365 breakfasts

I quite like the 365 concept – the thing where you take a self-portrait every day for a year and post it somewhere public, I think Flickr is the standard, as it started as a Flickr pool – but I don’t self-portrait much these days, and after a couple of years of intense turning-the-camera-on-myself, I’ve pulled away from that behaviour, for what I’m sure is a confluence of reasonings.  Food is by far the most photogenic part of my life, anyway.  Besides Tallulah.

I’ve been following simply breakfast here and there for quite some time now.  Her work is simple, beautiful, and full of ideas.  When I am feeling so unsatisfied and uninspired by breakfast that I just stop eating it, I go there.  She’s made it her business to do breakfast for reals.  And she’s dedicated as all getout to this project.

I received a photo of my dad’s labour day (US) breakfast via email the other day, and returned the favour over the last couple of days, showing him what I’ve been eating.  I like that exchange, and I also just really like knowing what people have for breakfast.  That’s not information you necessarily have much access to.  It’s a meal mostly taken in private (generally speaking, it seems to me that breakfast is taken out a lot less than other meals), and it’s one you only share in very certain circumstances.  As soon as you buy a meal, someone else knows what you’re going to eat – it becomes a public experience of a sort.

As you have probably logically deduced by now, I am going to busy myself with the task of 365ing my breakfasts (and of course I’m not the first to do so).  I am never shy of some sort of photographic device, so even if I’m eating toast whilst making a BLT @ the Peach, I’ve got no excuse not to document.  I’m following the rules (where they apply), and I am unlikely to start over if I miss a day – it’s ambitious enough for me to commit to any sort of daily project. The link will be in the sidebar, should you like to follow.

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feasters of habit

I have been thinking about habitual meals.  Characteristic foods that you can expect to share with persons or places.  They are reminiscient and they are rhythmic, these meals – marks of your history together and reassuring constants in your relationship.  We build little custom culinary habits with each person with whom we share meals regularly, habits that address the way our food is prepared and by whom, the way we serve it, the way we talk about it.  There are certain things that are best experienced with a particular person, and I often save them for the right situation, or construct one and ask them to step into it.  Or things you only eat in a certain person’s kitchen.

I can’t even think about how to begin to share my long long list of reminisciences and recipes.  As soon as I open my mind’s catalogue, the routes to those memories split and sidetrack and they scatter about.  I could make that a feature here, write about it once a fortnight, once a week, and then maybe hope to wrangle some of those experiences.  But there are a couple of them which brought this whole topic to mind – ones I have pictures to illustrate – so I’ll start there.

full lesbian breakfast (imperial), with tomato relish

Lesbian breakfast.  A loosely-structured morning meal based around pieces.  Geographically and seasonally variable, made by and / or eaten in the presence of lesbians (and their allies).  I trace this back to some Los Angelina femme friends, who are some of the classiest, most interesting (if occasionally over-the-top, but as I said, Los Angelina) eaters I know.  A few of us shared some turning-point food-politicizations, and so my adult food life began in their presence.

Lesbian breakfast is built around, but does not always include, these items:

fried fake meat
a fried egg
fresh tomatoes on toast with flaked salt and coarse pepper
fresh greens
Earth Balance and / or Veganaise (both unavailable in the southern hemisphere)
hash
plunger coffee with milk, orange juice, or black tea

One of the pleasures of lesbian breakfast is the agency it offers.  The fluidity of components and ingredients.  Its subjectivity to whimsy, and to leftovers from last night’s dinner, from which the hash was made.  During my time with the founding madres of this dish, it was often consumed 1) stoned, and / or 2) alongside planning of the day’s activities.  I don’t really know what lesbian breakfast is doing over there now, but I have come to adapt it for my more antipodean tastes and ingredient options.  The image above makes use of baked beans (Eden Organic, with sorghum and mustard, from the tin mentioned below) and derives from both English and Lesbian traditional breakfasts – perhaps even equally.  Which, for me, invoked the thought experient of ‘full lez’ versus ‘half lez’.  Also, I should admit that I ended up swapping the artisinal tomato relish from that really nervous lady at the farmers’ market for sweet and vinegary tomato sauce.

Since I left the company of los angelinas, I tend to consume lesbian breakfast alone.  A few housemates know it by name and note its presence when they see it, and perhaps I just haven’t been as much of an ambassador for the dish as I could be.  But then I suppose you’d also have to wake up within a certain meterage of my kitschen to partake…and that’s all I have to say about that.

flavours of the farm

Flavours of the Farm.  This, too, is a meal concept, but the ingredients are a little more constant and the variability is pretty much seasonal.  I’ve been eating this on my farm visits for as long as I can remember them being habitual, though I’m not sure when the dish was formally named.  It’s a simple Thai-style soup, its flavours fuelled by the abundant availability of lime leaves and lemongrass, and the eager consumtion of coconut products by inhabitants of the region (today I saw my first tub of coconut yoghurt in the grocery store).

