Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review

I have to mention this book.

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while you'll know of my dream of owning my own cafe and if you were to read this book, it would summize for you many of the reasons why.
I can't recall when I first heard of Alice Waters, but it was many many years ago, about 20+. When I went to the US and Canada for the second time I was 24 and I travelled around on my own and with friends for just under 12 months. One of my pilgrimages was to Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It's interesting reading the book, knowing now what was going on there at the time, which was in 1994. My girlfriend Christelle and I were both making that trip for different reasons, me because I was yearning to see this restaurant I'd heard so much about, and she because she felt the same way about the University of Berkeley.

We walked around the campus first and tried to get in to listen to a lecture without success, then we headed down to Shatuck Avenue. I remember wanting to eat there so desperately and whilst I would have spent my backpacker dollars on it, Christelle was working an au pair in Boston and her dollars were hard earned.

We did go in and headed upstairs to the cafe. I sucked in the atmosphere and in the end sprung for one of their gorgeous prints by David Goines, which we still have. It saited me a little, but not a lot.

I'm not sure that if you don't have the same interests and passions as I do that this book would necessarily be of interest to you, but for me, it's so wonderful and affirming. It makes my heart and head race with all the excitement of those times, the passion, the food, the flavours. It makes me wonder about choices I could have made differently, wondering how it could have worked out. Of course I wouldn't undo any choices, but I've wondered if I'd followed my heart in terms of interests back then, where I could have been now.

My friend Christelle, who I visited Chez Panisse with the first time, is Parisian and lives in Paris. She keeps connected via this blog and recently mentioned to me that I'd been talking about my own cafe back when we visited Berkeley. I didn't realise my dream was so long standing.

I have eaten there and it was wonderful. On the way back from the UK, when we were expecting Ella, we travelled around the US for 6 weeks and part of it included dinner at Chez Panisse. Although 6 months pregnant, I had the most wonderful time. As it says in the book, it's not that the food there is the most complicated but it speaks of freshness, of love, of respect for produce, of passion and it somehow this really does come through in every aspect of the place.

I still have the menu, it's dated Saturday June 7, 2003 and this is what we ate:

An aperitif

Watercress, celeriac and beef tongue salad

Shrimp risotto

Grilled James Ranch lamb with morels, peas and little potatoes

Almond meringue with raspberry sherbert and kirsch cream

If you share my interests, if you love the things I do, then perhaps this book may inspire you too.


Back to the nice part of routine, Sunday night family dinner.
Geoff's chicken (a la Thomas Keller), steamed spuds from the garden, brocollini (also from the garden) and asparagus with salsa verde and corn fritters (a la Jane Grigson). Dessert lemon curd cupcakes with blueberries.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Leila settling into holiday mode

Funny things holidays, we don't take enough of them. I have often wondered how/why our society has developed in such a way that the greater emphasis is on working than on relaxation. I have always thought that we should work three days and relax for four of every week. This isn't a new thought of mine, it's one I have often, but most often after a holiday.

Ella on a cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef

I don't think I'm alone in that I feel the strain of life on this little family of mine. It's not a simple case of work less, though that is a big part of it. It's the desire for a more balanced life (there's that word again), for everything to be given the importance it deserves, for all the individuals within the family to feel acknowledged, valued and creatively challenged and rewarded.

A good match in our equally silly hats

I never want to lower my expectations, never want to stop wanting more. I know that I can be a frustrating person at times, for those nearest to me, for all my dreaming and thinking constantly of all that could be. I just feel more and more that time is of the essence, a cliche but so so true. For many reasons I guess, parents of friends passing, children ever growing, you can't take things for granted.

Star apple, black sapote, red papaya and mango

For me it's a time when I yet again start to dream my little dream and believe more and more that it's achievable and that I should be making it a reality. Holidays are like that for me, a time when my already active mind goes into overdrive with all the possibilities, albeit in a relaxed way.

Tropical blooms at Rusty's market in Cairns

Soursop, raspberry & wattleseed icecream at the Daintree Icecream Company

A holiday doesn't need to be a flight somewhere and a stay at a resort, however lovely. Often a weekend somewhere low key, a single night away, a change of scenery and just focussing on the being together is enough. It's enough to recharge the battery and inspire the soul, for me at least, for us.

Mangroves at Cape Tribulation

I always say that we must do it more, go away, and we will. I like the time together and I love the time to dream. Even when one dream is eventually fulfilled, I know there will be another dream and challenge to take its place.

