart is going to leap with joy.  I should also note that most of my family would argue that Spam should not actually be classified as edible, particularly in the form of Spam sandwiches.

Like anyone who has an email account and a pulse, I am besieged by Spam imploring me like a character from Alice in Wonderland to either shrink, “Lose two dress sizes” or expand (and for censorship reasons I won’t enlarge on what portion of husband’s anatomy they are urging me to upsize).  Particularly irritating is the fact that for some reason the Spam-a-lot crew seem to have reached the conclusion I am called Susan, and so I am the recipient of endless messages that urge “Susan” to get a life in various formats involving internet dating, singles bars, credit searches and bank accounts in Nigeria.

I try not to click on Spam, not matter how alluring the header, but somehow I have obviously allowed some kind of worm to hack its way into my email contacts list.  In either a very cunning move, or by pure luck, the bug sent out a wave of spam with a subject header that was the date and time – but the actual email was all about the financial joys of working from home, and could plausibly have been something I might have sent out, after all for a guaranteed half million a year I’d probably be happy to sit staring at my back garden.

The downside of my account being hacked was of course all my contacts got a spurious bit of Spam from me – and may well have concluded that I had finally lost my marbles.  The upside is that it forced me into long overdue password changes, and as I tried to contact everyone in the address book to apologise – a task made more difficult by the fact that Yahoo had obviously cottoned on to the Trojan Horse nature of my account and refused to allow me to send mass emails, I realised that the contact list was stuffed with details of firms and individuals I last dealt with at least 5 years ago, so as part of the exercise I have done an electronic clear out and prune and am thus filled with a rare feeling of virtue.

It is a pity I can’t motivate myself to extend this electronic clearing out frenzy into my domestic arena.  Every time I open the larder cupboard door at the moment I am greeted by a flurry of pantry moths flapping crossly away as the light penetrates their world.  The presence of the moths indicates that there is something nasty in the form of moth larvae (I am hedging round here – can’t bring myself to call them maggots, and anyway weevils is probably technically more correct) crawling round in the dried fruit, cereal packets or the flour.  In a story to make the stomach turn, last week Drama Queen No.1 had an oatmeal bath, which in her case involves her tipping half a cup of oats into the bath (no need to bother with encasing oats in stocking or anything like that, after all in her parallel teenage universe every other member of the family wants to bathe in porridge for the next few days).  Having soaked in the bath, she got out, only to discover what she claims was a maggot on her neck.  YUCK.

It is however far too beautiful a day in Sydney to tackle the moths and just to lift the tone of this post from domestic and electronic pests, this was the view of the dawn over Sydney Harbour this morning.   I go for a walk every morning with the foul hound and sunrise at the moment is just spectacular and sets a tone for the day that even the flap of tiny moth wings can’t ruin.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cooking for 47 year old beginners

I have come to the conclusion, and not surprisingly it’s not an original conclusion, that there is a lot to be said with having youth on your side.  Basically at 25 there are so many things you can get away with panache and a flourish that elude one at 45, (or okay 47 which is actually a more accurate representation of my age as the Drama Queen choir keeps pointing out, my protests that 45 is a much nicer round number are completely disregarded.)

The bounce, gloss and charm of youth enables you to – in my case - wear large chintz dresses that give flounce a bad name, have bizarre hair cuts and experiment with perms, put on weight and take it off with what seemed like equal ease, drink ridiculous amounts combined with staying up all night and emerge looking radiant as the actual dawn (particularly in comparison to my night after persona these days) and cook strange and wildly impractical meals without guests turning a hair.

There are a couple of meals that stick in my mind from that era, the oatmeal surprise pudding I made for one Burns night called something suitable Scottish like Cranachan was a winner – in my incapable hands it took on a cement like quality that was the forerunner to a novelty dinner party game entitled Turn Dessert Upside Down, in a somewhat damning outcome pudding stayed firmly stuck to the bowl when inverted. Goodness what it would have done to our actual bowels if we had been brave enough to eat it.  The concept of dividing 5 small lamb chops between 6 guests was another star on the dining front and I feel sure youthful charm got me over the tricky situation of having to take soup bowls back into the kitchen and redistribute owing to a slight miscalculation on the soup to guest ratio.

