29 September 2008

Corn As High As An Elephant's Eye

I hope this isn't going to be the blog post equivalent of that friend you have who sees you occasionally in the street, smiles brightly, and as they zoom off into the distance they cry breathlessly "We really should catch up for coffee sometime!" And then you don't hear from them for three months.

I apologise for being woefully slow at updating. Sure, I have been busy, but I haven't managed to convince Tim of my theory that since turning 22, approximately 25 minutes out of every hour just vanishes. Even now, I should be doing useful things, like washing my hair and packing for my business trip (the airport shuttle arrives at 8.00am tomorrow), re-editing my essay and maybe getting to sleep an hour ago.

A sign of my commitment: The promised peanut butter popcorn.

So, I attempted the notorious recipe on Hot Garlic's site.

I'll be frank, cold even: I'm not one of those sorts for whom a peanut butter sandwich is a good time. The idea of schmeering it on popcorn was faintly troubling. But, won over by enthusiastic testimonials, I gave it a go.

It was so good that after Tim and I wolfed it down like famished hyenas, I promptly made another batch. Oh sure, popcorn is good, but smothered in peanut butter and chocolate? (and you know I augmented the amount of butter that the recipe recommends) This stuff is remarkably delicious, and a testament to that old saying "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Speaking of corn and the magical forms it can take...I have a new favourite gluten-free cake. Much as I love chocolate I find those super-rich flourless cakes can be cloying, throat clogging and frankly a little samey (although yes, delicious.) I don't mean to sound condescending and bandwagon-jumping to the genuinely intolerant, once you make this cake all fist-shaking thoughts will fly airily from your wheat-shunning minds.

I found the recipe in the New World supermarket magazine...a mag that I'm not a huge fan of but which regularly redeems itself with such finds as this.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cornmeal Cake

Disclaimer: the cat is faceplanted on my left leg and I don't have the heart to shove him off and find the recipe so I'm transcribing it from memory. I'll change any erroneous details asap.

250g soft butter
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 cup cornmeal (aka polenta...not instant though!)
1/2 t baking powder
150g ground almonds (there's no escaping them)
2 T poppyseeds (my contribution to the recipe)

Cream the butter and sugar together, add the egg yolks and lemon juice/zest. In another, non-plastic bowl, whip the egg whites till stiff. I know it's a pain when recipes ask for separated eggs, but persevere. And don't kick it old-school like I did and manually whisk the whites. It hurts. Add the cornmeal, baking powder, almonds and poppyseeds to the butter/yolk mix and then gently but robustly fold in the whites. Bake in a 22cm, greased and lined tin for an hour - about - at 175 C. When it comes out of the oven, squeeze over more lemon juice, mixed with a little icing sugar, which will settle deliciously into the cake.

Mine got a little (okay, very) dark in the oven, so keep an eye on it and cover with tinfoil if you're worried. This cake is intensely good - soft, moist, tangy, lemony, ohhhh I'm drooling quite immodestly right now just thinking about it.

And within, a gorgeous, rich, distilled-sunshine colour. I don't know how long it lasts because we ate it stupidly fast, but I daresay it has a few days in it.

A million thanks to those who watched and commented on dad's protest video in my last post. And if you haven't watched it, may I not-so-subtly direct your attention towards it with my many links? Truly though, it means so much! We've amassed over 700 views on youtube already, which is pretty amazing since, well, Otaua village is pretty tiny and we only have so many friends and friends-of-friends to sing its praises to. So, to those of you who actually did watch it, a heartfelt thanks. And watch it again! It'll be grand!

Speaking of youtube I have been monumentally distracted lately by the thoroughly engaging and HILARIOUS new musical called [title of show], about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical...if you like Flight of the Conchords AND Broadway (the latter is kind of necessary, lots of it goes over my head I'm sure and I consider myself fairly well-versed) then you'll love it. But here's a clip giving you a little more info anyway...It's going to close soon so if any of my readers are ridiculously fortunate enough to be living in New York, go see it!

Finally - what is that substance on our mossy, damp patio? Could it be...sunshine? Okay, so it rained all day today, but this patch o' concrete literally hasn't seen the sun since about February.
And I know I'm wearing odd socks, I'd like to think it represents my free-spirited, left-brained, artistic temperament but some would say it merely represents my inability to find matching socks.