There’s a basic list of ingredients, and you pretty much just put ’em in a pot and cook ’em.  Vee makes a spice paste of the alliums and aromatics and fries it off first, then the liquids and simmer simmer simmer.  This is a slow meal – you want the herbs to infuse, so you let that sit for as long as you can bear it.

stock
coconut milk
lime leaves
lemongrass
lemon juice & zest
garlic
onion
ginger
seasonal veggies, mostly green and orange in colour
tofu, sometimes chicken
rice noodles (at the very end)

This meal is fresh, it’s warming, it makes use of the things that grow on the property, and it can feed a lot of folks for a little bit of money, which feels safe and accessible.  And it’s got mileage as leftovers, which is important in a place where ‘snacks’ are not constantly stocked and the fridge is not really for extended stays.  If you want it to be light, it can be light, and if it’s the middle of winter and you wanna get really full so that your body produces a bunch of heat doing the work of digesting it all, you can do that.  It’s a regular feature of farmfoodlife.  You do that, and then you do something really extravagant like a roast for 8, just to keep things balanced.

Now of course this matter of giving some thought to one’s feasting habits, rituals, and inter-courses is obviously has bredth and depth, and maybe some of those ways-of-eating need some re-figuring from time to time.  The point, for me, is to draw attention to the ways in which food is brought into – or a foundation for – a relationship, and to really know who I’m eating with and how we’re doing it.  Perhaps that will bring a little more presence into those interactions.  I’d love to hear some of your own habits of feasting with your folks.

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pulses

Maybe if I keep a brisk pace between putting things in my face and putting them in interspace, I will be a self-encouraging eating-sharing machine.   Perhaps blogging could be part of my digestive process.  According to Auyervedic foodspeak, you’re supposed to lie down on one side (I forget which one) for 20 minutes at some point after eating.  It does something (which I also forget) to assist digestion, which is very important in that lifestyle.  Instead of that, I could just sit semi-upright and talk to you.  So, somewhere between eating and shitting, lies blogging.  I think that’s romantic.  Do you feel romanced?

I’m taking small steps in trying to rehabilitate my foodself.  Today I told the girl at the wholefoods shop that I eat takeaway every night, which is mostly true.  She was about as shocked as the time I told her that I make porn.  She told me that she cooks dinner for herself every night.  I wanted to hit her, but she’s so pretty, and I don’t hit pretty girls who haven’t requested that I do so.  I let her know that I was on the mend, though, and presented my tin of organic baked beans for her to scan.  She seemed reassured.

Today I made something along these lines.  I overcooked the lentils.  I subbed white vinegar for red.  I brushed the dust off of my favourite cast-iron skillet to find that it has lost a lot of its seasoning to mis- and underuse over the last season or so.  It still cooked nicely, but I do feel sorry that I neglected it.

Small steps, small steps.

Soaking black beans for tomorrow.

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eat something.

I have been in an non-cooking state.  And sometimes, non-eating.  Oh, there have been circumstances.

I often can’t think of reasons to cook.  Scary, hey? I’m trying to climb my way out of that hole, and of course Nigel has some beautiful reprints of his books out, and a new one that is an absolute work of art and love.  I bought Appetite for a friend’s birthday, but I haven’t given it to her yet, so I’ve been gingerly exploring its pages and trying not to get crumbs in them.  He’s all:

What I want to say is that if you do decide to go through life without cooking you are missing something very, very special.  You are losing out on one of the greatest pleasures you can have with your clothes on.

I love when he does food:sex.

So I am feeling out for some tiny tiny reminders to eat, at least, and to cook, at last.  Others I’ve found:

  • almond butter and blueberry jam, in combination.
  • japanese white rice
  • supper swap
vanilla poached pear porridge

breakfast 26.04.10: vanilla poached pear on rice porridge

And I’m getting kinda hungry.

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28 november 09

On November 28th 2009 I cooked a BBQ for three friends.  The warmth in the kitschen was so pleasing.  This is one of the rare exceptions over the last couple of months that I have cooked dinner at home (yes, I’ll stop crapping on about that soon), but had there not been other mouths I probably wouldn’t have.  I have always struggled with the concept of cooking for one.

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next best things

Before this weekend just gone, it had been a very long time since I had cooked for myself.  I believe that at least four solid weeks went by without me ever having made myself dinner.  If I think about it too much, it’s upsetting and frightening.  But I have also had the privilege of maintaining a general state of wellfed, thanks to some other fantastic cooks in my locale.  And so I’d like to thank the following folks who have been cooking for me when I haven’t been cooking for myself.  It is because of you that I never have to resort to frozen meals, kebabs, or other bullshit excuses for food.

