All change at Werribee South

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If change is a given, then change and its ramifications are a way of life in the western suburbs.

For years now, or so it seem, one or more of the streets surrounding our Yarraville home have been in the process of being worked upon.

In the greater west and in a broader sense, the issues of change are the very substance of much of my weekly, regular newspapering gig, be they concerned with politics and culture or economics and infrastructure.

Transport, be it rail or road, is a particularly knotty and sensitive subject.

But for all the growth and upheaval in the west, there is no change going on quite like what is in the process of happening in hitherto sleepy Werribee South.

There, a project involving more than 100 apartments and an “integrated retail precinct” is rapidly taking shape.

You can see the developer’s website here.

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From all that I’ve read, no one seems at all sure what sort of impact this is going to have on Werribee South.

Added to the mix is the surprising news – well, surprising to me anyway – that plans for a Werribee South-to-Melbourne ferry service seem to be gaining very real traction.

The traffic generated by 100 apartments, their residents and service vehicles is one thing.

Throwing in the daily comings and goings of 3000 ferry commuters is quite another.

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The main routes into Werribee South – Duncans and Diggers roads – are fine two-lane thoroughfares for much of their lengths, even if they are invariably stained dirt brown by market-gardening activity.

But in places, both roads take on a distinctly backwoods feel, with potholes, bumps and dodgy edging to the fore.

As for the food portion of the development’s retail precinct, my expectations are at zero.

“Franchise” and “generic” are terms that spring readily to mind.

Degani, anyone?

Not that we’ve got anything against that particular coffee shop chain.

Indeed, I’ve been told that company behind it is also behind this place, which we like just fine.

But I’ll not be holding my breath hoping that Wyndham Harbour bucks the trend of greater Melbourne generally doing a lousy job of seaside eats.

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Twitter: Terminate account?

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After exterminating my RSVP account, it seems I am in the mood for online housecleaning.

So I am thinking of doing the same for my Twitter account.

There is a downside to doing so.

There are a number of people and groups who I’m pretty sure only get wind of Consider The Sauce news and posts through Twitter. They include a couple of MPs, community and lobby groups, and people whose reading of CTS and subsequent comments I genuinely value.

But I find it so ephemeral and the conversations, such as they are, confusing. I just can’t get with it.

Facebook, by contrast, I find – despite its flaws and creepiness – enriches me both as a blogger and human being.

There, I have numerous thought-provoking and often hilarious conversations with folks from all over the planet.

And FB messaging has become a valued conduit for running blog posts by interested friends and exchanging views on all sorts of subjects best not addressed in public.

The obvious solution is to post links to CTS posts on Twitter and then forget about it – and that’s mostly what I do.

But I find there is something inherently unsatisfying about not doing Twitter well that makes me want to be done with it entirely.

As well, there are plenty of people who would consider dropping out of Twitter as self-harm for a blogger.

It’s not a big deal – I have friends who will not have a bar of either Facebook OR Twitter!

But I am really interested in knowing how CTS readers use both services, and how they feel about them – both in terms of their interactions with Consider The Sauce and in their lives in general.

RSVP: Account terminated

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As a result of my “don’t get stuck in a rut” story, a journo mate strongly suggested I register with RSVP.

She had plenty of mates who used it, she told me, and the only problem was a chronic lack of blokes.

Blokes like me? Ha – I found and find that very, very hard to believe.

But I did it anyway.

Interesting exercise – and bit of a creepy one, too.

A few nibbles here and there but nothing of substance.

A few weeks in, I compiled this list of quotes from those with whom RSVP had “matched” me:

“I can think of better things to do with my time than read a book.”

“I enjoy novels and have read Gone with the Wind and the sequel Scarlett and many more.”

“Does reading my Melways and emails count? Time poor for a good read.”

“Don’t read much but do enjoy reading my Woman’s Day, New Idea and Fashion Magazines.”

“Not much time to read novels, but I enjoy magazines.”

“Not a big country & western, jazz or classical fan.”

“Definitely no country music!”