23 September 2008

Power To The People


So, you've raised your kids in a small country village of verdant New Zealand farmland. There's a school, and a church, both of which have been there for over a hundred years. There's a hall...several animals of a bovine persuasion...a long-disused pub...and that's about it. People who live there tend to stay there. It's tiny, but clearly loveable. And then it conspires that Waste Petroleum Combustion Ltd - the WPC - the owners of a waste oil treatment plant - want to relocate. Across the road from your house. A mere 80 metres from the aforementioned school and the preschool behind it.

It might look something like this:

What would you do? Well, in the case of my father, he not only became president of the Kinksianly named Otaua Village Preservation Society, he went one further. He conceptualised, wrote, directed and produced (aided by the technological whizzery of my brother) a monumentally, fists-in-the-air awesome protest song and video. Now this may not be your problem. You may not care. You probably don't live in New Zealand. You might be thinking "where are the recipes and the moderately competent food photography already?"

But do me a favour and watch the video. You won't just be helping me - you'll be helping the village that I grew up in, the school I was schooled at, the church I was baptised in, the cows that eat the grass next door, the ducklings that gambol in the meadows...I apologise for the rampant sentimentality and blatant attempts to tug at your heartstrings. Just to bring us back to earth, I should probably warn you that there is a break-it-down rap segment in the middle. Anyway, the video is amazing, and stars my dad (with a cameo from me on the trumpet!) and several other neighbourhood personalities like...my brother and our cat.

All attempts at a witty sardonic tone aside, your time taken to watch this video is hugely appreciated.

"Some things I cannot change but till I try I'll never know" Elphaba, Wicked
"It's too close to home and it's too near the bone...I've seen it happen in other peoples' lives, and now it's happening in mine" Morrissey
"How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?" Bob Dylan
"I stand for the power to change" Idina Menzel
"You built a house of cards and got shocked when you saw them fall" Jack White
"The more you ignore me, the closer I get" Morrissey (he's quite the fertile hotbed for pithy quotes!)
"Moo with me" Maureen, Rent (as if I could let that one slide. She has a protest song too!)

Thank you! If you have a youtube account and would like to add a comment/favourite it/etc click here.

Next time: my blog will not be masquerading as an audio-visual suite.

19 September 2008

Don't Think Ice, It's Alright


I understand the prevailing trend these days is to profess adoration for dark chocolate, the higher in cocoa mass and the more intensely bitter the better, preferably savoured by candlelight with a perfectly aged red wine. Me, I could take it or leave it. I love it for cooking - rarely use anything else - but in terms of eating, I am the fiendiest fiend for white chocolate. I know, it's not even "real" chocolate, and it's nothing but sugar, and doesn't even have any cocoa mass by which to measure its superiority against other chocolates...but I LOVE it. If I know there's some in the house I can barely concentrate, and find myself blindly standing by the cupboard, stolidly chewing away at whatever's left of my white chocolate resources. Whereas dark chocolate - well, it's pretty telling that I have four blocks of the stuff sitting in my wardrobe (because (a) I stock up if it's on sale and (b) we don't have a lot of cupboard space in the kitchen), and haven't touched the stuff.

But I'm only human. I see chocolate, unwrapped and vulnerable in front of me and I gotta take a bite. This particular stuff - Donovan's 80% cocoa dark chocolate, has its own cromulent gratification, in spite of not being my first choice. Smooth, sharp, with an uncannily refreshing, rather than rich finish, it was the perfect thing to embiggen my otherwise low-rent sorbet...


I got the idea for this from a Jill Dupleix recipe for "ice cream" made of only two ingredients - bananas and raspberries. Berries being expensive, I thought I could make another version using canned pears. I poshed it up by adding some shards of the aforementioned dark chocolate and changing the name...

Banana, Pear, and Bitter Dark Chocolate Sorbet (see, doesn't sound like something out of a can at all when you put it like that)

3 very ripe, large bananas
1 large or 2 regular sized cans of pears, well drained
45g dark chocolate, chopped roughly

Ideally you should do this in a food processor. But I was feeling lazy...or ecologically minded if you will...and used a fork. Mash the bananas and pears together till they are uniformly smooth. Fold in the chocolate. Freeze, stirring occasionally. This makes about 750mls...I think. If you want more, all you have to do is add more bananas or another can of pears. It could probably do with a blast in the food processor after a certain amount of freezing, but once again, I was being serenely carbon neutral with my fork. I'm sure it would be far superior made in the food processor, but it really depends on whether you want to serve it to people or just eat it by yourself.

