housekeeping

Kia ora readers. For those of you who don’t keep candlelit vigil on my Twitter account, you may not have absorbed the news that Tim and I are moving house. In the grand scheme of things, a little ho-hum maybe, seeing how people do this all the time. Especially young people living in flatting situations. But considering that we’ve been at our current digs since November 2006, it’s pretty significant.

There’s no one real reason we are moving out, but there have been various frustrations that we will be glad to leave behind – including the olive oil on the kitchen shelf regularly solidifying in the cold, the sight of breath in front of our faces as we talk to each other inside the house, the bathroom where long-legged spiders rule with eight iron fists each on slowly crumbling walls, or perhaps the undulating and loose-bricked stairs leading down to our flat from the road which bely the idea that a landlord should have their tenants’ wellbeing in mind.

When we first moved in in 2006 it was tantamount to being in a mansion compared to our first flat – there was carpet as opposed to billiard table covering, the toilet wasn’t in the same room as the shower, our rent was halved, and there was a hot water cupboard! Oh, and the landlord wasn’t going to try and run us down with a steamroller (we had some ‘issues’ with our first one) And we were students, living with a group of friends, life could not have been sweeter, really. The theme song from Cheers could almost be heard whenever you walked in the door. Now that Tim and I are the last ones left of that initial group and while we could easily carry on living here for a good long time – it’s not that bad – we decided that this was to be our final year here.

And then one of my colleagues who is moving overseas lives there and sent round an email asking if anyone knew anyone who knew anyone who wanted to move into her fantastic place in town. Not to be overly dramatic, but I knew this was it. Luckily my instincts, while hysterical, were accurate: the other guy living there seemed to like Tim and I. We got the room.

One of the many exciting things about this new place we’re moving to next month – perhaps the single most exciting thing (apart from the fact that it has a sauna, I know) is that it gets sunshine. Real, genuine, sunshine. Imagine you’ve spent your whole life using synthetic, cheap vanilla essence and then suddenly you inhale the scent of a real vanilla bean (possibly smearing its shiny black seeds on your face to enhance the effect). That’s what it will be like. Amazing.

Which will mean exciting things for my food photography potential. Much as I’d personally take content over photography, the wider body of blog-readers seem to demand exquisite, magazine-ready photography as well as scintillating, original prose. Not that I’m claiming I can (or do) provide either, just…I’m going to be in a better position to take nice pictures, which can only be a good thing for us all.

Just realised I used that vanilla analogy in my last post. So much for original prose. And come to think of it, I could have just said “imagine you’ve been living in a cold dark house and then you move to a nice warm sunny house.” Hmm. Anyway, I predict lots of reminiscing from Tim and I between now and when we move, possibly resembling one of those cheesy clip shows that surface occasionally on things like Friends, and Home Improvement, and Saved By The Bell, which was really one giant clip show in a way. Or, knowing Tim and I, it might be more like THIS.

What I’m listening to: They Might Be Giants and Michael John LaChiusa.

Next time: Chocolate Guinness Cake!