Obviously, when compiling my profile I had not done a very good job of communicating about myself.

So I updated by inserting the following sentences:

“I don’t read women’s magazines.”

and …

“These tastes very much include country music. But only the real old-time wailing, bluesy downhome sounds of the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. Not today’s ‘rock with hats’. Yuck!”

And then today, in one of the three “matches” that RSVP seems to automatically spit out every day, I got the following from a person who claimed to be very much in to “music, music, music”:

“Please no country and western.”

Oh dear … account terminated.

Disc, disc, disc …

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It looks as if Bennie’s day of playing team sport are over.

We gave it a good shot.

A couple of seasons of Aussie rules.

He liked it OK, but personally I found such a long game played on such big grounds a dead loss for such young kids.

It no doubt had something to do with “our” team being hammered at every outing, but most of each game seemed to find Bennie and teammates standing around doing nothing and looking extremely bored doing it.

He tried a desultory season or two of cricket. Definitely not his go.

Most recently, we really enjoyed two season with the Footscray Rugby Union Club.

Bennie’s team had some success, he scored some tries and laid on a few beaut tackles, and we all loved the other boys, their parents, the coaches and the club in general.

More to the point, the smaller teams and more tightly structured game meant every player was involved to a far greater degree.

But now the logistics of school travel to and from Hoppers Crossing seem to have doused what was never a brightly burning flame.

That’s OK.

But much to my delight, Bennie has embraced with something approaching fervour one of my favourite pursuits – frisbee tossing.

I bought our current mid-weight blue model when he was about five and tried to get him interested.

No go!

He’s slowly improved his throwing and catching skills in the past year, though, so that he’s almost a match for his dad.

I can’t remember a time when frisbee-ing hasn’t been part of my life.

Is there anything more simple, magical, beautiful, spiritual, uplifting, graceful and satisfying?

It’s simply a tremendous feeling when the various kinds of throws – hard and fast, floating and landing gently for instance – find their target seemingly almost without deliberation.

I recall a story about how North American Indians were introduced to tennis by the white man. According to this story, the native Americans immediately assumed tennis was a game of co-operation instead of being one of competition.

Frisbee is like that.

It’s also a supreme vehicle for chillaxing.

Frisbee is something I rank with what I think of as the “zen” sports – shooting, archery, bowls, snooker and billiards, curling and the like.

If you’re uptight or anxious in the slightest, you will suck big time.

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Take it where you find it …

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Bennie’s new school routine is requiring a new domestic routine from both of us.

A 6am alarm may not sound so different from a 7am alarm, but the effects have been profound.

For starters, we’re both fading away and heading for bed not too long after 9pm.

As well, as my own start times are much later – usually around 10am – I am finding myself with time on my hands at a peculiar time of the day, one during which returning to bed and sleep is unlikely.

Breakfast done and dusted, school/work lunches made and packed, big load of laundry done, dishes washed – and still an hour or so until it’s time to hit the road.

What to do?

Or perhaps the question should be: What not to do?

Perhaps with a little practice, I can learn how to use this space as a gift … an oasis of calm.

In a period of time that has proffered many satisfactions and happiness and love, but also what seems an equal measure of anxiety, fear, anger and loneliness, a few pages of a book and some gorgeous, uplifting music seem like a blessing.

Lives lived in public

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Through long residence in the west, a son who is progressing through the various school levels and Consider The Sauce, I appear to have surrounded myself with a pretty darn good network of family, friends, acquaintances, connections and various mixtures of all of the above.

And for that I am truly grateful.

We enjoy meeting and greeting friends and followers of CTS at our now regular Feasts, other foodie events, pre-arranged smaller, more private gatherings in restaurants or even spontaneous introductions on the streets of the west.

That figures – Bennie and I have hardly been shy about running photos of ourselves; and our T-shirts!

We enjoy these opportunities immensely.

But the truth is, other people’s homes – with a couple of exceptions – are a mystery to me. As is ours to them.

Perhaps this is one of the downsides of having such wonderfully easy access to outstanding cheap eats.

