September 20, 2014
Apparently my last post rang some alarm bells because a dear friend of mine emailed, from her holiday, to ask if I was okay. (Apparently people read my posts…in their leisure time….’cause they want to…YES!)
Dear friend, I am okay. Put simply – I am coming out the other side of some things. Minor things like seasons and moods, less minor things like completed manuscripts, big emotional stuff, babies growing into toddlers growing into kids etcetera etcetera etcetera. I think we’re all coming out the side of things, aren’t we? This thing or the other thing? Out of one tunnel into another? Hardly through at all but the end can be seen or imagined?
I know you know what I mean, even if I’m being weird and taking the tunnel metaphor way too far…ahem…
September 19, 2014
Another Friday, another reason to celebrate with photos, comments, haiku, or just good old tea and cake (if you’ve got some, please share!). See if you can think of a unifying theme between the two photos and win acclaim and brownie points, as outlined here. We would love to receive your theme requests for coming weeks and always enjoy hearing from you, just because, too. Have a great weekend!
September 14, 2014
It’s been, what, a whole (northern hemi) summer since I was last here (not including that other post I snuck in)? I’ve missed this place. I’ve missed you. You’re looking good.
There’s something so nice about catching up with an old friend, don’t you think? In the past few years, I’ve got reconnected with several people I’d lost touch with, and there’s always that rush of hearing the narratives of their lives, the stories and details that bring you up to date and create a new understanding of who they are. Because we all change, don’t we?
So my news. Well, the reason I took a leave from Fork & Fiction was because of this.
Yes, the stork brought us a baby boy. He was born in June and has been getting more handsome ever since. Am I biased? Yes. Is it still true? Also yes.
Everyone tells you to brace for the shift from one kid to two, and that it feels more like four. I got myself all concerned about how bad it would be and how I’d be able to handle it, and the reality has been that it’s hard sometimes, really hard other times and really great quite often. Little e loves her brother, and he (alias: The Tiger) seems to enjoy her too.
But besides that, it’s been a great summer. I succeeded in procrastinating from writing by cooking/baking many times these past few months, despite the doubling of our brood. We went on mini holidays like a small herd of migrating caribou, dragging my parents around with us (bless them). I started research on a writing project, continued to chip away at another and dived into the archives of my old old writing just for fun (and amazement). More on than in a future post. I thought about poetry. Thought about genius and sadness. Sometimes felt alone and sometimes felt alive.
Our garden produced and also failed to produce (the former: eggplants, raspberries, cucumbers, squash, lettuce, peas, beans and two whole blueberries. The latter: tomatoes. Always, never decent tomatoes). The &$*#@% starlings discovered our fig tree and its abundant crop, making me want to buy a pellet gun. Little e spent hot afternoons in her paddling pool, teaching her rag-tag collection of garden ornaments how to swim. The Tiger learned how to smile. Life was good.
But here are a jumble of photos to say maybe a little more eloquently (and prettily) what we did this summer.
It was a hot and sticky summer. A fruitful summer. A summer of sleepless nights and early mornings. A summer of figs and sprinklers and dry golden grass. I guess in a way, I want this post to also be a catch-up for the future me. The me who forgets the details, as one does, and just labels it “the summer The Tiger was born”. It was that, but so much more than that too. Being a parent and a writer is hugely challenging and I fight every day for balance. Having a record of how things have gone, well, it might just give me perspective, the reminder I need one day. It was hard, but it was more wonderful than hard.
What are your summer highlights?
Thanks for being here. Here’s to a new season of great things.
September 12, 2014
Well, last Friday’s Sweet Little Something was so much fun, we’ve decided to try out some more themed photos! This week, we’re posting pics that are unified by a common word or idea (suggested to us by one of the great peeps on our facebook page). See if you can guess the theme–and post your guess in comments! Those brave enough to leave a haiku about the theme or photo will get extra brownie points (figurative ones, but you never know…maybe in the future brownies will show up on YOUR doorstep from us!).
September 7, 2014
Drum roll please…introducing the head chef for Cirque Du Soleil’s touring show Kooza and the love of my life, Shane Schipper! In my last instalment for Fork and Fiction I thought I would delve into the underworld of cooking and share with you some insight from the other side of the pass with ‘Confessions of a chef’. Thanks to everyone who contributed questions, we fired them at our chef in the spotlight and here are your answers!
If you could only have one cuisine on your proverbial desert island, which one would you have and why?
Beer can chicken, because I’d get to drink half the can of beer before I cook the chook.
What’s the weirdest request you have had a customer ask that you make?