Pollen Industries, Fitzroy.

At least twice a week I walk to Pollen with an empty plate in my hand and return to my desk with a whole bunch of really fresh excellence.  Today I took takeaway containers because bike transport was to be involved, but I can assure you that it looks even better on a plate.  What they do is simple, fresh, wholesome, and energising.  Lunch on Brunswick St is limited, especially if you don’t do conventional wheat.  Yes, there is lots available, but about 90% of it is shit.  If you eat a meatball wrap from Alimentari, your day actually gets harder because you feel heavier.  If you eat a patty and some salad from Pollen, your day actually gets easier because you’ve eaten things with energy in them, things that are alive and thereby life-giving.  The flour is freshly-milled, which is what started me own my own little trip of milling some of the flour for Nice Biscuits, because living flour is so much better than the dead stuff in the sack.  The coleslaw is so fresh and perfectly seasoned with black pepper, and everything just has a bit of kick to it that I really appreciate.  I’ve been going on two months having the same lunch a few times a week and I am so not bored.  There’s also the added bonus of going to a place that is solidly invested in building community in conjunction wth building business, so I feel like I’m going to visit my friends, who are going to give me delicious food and loan me a cookbook.  They are also kind enough to sort me out with grain mill needs, and sometimes they let me sell my biscuits there.  But mostly they just make really delicious things.  And while I don’t usually go there at a time of day when I want coffee, the artistry with which their shots are poured sometimes makes me have one anyway because they just look so nice.  I promptly regret that because it is more heavily caffeinated than your average shot, but while I’m having it, it’s very nice.  If you’ve been skeptical about their coffee in the past, perhaps try a macchiato – I think that particular roast might be better served on its own that with a cup full of milk.

Singh’s Indian Takeaway, North Fitzroy.

I’ve toned it down over the last week or so, but at the peak of my relationship with Singh’s, I was there maybe four or five nights a week.  I have never had better Indian food, anywhere.  Please note that I have not been to India.  When I was on the anti-fire diet, the only takeaway I could eat, anywhere, was mild dahl makhani, and when I ordered it the boy who answers the phone came to know my name and voice.  He’s got glossy, flowing locks and sometimes asks me if I’m married.  After dahl makhani, my most-ordered items are lamb biriyani and hyderabadi chicken.  And they have coconut and coriander chutney, which I have yet to figure out how to produce in my own kitschen, even though I know what’s in it.

Verde Provedores, Daylesford & Melbourne Community Farmers’ Markets

The dips lady (her name is Kylie, but I don’t think I’ve ever called her that) makes fresh dips each week and distributes them to a whole bunch of places, including some of the Organic Wholefoods shops (I think Smith St carries them) and the MCFM markets.  The inventiveness of the flavours really struck me from the time I started attending the markets a few years ago – I think cucumber, yoghurt and borage flower is the one that really displays her capacity for combinations.  You can eat them straight up with bread or crackers or use them as a side dish or sauce or sandwich spread.  They allow me to still feel foodie-ish even when I am contributing absolutely nothing to food as an institution.  Kylie has also been really supportive of Nice Biscuits and offered to help me set up wholesaling in Daylesford, and is always giving me well-grounded pep talks cos she once did what I’m attempting to do.  Also, she selects her own produce and I really trust her food ethics, which makes eating her products feel really nice.

Moroccan Soup Bar, North Fitzroy

This is a northern suburbs institution, and has been an average of a once-a-week thing.  The only way I could eat there on a regular basis is to take it away, because they are constantly booked out.  For the uninitiated, you take your own containers and tell them how many people you’re feeding.  Come back ten minutes later, pay what they think it’s worth by looking at it for about half a second, and that’s it.  It probably takes longer to get through the traffic from one end of the restaurant to the other than it does to actually do the transaction.  One day you may pay $20 for two people, another you may pay $15 – so don’t expect consistency, and be grateful for the times when you pay less.  The place is insanely vibrant, the staff is so matter-of-fact and capable, and the whole spirit of goodwill upon which the place was founded and has continued to run for over ten years is quite palpable.  They’re busy so they’re not gonna chat with you, and the whole flurry of energy is pretty intense, but the food is incredible.  The menu does change a bit from time to time but mostly you know what to expect – chickpea bake with yoghurt and crispy little pieces of pitta bread; moroccan couscous with stewed root veggies; lentils with saffron rice; cauliflower bake; and lately they’ve been doing an okra dish, which pleases me immensely.  If it’s sunny you can go and sit in the Edinburg Gardens and have a Moroccan picnic.

It’s reassuring to know that there are always people around me whose cooking resonates with my really base desires about What to Eat.  I am thoroughly appreciative of the ease with which I can hold out my bottomless bowl and have it filled, over and over, by people who love what they make.  As much as I’d like to be self-sustaining when it comes to sustenance, I know that now is not the time for that, and the next best things are so satisfying that I’m happy to take my time getting there.