It's so healthy you could practically have it for breakfast. Even with the chocolate because you know, antioxidants! If you want to serve it to polite company though you need to leave it on the bench for a while to soften. Because it has no added fat it freezes rock solid and you will get fissures in your teeth trying to eat it. I think I got elbow fissures trying to scrape up a spoonful for this photo. But when I left it out of the fridge (for ages actually, I'd forgotten about it but our kitchen is so arctic that it hadn't melted in the slightest) to soften, I was pleasantly greeted by a delicious flavour combination. The delicate flavour of the pears, the texture of the bananas, the occasional surprise of dark chocolate made for an excellent mouthful. Better yet it cost me diddly squat to make. Supermarkets will sell overripe bananas for a song, canned pears are always cheap, and okay, chocolate is expensive but if you can get it on special it's not too bad. Which is why, when Tim and I trekked to Pak'n'Save to do our groceries and I saw 250g blocks of chocolate for $2 compared to the usual $6, I stocked up.

When I was up home last weekend, my mother - ever the teacher - gently brought my attention to some misplaced apostrophes in my blog. As I want to be a sub-editor one day...and consider myself pretty au fait with grammatical concepts...I apologise sincerely. By the time I've written and edited these posts and grappled with the screen freezing up and photos uploading I tend to miss a few things. I'll think twice next time I sneer at someone else's poor punctuation. And indeed, feel free to tell me if there is an apostrophe out of place somewhere causing you offense.

Next time: I attempt to make Peanut Butter and Chocolate Popcorn from the Hot Garlic blog. With not a little trepidation I must admit, as I wasn't born with American tastebuds but the way everyone raved over it...and I do love my popcorn maker...well, my curiosity was piqued.

Your daily kitty cuteness update:

He's still doing it.

16 September 2008

All You Create, And All You Destroy


Yesterday was going really well. I was offered an opportunity to go on a business trip to the Juice music awards in Auckland at the end of September, I negotiated some work from home, I did a presentation on the song "London's Burning" by the Clash which went well, I got an A on an essay about The Great Gatsby, Tim had a doctor's appointment and was told that his blood sugar levels were better than ever, (I bet it's all the lentils and oats) and we were going to have spare ribs for dinner.

And then I made a batch of terrible muffins. It wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't been looking forward to making them for quite some time now...I'd bought one of those big bags of fancy salad leaves, which I think are worth the price - there's no waste, and they're good for perking up all manner of meals. There were some straggly, rapidly aging fronds at the bottom of the bag that I wanted to use up, which is how I came to the idea of slicing the remaining lettuce up and stirring it into a muffin mixture. I thought it would be a witty twist on the ubiquitous spinach and feta muffins of auld. I'm so glad I can't afford feta right now or it would have been a cruel end for it.

"plans that either come to nought or half a page of scribbled lines"

They may look sorta pretty, but they tasted, to my utter dismay, monumentally feral. Tim diplomatically - and shrewdly - said "you've definitely made better," rather than anything more confrontational. I suspect the lettuce was undisguiseably on the turn, which gave it an unusual, grassy, almost metallic flavour when baked. The spare ribs were fabulous, but I spent dinner clouded over by my failure. Insult to injury- I used up the rest of my 7-grain flour in them too. They were light, moist, soft...but tasted awful. I regret to say they are now "waiting for the worms" in the garden...I might have to bake an enormous cake to counteract the bad vibes the muffins left me with. Call me overdramatic, but anyone who loves to cook should know how it stings when something doesn't work, not to mention the further, irritating reminder of the wasted ingredients.

Luckily the spare ribs were, as aforementioned, delicious, or I would have had a complete meltdown. I'd frozen them in their marinade a few weeks ago so I could have a quick dinner on hand, and for some reason I think the process of them solidifying and then defrosting in the marinade made them particularly flavoursome. If you're wondering, the marinade was a not-too-revolutionary mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, a splash of dry sherry, a little dried ginger and cinnamon, several cloves of garlic and a dribble of golden syrup. And apart from that, it was a good day. It just got better and better with one of the most amazing episodes of Outrageous Fortune yet. Tension all over the place, tear-jerking performances from Cheryl, Loretta, Pascal, Munter and Kasey and as for Baby Jane, she's cuter than a puppy and a duckling sitting in a roller skate.

