Out for dinner, three times in nine evenings. Working for a political party for the first time in 25 years. No new recipes to share. Definitely not the usual program!
Not that we’ve suddenly come into some money and commenced a tour of Melbourne’s restaurants. Two of the times we went out for dinner were to the homes of friends. The first was just a few doors up our street, the home of Janet and Gary, both teachers. Janet has taken some accrued leave and finished the school year a month early. To celebrate, she invited us to share a meal of homemade Japanese-themed food. It was a perfect evening to dine on their shaded deck and the food was delicious. And pretty!
The next dinner out was a very Melbourne affair. Faux night noodle markets, set up close to the city centre beside the Yarra River. This event is staged annually over two weeks in the second half of November and we decided to go this year. We drove half way in, transferred to a tram and arrived late in the afternoon of a warm Spring day. Around forty businesses had set up stalls, with the range of cuisine inspired by at least 10 different countries, from India in the west to Indonesia in the east and north to Japan, Korea and various Chinese provinces. We chose three plates to share – a Thai green curry of pork, spicy soft-shell crab and skewers of pork barbecued in Filipino style with a banana glaze. The prices were very reasonable, there were plenty of spots to sit down and the customers were enthusiastic, of all shapes, sizes and styles from many of Melbourne’s numerous ethnic origins.
We are not night owls, so we weren’t there when the sun went down but, judging by the crowds streaming in as we departed, the place would have been jumping. We would happily go again, perhaps talk some friends into joining us.
A couple of days later was the date for the election of the Victorian State Parliament. This is held on the last Saturday of November, every four years.
I used to be actively involved in politics. On my father’s side, my family has been associated with the Australian Labor Party (ALP) for more than 70 years. Both of my father’s parents were Labor Members of Parliament in Tasmania and I was a candidate for the ALP three times in the first half of the 1980s. However, for personal reasons, eg a dislike of knives in my back, I ceased to be a member of this once-great party in 1989.
Over the last few years, a friend from my days as an environmental activist in Western Australia, has slowly been reviving my interest in politics. His efforts bore a modest amount of fruit when I decided to work as a volunteer for his party, The Greens, on election day. I enjoyed myself and I would do it again but I’m not sure that I will become an active member – I have a low tolerance threshold for meetings!
After the end of voting, we went out to have dinner at the home of a couple Maggie has known for more than forty years. Maggie’s offer to provide pre-dinner nibbles was taken up, so we were busy in our kitchen late on Saturday afternoon preparing two items. The first was that simple but classic combination of a fresh basil leaf, a thick slice of tomato and a slice of fresh mozzarella. Viva Italia!
The other canape was more elaborate: wontons, bought as slices in a packet then baked to a crisp in our oven and later filled with a refreshing combination of poached chicken, seeded and diced Lebanese cucumber, plum sauce, fish sauce, chopped red chilli, thinly-sliced green (spring) onion and lime juice. We used a published recipe so, alas, not for sharing; well, not until we have made the changes we have in mind.
The meal was delicious from beginning to end but we were so busy enjoying our evening with our friends that I didn’t get around to taking any photos.
The next brought a resumption of normal programming. On Saturday, Maggie had bought some sardines at a fish shop that opened last year in a nearby suburb. (The shop is owned by a seafood wholesaler, so the quality of the product is quite high.) We had never prepared fresh sardines in our kitchen, although I have eaten some in a couple of restaurants and tapas bars. After some internet searching, we decided to grill them simply on the Weber Q and serve them with a paella-style salad. It was a very tasty light meal and we will do it again soon, take some photos and share the full story with you.