Monday, 28 March 2011

A very Spanish Sunday

“Dani this is so relaxing, I’d only be doing chores if I was at home”
“You’ve captured the essence of South America perfectly, this is just how it would be back home in Peru..”
“an EXCELLENT day had by all yesterday, beautiful food great friends... this was one of the best days out I have had for a long time, thanks very much to all that came :)”  Ben

As people from as far away as Iceland, Austria, Germany and Peru sat around the big table feasting, the conversation and comments flowed, as did the diverse languages. We did all manage a universal ‘salut’ – to your health! The table was laden with empanadas, guacamole, black eyed beans with chorizo, spiced almonds, fish & olive stew, marinated olives in fennel & citrus, paella, manchego cheese with figs and of course, jamón. Jugs of sangría kept appearing in hues of brilliant deep red, orange and lemon slices sparkling inside. And just like the oranges we all sparkled too, girls in frocks and flowing skirts, boys in suits and alpaca vests  and kids in brightly coloured ponchos – dressed up for Sunday Best, getting together and celebrating the wonderful life we have.
We talked physics, viscosity and the fact that ‘dice’ is actually the plural of die [very confusing for our Icelandic princess], and she was sure there were no other words like this? Well how about thrice I ventured? Ah, she said “once twice thrice a lady”. We all erupted into laughter thinking of the song, humming now in my head. 

I learnt today that vinegar, not salt, makes pork crackling ‘crackly’ which I am very happy to know for my next pork belly cook-off! And I learnt that it is sometimes the most unlikely of souls that can come together in a small country town to make you laugh, be happy and truly feel communal joy.
‘There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle’

Friday, 25 March 2011

It occurred to me today that Sunday Best, although slightly indulgent, is about family. And I don't just mean bloodlines. Many of us live remotely from our parents, siblings and extended family.  It is hard at times to only talk to my mum on the phone when I really need to share a cup of tea, or my brother who works in the mines in the middle of the continent. I think about my brother's well set up 'bar' and would dearly love to have him mix me a gin & tonic and talk 'til the early hours...
Sunday Best provides me with family - dearly loved friends who share passions, sorrows and joys. Yes, it is a luxury that we can eat some of the best food in the region, and it is a luxury to grow much of this produce ourselves. Given the calamities that surround our lives - tsunamis & earthquakes, countries erupting into civil war and the rest of the daily horrors we see splashed across our night-time TV screens - I get immense enjoyment from spending time simply, with friends preparing good food. There is no greater joy than seeing people’s faces light up when they bite into one of my creations, especially the kids because they don’t lie when it comes to food...
So, here's thanks to 'family' and the love that binds us all.
my son's painting

Monday, 21 March 2011

Well the sun came out and calls were made, texting to and fro for a good 2 hours as mixing bowls edged their way out of cupboards, chocolate was melted on the stove, fruit picked from the trees and picnic baskets packed. Dresses were laid out on the bed, tried on, many discarded and one finally chosen. A picnic was in the making in my home town.
My man and I dipped strawberries in chocolate and made pear crumble from the tree so heavily laden in the driveway the pears kiss the ground and gently fall off when ready for us to eat. We poached them slowly in sugar syrup, cinnamon, star anise and cloves - to be later covered in crunchy crumble topping. We put together a cheese plate piled with Danish blue, a King Island brie rolle, Havarti, creamy goats milk feta, brandy & sage pâté, spicy salami and slices of nectarines (from a friend’s tree still fruiting). The smoky buffalo cheddar didn’t quite make the plate as we ate it while cooking....
Everyone arrived at the river with baskets of goodies, (literally a laundry basket – we haven’t quite got the ensemble perfect) pretty tablecloths and bottles of bubbly, in their Sunday finery. So many frocks and girly hats, even my chap looked dapper in his hat (tried to get him in a frock but alas not this time). We chatted, kissed cheeks, clinked glasses and ate slowly, enjoying our feasting and knowing how fortunate we are. The kids ran around in their Sunday finery, scampering up the canons, running through the bush tracks and generally being kids (happy to say that not a DS was in sight!).
As we sat by the water’s edge, the kids cast a line in and we enjoyed the afternoon sun’s rays... but even the fish were too full it seemed, not a single bite. The kids queued up for pear crumble with vanilla ice cream and cream (got to have both I think!), devoured it and lined up for more.

The talk turned to future Sundays. Ideas ran rampant, lists were made, food recipes discussed and finally we all just had to retire for Sunday rest. A sunny Sunday Best spent with best friends and the stunning backdrop of this little coastal town we all call home.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A Folky Sunday...