"several species of small furry animals"
Just to reassure you that I still can cook: I more or less invented this casserole on Monday, and was smugly pleased with the successful results. It uses lamb neck chops which, I know, sound a little frightening, (the sort of thing that makes one think instantly of Bambi...that deer has a lot to answer for) When you consider it rationally though they are no less a part of the lamb than the fancier cuts. Furthermore, the neck chops are very, very cheap - because no one wants to be eating them - and even though there's not an awful lot of meat on them, there's also not a lot of fat. If you had a lot going on, one chop per person would do, indeed I was pretty full after one, but two is probably a decent serving.
So: I seared the chops and put them aside, before browning a chopped onion and a carrot chopped into batons, in a casserole dish. I used the sort of dish that can usefully go straight from the hob to the oven. I then put those to the side, fitted the meat in snugly, covered it with the vegetables, poured over 1 1/2 cups beef stock, and added a bayleaf, several garlic cloves, a handful of chopped dates and 2 teaspoons ras-el-hanout. I then baked it at 160 C for two hours. It just occured to me that it might make sense to brown the vegetables before the meat. I guess you could skip the browning stage altogether, and just bung everything into a casserole, particularly useful if you don't have a metal one. Adding the extra step just helps me to feel that I'm really creating something.
It smelled heavenly while it was slowly cooking and the meat came out meltingly tender. I served it over rice, and for crunch, a salad of shredded cabbage dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and tumeric. The ras-el-hanout and the slow cooking entirely embiggened the dodgy cuts of meat. Of course, neck chops are probably never going to be your first choice...especially if you can afford a French rack or whatever it's called - but now you know what to do with them.
Over the weekend I had the good luck to be spontaneously whisked up home for my mum's birthday. My dad organised it, ("I have a cunning plan...") and mum didn't know I was coming. Let me tell you, it is such an ego boost to be someone's surprise present. It was amazing to be up home again to see the whanau, when I wasn't expected to get there till Christmas, and we had a huge birthday brunch on Sunday morning. Mum, who is incapable of letting me go anywhere without food, sent me home with a slab of corned beef, some bacon, enough mince to keep us in meatballs for weeks, a pineapple, a block of butter, a bag of oats, some cheeses (brie and havarti) and some lemons. And she was lamenting that if she'd known I was coming up she'd have organised me a proper food parcel. Speaking of birthdays, a great big "cheers" for all the salutations for Tim's birthday in my last post! One of the things I love about blogging.
"I've got some bad news for you sunshine..." I found out this morning that Rick Wright, founding member of Pink Floyd, has died. I have long been a fan of Pink Floyd, and was fortunate enough to see the erstwhile Floydian Roger Waters in cracking form at a concert last February. I know from various books that Wright went through some troubled, druggy times...although not as well known as that crazy diamond Syd Barrett...during "The Wall" period Wright was actually fired from the band, although it was clearly a highly tense stage for all involved. A bit like George Harrison of the Beatles, Wright was often overshadowed by the two enigmatic main songwriters, but in fact wrote one of their very best tunes. Great Gig In The Sky is a track that can only be described as ASTONISHING. (Listen to it on youtube by clicking here.) Even if you're not into what I (probably inaccurately) term dad-rock...and Pink Floyd can dip into pompousness...the sheer spine-chilling effect that this song has can be appreciated in its own right.

"and if the band you're in starts playing different tunes...I'll see you on the dark side of the moon" I love this photo, one of the earlier ones of the band in the sixties. I think it's the artfully draped neckerchiefs that make it. Rick Wright is on the far left, then Roger Waters, the late Syd Barrett, and Nick Mason. Syd Barrett was replaced by David Gilmour. Gilmour was better looking than Waters and a superior guitar player...but Waters was the better lyricist and has aged much more gracefully. (Silver fox!)

By the way, I refuse to use "great gig in the sky" as some kind of pun/metaphor for wherever Wright may be now because I know that every journalist and would-be journalist will be doing so. I thumb my nose at such laziness and instead my title and captions have all been taken from Pink Floyd lyrics. In case you were wondering what on earth was going on.

"The time is gone, the song is over, Thought I'd something more to say..."

