Saturday 20 August 2011

Foods That Shouldn't be Deep Fried #1- Cheesecake

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be able to attend my first ever Royal Easter Show in Sydney. It was a day full of fun and surprises in many ways. I didn't notice the sign as we walked past. Luckily my sister has eagle eyes for such things. I was drawn like a moth to a flame. 

I had to look

And then I knew I had to do it. I had to buy one. I expected it to be awful (let's face it most food at the show is). I was fully prepared to throw away both the deep fried cheesecake and my $8. And for reasons I still don't understand I asked for the chocolate instead of the strawberry.

And it does look like a heart attack on a (plastic) plate. But you know what it wasn't too bad!  I'm no world authority on inappropriately deep fried delicacies, but I'm certainly thinking of adding this as a subspecialty interest. I've only ever had a deep fried Moro bar in New Zealand (which was awful). This deep fried cheesecake was actually much better than I was expecting. Edible even.

I think it was a bit of frozen Sara Lee cheesecake in another life before being dunked in quite a sweet batter for its deep frying adventure.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.

A Misty Morning

Winter isn't great but it does bring lovely, moody misty mornings. Not that I think mornings are that great either come to think of it. 

The creek out the back of our place does look nice on these mornings though.

Playing Beatie Bow

Ruth Park is perhaps a somewhat neglected Australian author (well near Australian at least). And neglected by me at least til now. Sadly Ruth died last year at the grand old age of 93. I'd heard of a fair few of her books over time- The Muddle-Headed Wombat, Harp in the South, Playing Beatie Bow being some of her most famous. But had never read any til now. Her Miles Franklin winner Swords and Crowns and Rings appears to have drifted into the out of print wasteland.

Playing Beatie Bow is the story of Lynette, a 14 year old girl who prefers to be known as Abby since her father left. Abby lives with her mother Kathy in the historic Rocks area of Sydney- a beautiful part of the world, nestled as it is between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, site of some of the earliest European settlement in Australia. Kathy runs a second hand shop in a lane in Paddington.

Abby and Kathy live in a fictional high rise in the Rocks, two younger children live next door. The nasty and horrible Victor and the downtrodden preschooler Natalie. Abby takes Natalie to the local park where the children like playing a game called Beatie Bow. Beatie Bow is a famous ghost who rises from the dead, and chases children. There are similar games the world over I suspect. Natalie notices a funny "little furry girl" at the park. Abby follows her, and things change forever.

I really enjoyed the historical aspects of this book, which is partly set in the Sydney of 1873. I learnt so much about one of my favourite cities in the world. I particularly enjoyed learning about the Ragged School Movement.


And I loved being reminded of the hydrofoils that used to cruise Sydney Harbour! They were always a highlight of childhood visits to Sydney. And I'd completely forgotten about them.

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Ruth Park certainly wasn't afraid of the dark side, and there is one particular part that was quite frightening and almost sordid. It is perhaps all tied up a bit too neatly at the end but I think we can forgive Ruth Park that. Jane Austen always wraps things up in the last few pages too.

Friday 19 August 2011

Mr Popper's Penguins x2

It's not often that I prefer the movie version, and the Jim Carrey movie version at that, to the book. I am usually rather sceptical of any Jim Carrey offering. I was however pleasantly surprised by the recent movie version of Mr Popper's Penguins. I knew nothing of the story, indeed I've only heard of the book in the last few years. It wasn't all that well known in Australia prior to this years movie. I took my son one afternoon during the school holidays, the cinema was rather packed with children who all laughed away at the movie. I got the occasional laugh too. Farting, honking penguins slip sliding around will always be funny.

It turns out that the move version bears scant relation to the book. The characters do generally have the same names. There is indeed a Mr Popper who receives penguins in the mail. The movie Mr Popper lives in New York, where he is separated from Mrs Popper, and has some sort of mercenary real estate job. He lives in a flash apartment and has buckets of money.

The Mr Popper of the book is rather poorer, working hard to support his family as a painter and decorator in Stillwater. He too receives a penguin in the mail, although from a different source than the movie version.

Perhaps because I didn't grow up with this book, it seems a bit dated? I read this book aloud to my 10 year old son for bedtime reading after we had seen the movie. We finished it, but he was never that enthused, and I must say neither was I. As a read aloud book it was rather tricky- too many times Papa and Popper where in the same sentence!

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Wondrous Words Wednesday 17/8/11

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a fabulous weekly meme hosted by Bermuda Onion, where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our weekly reading.  

I've recently finished reading Mr Popper's Penguins. As with any classic you always learn a few things. 

1. Calcimine (noun)

He was spattered here and there with paint and calcimine, and there were bits of wallpaper clinging to his hair and whiskers, for he was rather an untidy man.

A white or tinted liquid containing zinc oxide, water, glue, and coloring matter, used as a wash for walls and ceilings. The free dictionary.

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2. Rotogravure (noun)

Then the Associated Press picked up the story, and a week later the photograph, in rotogravure, could be seen in the Sunday edition of the most important newspapers in all the large cities in the country. 

An intaglio printing process in which letters and pictures are transferred from an etched copper cylinder to a web of paper, plastic, or similar material in a rotary press. The Free Dictionary

Rotogravure is then a printing process, widely used in the early part of the 20th century, when printing photos was difficult and the Sunday newspapers printed all the photographs in one section

3. Pullmans (noun)

It had been decided that Mr Popper should ride in the baggage car with the penguins to keep them from getting nervous, while Mrs Popper and the children should ride in one of the Pullmans. 