Why bother cooking for a crowd when you can just as easily – actually, much more easily – hit one of the great local noodle or curry joints?

This seems to be not just true of a quick feed on a regular week night when the fridge is empty, but also for myriad celebrations that would’ve once been held in family homes.

Although, in a broader context, there are far more profound forces and factors at play than those merely pertaining to our great westie eats circumstances.

It really is a different world.

Forget my very early days in Dunedin.

Even in my 20s and in Wellington, the pubs (and the music) would finish about 10pm or 11pm, and then it was usually off to somebody’s place for a party!

How often do regular folks hold parties these days?

OK, tick them off – elections, AFL Grand Final, Melbourne Cup, New Year’s Eve.

And that’s about it.

Even kids’ birthday parties are conducted out and about.

So perhaps in many cases it makes sense to think of the places where people sleep as living spaces or some such, rather than as homes.

I think there are both positives and negatives to what really is a seismic shift in how people in metropolitan settings live their lives.

But maybe it’s time to get back into the habit of having guests at our joint for great Indian thali meals – as we so often did at our previous abode.

That’s right – the one right next door!

Buy a BBQ and start a garden?

Hmmm, maybe not so much …

Not all food blogers are the same

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Larissa Dubecki is, as I’m sure almost all of you are aware, the No.1 restaurant reviewer for The Age.

In a comment piece she has let fly in spectacular manner about food bloggers, rampant compromising and basically all the general all-round sleaze she can fit into her magnificent rant.

Here are just a couple of the paragraphs:

“You see them on blogs the next day with really enthusiastic write-ups about how fabulous the venue, the food, the drinks and the owners are (always, mind you, with a little disclaimer at the bottom about how the writer attended as a non-paying guest – their integrity is scrupulous).

I’d love to go (I might even get my face in the social pages!) but, alas, there simply aren’t enough nights in the week. When everyone else is off having their fun, boring old me is off trying to slip into a restaurant unnoticed under a fake name so I might appraise it from an objective point of view to give consumers the best advice about where to spend their hard-earned. How about THAT for a shit sandwich.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Wow …

Actually, I agree with many of her points.

And if the “Melbourne food blogger who is well known for approaching newly opened restaurants for a feed in return for a ‘review’” she refers to is who I suspect, then I share that disdain.

But, oh dear, she’s taken such a broad-brush approach.

It’s simple – not all food bloggers are the same.

Consider The Sauce regularly covers restaurants in the west that are extremely unlikely to ever gain coverage in The Age.

As well, while the writer may grumble about the “shit sandwich” she is so unhappily forced to eat, she works for a commercial organisation that accepts advertising moolah from all and sundry and which no doubt makes all sorts of deals along the way.

The Age and Fairfax are in the marketplace.

Such a high-handed approach would only make perfect, irrefutable sense if Epicure and The Age Good Food Guide carried no advertising whatsoever.

But they do.

And while The Age may be scrupulous about always paying for meals it reviews, is it such a stretch to mention the “media passes” its sports writers utilise to gain non-paying access to AFL games and much, much more?

The Age is also listed as a “partner” on the website of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. The nature of that partnership is not disclosed, but naturally the newspaper can and does run heaps of stories about the festival.

As well, such a sweeping put down fails to acknowledge the good work that many of Melbourne’s food bloggers do.

This fact, by the way, is periodically acknowledged by The Age and its Epicure section themselves.

Indeed, they have helped Consider The Sauce itself on a number of occasions and I remain very grateful for that assistance – including two stories on the fabulous Westies: Dishes of Distinction!

Perhaps if I am to worry, the very real prospects of becoming an unemployed journalist should occupy my mind.

Truth is, though, the idea of becoming considered a flogger is much more troubling!

Job insecurity as the new job security

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Today I went to work … for the simple reason I had a job to go to.

I will do the same on Monday and Tuesday.

And, hopefully, presumably, next Friday, too.

Given the ongoing ructions in the media in general and the newspaper lark in particular, this is not a situation I take for granted – even in a good week.