12 September 2008

No Presents For Old Men


Overheard in our kitchen:

Me: I can make you a birthday cake! Anything you want!
Tim: Oka-
Me: I'll get you all my Nigella books! She has a whole chocolate cake chapter in Feast! I can make anything! Or if you just want to describe an idea and I can make it up! Choose one! CAKE!

Above: Oscar "helping" by promptly falling asleep on my cookbook. I guess if he can doze quite comfortably with his face buried in a duvet, what's a few papercuts?

Yesterday, being Tim's 22nd birthday, I was presented with a prime opportunity for a little altruistic cake-bakery. Although technically I kind of forced the whole cake idea upon him...I'll be honest, I wasn't looking forward to the birthday itself, partly because I was working all day and I flatter myself that my very presence improves Tim's life somewhat, but also because I was having massive issues finding him a present. In spite of his sincere protestations that he didn't want anything, well of course I had to get something. And he'd had the temerity to buy me a thoughtful, not-too-extravagant-but-really-nice birthday present back in April, which set way too high a precedent. Everything that I looked at was either too boring, too impersonal or too expensive. And we have so much stuff already! What was I going to get him? An elephant? A fully-functioning roller coaster? His body weight in ham? On Wednesday night I rather desperately purchased a box of 20 Double Brown and a DVD of Beowulf, which luckily Tim was over the moon about. Funnily enough though, I had a look for the No Country For Old Men DVD, after it has haunted my mind for so long, and it is nigh-on impossible to find in non-Blu Ray format. Go figure.

Mercifully, after all that disintegration of my sanity, dinner was pretty fabulous and Tim loved it. Inspired by Nigella's intensely delicious Cambodian Steak Salad from How To Eat, I fashioned a kind of Italian cousin to it, with a dressing made from extra virgin olive oil, excellent balsamic vinegar, (that Tim had got me for my 21st...sigh) roasted garlic, the pan juices from the steak which I'd deglazed with dry sherry...Nigella forgive me for buying a wan, anemic tomato out of season but it's the one and only time I've bought a one that's not in a can since summer. I padded the sliced steak out with fluffy, voluminous fancy salad leaves, tossed it all together and served it with potato wedges that I'd dusted with lemony, red sumac. Hot damn, it was a good meal. Elegant, flavoursome, meaty, more or less healthy...It had been forever since I'd eaten steak and I had forgotten just how ridiculously, beefily juicily delicious it is.

But the cake was undeniably the real star.

Tim initially, without hesitation, chose the Chocolate Guinness Cake, but after I hinted subtly that I'd like to try something new, he opted for the Butterscotch Cream Sponge from Nigella's delicious baking book How To Be A Domestic Goddess. It's a variation on her basic Victoria Sponge, with significant proportions of caramel sauce. For added birthday-ness, I sprinkled the edge of the cake with chopped up crunchie bar (and fear ye not, Tim was armed with extra insulin.) It was incredibly delicious, and despite looking intimidatingly rich, was beyond easy on the palate.

Butterscotch Cream Sponge

Adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess

For the caramel, dissolve 250g caster sugar in 125mls water over a low heat. Never stir, if you must do something then pick up the pot and give it a swirl. Once it has dissolved, turn up the heat for about ten minutes till it turns a deep golden. I think I may have sliiightly over-heated mine but it gave the caramel a pleasing complexity of flavour. (Not a burnt taste). Pour in 250mls cream, slowly, whisking all the while. Don't freak out if it whooshes up and siezes, because you are going to put it back on the low heat and stir till it's smooth. Leave to cool.


250g very soft butter
100g brown sugar
150g caster sugar
250g flour
4 eggs
2 T cream
2 t baking powder

Whizz the whole lot to a creamy pulp in the food processor (or make by hand, which is what I did, armed with my trusty wooden spoon). Bake in two 20cm, lined springform tins for 25mins at 180 C. Cool.

Finally, beat 400g cream cheese till soft, fold in 250 mls of the caramel, and use this to sandwich and ice the two cakes. Drizzle the rest of the caramel over liberally.

Et voila! Dentists across the nation weep with joy.

Above: Make a wish! (it better have been a good one)

A whole gang of us are going to Genghis Khan tonight to further celebrate Tim's day o' birth, it's an all you can eat place where you can consume all the stir-fry noodles your arteries can handle. Like Homer Simpson, I do appreciate a decent AYCE joint. I shall spend this weekend researching The Clash for a presentation for Media, and perhaps waiting for Tim to finish watching Beowulf so I can catch Idina Menzel's song in the credits...and no, that's not the reason I bought the DVD...it's one of Tim's favourite movies. Far too violent for mine eyes!