the show must go on

Take a deep breath. If you were at the Wellington Food Show over the weekend, you’d be needing the deep breaths anyway, because no doubt all the pesto and organic ice cream and free range bacon has rendered the passage of air from the heart to the lungs and back again a little slow and laboured. And if you weren’t there, you’ll need the extra oxygen because this is going to be one heck of a post: it’s my annual Food Show Review (well, I did one last year, and in these uncertain, Gen-Y-ruled, recession-at-your-heels times, doing something more than once is quite enough grounds to call it a tradition.)
Perhaps a little ill-advisedly, Tim and I turned up at to the Westpac Stadium – known affectionately/derisively as “the cake tin” due to its severely grey round shape – at about 10.30am and stayed there until 6pm. You could say we got our money’s worth out of the place. You could say we are lunatics. You could say many things. We wouldn’t have answered, because our mouth would have been too full of food samples.
Here’s a few of my favourite things (and my apologies to any of the following businesses, I’m no Ellen Degeneres so don’t expect a wild upturn in sales of your product as a result of my grainy photography and almost-witty comments…on the other hand I think my blog is awesome and frankly you could do worse than to be recommended by me.)
In order of how the photos were stored on my hard drive…
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I’ll be honest. I don’t have an ice cream maker, but I make ice cream all the time. I’m sure there is some kind of pact amongst ice-cream-maker-makers, to convince you that you can’t possibly create something worth eating if you haven’t churned it in an expensive piece of machinery. Bollocks, I say. They just tell you that so you buy their products. And further to this, I think the ice cream I make at home tastes better than any shop-bought ice cream I’ve ever tasted, even better than the well known, celebrated gourmet brands in New Zealand as well as the more commercial juggernaut types.
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Except… Kohu Road ice cream is the very best, non home-made ice cream I’ve ever tasted. And so it should be, at $17 a litre (luckily the samples were free and plentiful!) and I know it’s crass to mention the price when they are a small company, who use local produce and are commited to the environment but…that’s very expensive. But – how do I put this – you can taste every dollar. You can taste the golden syrup, the bergamot, the subtle differences between their milk chocolate and dark chocolate flavours. Buy this, savour it slowly, perhaps with one other lucky person, don’t for goodness sake eat it while watching TV, and you’ll realise that there is some merit in having a little of something astoundingly delicious rather than 2 litres of something cheap, full of colouring and preservatives and unnatural fats and not much else.
As well as this, the people at the Kohu Road stall were lovely, including the highly pleasant Greg Hall who was more than happy to allow me to photograph the ice cream, and the rest of the people working there who never so much as glared at me even though I returned multiple times to sample all the delectable flavours…
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Many a nip of this utterly delightful New Zealand made lemon liqueur was had on our travels round the stadium. The friendly people at the Lemon-Z stall were more than happy to refill our tiny glasses and also added a splash of cranberry which made a delicious drink of complex tanginess. But my favourite was just the limoncello on its own – this particular brand is smooth, not in the slightest bit acrid, and delightfully, utterly lemony. And also triumphant – you can see on their website how many awards this has won internationally. I long to pour it over vanilla ice cream…
I don’t like beer. Can’t stand it. I haven’t yet found the best way to explain what it is I don’t like about it – the harsh taste, the strident bubbliness, the weird after-bitterness, I don’t know.
I kind of loved this stuff though. I don’t think I could drink huge amounts of it, but that is no indication of its quality – as I said, I’m just not a beer person. If you are a beer person, however, please look them up. Not only is it made without additives or preservatives, it’s made with certified organic Artesian water and comes in such alluring flavours as Manuka honey and Feijoa, as well as classic Artesian. And the people at the Mata Beer stand were fantastically friendly. It made me wish I could drink more beer, which is honestly not a thought I often entertain…(that’s a compliment by the way)
Look at all those jams lined up, twinkling like jewels…Barker’s as a brand has long been associated with fruity things in New Zealand, but of particular interest to Tim and I at the food show were their range of no-added-sugar jams. According to the website this means they can’t legally be termed jam, to which I say: oooh, subversive! With 99% fruit content, a card-carrying diabetic like Tim can hardly go wrong. As well as being worthy these jams are also delicious, but with all that fruit in there taking up the space that sugar and artificial flavours take up in other jams, how could they not be?
I only tried this briefly, but was entranced. Normally I like to make my own marinadey-rub-saucy stuff but I realise not everyone is as militant as I. At Raymond’s stall was a range of flat mushrooms, each swimming appealingly in its own individual marinade for the tasting. I tried the Persian one and it was gorgeous – enticingly warm and spicy, which contrasted beautifully with the juicy, meaty mushrooms.
Avocado oil is special, and this Grove Avocado Oil is some of the finest avocado oil that I’ve had the pleasure of dipping a piece of bread into. It’s actually delicious stuff – rich but not cloying, mellow and flavoursome and, you can hardly tell from my hastily taken photo, the most gorgeous, luminous verdant green colour.

