About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, December 04, 2006
A Day In The Park
Don't you love lazy Sundays spent outside, on a day where the sky is clear blue and the weather warm from early summer before the real heat hits?

Yesterday was one of those days where the weather threatened early, only to reveal its bluff later. On a cloudless day we went with some friends to Alma Park in East St Kilda. Actually we went to Alma Park East, which is bisected from Alma Park West by the Sandringham rail line, where the trains trundle through a cutting. The two parks have a completely different character from each other with the west side having flowing, wide open spaces, much loved and used by dog owners and those seeking fitness, with a wandering path the entire length that takes you through some lovely gardens that screen you from the rest of the park.

The east side, our destination, is more about the family, with its electric barbecues and tables, bench seats casually strewn about, magnificent mature elm and pine trees shading most of the area which also contains a small creek leading into a mini wetland. At the Alma Road end is a most magnificent Moreton Bay Fig tree to which some far sighted soul, before everyone became worried about safety concerns, built a bridge right into its lower branches with platforms connecting all the lower limbs, encased by wire mesh so no-one can fall out. There is a small playground with rubberised surfaces surrounding a small castle with the most wonderful carvings and the other end of the park is capped by a sports oval.

We decided to have a picnic there and to that end I bought a couple of barbecued chickens from a shop in Carlisle Street that goes to the trouble of using real charcoal, which gives an incomparable flavour to the spit-roasted meat. How Coles can get away with describing their spit-roasted chickens as barbecued is absolutely beyond me, the closest their birds get to charcoal is when the delivery truck drives past the real barbecue chicken shop. I suppose I should own up here and say that the chickens from either shop are not what I would call happy chickens, but on this day when I didn't want to cook, all I wanted was a happy me.

Then it was of to the greengrocer for some mixed salad leaves to which I always add a good handful, ahem, I mean tongful, of rocket (aragula). My wife D had made a beautiful butter cake featuring fresh raspberries and along with a few snacks for the kids, that was our picnic. Oops, nearly forgot the homemade mayo with garlic. I mean I really did forget and asked D if she wanted some, which in our house is merely a rhetorical question. All of us were in the kitchen at this stage as I whipped up a batch and C, the wife of my mate G, didn't quite believe I made it while I was talking to them and then asked how to do it.

We made our way to the park and ensconced ourselves on some bench seats under a huge old pine tree, with a view not only of the playground but of a cricket match that some locals had got together to hold. We feasted on the still warm chicken and fresh salad, and as is the way with kids, they buzzed in and out picking off whatever caught their fancy. The cricket match on the oval was not the only one going on, there were two very casual family matches in progress as well. I know my American readers are probably rolling their eyes at the thought of cricket, which beyond the bat and ball is for the most part incomprehensible to people who drive on the wrong (right) side of the road. But I have to say that I have never understood your game where you can get to walk for NOT hitting the ball, though I do feel a certain camaraderie with your hot dog tradition.

We sat, we talked about nothing and everything, the kids darted all about, we watched the cricket, the kids decided to amuse themselves and the cricketers waiting for their turn to bat near the boundary, by blowing bubbles over them, they laughed and we laughed too. On the other side of the oval a church bell chimed in recognition of a new marriage. I wonder if the newlyweds knew what fun and good cheer awaited them on the other side of the oval?
  posted at 8:33 am

At 2:13 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil, I really enjoyed this - what a wonderful pulling together of all the sexes and ages and points in life. The love the wonder of the newlyweds being unaware of the other side of the oval.
I've never been able to understand the hot dog thing so you're way ahead of me.

At 11:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday! :)

At 5:14 pm, Blogger ilingc said...

Sunday was indeed lovely and your litte picnic lunch sounds fabulous :)

We probably would've done the same, get a few friends out and have a bbq at the park. Except I "absolutely" had to get to Prahran Market to get the Greek Yoghurt from the Greek lady. Oh well, at least we didn't stay at home all day :)

At 10:43 pm, Blogger Jeanne said...

What a great, great post. Very circle (oval?!) of life...

Can I please join you on your next picnic?!

At 3:31 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, the hot dog thing is a right of passage that dads pass onto sons. It was one of those special days where everyone had a great time.

Hi ellie, it was just a lovely day.

Hi ilingc, we all have to have our priorities straight! M loves that yoghurt.

Hi jeanne, I can almost hear Elton warbling away. Absolutely you can, so long as I can join you for the Oktoberfest!

At 10:08 pm, Blogger Jeanne said...

It's a done deal! Can you feel the luuuuuuuurve tonight?!? ;-)

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