And finally, a very sincere-to-the-point-of-earnest thank you to those who took the time to read my post on RENT and comment. I know musical theatre isn't everyone's thing, (don't even get me started on ballet) and that this is supposed to be a food blog, so your generosity of spirit was most appreciated! But really, the day I start only talking about food, plain and straightforwardly - because it's not just the end result that matters, it's the getting there too - is the day that I have ceased to have interest in this blog. As you can see by all the self-indulgent chatter today, that isn't going to happen any time soon...

8 September 2008

"They've Closed Everything Real Down..."


If there are any confused readers stumbling about, scratching their heads befuddledly and looking for recipes, this is my own personal catharsis post. Scroll down for normal food rambling...but if you have a heart, keep reading.

By the time you read this, Rent will have played its very final show on Broadway. I am in a strange position to comment on this, as in a way, having never been to New York, I'm mourning the loss of something I've never had, and now never will have. Before you make a hasty exit because I'm wallowing in mawkishness - well, maybe I am - please watch "Seasons of Love", taken from the tenth anniversary in 2006, where the entire original Broadway cast reunited for a one-off performance. This song is the heart of Rent, and it's incidentally the song that people who hate Rent seem to like, so everybody wins... It is also one of the most beautiful things ever written. The sound and visuals aren't the best but the message comes through, and what a message: measure your life in love.


I first came to know Rent through the DVD of the film adaptation. It is particularly special in that six of the eight original Broadway cast reprise their roles for it and it caught my eye because of Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs, who originated roles in another favourite musical of mine, The Wild Party. As soon as I heard those harmonies in "Seasons of Love"...and the driving sound of the drums at the start of the title song...I knew it would change my life. Sounds overwrought, I know. Even while I was watching it my mind was trying to come to grips with whether it was monstrously cheesy or utterly, heartbreakingly brilliant. Funnily enough, the pendulum swung towards the latter. And so I am forever thankful that this film exists. In spite of its debatable flaws - not enough Taye, the most haunting part of "Goodbye Love" cut, no New Year sequence and surely I can't be the only one with an entire screenplay of "Christmas Bells" in my head - it is a gift in particular to people outside America who have had no chance to see it at the Nederlander theatre in New York. And there is no real way of explaining what it's like to see Idina sing "Over The Moon," in all its wide-eyed, ferocious, doofy glory for the first time.


You don't need me to give you a full-on history of Rent. If you've already decided that you hate it then you won't want to know, if you are vaguely intrigued then you'll hit wikipedia and if you're anything like me you know it all already. So rather than tell you about it, I'll let Rent speak for itself. Some of the most intriguing, clever...stick-in-your-brain, why-didn't-I-think-of-that lyrics I've ever heard come from this musical. And, frankly, a few of the clunkiest (although I love that the character of Benny gets to rhyme "seductive" with "counterproductive.") Here is but a bare smattering of phrases, snatches of sentences, reasons why Rent sticks with me like a lump in my throat.


"How can you connect in an age where strangers, landlords, lovers, your own bloodcells betray?"

"Christmas bells are ringing, somewhere else - not here"

"No day but today"

"Will I lose my dignity?"

"Live in my house, I'll be your shelter...be my lover, I'll cover you"

"Follow the man, follow the man, with his pockets full of the jam"

"Once you donate you can go celebrate in Tuckahoe"

"The only way out is up...a leap of faith"

"This is Calcutta - Bohemia is dead."

"To fruits, to no absolutes to Absolut, to choice, to the Village Voice"

"To being an us for once, instead of a them - la vie boheme"

"Hey mister, she's my sister"

"German wine, turpentine, Gurtrude Stein, Antonioni, Bertolucci, Kurosawa - Carmina Burana!"

"And Roger will attempt to write a bittersweet evocative song...that doesn't remind us of Musetta's Waltz."

"Life's too short babe, time is flying, I'm looking for baggage that goes with mine..."

"To people living with living with living with not dying from disease"

"The opposite of war isn't peace...it's creation."

"Take me for what I am"

"Without you, the ground thaws, the rain falls, the grass grows..."

"Marky, sell us your soul! Just kidding!"

"That's poetic...that's pathetic."

"Just came to say, goodbye love...hello disease"

"I don't own emotion, I rent..."

