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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Thursday, March 15, 2007
Traveling Through Time
It never rains, but it pours. Kind words indeed from Ximena as she tagged me for a meme, just after I had completed one that had been hanging around for an age. So that I won't have to go through that feeling guilty bit again, here is my take on it. The meme is about your life in leaps of five years right from when you were born and you have to say what you were doing and eating in any year that ends in a two or seven, so here goes.

1957, born! I don't remember much, but I'm reliably told that mine was a breach birth for which I'm not sure my mum ever really forgave me, she apparently nearly died. Drinking breast milk.

1962, we moved to a bayside suburb in 1960 and spent our summers at the beach. War was a then acceptable pastime for young boys and I used to battle with my mate from across the road with our toy soldiers, I actually coveted his soldier with a machine gun. Comics were another thing that I loved and I think Scrooge McDuck was my favourite character. I so wanted to have his money vault and to dive into it like he did. It was about this age that I started to take an interest in cooking, mixing up all sorts of concoctions from mum's jars of whatnot, fortunately no-one ever ate anything I made, though there was that one time I made myself a pepper sandwich...

1967, one of my pleasant memories of primary school was ordering a pie and cup of tomato soup from the canteen, it's funny because nowadays no pie ever tastes as good as they did back then. For some stupid reason I was very good at working out fractions, my grade teacher actually took me to a higher grade class and I was made to take on the entire class at fractions and won. Lunch time was spent hiding from that class.

1972, at this time I spent most of my free time outside either playing cricket or kick to kick depending on the season, right in the street outside my house. Those of you who have seen the movie Sandlot Kids would know of Hercules, the fearsome dogbeast that took their baseball when they hit it over the fence. We had our own version of that with a fearsome old women who lived alone and terrorised us whenever we kicked or hit a ball into her yard. It was like "You go", "NO, you go", followed by a sprint that would have qualified any of us for the Olympics, whenever it was time to retrieve the ball. Food was pretty basic at the time, usually meat and three veg. Mum had this way with meat that required it to be dark brown on one side and almost black on the other, which incidentally makes the tail end of a lamb loin chop very tasty. Steaks invariably meant oyster blade which I still love to this day.

1977, rugby union was my passion at this time. I was playing for Brighton at Elsternwick Park as well as the Victorian under 21's. I don't know why I picked up a love for rugby in the heartland of the AFL, maybe as a tighthead prop it was the almost ton and a half of raging testosterone that packed in on me. The Brighton side I played in had a bit of a reputation for biffo and I still laugh when I remember the a wife of one of the opposition players who felt that her husband was getting some uncalled for attention, grabbed a sideline marker and chased one of our players all over the pitch trying to belt him around the head and warning him off, the rest of us just dissolved in laughter. I was into cooking big time and my very first dinner party featured chicken Veronique on a potato rosti, with peeled grapes mind you.

1982, I'm married by this time and have a two year old daughter. We're living in a flat in East Malvern and entertaining freely, I would invite anyone for the chance to cook. Some in the building didn't see it that way, once there was a knock at the door and ten hard core bikies were telling me to turn down our music, which was a bit rich coming from them, we moved shortly after. I'm working in the family business which is sadly not food. We are eating tons of Middle Eastern food and it was my wife that taught me how to make tabouli - please, not too much cracked wheat. By this time I had given up rugby due to injuries and was now playing competitive tennis for the East Malvern Tennis Club.

1987, a son has also come along by now and we have moved into our first house in East Oakleigh, right next to Scotchman's Creek. We landscaped the front yard and put in light bollards, someone dug them up and stole them. There were also loose pebbles in a rough sort of path that the local boys like to scatter. I caught a boy at it one day and made him sweep them up. His mate was laughing at him so I barked at him that if he was a real mate he should be helping his friend, my pebbles were never touched again. There was also the time my brother-in-law was over and we were drinking Arak, the Lebanese version of Ouzo and eating barbequed octopus. We were sitting on stools on the lawn, when all of a sudden his front stool legs started to sink into the lawn, tipping him over. He couldn't see what was happening and the look on his face was like - I'm not so drunk, why am I falling over for no reason? - it all happened in slow motion and it was exactly as if he was drunk.

1992, by now I'm single and going out a lot, there is also another son. Some friends of mine had a holiday house in Wood's Point, a tiny hamlet that was once a thriving gold mining town. I think we singlehandedly turned it into a gastronomic centre with the food we used to cook and the wines we drank. More than a few bottles of Grange Hermitage and a few of the first growths of Bordeaux met their end here. It was here that I discovered the reason to pierce or slash chestnuts before cooking, when a batch of chestnuts blew the heavy lid of a Dutch oven clean off on the open fire.

