Tuesday, August 12, 2008

cooking up

i left home without a lot of life skills. Irish Mammy had in her own loving way doted on her great lump of a son leaving him to read, play guitar and drain the cooking sherry while his clothes were washed, meals cooked and the house cleaned around him.

Moving to Melbourne a week or two before my eighteenth birthday, this lack of domestic ability didn't phase me as much as it should have. The 7/11 down the road provided fine chilli dogs for under a buck, and Four and Twenty products were cheap and plentiful. Dietary variation came in the form of fish & chips and pizza washed down with shit wine and worse beer. Laundry was a giant stripy bag dragged home to Ballarat on the train once a month and as for dishwashing cleaning etc it just didn't happen.

Meeting Lize should have fixed all this. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way. Lize, while a domestic goddess and harsh taskmaster, came unstuck on two fronts. Firstly the darling girl can't cook unless you count toast as cooking. Secondly my poor cleaning habits were ingrained at a level that would take a behavioural psychologist aided by a brace of Maori bouncers and numerous prayers to St Jude years to change. So the poor girl had no hope.

But slowly change did came upon us. I discovered I not only could cook, but actually enjoyed it. It started slowly, and suffered the rude interruptions of businesses and shift work, but it gradually came to be. Early days it was packet pasta, fish fingers, sausages and mash. Then came pasta from scratch, pot roasts, steaks and schnitzels. Then came the frills. I learnt how to make a roux. How good stock makes good soup. How not to turn vegetables grey with overcooking. The power of the fresh herb. Grilling over charcoal. Olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, chilli. Fresh fish. Slow roasting a joint for eight hours on low heat with the meat sticky, juicy and falling off the bone. Pancakes with bacon and real maple syrup on a hungover sunday. Dark chocolate, whiskey and cream with summer fruit. Chicken breast poached in semillon blanc with thyme. Home made souvlaki and pizzas. Caesar salads. Steak and fries with aioli.

I still like pies and the cleaners come once a week in the interests of domestic harmony. But the takeaways don't see much of us these days. Which ain't a bad thing.

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