7. The Wright Sprouts (so organic that they don’t even have a website!)

I guess it goes without saying that I’d be into sprouts. Since I’m also a known lover of the rolled oat and the lentil. But whatever, I say, these are really, really good. And I don’t mean just “good for, you know, sprouts”, I mean good. Crunchy, wholesome, light, crisp, juicy, leafy tasting sprouts are what the Wright Sprout people do and they do it well. And they gave me an extra bag for free (now I have five bags of sprouts!) so in my mind they can do no wrong.
As I said earlier, I’m one of those cooking freaks who likes to make their own stuff, but if you are like the 99% of people who don’t have the time or the inclination to make lime curd, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the stuff that St Andrews Limes makes. The lime curd itself is wonderfully tangy and full-flavoured with a particularly beautiful texture, that so many other commercial brands get wrong. Also in their impressive lineup of products is a saffron infused lime curd – intense in flavour and deeply golden in colour – and Lime Burst, which they describe as an “eggless aioli”. It is sour and salty and seriously addictive (you’re allowed to sample the products at the food festival but I wanted to run off with the jar and drink this stuff.) All products are gluten free and made without additives or preservatives – bravo! And their website features all manner of enticing recipes.
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I ate about a kilo of each type of sausage that they had on display. I don’t think they’re organic or sustainable or anything like that but their sausages are ridiculously good and sometimes that outweighs everything. Don’t hate me.
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Also there’s something about the word “smallgoods” that makes me giggle. We were there for seven hours, okay?
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I left this till last because frankly, words fail me when it comes to even attempting to describe the deliciousness of the Canaan cheeses and yoghurts. The yoghurt surpassed any I’ve ever tried – including in Europe – thick, soft and voluptuous in texture and creamy yet tangy in flavour. I ended up buying four pots of the stuff. Don’t even get me started on their halloumi. For those of you who don’t know, halloumi is a special type of cheese that holds its shape when pan-fried. And as with the yoghurt, the Canaan brand is quite the nicest I’ve ever had, quickly fried on the spot in front of me and handed on a toothpick by the charming people at the stall. All the cheeses are Kosher, made with vegetarian rennet and without preservatives. I have nothing but praise for this company and frankly there’s little I’d rather do right now than lock myself into a room with nothing but a vat of their strawberry yoghurt and a spoon for company. Buy some, and soon!
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Honourable mention must go to the Petone House of Knives, whose lovely representatives managed to charm me into buying a potato ricer when I wasn’t even entirely sure that I needed one; the fantastic Freedom Farms bacon being given out by the good people at the SPCA; Tim was happy as a clam with his 5 containers of Kono Mussels for $10 (including Manuka Smoked ones); and the good people at Lindt who were handing out the faint-makingly wonderful white chocolate Lindor balls with gay abandon; the fragrant LemonFresh Pantry Essentials stall who handed out beautiful little cakes and whose stall I could have stood by inhaling all day; and the SeJuice Feijoa juice which was just…perfect.
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We also managed to take in a presentation by charismatic NZ fabulosity Peta Mathias, who enrobed shrimps in yoghurty marinade and potatoes in ghee while telling us tales of the cuisine of Rajasthan. She finished by singing La Vie En Rose by Edith Piaf to one of the event organisers, which was bewildering but also touching…I was disappointed that my favourite Cuisine magazine writer, Ray McVinnie, was only presenting on the Friday and Saturday, but perhaps next year…I was also disappointed that we didn’t win the Electrolux fridge. I just was.
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So there you have it. This is by no means a comprehensive review – (it’s ad hoc, as I say when I’m at the office) – and there were many other fantastic companies presenting food. It wasn’t perfect – it felt as though there were slightly less exhibitors this year, although I’m not one of nature’s gaugers so I could be wrong. In spite of heaters blasting at intervals (usually near wide open doors) the venue was pretty freezing. And again, the lack of Ray McVinnie on Sunday was a little dampening. But on the whole it was one heck of a day, opening my eyes to a range of new, exciting products and of course, enabling me to partake in one of my favourite hobbies, sampling free food.
On Shuffle while I’m writing this:
For once, no Broadway, but instead a mix of Okkervil River tunes as we’re going to see them tomorrow night and I want to get in the zone.
That said, I have also listened to Birdhouse In Your Soul, by the beautiful Kristin Chenoweth and Ellen Greene, from the soundtrack to the equally beautiful Pushing Daisies soundtrack, oh, 18 times this evening…
Next time: I make my own butter. Lovingly.