The Poppers here are traveling by train and it is clear that the meaning here is a railway carriage, and I presumed it was a manufacturer, but wanted to check it out as it wasn't a term familiar to me. Of course it's all there on wiki, George Pullman started making railway carriages with sleeping berths after spending the night sleeping in his seat going from Buffalo to Westfield, New York. Ha. I sat up from Baltimore to LA in the 80s because I couldn't afford to buy a sleeper. Buffalo to Westfield seems more a commute now.

Saturday 13 August 2011

A Walk by the Lake 2

I love a walk by the lake, it's not something I get to do all that often sadly, I took a nice walk by the lake earlier in the year, recently I got the chance again.

Crested pigeon

A seagull enjoying what I still think of as my Grandad's fishing spot, even though Grandad has been dead for more than 15 years

Pair of Eastern Rosellas

White faced heron

Lichen on rocks always looks so cool

And on trees

Silver Gull
Saturday Snapshot, is a wonderful weekly meme from at home with books.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Wondrous Words Wednesday 10/8/11

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a fabulous weekly meme hosted by Bermuda Onion, where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our weekly reading.  

I've recently read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles. It was a great read, and already provided one Wondrous Words post. Conan Doyle had quite the vocabulary, and it was over 100 years ago, so some words are naturally less commonly used now. I knew that I had come across some of them before, but knew that I needed some reminding of what they meant. 

1. Gainsaid (verb)

"Know then that in the time of the Great Rebellion (the history of which by the learned Lord Clarendon I most earnestly commend to  your attention) this Manor of Baskerville was held by Hugo of that name, nor can it be gainsaid that he was a most wild, profane, and godless man. 

To declare false, deny. To oppose especially by contradiction. The Free Dictionary. 

2. Trenchers (noun)

Then , as it would seem, he  became as one that hath a devil, for, rushing down the stairs into the dining-hall, he sprang upon the great table, flagons and trenchers flying before him, and he cried aloud before all the company that he would that very night render his body and soul to the Powers of Evil if he might but overtake the wench. 

A wooden board or platter on which food is served. The Free Dictionary. 

Interestingly wiki tells us that the original trenchers were bits of stale bread used as a plate to serve food. There is another usage of trencher- a machine that digs trenches, which is much more prosaic and uninteresting. 

3. Crenellated (adjective)

From this central block rose the twin towers, ancient, crenellated, and pierced with many loopholes. 

Having battlements. Indented. Notched. 

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4. Tors (noun)

We found a short valley between rugged tors which led to an open, grassy space flecked over with the white cotton grass. 

A high rock or pile of rocks on top of a hill. A rocky peak or hill. The Free Dictionary. 

Picture credit

Saturday 6 August 2011

Kings of Pastry

A fascinating documentary about 16 pastry chefs competing for the right to become a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF). The MOF is a competition held every four years over a wide range of skills. Thankfully the filmmakers chose to feature pastry chefs and not something like locksmithing. Not that the world doesn't need good locksmiths, but I'd much rather watch a documentary about pastry. Although any challenge undertaken with this much enthusiasm and passion would make for great viewing. 

The film follows 3 of the 16 participants heading to Lyon in 2007 for the gruelling three day competition, where they must produce a veritable mountain of precise and delicious goods, with their every action watched over by the judges. The participants have trained and practiced for this event for years, refining techniques and recipes, designing astonishing works of art that they must then replicate during the intensely timed and controlled competition.

The judges are naturally MOF themselves, and of course get to partake in the pastry judging. At one stage they are told to judge each pastry separately- to think of each one as a moral dilemma! You have to love and admire the French approach to food, life and what actually constitutes a moral dilemma.

The competition is full of drama and spectacle, and emotions run very high amongst both the contenders and the judges, who are all equally passionate about the art, science and beauty of pastry. Those who reach the seemingly impossibly high standards become a MOF and earn the right to wear the tricolour stripes at the neck of their chefs jacket.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.

A tree full of surprises

A few months ago I was visiting my parents on the coast. During the afternoon I became aware of a commotion going on in the neighbour's umbrella tree. So I went out to investigate and found a medium sized flock of Rainbow Lorikeets.

A darter flew overhead. I think it's a darter. I don't know that I've ever seen one fly overhead before.

I spent about 20 minutes enjoying the noise and the colour. Then I noticed someone else lurking quietly in the tree. 

overexposed I know, but I like it

Saturday Snapshot, is a wonderful weekly meme from at home with books.

Monday 1 August 2011

Digested Reads

I stumbled on to this amazing series of podcasts whilst checking out The Hound of the Baskervilles online after I read it recently.

I have now wasted, spent much more time listening to more of these most enjoyable little morsels. No matter what you have read I'm sure John Crace has taken it to one of your favourite reads in a very funny way. Populist fiction. Literary fiction. Recent nonfiction. It's all there.

Mrs Dalloway
I must admit to drifting off whilst listening to this, as I did whilst reading this most awful book.

Maybe if she did a little more and thought a little less, her life might be more rewarding, but it was too late in the book for that.

Stephen Fry in America

Nigella Lawson's Christmas

Nick Hornby's High Fidelity

The Day of the Triffids

There are many, many more highbrow titles, most of which I haven't read of course. Perhaps I could save myself several months and listen to Swann's Way Digested or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Digested instead? I've saved some more til after I've read the book, like Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Fantastic stuff. It's a shame that it appears to have dried up in 2010.