"We'll somehow get to Santa Fe, but you'd miss New York before you could unpack"

"There's only us, there's only this, forget regret, or life is yours to miss, no other road, no other way, no day but today."


Jonathan Larson, the creator and writer of Rent, died of an aortic aneurysm the night before the show's first off-Broadway preview. He would never see it win Tony awards, the Pulitzer prize, Drama Desks...he would never see his original cast flourish in their further careers, never see his show become the 7th longest running Broadway musical, never have a hand in creating the film adaptation. And he would never be able to write such lyrics as those that I reproduced above. Which makes so much of Rent all the more heart-wrenching to absorb. When AIDS-afflicted Roger sings of his desire to write "one song, before I go," when Mimi says "you don't want baggage without lifetime guarantees," it becomes so much more than mere storyline. Of all the lyrics, "no day but today" I think is particularly brilliant - a consise improvement on that old cliche, "live every day like it's your last."

Sharp-eyed readers will know of course that this very blog takes its name from the title song from Rent. "We're hungry and frozen, some life that we've chosen..." Rent is unfinished, raw, imperfect...perfect.


I'm going to wrap up here otherwise I'll ramble on ad infinitum. Okay, I've never actually been to the Nederlander to see Rent. But put yourself in my position: I'm from New Zealand. I'm never ever going to be able to see it. I'll never get to have a photo of myself beside that famous wall. I'll never be able to try for the cheap seat lottery. I guess I just thought it would wait for me forever... And despite not being a part of the generation of Rentheads from the mid-nineties - well how could I have been - my love for this show is so fierce that I just had to write something, and be it self-indulgent or incoherent, its my version of closure.


I felt more empty today than anything else, especially when, sometime this afternoon I realised that the show would be winding up in New York. And then I saw this video of the final curtain call, and...the floodgates opened. I embraced my inner Mary Anne Spier and wept. The look on Tracie's face, Gwen's final high note, Anthony's claps up to Jonathan, Wilson and Jesse standing together, Eden singing her heart out...I kid you not, it really made me cry. If you're not a fan it probably won't mean so much to you, but if you are, tread softly and carry a big hanky.


Thank you, Jonathan Larson.

7 September 2008

"People Pick Up On What I'm Putting Down"


I apologise for being an entirely neglectful blogger, but there's two reasons why this particular post has been late-coming. Firstly after amassing 36 comments for my tiramisu, I refused to believe that my subsequent post could peak at only 12 comments. But there you have it, and now I have to face up to reality and move on. With the dizzying highs come the plummeting lows, and I remember when I used to be excited beyond belief if someone not in my gene pool commented. Ah, Tastespotting and Foodgawker, how you toy with my self-esteem. The other reason why I haven't posted is because I'm 99% sure that my life is happening in double-speed, like when you press fast-forward on a DVD. It's the only explanation for why it's SEPTEMBER THE 9TH already and I still feel like it's mid-June.

I found out a morsel of intensely exciting news recently: Neil Young is headlining the Big Day Out music festival next January! *hyperventilates* I am such a fan of his, oh my goodness, his music is amazing and he's so amazing that he makes me forget my grammar and write unintelligible run-on sentences. I have a small but perfectly formed list of people who, if they ever come to New Zealand, I have to drop everything for, and Neil Young holds pride of place on this list. (In case you're wondering the other members of this exclusive club are Idina Menzel, Jamie Cullum, Morrissey, The White Stripes, Leonard Cohen, and Rufus Wainwright, who we were lucky enough to see earlier this year.) I absolutely have to go, even if it's the most dire, shambolic set he's ever played it won't matter because it will be Neil Young. If you don't have the faintest inkling of who this man is, please get hold of one of his many many albums. I personally recommend Tonight's The Night or Rust Never Sleeps, (which features such choice lyrics as that which I quoted in my title as well as the particular gem, "I'm gonna ride my llama, from Peru to Texarcana.") His most mainstream, crowd-pleasing effort would be Harvest, but I prefer the other two. Of course, it's all genius.

Speaking of people that make me hyperventilate, in this case with laughter, Tim and I went to see Bill Bailey on Thursday. I'd never been to a comedy gig in my life so wasn't sure what to expect - apart from imminent hilarity - but it was an absolutely scorchingly funny night. Bailey has that classically British comedic grip on the English language, like say, Steven Fry or Rowan Atkinson does, the sort of person who knows how to use the word "fettle" or "thicket" to best effect. Laugh? I positively wept.