It’s Gonna Be A Happy New Year…

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I’ve been joyfully camping in the great outdoors for the past few days and will return soon, this being just a brief respite for those modern wonders – high pressure showers, the sound of a flushing loo, the internets. The camping I do is nothing too taxing though – I’ve never drunk so many gin and tonics nor eaten so much blue cheese in my life and yesterday I read one and a half books in the space of a sunny afternoon. The only footwear I brought with me are jandals and ugg boots, so there’s no fear I might have to go hiking anywhere. Yes, that sort of camping. My whanau have been going to this particular beach yearly since I was but a wee baby and in coldest, rainiest July (remember, New Zealand’s seasons are opposite to the Northern Hemisphere) I think of camping with longing. I’m certainly not going to reveal where it is that we go however, it’s already far too crowded. (Anyone who has seen the Outrageous Fortune Christmas special episode will understand – “This is our spot!”)


Christmas itself was a jolly affair, with several dishes from Nigella Christmas making their debut successfully. It is this time that I really love though, when it’s neither this-year-nor-last-year and all I have to do is lie about in the shade – being pale as I am – and re-read beloved novels. I have also been reading lots of newspapers and magazines as they appear and have noticed that they all seem to have a round up of the years events. I was planning on doing my own recap of the year, and I typed it all out, but got to November (I know, so close) and suddenly got bored and did an abrupt volte-face on my idea. However who could forget this moment:

Just before the faint-makingly good Rufus Wainwright concert in February, Tim and I met Siobhan Marshall and Antonia Prebble, who play Pascelle and Lorette West respectively on Outrageous Fortune, the best New Zealand TV show there is (and I mean that in a straight up way, not a damning-with-faint-praise way).

Another exciting moment- in April, my first ever photo accepted to Tastespotting.com, that wonderfully inspiring website that can be something of a necessary evil to food bloggers. I wish I could say that my blog would have been as successful without it but frankly I don’t think it would have. Either way, this shot of a spoonful home made creme fraiche made it on there which was a huge boost to my confidence as a blogger.

And of course, Oscar the kitty and his death-defying faceplanting skills was there to boost morale at regular intervals.

There are a million other things I could have included here (these are just the photos I have handy) but the point is, it has been a long, varied and at times arduous year. As all years are in their own way, I suppose. I’ll be back in Wellington and cooking up a storm soon enough, and this place will once again resemble a fully-functioning food blog. I tend not to go in for wild revelry at this time of year, in fact sometimes I wish I could skip New Years altogether because that whole, desperate, “we must have FUN” thing can be all too stressful, and I prefer to have fun on my own terms rather than at the dictation of the calendar. All that Scrooge-ness aside, I sincerely hope all my readers have a fantastic time wherever you end up, and that 2009 heralds a vaguely more optimistic time for us all. Anyone have any New Years resolutions they plan on actually sticking to? At this stage nothing has really occurred to me personally, but I’d be interested to hear any – especially the more obscure. Has anyone here resolved to put on weight? To speak in an affected French accent for at least a month? To dye their hair a different colour each week? To take up carpentry? Do tell, and do have a safe start to the coming year.

PS – title quoted from RENT…what else?

Seasons of Love

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Because it seems to be the done thing in blog-land these days: Merry Christmas y’all. Or happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa…or even just happy nonstop-cheesy-movies-on-TV-season. Whatever you may or may not be celebrating right now I hope everyone has a grand old time and I’ll see you again soon.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

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I’m flying down to Christchurch on business early tomorrow morning, and won’t be back till Monday afternoon. I was hoping to get a post out about the roast pork I made earlier this week (I even had a punny title ready, but I’ll not reveal all my cards at once) However, Tim and I went to see the ballet Don Quixote tonight and so real life is getting in the way of blogging, as it should. I actually took ballet lessons for about thirteen or so years – long after the point where my childbearing knees and womanly shoulders and inability to reeeally pirouette made it painfully clear that I would never have a career in it. But even when it was causing my self-esteem to plummet it was still the thing that made me happiest, and I was highly excited to be immersing myself in ballet again. Don Quixote was one of the few big ballets I’ve never seen before… and it was utterly fantastic. It has been a while since I’ve seen a Royal New Zealand Ballet production, I used to go all the time in the nineties, so there was only one name I really recognised in the company – Sir Jon Trimmer. If you’re not from New Zealand you may not know who he is, but he’s not just a ballet legend, he’s just…a legend. He has been dancing with the RNZB forever and got awarded an MBE before most of you were even born. It was such a treat to see him again, playing the titular Don with great aplomb. I didn’t know the story of the ballet and for some reason was expecting it to be really dark, but it couldn’t have been a perkier time. Stunning sets, constant hilarity, the classic happy ending with multiple fouettes…I highly recommend it.

