Friday, May 24, 2013

A Spring Walk In The Rain

Forgive me for being absent. There's been a lot of travel this month and more to come. There are graduations and birthdays and moves to organize and so much more.

Today, despite the drizzly weather and strong wind, Buddy and I went for a long walk on the city streets.

This is what we saw.

Aren't the colours in this tulip divine?

Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, for the upcoming Chihuly exhibit

Fading flowers, still beautiful

I know the artist is name Chihuly but I keep wanting to say Chipotle.

The last of the tulips.
Some interesting brickwork on Bishop Street

Another cat paw brick! A double one, in an alley off Bishop

This is the view from the alley. I almost got squashed by a delivery truck backing up. Don't you love this window? Wasted on a narrow alley, methinks. But such is Montreal. All kinds of surprises in hidden corners, tucked away from view.

Love these buildings, the old juxtaposed with the new. This is Montreal.

More carved stone.

I want to live here. There's a teensy deck on the second floor, and a large deck on the roof.

I took this by accident, but I kind of like it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Educating Alice, by Alice Greenup

'A girlfriend should know her place, Alice. First comes the mates, then the ute, then his hat, dogs, horses and last of all the girlfriend. Get that right and you might just stick around. Try to jump the queue and you’re history.’
‘Well then, I’ll just have to be his mate.’
‘Girls can’t be mates, Alice.’
‘We’ll see.’

From this book:

I was lucky enough to win this book after a contest on Bush Babe's blog and it showed up at my doorstep last week, after hoofing it all the way from Down Under to my doorstep in downtown Montreal. (The link answers the questions we posed to Alice, the author.)

I've had a fascination with All Things Australian since I read My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin and then saw the movie with Judy Davis and a very young Sam Neill. (sidenote: If you have a Kindle, you can download My Brilliant Career for free!) Written in 1901 and set in the Australian Outback, My Brilliant Career is about a headstrong young woman named Sybilla, smart, spirited and very rebellious, this is a woman who lives life on her terms.  She flips the bird to a traditional life when she refuses to marry and settle down. There's drought, a father who drinks and lands the family in debt, and ultimately triumph when she chooses a life of her making, that of a writer. And funnily enough, Educating Alice has a lot of these elements too.

I began Educating Alice with the hope that this might be a juicy, real life Australian adventure, and I was not disappointed. In fact, it has an opening that did not allow me to put the book down until I read it straight through to the end.

This is the memoir of Alice Greenup, a self-described city chick from Melbourne who at eighteen years old, tells her mum she's leaving university to "find herself" then hops on the back of a motorbike driven by her brother's mate. On a whim, she lands herself a job as a governess on a Queensland cattle station and falls in love not only with a handsome "jackaroo" but eventually, life in the bush. They end up marrying and buying a homestead of their own, but along the way there are many obstacles to overcome as she learns about cattle, drought and real life in the bush. Greenup offers a brutal and unflinching look at her life, and we learn this is one very determined and tenacious woman. She tackles all challenges head-on, and not just severe drought and financial setbacks, but most especially, an accident which she describes in such vivid detail it gave me chills. That she went on to become a winner in the Meat and Livestock Australia when she couldn't tell a bull from a cow, or that she fought her inner demons (she calls these dark thoughts her whispering "genie") and won Australian Women's Weekly's Most Inspiring Rural Woman is a testament to her courage and fortitude.

Besides enjoying the story of her life, I took particular delight in the discovery of new words and expressions that are unique to Australia. I kept a list of things I looked up, words and expressions that are second nature to Aussies but foreign to a girl from Canada. Here are some that made me smile:

A dingo's breakfast -  a "piss and a good look around."

"Farmers have built-in wanker radar." (So true.)

Jackaroo (and the female equivalent, jillaroo) - one who works on a cattle or sheep farm

Smoko - afternoon tea in the Outback (and by "outback" I don't mean a Subaru)

Larrikin - (loved this one)  a "mischievous or frolicsome youth"

Akubra - type of Australian cowboy hat, handled and worn in a Very Specific Way. Available in Montreal, should I ever wish to acquire one for myself, though now I'm afraid to touch one in case I pick it up incorrectly and embarrass myself. Maybe I'll stick to touques.

Ute - this is the Australian equivalent of the pickup truck.  I think it's short for Utility Vehicle

Bogey - shower (not a nose nugget)

Waddy - strange

Humpy - a small, temporary shelter made of tree branches and bark, used by Aboriginal Australians

Bitumen - asphalt road

Besser bricks - cast concrete blocks

Eskies - Aussie slang for portable coolers, also known as a "chilly bin" in New Zealand

Baked lamingtons - squares of sponge cake, dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut.  Usually seen at school fairs and bake sales. This, in and of itself, is enough to make me want to go.

Brumbies in the sand hills - meat and veg mixed with batter and fried

Doona - it's a duvet!

So there you have it. 

