Thursday, 5 August 2010

Such are the meals of our lives...

Muzbot and Adaptive Radiation have recorded their lives in ten dishes, each assembling an impressive array of diverse dishes.

Thinking of something similar for myself I have hit several brick walls.

First, my memory is appalling nowadays and I'm finding it difficult to recall much about what we ate in my childhood but for the fact that it comprised a lot of rice and not too many vegetables. To this day I eat too much rice and insufficient vegetables for my good. I am not of Asian origin; all that rice was simply a reflection of my 'refugees from Europe', financially struggling grandparents/parents attempting to establish themselves in a new and strange country.

Both my parents worked and there was no-one to look after me at home during school holidays so I used to be put on the bus at Kings Cross every weekday of the holidays and would travel to Bondi Junction where I would spend the day with my grandmother before bussing it back home again in the evening.

Those were the days when my grandmother had an ice chest and purchased blocks of ice from the Ice Man who would drive up the suburban streets in his van several times a week. There was no such thing as frozen food then. My grandmother shopped twice every weekday - morning and afternoon - for the fresh food that she would make for that day's meals. This was my school holiday entertainment; accompanying my grandmother on her shopping trips.

Most days she served me a lunch that would horrify my doctor today. The blackest of black bread with a thick spread of chicken fat! I loved it. The chicken fat was what she scooped off from the various chicken dishes and broths she prepared for her and her husband's main evening meal. Every now and then, as a special treat, the bread was spread with jam instead of the fat.

Little did I know in those youthful days that chicken was an expensive meat so in reality her limited means were being spent on what then was luxury food.

My second hurdle, as you might guess from a childhood diet of bread and chicken fat, is that I am in no way a gastronome. I enjoy food from almost anywhere - except for some reason, Japanese seafood - but do not harbour pretentions to gastronomic snobbery.

When the Australian Government posted me to London for three years back in 1974 my parents decided we should mark the occasion by going somewhere special to dinner on the eve of my departure. In fact that was the last thing I wanted to do. I was facing the next three years without a family home cooked meal and so asked whether we could eat at home instead. It was both a loving and selfish request given that my mother, still working full time, would have to come home and prepare this celebratory feast. My mother agreed and said she would prepare whatever I wanted.

So what 'last meal' did I ask my mother to prepare? Rissoles and rice smothered in tomato sauce!
So there you have it. My life in two dishes.


  1. It's hard to tell...was your grandmother saving you the best part of the chicken meal or the worst?

    And Victor, c'mon...I should think that a man as widely travelled as yourself should actually find 10 dishes rather restrictive (even with a failing memory).

  2. Ad Rad - I've made my grandmother sound like a Charles Dickens character. In fact she was a very good and loving cook in the traditional Eastern European style.

  3. Surely Pierogi would be in there somewhere Victor? Coming from an Eastern/Northern European family myself that's what my refugee grandparents cooked consistently. I still love eating them to this day! Mmmm, boiled dough stuffed with potatoe and then fried in onion..........

  4. Yes Evol, you are quite right, except that my grandmother and mother made theirs stuffed with minced meat and I loved them.

  5. We had minced meat ones too, but I always liked the potato ones better for some reason!

  6. Am from an immigrant family too, Scottish, we never had rice though, it was all about the potato, and the the rest usually came out of a tin.
    Did you make the rissoles in the picture or are they a google find?

  7. 'Google-roles', Ian.

    Aren't all non-indigenous Australians immigrants?

  8. Ah yes, we are all more migrant that many would admit