So, how ridiculously exciting was the American election? I realise that I’m probably the squillionth blogger to comment on it now, but let it be said once more: “WOOHOO!” I couldn’t be happier that Obama won. But so confusing was their system of feeding through information (ie, “this just in: Obama takes the state!…..we predict”) that I thought actually McCain had it. During Obama’s speech I was literally standing on the couch, I couldn’t remain seated. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to actually be American at that moment. It was enthralling…amazing…wonderful. Disappointing though, was that Prop 8 passed…who are these people that vote for it – that think it’s right to suppress and take rights from people for no good reason? Baffles me beyond belief.

Today I voted for New Zealand’s upcoming election. It was my first time voting – last time I was in England and had a meltdown trying to do it over the interweb – and I must admit I got a unique thrill being there in the booth. I already knew which party I wasn’t voting for – unfortunately I suspect they’ll end up being the party in power – but I read up diligently on everyone’s policies prior to making my final decision. It was exciting to think that my voice is worth something, and that whatever happens, I’ve done my part. And I felt soooo deliciously grown up.

Above: Pistachios – the loveliest nut in The Pantry…Yesterday I recieved the sad news that one of the founding members of a tight-knit online cooking forum I am part of had died. She went by the name of Pistachio and will be dearly missed by many. I never met her – she lived in Spain – and didn’t actually “know” her as well as some but I know that her presence online – and now lack thereof – will not be forgotten soon.

Power To The People

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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.

"They’ve Closed Everything Real Down…"

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Thank you, Jonathan Larson.

The Dark Of The Matinee

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Overheard:

Tim: That was amazing.
Me: Oh my gosh yes. I haven’t been this moved by a film since Rent.
Tim: *exasperated silence*
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Well, since everyone else in the world is talking about it I might as well too…Just a quick post to say that we (myself, Tim, Emma, Paul, Scotty and Matt) went to see The Dark Knight when it opened here in New Zealand on Tuesday night…okay it was actually 5.30 in the afternoon but it was pitch black and howling with sleety wind so none of the excitement was lost. Anyway; WOW. I hate scary movies and go out of my way to avoid them, but this wasn’t so much scary as intense and brilliant. The hype is pretty well justified, I’d say. Heath Ledger was just electrifying as The Joker but it was eerie seeing him, so recently dead, 20ft tall across the screen. And Christian Bale is quite amazing as Batman/Bruce Wayne – darkly charismatic. Maggie Gyllenhaal I could take or leave, but Micheal Caine was as fun as ever. A very, very good movie.

In other housekeeping, I’ve just discovered that I have about 470 assignments and presentations due over the next three weeks so posting might be a little light. Or, you know, daily. I am also having…erm…camera issues…and clumsiness issues…and warranty issues (you join the dots) which is very depressing and might take a while to sort out, thus impinging on my already dubious ability to take blog-worthy photos.

You can find my articles (2 so far, another one on the way) for Tearaway magazine here, if you feel like wincing at my overeager attempts to sound down-with-the-kids, or indeed trying the recipes, which are quite good I think.

And I’m done. Cakes below. Not sure whether I’ll pop back in here or not at this stage, but have a good weekend!

Pink Goes Good With Green

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Kay – the one who is not my mother – hit the nail on the head. The title of my last post was a pun on a quote from the musical Wicked. The long explanation can be seen on youtube in this video of Kristin Chenoweth as Galinda singing ‘Popular’ to Idina Menzel’s Elphaba. The short explanation – Galinda puts a pink flower in the green girl, Elphaba’s hair, and says “pink goes good with green” – I think it’s supposed to be symbolic of their friendship too (‘scuse my geekiness…) Not a real post today, because I’ve squandered all my time on wine, women and song; oops I mean I’ve been doing uni work and frantically writing my column for Tearaway magazine. And now I have to take off to town even though it’s bitterly cold outside because there is a football game on with The Phoenix, remember them? The team who played David Beckham last December? Anyway, I don’t even have time to make sure this post is actually coherent! I’ll edit this properly when I get home, promise! Au revoir!
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Update: We won! 1-nil vs the Mariners who are some team from Australia. They’re in “The League” though, and whatever this mysterious league is, apparently it’s quite prestigious and the Phoenix are the only NZ team on it. I have to say, football is more fun when it’s summer and…you’ve had a couple of red wines. Nevertheless it was a good time, even for a dyed-in-the-wool sports hater like myself.