And this has not been a good week. (But perhaps it hasn’t been ruinously bad one either … read on, dear reader, read on …)

Once again, my colleagues and I have been tossed around by the winds of change.

In this case, it was announced on Thursday that the western suburbs affairs of the MMP group, for which I work, are to be merged with the western suburbs affairs of the Star group, which lives on the other side of the Ring Road from our Airport West HQ.

Details remain a little sketchy, but it seems the new set-up will be a completely separate entity from both parent companies.

Two things have surprised me about this:

1. It’s the first time I can recall in regards to similar announcements that sub-editors and production staff, of which I am one, have not been earmarked as pretty much the first to be given the boot.

2. My own reaction – which has bemused me with its sanguine outlook.

OK, in this case my own immediate work situation remains unaltered … for now.

But I wasn’t to know that when my boss called me on one of my days off to give me the news.

This rather ho-hum response couldn’t be more at odds with my feelings when faced with such potentially dire news on two previous occasions in recent years.

During both, I was teary and felt a wild, thoroughly unpleasant mixture of bleakness, anger and terror.

I know not if this equanimity is attributable to simply being too exhausted by anxiety and stress to summon up any sort of primal emotional response.

Or if it is simply down to a mature acceptance of facing the unknown and what I cannot change with whatever optimism I can summon.

Possibly, it is a combination of both.

For you, the citizens of the west, this will mean that in about three months you will get not three but two suburban papers stuffed into your mailboxes – providing they get delivered to your particular neighbourhood at all!

For myself and my colleagues, there is potential upsides to all this even as, as I have been led to believe, job losses in the MMP group alone number about 30.

Having three companies publishing community newspapers across the west has proven to be unsustainable.

So now it will be something of an old-fashioned head-to-head newspaper war between the Leader group of News Ltd and what I have been told will be called the Weekly Star publications.

It’s perhaps too easy and glib for journalists to proclaim suburban newspapers as the great hope for the future.

But I reckon they do provide some cause for optimism.

After a career mostly undertaken in metropolitan newspapers, I am thoroughly enjoying working on and with stories that have real meaning in local contexts.

Politics and sport are just two of the areas in which we seem to be providing a much-wanted service largely abandoned by the big guys.

I was told today that the circulation of the Herald Sun has slipped below 400,000 and that of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph below 300,000.

I am unsure of the accuracy of those figures, but still …

In the meantime, should Consider The Sauce continue to grow and develop in the next four years in the same manner it has for the past four, maybe by the time the whole newspaper mess goes down, I will be in a position to survive doing something I really, truly love.

PS: I wanted to use the word sanguineness … but I don’t think it IS a word!

Random updates

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So Bennie’s got through his second week of high school.

This has initiated major and not unwelcome changes in our home.

And a growing sense of independence for both son and father.

He’s handling the public transport and all that goes with it with aplomb.

He has his own phone, albeit a basic prepaid model.

And I’m happy for him to beat me home or be there, as was the case this week, while I am out and about on CTS-related business.

With the following ground rules – do your homework, read, chillax, no open flames and no TV until dad gets home.

It’s all going really well … except for the daily start routine.

Our longstanding 7am alarm has given way, for transport reasons, to 6am.

And it’s doing my head in.

By noon, it already seems a very long day indeed! By late afternoon, I’m cactus. I hit the hay the same time as he.

Before we know it, I’ll have him cooking our meals on a regular basis.

At the parent/staff gathering at his new school this week, one of the teachers spoke briefly about the looming challenge of puberty – his not, mine.

The gist of it was empowerment and involvement.

Truth is, I already rely on him very much for support and counsel … so I think we’re going to be fine.

There have been recent occasions on which I wished I had followed his wise advice to the letter.

I’ve mentioned the idea of me starting a sort-of father-of-a-teenage son blog.

He most adamantly thinks this is not a good idea.

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One of the rarely mentioned downsides of us all – very much including myself these days – being connected, what with mobile devices and even our Foxtel remote control and so on: It’s impossible not to know, at any given time, exactly what time it IS.