Recently I served a brunch buffet and had a customer ask “What have you got that hasn’t got meat in it?” I pointed out the scrambled and fried eggs, sautéed mushrooms, baked beans, hash browns, croissants, muffins, pancakes, mixed berries, yoghurt, sliced fruits, cereals, cheese board and all the while saying “This isn’t meat, that isn’t meat”… She asked for her money back.
Who are your cooking idols?
What is your secret shameful food-love?
The dirty bird…KFC. When I was a kid it was a treat that we could only get from the nearest city half an hour away. Half an hour trapped in a car with a bucket of KFC that you couldn’t eat till you got home was torture! So now to eat it when I want is liberating.
Thoughts on the tall white hat?
I like it. I like the uniform and what it represents. Don’t get me started on Masterchef contestants wearing black chef’s pants! Took me 12 years to earn mine. (To all those who aren’t in the know, chef’s are meant to wear check pants until they reach Exec Sous level or above…hence his frustration.)
Best chef moments?
Oddly enough, working a 17-hour day at Claridge’s in London. I would walk home, in the blinding cold, with a stupid grin on my face knowing I had just survived another day working in one of the best hotels in the world.
Worst chef moments?
Having to fess up to one of the angriest sous chefs at The Lanesborough that I’d just overcooked 30 fillet mignons for the VIP banquet about to be served. I thought I’d get the jump on them by par cooking them first, only to completely forget about them while preparing the entrée. I then had to call the nearest hotel and ask if they had eye fillet we could borrow, run down the road, grab it, run up the road and re-cook it. While he was tearing me to shreds I knew I had done the right thing and he appreciated my honesty, but that moment was gut-wrenching… it would have been much worse if I tried to get away with serving them overcooked.
This is a tough question, like trying to answer what’s my favourite song or favourite band. I love variety when eating which I why I like to order every entrée on a menu. (Much to my wife’s distress.) A long lost friend that I haven’t seen since I’ve been in Australia is pan seared foie gras, which I am loving in Europe at the moment.
Pet peeve in the kitchen?
Dipping fingers in sauces. Grab a spoon!
Best source of recipes?
These days the most convenient sources are online. Taste.com.au is great because it’s rated by people who have used the recipe.
My meringues consistently come up flat, what could I be doing wrong?!
Over beating them will make them flat. Avoid being a master-beater. Or better yet get to the supermarket and buy a soufflé pump. (That’s a chef joke, please don’t go and ask anyone for a soufflé pump!)
Biggest misconceptions about being a chef?
That it’s glamourous. There is nothing glamourous about having heat rashes in places you didn’t know existed.
What dish do you recommend to cook, that is fast, healthy and looks as a professional cook doing?
Another common misconception is that I know anything about healthy food! Ask me about something that contains cream, butter and cheese and I’m your man. But for a quick meal I do love stir fried greens with lots of garlic, a piece of salmon, some crumbled feta with pine nuts and if you’re feeling adventurous, make a lime aioli with balsamic.
Ultimate dinner party to prepare a meal for?
I love simple food and I love to be surrounded by friends. Beer can chicken, slow roasted lamb shoulder and potato bake, with mates, just before the footy kicks off, is my ideal day.
Person who most influenced your career?
I like to think it was a team of people who influenced my career. Every kitchen you work in there is a team of people who are constantly pushing you to do better. I think my grounding in food happened during my apprenticeship, surrounded by hard working chefs who made me want to be the best. Cooking is a lot about competition and performing under pressure, those who succeed are the ones who stay cool when the docket rail is full, its 40 degrees and the angriest man in the world is calling you a bunch of pregnant women!
Best foodie book?
Favourite go-to recipe book?
I’ve always loved Gary Rhodes cookbooks. Great recipes and beautiful appetizing photos.
What’s the most difficult dinner preparation have you done and for how many.
I remember my first day at Claridge’s and we were cooking for 100 guests for the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday. The entrée was a crab salad and the guests were being seated at midday. The crab was delivered at 11:30am which meant we had half an hour to cook, cool, crack, clean and sift the crab meat three times to ensure there wasn’t a trace of shell when served. Then turn it into an immaculate meal, fit for a Queen!
If you have any further questions for Chef Schipper feel free to ask in the comments below or drop us a note on our Graze the Earth facebook page. You can also follow our travels on our blog Graze the Earth.
Now I must say “Adieu!” It’s been a wonderful experience writing for Fork and Fiction – massive thanks to Hannah and Ria for inviting me to contribute, it’s been a blast! Until next time…