While I have something resembling your undivided attention, may I direct it Helen Mirren-wards? I saw this post on Go Fug Yourself, a sassy blog dedicated to pointing out the lamentable flaws in celebrities wardrobes, they do however graciously concede when something is worn well. And oh my, how she wears a bikini well. In all seriousness, her cleavage is mesmerising.

Finally in this update…Tim and I have been watching The Johnny Cash Show DVD, it has amazing footage – a ridiculously young Bob Dylan harmonising with Cash on The Girl From The North Country…Tammy Wynette, with mind-bogglingly vertical hair singing Stand By Your Man…and a personal favourite of mine – Neil Young strumming a guitar and singing Needle And The Damage Done. It is a silencingly good performance. We seem to acquire DVDs in our sleep, our collection grows all the time, but I’m glad we got this one.

Next time – I went slightly mad this week and made chocolate cakes, unfortunately the pictures are of dubious quality but that’s what happens when the cakes barely sit still long enough to be photographed…

"So Ya Thought Ya Might Like To Go To The Show"

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So; Tim and I went to the Wellington Food Show on Sunday afternoon. By the end companies are practically throwing food at you at drastically slashed prices or even – oh bliss – free. Initial thoughts: Oy with the pesto already! How many over-oily purveyors of this paste does New Zealand need? (and I say that as someone who could drink the stuff.) It was good to see a solid gluten-free presence, and kudos to the wine and beer people being generous pourers! Being the diligent blogger that I am, I brought along my camera and homespun, slightly low-rent business cards (it’s business time!) And I received a lot of quizzical looks.
I thought there might be other local food bloggers there (am I the only one?) Most people either didn’t know what I was talking about, thought I was doing a school project, or that I was some kind of produce research Lindsay Naegle-type person. I am but a meek harbinger of opinion and slowly-improving photographs, all in the name of love for food and cooking. If any of the people who I handed my business cards to are reading this; I simultaneously apologise if, and guarantee that, your product isn’t photographed perfectly. Live a little.
Above: Barkers Apple and Pomegranite Juice. Free samples taste so much better when you ignore the voice in your head that says “$20 entrance fee!? Did they think we wouldn’t notice the price hike?”

Above: Tim and I found this European Import stand which – wunderbar! – handed out samples of the Haribo bears that we had become so enamoured of in England.

Above: We sampled the Orchard Delight jam liberally; it is made the old-fangled way with no dodgy added ingredients and tastes wonderfully, genuinely fruity.