So the days of “lost track of time” have entered the realms of nostalgia.

How sad!

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Consider The Sauce Feast No.5 will hopefully be unveiled in the coming week.

And there’ll be changes to the routine.

Bigger, better … but equally delicious and enjoyable.

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As a result of my “gotta get out a bit” story, a longtime journo pal convinced me – via Facebook messages – to sign up with RSVP.

I had and have massive misgivings about this

But I did it anyway.

It feels truly weird and uncomfortable.

More than 20 souls have checked out my profile and pics, though I remain mostly clueless as to who or how they may be on account of the site requires me to pay for most such information.

And I am, so far, resisting that.

But yesterday someone who has the right attitude and the right kind of interests expressed definite interest in meeting me.

Oddly, the face and the smile are kind-of familiar.

I think she may live local – as in REALLY local.

Oh my!

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This weekend?

A Footscray frolic, the Yarraville Festival and sleep.

Lots of sleep.

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Some time in the next week or so pleasure bombs will arrive.

Namely, what will no doubt be a stupendously mindblowing and lavish box set of 1951-1983 gospel from the Nashboro label and long overdue reacquaintance with Freddie King, Little Milton, Junior Parker and Jimmy Reed.

Oh boy!

Words with baggage

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Feedback and comments are oxygen for bloggers – even when they’re not exactly in “pat on the back” territory.

This assertive comment on matters sartorial in my recent “must not get stuck in a rut” story for instance:

“Good on you Kenny. I don’t mean to sound terrible but i think you need to find yourself as a man in the appearance department. Your sponge bob tshirts and the like are not really a look that women would be attracted to. You would look amazing in a casual shirt and nice pair of pants. At your age a man should look like a respectable gentleman, not like a teenager. As many would scorn what i have just said, i am being honest in my opinion. A woman wants a man who acts and dresses like a man, not a teenage hippy boy. All the best with finding a mate, im sure you will find the perfect one for you.”

Today’s post on the fab Famous Blue Raincoat burgers spurred comments from a friend about the following paragraphs:

“We spy a young mum tucking in to a parmagiana as her partner’s steak sits unmolested.

He’s walking their toddler.

He returns; they swap roles.

Been there, done that … many, many times!”

For her, the word “unmolested” is simply too emotionally charged to be used in such a way and in such a context – especially when the following paragraph mentions a toddler.

What do you think?

I am genuinely interested to know. 

Alien organisms in Newport

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Futurelic Art Studio/Sci Fi Silos, 1 McRobert St, Newport. Phone: 0415 704 520

Head towards Williamstown, pass the Blackshaws Road turnoff , take the next left and … arrive on another planet.

Or so it seems.

Futurelic Art Studio is the mutant baby of Lixa Brandt.

Like her gritty studio/performance space itself, she is a far cry from the studied hipster veneer of inner-city galleries of cliched fame.

The upstairs loft and dungeon-like basement are used for launch parties, ambient music events and rehearsals, while Lixa’s sci-fi sculptures adorn the ground floor.

Think Alien/Bladerunner.

Open on Sundays.

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Back in the game again?

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My life has seen its fair share of romance, ranging from the earth-shakingly glorious to the very much less so.

I’ve never worked at hard at it – just throwing myself into life with all the zeal and the biggest heart I can muster has always been enough.

However, a couple of recent and rather amusing incidents have had me reflecting that it’s about time I started making more of an effort in cultivating this long-neglected part of my life.

Nothing too drastic …

Spend some money on clothes so I am able to step out looking a little sharper than I do wearing my habitual current uniform of T-shirts and baggy cargo pants.

Shave more than once a week.

Be a little more assertive and a whole less ambivalent when an opportunity presents.

Stuff like that …

Some may think a hyperactive food blogger – one who even regularly hosts his own blog dinners, for heaven’s sake! – is presented with ample opportunity to generate romantic potential.

It’s true that through Consider The Sauce I have met and am continuing to meet an astonishing range of fabulous people. And yes, many of them are incredible souls of the appropriate gender.

