Saturday, April 26, 2008

New York stories

I just ‘SMSd’ a couple of New York food and drink tips to a friend who heads off on a world-wind trip on Tuesday. Phew, it made me envious I have to say. That city had an impact on me and I find my mind jetting back there in the most unlikely moments. I can be washing the dishes and, all of a sudden, be back at the jewellery counter at Lord & Taylor.

I think my dirty Martini at the Blue Bar at the Algonquin will remain one of my best grown up girl memories ever. I went there alone, after a solo visit to the New York Public Library (the smell of that place … all books!), and watched the staff and the people around me and felt like I was inside the pages of the myriad books and magazines I’d read about the big apple over the decades. I was particularly chuffed to explain to a fellow drinker the significance of the Algonquin as a writers’ haunt in the 1920s while, I admit it, I looked down my nose at him for having the cash to stay there but not the wit to know why it was so revered. God I can be a wanker.

Anyway, to check my tips for the fellow traveller this morning I had to go back to my 'Cavallini Papers & Co' New York New York notebook that I’d kept my notes in from October. A gal pal gave me the book and it sits on the window behind my desk in my office as a reminder of what’s possible if you save some dough and book a ticket. You’ll know the Cavallini look if you see it; vintage style travel images, botanical images, great papers. Divine! But then, I am a stationery junkie.

Anyhoo, just to keep the buzz alive, the recommendations were Del Posto restaurant and Buddakan and, of course, The Blue Bar. Buddakan was so hip that even the toilets were black. You could barely see yourself in the smoky mirrors in the bathroom. To me it said, ‘If you have to check your appearance in this mirror then you really shouldn’t be here’. I will jot down my Austin tips in this same book and take it with me when I go to the USA again this October. What a gorgeous little ritual to get happening.

The pics above show - left to right - Blue Bar, Budda, Del Post

No thinking please

It’s been a long weekend by which I mean it’s been a three day affair because of Anzac Day as opposed to a long weekend that drags on because it's taken up with garden weeding and domestic squabbles. My big priority this weekend has been to not think; not such a challenge for me some smartie pants might say but I know what I mean. Hence the Dear Diary element to this post. I can’t be shagged tackling any real ‘writerly’ issues even though a lot of topics have been bubbling in the past week.

One observation I will make is about a cook book I dived into yesterday and from which I made probably two of the most successful dishes in my cooking career. One was called Ginger Chicken and the other a Never Fail Cake. They are both from Mrs Harvey's Sister-in-Law and Other Tasty Dishes. I am going to steal from Amazon to tell you that this book is by Mrs Margaret Dunn, a historian, diplomat's wife and hostess, who “has travelled the world with her handmade recipe journal, and it is brought to life in this beautifully presented recipe book”. That in no way goes to explain what has enthralled me about this book. It was written originally for Dunn’s daughters and granddaughters and is a throw back to a time before white minimalist table settings, the chef as a fashion icon and slavish attempts to recreate a Donna Hay world of kids who never spill anything on their designer clothes and parties that are ‘thrown together’ on a marina where we all wear Collette Dinnigan and eat sardines on sourdough.

Dunn tells stories about who passed on the recipes to her and how she liked to use them in her own home. She throws in a few lines about letting the ingredients of a potato salad "get to know each other" for a while before you serve it and she features no photos. You often have to adjust things to taste and – God forbid – use your own instincts. As an infamous instinctual cook (meaning I look at the photos normally and then just wing it) this book has been a bolt from the blue. And, maybe I’m at the sensitive point in the month, but its genuine tidbits about friendship and family love have had me a bit weepy at times. It has reminded me of a collection of recipes Mrs T has from her late mother … so very very special.

Creative input abounds

While not thinking about things (yeah, right) I have been exposed, as always, to the astounding creativity of so many people in the past few days. First and foremost, of course, were the Foo Fighters at Rod Laver Arena on Friday night. Could Dave Grohl be any hotter? (Sorry, I was channelling my 15-year-old self then.) That band and their young following give a girl hope. And the drummer, Taylor Hawkins, is a one-man powerhouse. When I die I want to come back as a drummer.

I also watched Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium while cooking yesterday. In the tradition of the The Tao of Pooh, I will just list these lines:

“We must face tomorrow, whatever it may bring, with determination, joy and bravery,” says Magorium.

“Your life is an occasion; rise to it.”

I am going to HAVE to find out more about the young director of this film, Zach Helm. In the meantime, I must now “rise to” writing a small article on the history of the photograph and doing the dishes before Mr U gets back from Sydney.

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