I have continued to approach cooking with a fairly devil may care attitude which may explain why the burglar alarm that is linked to the house smoke sensor has gone off twice in the last week.  I have a mental image of the guys at the security monitoring centre, not to mention my neighbours, glancing at the clock each time the ear-splitting siren goes off, sighing wearily and saying “There goes dinner again”.

It’s not that I am disinterested in food – far from it, but in the way one is tone deaf I seem to have the capacity to reduce sophisticated recipes to mush.  Up until now I have always said blithely to Husband, “No one remembers what the food is like unless it is brilliant or you poison them, anything in between they just remember whether it was a good evening and they had fun.”  As a result of this philosophy I have always relied on friends who sparkle and entertain, lashings of wine and a certain bravado to get me through the dinner party trial by smoking oven.

However it is dawning on me that people expect you to have got your dress, hair, tasteless joke sensitivity and cooking a meal sense all together by 47.   I have of course developed a number of standbys that look far more impressive than they actually are and in some cases once they are decanted out of the Thai takeaway boxes, well we are off in terms of a gourmet evening.  It is unfortunate one of the mid life crisis prize winners is a slow cooked lamb dish – that I pinched off a brilliant friend and cook who has a wonderful food blog – and guess who’s coming for dinner tomorrow?  As it’s not Sidney Poitier, the lamb is off – and I am in recipe panic mode.

Come back lost youth – all is forgiven – and did I mention the occasion I invited a couple I had just met at a drinks party to come back to dinner and then discovered all we had to eat were two corn on the cobs?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Blind Man Driving

Australians are very creative with language and as a consequence create slogans and a visual landscape that constantly make me laugh.  Aside from the giant signs declaring “WRONG WAY, GO BACK” which are necessarily blunt for those drivers intent on heading the wrong way down a motorway sliproad, roads and vehicles are adorned with slightly more subtle but equally memorable slogans.

I am very fond of the “Don’t be a Tosser” sign that adorns litterbins in the area which seems to me to adopt exactly the right derisory tone towards litter bugs.

Likewise one of my favourite signs along the roadside is the firm of Personal Trainers that advertises  “Birthday Suit Alterations”, such is the appeal I  have to restrain myself from dashing in for a nip and tuck.

Some of the the local tradesmen also make me snort in traffic with their verbal dexterity.  Forget the traffic danger posed by the legendary man in a white van so beloved of British roads, I nearly floored the brakes recently during an overtaking manoeuvre when I spotted the writing on the van I was passing.  Huge letters proclaimed “Blind Man Driving”.  Once I had recovered my nerve and checked for the guide dog in the passenger seat I realised the van actually belonged to an outfit called Fleetmore Blinds, a company that cleans blinds (and has a sense of humour). 

I say to people that I go for an early morning walk with the foul hound to savour the views of the harbour as dawn comes up, to clear my head and to enter a zen like trance that will enable me to get through the day with a calm sanity – all of this is patently untrue and a massive bluff as in fact what persuades me out of bed and onto the streets as it were is the carrot of a decent cup of coffee on the way home – I find it important to plan these little rewards for virtue during my day, the Freddo at four o’clock is an equally important pit stop.  At 7a.m. I am not the only one intent upon a coffee, the Mosman shopping strip is filled with tradesmen stocking up on caffeine before facing the day and amongst the vans drawn up for the coffee dash this week one belongs to a firm of excavators and engineers.  Their slogan “We dig where the sun don’t shine” emblazoned across the back of their ute (Australian for pick up truck) never fails to make me laugh.

And who can resist the charms of the handyman firm whose vans sport the slogan, “Hire a Hubby”?