Archive for the ‘Monday miscellany’ Category

We stayed with friends our on the beach on the weekend, and held one of our regular degustation meals, torturing or boring friends on social media with photos of the food and wine. It is our second this year, but it is 2020, so we figured we deserved an extra one this year! We tried to do more of an international theme this time, with British cheese, Thai soup, Sicilian cheesecake, and French, US, and Australian wines complementing the NZ sauvignon blanc and my homemade lockdown limoncello. A few days earlier I appealed to my US friends – what was an American savoury dish I could do as an entrée*/starter course to accompany a Californian chardonnay my friend had. The responses were fascinating – and thanks to those reading this who appealed – because defining what was “American” food didn’t seem to be clear. Of course, it would be the same here or also in Australia, because so much of our cuisine is borrowed from other cultures. Even in the UK, a national dish is Chicken Tikka Masala! So while the various seafood or other suggestions all sounded delicious, they didn’t sound particularly “American” to me. With the exception of grits, fried green tomatoes, or Maryland crab cakes, all of which I hope to try one day. I decided in the end to do a play on pumpkin pie, and made a savoury butternut pumpkin tart – much to the confusion of some who thought I was matching a sweet pumpkin pie with a chardonnay. After settling the cultural misunderstanding, we agreed that that sounded gross! The meal (with all seven courses) was delicious, we had used seasonal produce from their garden (notably, the last of their asparagus, and plentiful fresh raspberries), we had both tried some new recipes (mostly do-ahead, which was good considering that our recipe-reading skills deteriorated as the night went on), and we got to watch the rugby** during the cheese course!

* in the correct (!), “before” meaning of the word entrée.
** NZ won, for the record.

Overnight and the next morning, there was a major downpour, and we awoke to find the stream in the bottom of their garden had broken its banks, and was swamping some of their fruit trees, and even the asparagus bed was at risk. Oh no! Fortunately the rain stopped and the flooding subsided, so we set off home, only to find that we were stuck in traffic due to a road closure for further flooding. On the news last night, our eagle-eyed friends noticed footage including our car navigating a flooded section of the road just after it had been opened. Our five seconds of fame?

I’ve just finished watching the latest series of The Crown. It’s all feeling a bit too current, and the historical inaccuracies – presumably deliberate – are irritating if you remember the actual events. Margaret Thatcher’s son did not go missing at the same time as she went to war with Argentina – these events happened months apart. I remember discussing the war with Argentina with my flatmates at university. New Zealand has a long tradition of following Britain into war – one Prime Minister famously  said “where Britain goes, we go,” – and so my male flatmates were talking about whether they would be keen to sign up or not if it became necessary. NZers are miffed at another misrepresentation. When Diana and Charles visited Australia and New Zealand, they brought William. There was an official photoshoot of them with William at Government House in Auckland, on a lovely green lawn, with an iconic kiwi toy, the Buzzy Bee. In the series, the scene is hideously transplanted to Australia, on what looks like a patch of dust and dirt. It makes no difference to the story, but … it was annoying. There are many other examples too. We’re used to seeing history fictionalised in film and TV, too often to boost the reputation of the country funding the movie or film. A more recent example, Argo, the Oscar-winning movie of 2012, mentions that the British and Kiwis wouldn’t help, which was untrue. Diplomats I met just a few years later actually drove the Americans to the airport when they were making their escape. I understand using artistic license, but if a film-maker is presenting something as a factual account, I wish they weren’t so casual with the truth. Also, I figured out that Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s was about the same age I am now, but Gillian Anderson makes her seem about 75! So I have to say that I’m now not convinced that I will want to watch any future seasons of The Crown. Even if it had been historically accurate, the dialogue (which is really the whole thing) just seems invented, and very manipulative.

I heard an interview with a Kiwi singer who had been living in Los Angeles, and has recently moved back to New Zealand. When asked if she was enjoying being “back to normal” here in NZ, she responded that it had actually been very scary for her. She had spent months seeing other people as a threat, and so the proximity of unmasked NZers at bars and restaurants was quite unnerving, and took her a long time before she could relax. It makes me wonder how we will all adapt in the future. I imagine travelling in Europe or the US or India, for example, and even if or when we have an effective vaccine, I think it will take a long time before I feel safe enough to get on a plane to those destinations. Not too long though, I hope.

On the bright side, 2020 hasn’t been all bad. NZ had a calm and decent national election in October, there is hope in the US for the coming years, my SIL has gone into remission from the cancer she was diagnosed with last year (and was able to tell FIL before he died), and in the US, a second friend who went through a very difficult radiation treatment during lockdown has also been declared to be in remission. That was all good news, and gives me hope for more in 2021. I just hope I haven’t spoken too soon!

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Today feels a bit like freedom, even though I a) feel jetlagged (see below), b) it has been raining and miserable all day, and c) I am freezing. Why? Because school holidays finished on the weekend, and I can reclaim my city.

Better still, Wellington on a Plate, which is a food festival held annually in my city, is on this October. COVID lockdown had meant that it wasn’t able to be held in August as usual, but it is up and running now, with restaurants all over the city and suburbs participating. They changed some of the format this year, so I missed out on the more formal dining options. But we’re now into the Burger event, where restaurants invent a festival burger. Some people try to eat as many burgers in the festival as possible, lunch and dinner for days. But we are just aiming at two or three, hopefully at restaurants we don’t usually visit, and hopefully out with friends at least once or twice.

I got up at 2 am last night to watch the French Open Final, the first tennis I’ve watched since the Australian Open in January. I am feeling extremely jet-lagged today, and badly need an afternoon nap! It was weird watching the game, with a sparse mask-wearing crowd in the stadium, few cheers, little atmosphere. I wonder what it was like for the players?

It was a huge contrast to the sports event I watched in the afternoon. A rugby test match between the All Blacks (NZ) and Australia in my city, where 30,000 people (well, give or take 5,000) turned up to a stadium to watch the first international rugby anywhere in the world since March. A pop sensation had played a concert to adoring teens and tweens earlier in the weekend. And of course, we have Wellington on a Plate underway. Life in Wellington may be wet and windy and cold, but it was a great place to be this weekend.

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