If you'd like to read Alice's book, and you live outside Australia, you have three options.

1. Go to a bookstore in Australia.

2. Visit me in Montreal and read my copy.

3. Order it in eBook form for your Kindle.

There are no physical copies are available in the U.S., Canada or U.K. because the publishers are wankers. Not really. I just wanted to put my new found vocabulary to the test. I don't know if soft or hard cover copies are available in Sweden, Togo or Croatia either, but I rather doubt it. Again, wankers. But you know, this is the beauty of the Kindle. You can be anywhere in the world and download this book and be reading it in minutes!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to whip up a batch of brumbies in the sandhills and lamingtons after I've had a nice, hot bogey.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Good Deeds

I posted this on my FaceBook page, but I wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to see it.

Imagine if all of us acted this way, every day. 

I try. 

Even in the face of rudeness, or maybe especially in the face of rudeness, because those people, they are the ones who need to see and feel what it's like to have kindness thrust at them in unexpected ways.

Never surrender to the dark side. 


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Meat Bundles with Mushroom Sauce AKA Burgers Stuffed with Guilt and Shame

Note: I am not a food photographer. If I were, I would not have left that dollop of gravy on the plate. Nor would my meat bundles look like rhino turds left out in the African sun. However, I wanted you to get the general idea of how they look when they're rolled up. Again, if I were a professional, and if I didn't have a kitchen full of hungry boys clambering for meat, I would have sliced one in half and artfully arranged it on the plate to show the stuffing peeking out from inside. I shall have to live with this.

I first saw this recipe while dining in Chives, a most marvelous Halifax restaurant which, should you ever find yourself hungry in Halifax, is where you should hie yourself. They actually had several cookbooks for sale, all of which I perused over a drink and appies, but the only recipe to catch my eye was this one. I didn't want to buy the entire book, so I borrowed this recipe. I plan on giving it back someday.

Now I know people do this all the time. Recipes are meant for sharing, right? But I've felt guilty about it ever since. (I don't know how people shoplift. The guilt would kill me and I'd never get any enjoyment out of anything I nicked.) That being said, I think maybe the shame gives these little meat bundles that extra bit of flavour you just can't buy in a bottle. It's like you sprinkled them with unicorn tears and faery dust. Unicorns and faeries you kidnapped from the evil wizard who...okay, I think I made my point.

If you would like to buy the book, it's called Fresh & Frugal: Easy and Affordable Recipes for Market-Fresh Local Food, by Craig Flinn. To be fair, I think he said this is his mother's recipe so I guess that means he stole it first. Go ahead and buy the book if you want to support a man who steals from his own mother. (Unless she gave him permission to use it. Which is more and more likely, now that I think on it further. Thanks a LOT, High Anglican church upbringing. Why not burn the soles of my feet next while you're at it?)

If I'm having The Boys over for dinner, they always want meat and lots of it, so I double this. Serve it with a big pot of rice and a side of salad.

They will not eat the salad.

It just looks nice on the plate with all the meat and mushroom gravy. I changed a few things, quantities and the like. I'm not saying my version is better. But it is.

Meat Mixture

2 1/2 pounds (1.1 kg) ground beef, approx.
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


2 medium red potatoes
1 TBSP butter
1 small onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 clove garlic, chopped up in tiny pieces (I just got tired of saying minced)
1 tsp poultry seasoning (or use savory)
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices day old white bread (I used a baguette, which is how I make turkey stuffing)
1 egg yolk

Mushroom Sauce

2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup (don't judge me) undiluted
1/2 cup chicken broth (he calls for beef broth, but I prefer chicken stock)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 TBSP ketchup
2 tsp jarred green peppercorns, rinsed*

*Don't skip these, as they add a real pop to the gravy. You can find them on the shelf with capers and pickles and sauces, oh my.

1. Meat: Mix all the ingredients in the meat mixture. Divide into 12 balls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. (I just leave it in the bowl and divvy it up later.)

2. Stuffing: Peel and cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Coarsely mash and cool. Melt the butter in a skillet and saute the onions, celery, garlic and poultry spice until translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl of cooled potatoes and cool again. Add diced bread and egg yolk. Mix well with your hands. (NOT your feet.) (No matter how tempted you are to try it.)

3.  Sauce: Saute mushrooms and garlic in the butter over med high heat. When soft, add the rest of the sauce ingredients and warm through.

4. Assembly: Preheat oven to 350F. Remove meatballs from the fridge and place on parchment paper (they're quite sticky.) Flatten each ball to 1/4" and divide stuffing equally on the meat patties. Roll into little bundles (hence the name) meeting and sealing the edges well. Place in a non-stick baking dish 1" apart. Pour sauce over them, and bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove cover, baste, and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes or until insides are no longer pink.

I have seen much simpler recipes for these on the internet. They call for boxed stuffing, which I've never used. But I can vouch for this recipe. It's good. Just ask The Boys.