And we got to meet him after. As I'm not from London or New York or some other theatrical metropolis there isn't much opportunity for a gal to go stage-dooring. The last time I did it was to meet Baryshnikov in 1995. In fact Tim and I weren't quite sure if Bailey would even appear or what the protocol was, but we decided to be adventurous. There was every chance that we could have inadvertantly found ourselves in the "discreet back entrance" (as it were) of the strip joint next to the theatre but luckily the stage door was clearly labelled. We waited for about half an hour, and there were about ten or so other people with the same idea as us. I must say we were the quietest. I figured that if he was going to appear it would be best to remain calm and respectful rather than thrust a ballpoint in his face and demand he take a dozen photos.

And then he appeared! Famous person! Aaagh! He had his very young son with him and I felt a bit bad but he was very jovial, signing and taking photos with everyone. Tim and I got sort of pushed to the back but we managed to get our programme and tickets signed. I told him that I enjoyed his cameo in Hot Fuzz, he said thank-you. Someone took a photo of us but unfortunately the camera didn't save it. Well that's what we thought till we found it on the memory stick three days later...

Not the best photo by anyone's standards but a photo nevertheless, and therefore precious. Look at him! Isn't he delightful looking! And in case you're wondering, I'm not actually that short, I was just lunging to remain in the frame.

On Friday Tim and I went to see The Dark Knight again with some vouchers that we had for the Embassy theatre at the end of Courtney Place. I'd never been before but it's a staggeringly beautiful building. I can see why Peter Jackson chose to have the premiere of LOTR there. The toilet alone is nicer than our flat, and almost as big. TDK was all the better for a repeat viewing. Heath Ledger really was incredible in the role. And all those explosions! I hope it does well at the Oscars.

Before the movie, and with some sense of giddy extravagance, Tim and I decided to go out for dinner. We ended up at Istanbul, a delightful BYO on Cuba Street. I'm almost loathe to tell you about it because it was so good. Reasonably priced, fresh, delicious, enormous meals, astoundingly swift service, and these filo pastry rolls filled with feta cheese that make me weak at the knees just thinking about them.

Speaking of things that make me weak at the knees...okay so this oaty slice - or scrottage as it's known here - may not look like anything special, but it tastes fabulous. I whipped up a batch of these yesterday in about 20 minutes, they are the perfect thing to eat if you are in a hurry as the sugar keeps you going right away and the oats give you energy down the line. And it tastes amazing - chewy, nutty, caramelly, old-school delicious.


Adapted from the Best of Cooking for New Zealanders book.

150g butter
125g sugar
2 T golden syrup
1 t baking soda
175g rolled oats
90g dessicated coconut
120g flour

1 t cinnamon

Melt the butter, stir in the sugar, golden syrup and baking soda. Carefully fold everything else in, spread into a good-sized tin, well greased, and bake for 15 mins at 180 C. Cool, and cut into squares. It may look a little soft and puffy coming out of the oven but this is fine. Consider this recipe a mere blueprint though, as it can really take anything you throw at it. I added bran and kibbled rye to mine, but you could add all manner of goodies - chopped dried fruit, sultanas, chocolate chips, quinoa flakes, linseeds ground or whole, pumpkin seeds, etc. If I am going to be adding more things to it I tend to up the butter slightly just to give it more "glue" to hold together.

Above: In spite of the fact that it makes me sound like someone who would name their child Sebastien and make him learn ancient Latin and French at the age of two, I would smugly like to make it known that I used 7-grain flour in this recipe.

And finally this post cannot go by without acknowledging Fathers' Day. I'm not really into making a huge fuss of these kind of days - to me it feels too much like the people who call Christmas the "Primary Gifting Period" have won - though it's possible I'll be all about the presents once I actually have children. But in the spirit of enforced nationwide cheesiness...to Dad - musical genius, staunch defender of Otaua Village, cat whisperer and maker of the best scrambled eggs:

Above: Wait, what does that piece of paper say, Oscar?

Hope you get to spend at least part of your day looking like this:

Why yes, I am attempting to parlay Oscar's cuteness into his being an internet sensation.

Tomorrow: Rent closes on Broadway after 12 years, and I will attempt to provide some kind of tribute to this flawed but incredibly important show.