But overwhelmingly they are much younger than I. Or married. Or both.

They bring a lot of sunshine into my life – but in this context at least, there are different kinds of sunshine.

The age thingie is no issue at all for me and I certainly don’t feel my age (21).

But I suspect it bloody well is for many women!

On the other hand, I simply can’t see myself having any truck with dating websites and the like.

So what am I looking for?

The truth is, the merest whiff of romance would make me giddy with happiness.

And I think it’s important to keep in mind what a friend and I have come to think of as “The Vanakkam Principle” – after a cool slogan above the front door of that very fine West Footscray Indian eatery:

“Cherish yesterday. Dream tomorrow. Live today.”

So, you know, a date is just a date – and not a shacking-up proposal or any other kind of proposal.

It’s time to stop being such a slacker!

Back to bachelor

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So dad’s portion of the school hols is done and dusted.

Bennie’s off on a different kind of adventure with his mum – and I hope they have just as much fun as we had.

As she pointed out yesterday, these four weeks just gone were the longest uninterrupted time father and son had ever had to do nothing but hang together.

We didn’t do much – not so much as a single day trip out of town.

But it was an incredible journey of its own kind.

Sometimes all a boy needs is metaphorically warm home and a happy dad.

Do I miss him?

Not yet – but I will.

The giddy but hugely enjoyable pace of daily posts at CTS is likely to slacken somewhat!

Friendship

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It takes all sorts of friends to make up a life.

A pair of mine, 10 years or so older than me and from my decades-ago past, had a significant mentor-like impact on my late teens and then my early ’20s, at which point the three of us lived together briefly in London.

Much immaturity on my part and unaddressed expectations all round led to estrangement that was never healed.

I’ve searched for you, Phil and Ali of Careys Bay, many, many times online!

It doesn’t help that I expect you’re not the sort of folks likely to leave sizable online footprints – if any at all.

Nor does it help, Phil, that your name is identical to that of a Very Famous Jazz Trombonist.

But I miss you!

Of course, successfully tracking them down need not mean we would have anything to talk about after all these years – or any affinity at all.

Nor can I expect they will be as keen to hear from me again as I am to make contact with them!

For most of my life, journalism has provided the bulk of my friends – and even my family of sorts.

Changes to the industry means those day have gone.

Regardless of the esteem and affection in which I hold my current colleagues – and hopefully they, me! – the transient nature of the industry and my own now chronic role as a casual worker seem unlikely to yield the sort of friendships that last decades and lifetimes.

But I do enjoy staying fully in the loop with several much-loved buddies from my full-time journalism days. Sometimes social media inter-action even yields to your actual real-time face-to-face encounters – but not nearly often enough!

There’s other friends in New Zealand and the US so deeply embedded in my life that the relationships stay strong despite only minimal email or phone contact.

Sometimes that contact, by mutual assent, seems to be geared to be just sufficient enough to maintain contact in friendships that can and do spring back fully to life when opportunities present.

Like so many people today, I have friends I have never met face to face – people I “met” while participating in online forums and, subsequently, on Facebook and the like.

It is the nature of such relationships that they come and go a little more glibly than those forged in the intensity of family, work, school or neighbourhood circumstances.

Still, I count myself lucky to have accrued number of such characters who I am happy to call friends and look forward to the times when I can actually press the flesh with such pals.

Then there’s my son and children in general.

Bennie is now old enough that he need no longer be considered an intensely loved but nevertheless high-maintenance junior human being.

He’s grand company and in recent days has provided surprisingly insightful advice and reflections on a couple of issues affecting his father. And I’ll certainly be getting him to run his eyes over this post before clicking on the “publish” button.

It’s common place for parents to describe a child as their “best friend”.

But no matter how agreeable, loving and life-affirming such relationships may be, I wonder if “friendship” can ever be an accurate description of them.

And how about former partners and lovers?

In the most obvious case, I am blessed to have finally arrived at what seems to a be solid and loving friendship – although we can still have our moments!