Smooching on Coconut Beach

Friday, September 24, 2010


Well we're back, although I'm wondering why? I think it takes a good 10 days to really settle into the rythm of being on holiday and then it's time to leave. In future I've suggested to Geoff that we holiday for a minimum of 3 weeks at a time, preferably 4.

We had a wonderful time and ....... I read two books! There's much to share, I'll come and visit again soon, when the washing's done!

Monday, September 13, 2010


I'm being ambitious, I know that. On our holidays over the past 6+ years I can't recall the last time I read a whole book on holiday. Of course prior to that it was one of the nicest treats, lying around reading, for hours even, imagine!

I'm being ambitious this holiday.

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I saw Ayaan interviewed by Jennifer Byrne on the ABC recently, she was amazing, her story simply mind boggling and her character truly inspiring. I bought her book a week later.

Push by Sapphire. I haven't yet seen the movie Precious, but it's been on my list for a while.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller. I loved the movie and read another of Rebecca's books recently and her voice really appeals to me.

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee. A restaurant, nay institution, that I find truly inspiring and which really moves me. I don't know that Miss Waters is as charming as you would imagine, but we shall see.

We'll be away for a couple of weeks. We'll be sunning ourselves (responsibly of course), lying with our bottoms on the sand and our toes in the water, sipping on cocktails at sunset, eating barbecued prawns, hopefully reading a little, taking in a massage - or two, but most of all, being together.


Still on the bagel bent over here. Breakfast, a fresh batch of cinnamon and sultana bagels. Even the cook says absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Such a joyful and almost completely effortless crop.

Take your old potatoes, the ones at the bottom of the vegie draw, the ones that look like aliens, the ones the kids laugh so much at. Dig a deep hole in the garden (or put it on a bit of soil in the bottom of a big pot or old bin) and cover it over with more soil. Every time the plant sprouts through, throw more soil on top. Continue doing this until the pot's full or you can't heap the soil any higher. Leave and forget about them.

When the plant eventually dies off dig and you will be rewarded with so much joy. I can assure you that children and adults alike squeal with joy when the little spuds reveal themselves. What you see above is from two seed plants, more than enough for a couple of meals. There's nothing like freshly dug up spuds, steamed and topped with lashings of butter and salt. And yes, you need both the butter AND the salt!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Ignoring the fact that our lawn squelches up around your shoe leaving a seriously muddy footprint and that I'm sure it will be at least December before it's dry enough to mow. Ignoring the fact that our ducted heating is dead and we will still be chilly until it's replaced on Monday. Ignoring all of that, spring is afoot and, in Leila's words "the whole world is a blossom factory".


Ella's been home from school for a week today, it's long enough, for all of us. We've managed pretty well but my gosh, two young girls cooped up inside for over a week, it's got our nerves rather on the frayed side. I think she was probably well enough for school today, but selfishly, with our holiday now only 6 days away, I feel most concerned about ensuring good health for all for our departure.

A few shots from our moments of freedom and fresh air. When did our baby grow big enough to ride a bike alone?

Friday, September 03, 2010


I think that the greatest gift you can give your children is your time. Most children crave the company, the companionship of their parents. Of course it's not always easy to relax into that company, into a rythmn that works for everyone, it's all too easy to let yourself be distracted by all the other things you should be doing.

Once of my nieces has ringlet curly hair. She's always hated having it brushed and washed, it's torturous for her and for her mother. When we looked after her years ago my sister in law asked if I could please TRY and wash her hair. This was pre children of our own days, when I was only too happy to make everything a game. So, bathtime became a visit to the beauty parlour. "Good afternoon Miss Tess, it's been a long time since you came in. What are we doing to your hair today?". Something so tedious become a source of great pleasure for us both.

The girls are still unwell, but today at breakfast time we all went to the cafe together. Ella wrote up the specials, I was the short order cook and then we all ate together and ate well.

Boiled eggs are a recent fave for the girls, although only the whites, which means a little bit of fussing for me, but that's fine. The eggs shells, of course, must be turned upside down when finished and a hole made in the bottom so the witches can't float away in them. I thought this was my mum's little story as it was something they said to me as a child and in turn I say to my girls. In fact it isn't a Meade family story, it's an old folk tale, so you can feel free to use it too!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


We rarely visit the Doctor, but have been every day this week. Leila on Monday, me yesterday and Ella today. Both girls have ear infections, Leila just inner, Ella outer and inner.

We've had a lot of dvds and tv in this house, two very quiet girls.

When the girls are sick I'm happy for them to have whatever they fancy to eat, which usually isn't much. So far it's included lemonade icypoles (an absolute must), yellow and green jelly and today, blueberries. So not in season yet, but how can you resist sick babes?