Above: See? Other people agreed. Just look at all that jam schmeered everywhere. The good people of Orchard Delights gave me their business card; they don’t have a website but send enquiries to rimufoods@gmail.com or, you know, you could buy some in the supermarket.
Above: While we are in the realm of preserves, the man at the St Andrews Limes stand (I presume the rackish omission of apostrophe is on purpose?) was very patient as I knocked over his sample bowls while trying to take a photo. I do like to make my own curd but if you are one of those “gee, who has the time these days?” kind of people you could definitely do worse than to purchase a jar from these guys. The lime curd, which I tried, was pleasantly zingy but with that marvelously buttery-creamy aftertaste that only real curd affords. You can find them online at http://www.limes.co.nz/.
Above: The man at Rutherford and Meyer tried to convince me that there were quality high-res photos of their products online that I could use. And well he might. This photo is awful. I was in a hurry and didn’t have my tripod and the lighting wasn’t good so I couldn’t capture the jewel-like shimmer of the various fruit pastes; nor obtain clarity of colour. Oops. They were delicious, anyway, and could be used in many different ways – although plonking one on your cheeseboard would be perfect… See much nicer pictures and recipes at the Rutherford and Meyer site.
Above: The people at Wallace Harmony foods were very enthusiastic – I hope they weren’t under the illusion that I wield actual clout or something – and gave me lots of pamplets as well as marvelously delicious samples of sausages, bacon and ribs. I’ve said many a time that Tim and I don’t eat a lot of pork. When we do, we try our best to find “happy pig” products, which are few and far between. And this is usually what we go for – genuine free range pork. I can’t recommend them enough – put down that greying, pre-cooked sausage and listen – people like these are the way of the future. I may sound a little high and mighty but if I can be a mere student and support free range meat I’m sure you can. Trust me, bacon tastes extra-crispy with a side serving of righteousness. They don’t have a website but email harmony@wallace.co.nz to find out if they are stocked near to you.
Above: The fantastic people at Orcona Chillis ‘n Peppers gave me 6 plump, glossy red chillis for $2 when I only asked for three, and practically fell over themselves to rearrange the baskets of beautiful chillis so I could better photograph them. Unfortunately this was my best shot. They have an extensive range of products including an intriguingly knobbly variety of chilli and plenty of sauces/relishes of varying heat intensity. Visit their site at http://www.chilli.co.nz/ if you fancy yourself the “pope of chilli town.” (As Chief Wiggum once said…)
Above: I bought a tub of organic brown rice miso paste from these people, and got a free bottle of shitake sesame salad dressing…and I’m beggared if I can remember what they are called. I must have neglected to nab a business card off them. The label on the bottle says natural organic foods, but have you tried googling that lately? Carnage. I sincerely apologise as the guy was really nice, and soy products have a special place in my heart. Speaking of soy, mad props to the folks at So Good who were verrrrry generous with their giveways of soymilk packs. I think they were just surprised that I was so enthused about the stuff…
Above: Okay, so “sprouts” aren’t exactly the most come-hither of foods, but these were crunchy and delicious and organic and you should know, going by my stance on lentils, how into sprouts I would be. I was given a free pack by the lady at The Wright Sprouts stand, and I couldn’t seem to get a good photo of their logo so by all means visit their website if this sort of thing floats your boat. They know what they are talking about.

Above: And now for something completely different – Hamilton-based Donovan Brothers Chocolate. I purchased three dark chocolate blocks (80%) for $10 which was rather thrilling as it means I have a solid supply to bake with. One thing I will say though is that their blocks are an awkward 210 grams each. Now, when most recipes call for round figures – 100g, 250g, 200g – what made them decide to make it this size? Anyway, I’ll forgive the dubious looks I got from the guys at the stall for taking my photos, because the chocolate is very, very good.
Above: Doesn’t this look incredible, like a jewel-studded pile of gold? (Just me?) The Original Smoke and Spice Co. were hugely friendly and good grief their gourmet salt was fabulous. Smoky, complex, flavoursome, I could imagine it being very useful in the kitchen. Check out their website at http://www.smokeandspice.co.nz/.
Above: I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of this stall at all, but it was displaying a whole swag of compelling kitchen gadgetry. The guy who seemed to be in charge was in fact the only person who actually understood what I meant by food blogging, in fact he has his own blog (about sailing)…which makes me feel worse that I didn’t commit the company name to memory.
Above: Lots of shiny, shiny gadgetry. I had to hold myself back. Last year I was overtired (Tim and I had been up since 5am doing essays) and bought lots of ridiculous things, including a (surprisingly useful) mini tartelette tray and a large bottle of Creme de Peche.
Above: Finally, we paused to “ooh” and “ah” over the display cakes. Beautiful…
Above: Our haul. Amongst the exciting bargains – three bags of bagels for $5, 2 packs of real stock (I got fish and beef) for $5 (normally $10 each!) a LOT of free soymilk…and Tim got a whole ton of beer. Everyone wins! As long as the price doesn’t go up again, I can’t wait till next year’s show. Thanks to all the tireless workers (emphatically not the ones who packed up at 5.15 though!) and to everyone for being so obliging as I took photos of everything.
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As I said in the last post, it was going to be a very busy weekend. I caught up with the Lees, (extended family of mine from home) and we had a fabulous meal at the Black Harp pub on Featherston St. I would normally give some kind of review but I need to rest my weary head; if you are ever in Wellington you should absolutely go there for lunch. It’s much better than its not terribly promising exterior looks. Kieran (ex-flatmate) was also down for the weekend and I’m pretty sure we got very drunk at some stage. I also studied, read 2/3rds of Samson Agonistes, and…haven’t managed to get started on my next photography assignment. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a dim one…