In other instances involving other people, such relationships have not been created – perhaps out a lack of any necessity for such to occur.

Although I am again blessed in that there is – AFAIK! – a measure of goodwill and a lack of animosity.

Life, after all, does go on.

And among all the many rewards Consider The Sauce is providing to us, new friends are at the top of the list.

Letting go bit by bit

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When I was Bennie’s age – actually, for quite a few years even before that – me, my sister and our various friends had the run of our city.

We moved freely all over a town of more than 100,00, sometimes by public transport, but more often by walking or bicycle.

During school holiday time that wasn’t taken up by family adventures in the countryside, we’d frequently disappear after breakfast and not return home until just before dinner.

During those wild, adventurous times – or so they seem to be in memory, although I also recall periods of utter boredom and tedium – our parents had little idea where we were, what we were up to and with whom.

But that was in another century and another country.

The environment in which my boy is on the very cusp of teenagedom and high school seems like a very different place.

How different?

Well that, to my mind, is a very interesting question, the answers to which are impossible to calculate as the issue is so very, very subjective.

Bennie is a worldly, savvy young man who is able to cope with and enjoy a wide variety of social settings and circumstances.

But for him, and pretty much every one of his mates AFAIK, out-of-school company has long been regulated by parents doing the phone rounds and delivering and picking up kids.

That seems unlikely to change even as the high school year starts and Bennie learns to get to and from using public transport.

Are the tight reigns on which parents keep their kids based on any reality at all?

I would argue that the colossal increase in road traffic, and in our area the thunderous trucks, warrant a high degree of caution.

But as for the rest – train station violence, Knifepoint, stranger danger, whatever other bogeymen you wish to name – well I just don’t know.

Hard to tell the difference between being an overly controlling parent and one who is simply being prudent.

In the meantime, Bennie’s parents are learning to deliberately, slowly loosen the binds that tie.

Walking a local friend home to his place.

Solo trips to the library.

Rudimentary shopping chores or gelati runs.

Goofing off in our local park with a school mate who is spending the day with us.

Doubtless such gestures may come to seem themselves as restrictive to our soon-to-be-teenager – just a few weeks away, really!

But at least it’s a start.

Books 2013: A Healing Post

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For our month-long stay-at-home summer holiday, Bennie and I have been good boys.

Very, very good boys.

Heaps of eating out, of course, but that’s been countered by … breakfasts of our homemade muesli with fruit and yogurt, and lots of salads and pulse dishes.

Outings that have involved much frisbee tossing, a past-time at which I am ecstatic to find Bennie has really started to enjoy.

Lots of down time.

The frequent late nights have been ameliorated by the complete non-necessity for alarm-setting.

Long sleep-ins rule!

So it was a thoroughly unpleasant shock last night when my wobbly disc chose to throw a wobbly, bringing with it the usual intense pain.

Usually it happens only when I’m tired, stressed, anxious, rundown or all of the above.

Intellectually and through long experience, I know this is simply a matter of rest, sleep and a few days’ time.

But in my heart and soul, it’s frightening just how quickly the pain and discomfort can see me sink down to a dark place in which I feel old, friendless, gloomy, bleak and darn right pessimistic.

My instincts are always to fight back with whatever is at hand.

Rest, the appropriate drugs, light exercise, healthy food, reading … and lots and lots of music.

Thanks very much to Lionel Hampton, Blind Willie McTell, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Lee Hazlewood and Texas whorehouse pianist Robert Shaw for the latter, with lots more to come.

What else?

What about a blog post? A great pick-me-up they are!

Already done one today, but OK here’s another – inspired by my good pal and fellow blogger Caron and her similar list at The Crayon Files.

This one – a fun look back at my reading highlights for 2013 – is for me.

If you come to Consider The Sauce for food stuff and nothing but, please ignore!

Thelonious Monk – The Life And Times Of An American Original by Robin D.G. Kelley

Still working my way through this one and enjoying doing so. This has been hailed as being everything a jazz biography should be.