We're not quite sure when this week's Sunday best began... was it with pancakes for the masses, followed by the extremely decadent (and yes I think gluttonous) 'Volcano' strawberry fiesta of cream, ice cream, yoghurt, berry coulis and sweet sweet strawberries? Or did the 'Best' begin when we frocked up and went to church?
Yes, this heathen girl and her cohorts went to church. I love churches, they are peaceful and serene; and whilst I'm not sure about the whole God thing, churches certainly fill my spirit with love and a true sense of being. Alas, we did not go to pray but to listen to 4 beautiful voices known as 'Akasa', an a'capella group from Melbourne []. 
As they sang "walk with me, hold my hand I don't want to walk alone..." I got the warm fuzzy tingles and knew I was at one of the best sermons I'd been to. The sun shone through the stunning stained glass windows and, as the cockatoos screeched their maddening cry overhead, I smiled to myself at the majesty of it all.
With folded hands my dear friends and I went into different realms - all experiencing the same event but responding in our own way. As we left the church I felt quite pious I must say, an extremely uncommon emotion for me. Luckily it was short lived and as we walked back through the wrought iron gates and into my backyard (the church is right behind my house with no fence between us) the talk turned to food and beverages...
Corks popped and we felt we truly deserved a glass of bubbly and a plate of buffalo mozzarella topped with tomato, fresh basil and drizzled with Limestone coast olive oil and  pink Murray River salt flakes.
Utterly divine in the late afternoon sun...celestial even. Then it was back for more 'Volcano' strawberries...

celestial delights

This week's Sunday Best was courtesy of my home town's annual Folk Festival.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Thought I should do a mid-week post, in consideration of this Sunday's range of goodies to be... seriously thinking about a chocolate crème caramel for one! Although it just wouldn't taste as good  not shared, and I would feel gluttonous. One of the 7 deadly sins and worth contemplation...
I think a sojourn to the mountains is in order, in search of delectable delights, maybe a cold ale, maybe a devonshire tea, maybe a pie at the bakery.... Any which way it goes, it will be shared with good friends and in good spirit. Maybe I could pack a picnic of desserts only? The divine poached pears in cinnamon I made last night with Lindt chocolate oozing over the top...or maybe just the block of Lindt?
I shall ponder this, along with the idea of gluttony; see what my Sunday couterparts think about it...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

A Sunday Picnic

Well, Sunday Best started off a bit Sunday worst, as hangovers creeped along neural pathways unrelenting in their urgency to debilitate their host....however, the sun came out in rural Victoria and the North Easterly wind blew its warm breath on those who needed it most.
Starting off watching friends sing their tunes at the local drinking establishment, we sipped champagne with strawberries, Mexican beers and tangy Sauvignon Blanc wine. The sun shone through the stained glass windows, the talk got merrier and the inevitable happened....what shall we eat for dinner?
After much deliberation we decided on take away Indian - the best we could muster given various levels of hangovers and star signs (at least one Libran makes decisions tricky).
We headed to one of our favourite little beaches known as 'Pea Soup', where we spread out our picnic rug, laid various curries and accoutrements onto plastic plates and cracked open a few bottles of vodka and ginger. Early evening/late afternoon walkers with dogs, young guys fishing on the rocks, little tackers paddling in the water all quietly passed us by as we dived in to our delicious looking food. The sun turned a glorious tangerine and the world turned into silhouettes and shadows, people stopped to chat momentarily. Those few who were out and about truly felt the glory of the setting sun, the luxuriousness of the day and the anticipation of a good night's sleep.
So, Sunday Best evolved into a sunset picnic on the beach with good friends and good feeling, and of course, good food. Good night.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Sunday Best is about dressing fine, feasting on delectable delights and sharing this all with friends, family, new acquaintances and those who need it most....
No rules apply, just food, finery, friends and laughter, or tears if that what comes along.

The sharing of food and conversation seems to be getting lost along a highway of take away, quick snacks, breakfast-on-the-run and 30 minute dinners. A group of us decided, as we sat down to 'High Tea' on a country farm in rural Victoria, that we want to share food in an atmosphere of celebration and ritual.
Sundays - traditionally the day of rest, for church, for putting on your best, for sharing in whatever way fulfils your spirit, your culture, your religion.
We made cucumber sandwiches, vol au vents, mini pavlovas with chocolate and cream, vanilla panacotta made from fresh Buffalo yoghurt (we sat at the window watching the very buffalo who gave their milk); the kids had their own treats on the picnic rug in the lounge and I'm sure the cat and 2 dogs had the best leftovers they'd had in a long while...
We dressed up, put our frocks on, combed our hair (even managed to run the comb through the 9 year old boys hair) and felt good. So nice to be out of work clothes - a gardener out of her green tinged shorts and sun hat, a horse trainer out of her jodhpurs and blundstone boots, a cheese maker freed from the white hair net... We could change roles, we could be fancy in our finery, we could discuss the possibilities our lives and our world around opportunes us, we could dream lofty dreams and make them our realities.
The days of fighting battles with kids, partners, workers were laid to rest for a few hours, while we ate and laughed. So, we decided to create 'Sunday Best' and live our dreams for a few hours on a Sunday, the day reserved for rest, for enjoyment, for laughter and for food....