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forageuse

It’s really hard to get here right now.  If I’m not deep deep down in the business of biscuits for bread (crumbs), all I want to do is be in my own kitschen, and that leaves no writing time.  I’ve had a weekend off and spent the entire time in there, after excavating the market detritus in my bedroom, which took approximately one day.  I made a very intentional visit to the farmers’ market (exactly $110 to spend, and I came out with a dollar left that I regret not spending on two more pears) and then scavenged around for the rest of the afternoon, and found some very special things.  The recipes I attended to for the rest of the weekend are as follows:

Do you have any idea how amazing (and easy) it is to make your own tortillas?  I will save this for another post, as I still have some very dramatic photos from the day I bought my tortilla press, but I’ll just say that everyone has a tiny Mexican grandmother in them somewhere, and the smell of masa harina will activate her.  And maybe she won’t actually be tiny.

These are the things that serve as the gravity of my food lifestyle.  A presence in my own kitschen and at my favourite market.  It’s gotten to the point now where I have made some friends, and there’s something about that boy at the Growers coffee cart who looks like he played in LOTR that makes me a bit more interested in non-monogamy than I have been of late.  The market, for me, is what the art supply shop must be to those kids who do, like art and stuff – only I get to talk directly to the person who crafted this thing that I’m going to craft into something else.  There will never be any substitute for this, and no matter how much business Nice Biscuits ends up doing, I never want to stop sourcing things like eggs and fruit there.  I love the conversations that take place around what’s there, I love the regularity of its sociality and the way it gets my brains moving like only psychedelics can.

It’s harder to get there now that I’m actually behind a stall of my own, and I really have to work to keep that from slipping.  Just being behind a stall is not enough of a market experience, and if I don’t work to keep myself on both sides, chances are decent this business will not be pleasurable – I’m already feeling a bit of bitterness beginning to creep in.  There are most definitely some growing pains taking place for Nice Biscuits.

Anyway, this market was very much about fruit.  Everyone’s got cherries at the moment, and there was one seller who had three varieties, which meant you got to choose the one that was right for you, which isn’t an experience you often get with cherries.  Stone fruit is slowly coming in, but the first stone fruit of the season is pretty precious and I just have this instinct that they’re not quite ready yet.  Or maybe I’m not ready for them.  A few buerre bosc pears and, holy shit, someone had blackberries.  I wanted to turn them into this but it’s too late, they’re half-gone and they almost seemed to precious to bake with.  I only hope they come again, and cheaper, because I want to share those with other people.  I love the chain of craft and pleasure that would come from someone growing blackberries that I scavenged and turned into dessert which was then distributed to, oh, 16 lucky ducks at another market.  Proof that produce can travel far whilst staying local.

Kitschen scavengings were also a great success.  This is one of my favourite things to do.  Slowly slowly, I am building my dream kitschen, the colours and shapes and materials that are so pleasurable to use, everything fossicked from dusty shelves and junk markets and sidewalk rubbish piles.

A Bessemer frypan, tape measure for cake tin sizes and measuring pastry, perfectly-sized flat white cup, and the coolest way to distrbute change a market stall has ever seen.

I don’t really know much about Bessemer, but after using it once I’m keen to find out more.  This was dug out of a rusting granny cart at the quirky sidewalk second-hand dealer just before the corner of Brunswick and York in North Fitzroy.  Everything that’s for sale is either in the window or on the footpath, and you ring the bell to make a purchase.  I have no idea how she doesn’t get ripped off.  Or maybe she does, but she doesn’t care.  She’s got some amazing things, usually pretty reasonably-priced.  The thing I liked about this piece is that, unlike my cast-iron frypan, this one heats evenly, and it has that ridiculous (but actually really sensible) handle.  $5.

I am always looking for an even more perfect coffee cup than the one I already have.  Most of mine are much larger than the amount of coffee I make for myself every morning, but they are beautiful and pleasing to hold or have some other personal meaning.  These were $6 and the size is pretty much exactly sufficient for my homemade coffees, and for those ones I want at about 2:30 pm, half-full of coffee and half-full of hot milk.  They do not have a name that is easily understood by all parties.  You can’t go to a cafe without a cup you want to fill, otherwise you have to explain how far you want it filled and it annoys them and makes you feel odd and you never really get exactly what you want.  And the colours…

So, point is: foraging is my subsistence style.  Given the choice, I would so much rather dig around in various hovels and corners and open-air communities than find all of the things in one place.  I love the slow of that way of living, I love that it forces you to cover some ground and have conversations and to engage in this big, intentional collaboration in getting your needs met, rather than letting them be dictated by what’s on a shelf.

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