1997, this is about the start of a ten year dry spell, bad news if you like picking mushrooms. My morel spots are still giving up plenty, but the decline is noticeable. The best year I ever had we got seventeen kilos, now the yields are down to about five kilos. I have had some newspaper articles on food published by now, one featuring morels. It was also the year I sold my wine cellar to start up a business, I still cry when I think about it, there was one bottle of Chateau d'Yquem that I wished I kept, but that's life.

2002, I'm remarried by now and have another daughter, this is the year she was diagnosed with autism. It felt like the worst moment in my life but I have come to accept what it means and that is we have a truly wonderful daughter. That is not spin of any sort, I marvel everyday at M's spirit and the things she can do - having a child with autism has given me a whole new way of looking at the world. Sure, if there was a choice, neurotypical would have been it, but now I wouldn't change her for anything. Polish foods now figure in my life and boy do I love them. A whole new window has opened up and I'm eating new foods for the first time in a long time. Apart from the sweets, which I recently sent to a fellow food blogger, my favourite thing would have to be pierogies, filled pasta parcels that might feature wild mushrooms and cabbage or potato and cheese, every sort is delicious including those made from fruit such as raspberries or wild bilberries.

2007, I'm now into my second year of food blogging and having a blast. It's great all the people I've met in cyberspace and are now friends with, it's such a wonderful community. My writing seems to have improved since the early days and posts are still coming easily. I have a secret, I do have a digital camera, we got it last Christmas but I haven't got around to working out how to transfer pictures to the computer. No doubt I will kick myself when I discover how easy it is. It's interesting how I approach things these days as there might be a possibility of a post in the things I do. My eyes are always open.

So that's it in a nutshell. I'm not going to do tags this time as I have just tagged a few people earlier last week, but as always, feel free to join in.

Edited to add: I've changed my mind, I'd like to see what Kitchen hand has to say. You're tagged mate!


  posted at 9:21 am

At 12:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This might take a while - I'll dig out some diaries. I can't remember my first wife's name. (Just kidding!)

Actually I could just about change the name on yours and it would be me. Born the same year, two wives ... never lived by the bay, however.

You are so right about too much cracked wheat in taboule. When it's out of balance it's like eating parsley-flavoured breadcrumbs.

At 9:43 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woah, that's quite a journey you've been on! Isn't it interesting when you sit down to look back on what was, and how you got to this point in time? :)

At 6:23 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Now, I would have sworn I left a comment here already...
You are being too funny about digital pictures. You've put pictures on from time to time.
A five year bio time line makes things interesting.

At 2:31 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi kitchen hand, like two peas in a pod! The tabouli thing is one hobby horse of mine...

Hi ellie, it's been one fascinating journey...for me anyway. I guess all those past experiences are what make you the kind of person you are.

Hi tanna, nope, you weren't here before as far as I can tell. You're right, I have put pictures, but none have been mine, always courtesy of...Time for my own!

At 5:10 am, Blogger Shell said...

you're a genius to have got this into one post! of course i had to have a go myself - ha! eventually i came up with something else but brevity, or is it clarity, are still on my "to do" list LOL

a very touching and intense read - as much for what it doesn't say overtly ... between the lines we store worlds of change, some of it upsetting ... all of it, as you say, fascinating.

At 10:41 pm, Blogger lobstersquad said...

I loved that, Neil, it´s great. Will be looking forward to the pics, if you ever do work out the camera thing.
I was a big Scrooge McDuck fan, too.

At 8:15 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi shell, I had a look at yours but couldn't find it, will check later. It was funny having to look so far back, as you say there were some good bits and interesting bits.

Hi ximena, I'm sure the camera thing will happen soon! I also loved his nephews, Huey, Duey and Luey. There was so much to say about it, thanks for the tag.

At 8:19 am, Blogger Gigi said...

I so enjoyed reading this! Your life seems to have been filled with much love, laughter and friendship. Oh, and good food. Lets' not forget the food. That story about your brother-in-law, the octopus and the ouzo is great. ;D

You're a lucky man!

At 12:45 pm, Blogger Shell said...

mine isn't an autobiography at all ... it's the "strange mood" post ... more a drift through growth and transition, themes of my life ... no solid details just the shadows ... maybe i'll have a "proper" go at it in the next week or so but ... it may not be publishable *wry grin

At 5:49 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi gigi, my life through food seems most appropriate too. It's been eventful to say the least!

Hi shell, got it, I wasn't sure. Thanks.

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