I’ve never considered myself a Monk junkie, so am somewhat bemused that through the Blue Note and Prestige sides, the Riverside Records box, just about all the Columbia albums and a few other odds and sods, I have amassed the greater proportion of his discography and certainly all the key moments.

That’s the kind of thing that can bring a book alive!

Creole Trombone – Kid Ory And The Early Years Of Jazz by John McCusker

A compact but wonderful look at the great trombonist that paints him as much more than a mere sideman for the likes of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver.

Bonus: Being inspired to boost my until-then rather slim collection of Ory-as-leader.

Having been on an intense deep soul kick for the past six months, Robert Gordon’s Respect Yourself: Stax Records And The Soul Explosion awaits my reading pleasure.

Shane by Jack Schaefer

Comstock Lode by Louis L’Amour

I’ve read quite a few famous, historically important westerns in recent years.

They can be hard work and slow-going.

And it helps to have a high tolerance for the politically incorrect – frequently they are very much a product of their times.

I enjoyed Shane in that sort of context.

But Comstock Lode was much better.

L’Amour is often touted as the most read author ever – or maybe the most read American author ever.

Whatever … I never expected to find myself reading his books, let alone enjoying them.

In my ignorance, I feared an excess of Boys Own and “Mills And Boon for blokes”. And I also feared I would be appalled and angered by his treatment of North America’s natives.

In terms of the latter, I have been pleasantly surprised – in this regard, it seems, L’Amour was well ahead of his times.

Yes, the stories can be slow and repetitive, and there is a good deal of unrealistic mythologising.

But there is no doubting the craft and feel of his writing.

Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War and Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey

Thanks to Courtney and James for the hot tip on this trilogy!

I’ve never been drawn to the space opera genre.

It’s always seemed too geekish, too overtly macho and militaristic for me.

These three books have changed all that!

What enormous fun – I galloped through them.

Yes, there’s all sort of space wars nonsense.

But there’s also a real nice noir feel, a touch of Pulp Fiction and great humor.

Midst Toil And Tribulation by David Weber

Nor have I ever been drawn to what I have unkindly and forever thought of as sci-fi hacks or journeymen such as David Weber.

But I’m thrilled I took on a punt on his Safehold series, of which Midst Toil And Tribulation is the sixth book.

I’ve loved them all!

Adventure, romance, sci-fi meets the high seas, magic, terrific politics … and probably the best villain I have ever come across.

Imagine the Pope meets Adolf Hitler …

I suspect this series will run and run and run, but for once I don’t care.

Weber is so prolific that I’m assured of a book a year, so the chances of a case of “George R.R. Martin syndrome” happening are exceedingly slim.

Iron Curtain – The Crushing Of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum

One of the oddities of being a late-blooming baby boomer dad in the early years of this new century is this … for my son, the Soviet Union will be little more than a textbook topic, if that, and maybe even just an obscure historical abstraction.

For my generation, the scowling visages of the Soviet leadership cast gloom and anxiety across our world in profound ways – not jut politically, but socially and culturally as well.

I still find it remarkable that it is no more!

I found this history of the communist takeover of eastern and central Europe a brilliant read.

And not once did I tire of the depth of detail.

The Dark Tower Series and Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I’m three books into the Dark Tower Series, one of the few major King works I have not read.

Halfway through book two, I thought I was well on the way to being fully captivated.

You know – unplug the phone, take leave owing, shun friends, housework and dirty dishes … that sort of captivation.

The pace has slackened somewhat, but I am sufficiently taken with the Gunslinger and his cohorts to expect I’ll finish all eight books by the end of the year.

Doctor Sleep was an OK sequel to The Shining, but falls, I reckon, into “for fans only” territory after the return to form displayed by Under The Dome and 11/22/63, both of which I enjoyed immensely.

****

Well, do I feel better after banging that out?

Hell, yes!

2013 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

The busiest day of the year - with 2573 views – was when Nina Rousseau’s story on “Zone 2 dining” ran in the Epicure section of The Age. As a precaution against being ribbed over being a western suburbs blogger who just happened to write about non-western suburbs subjects, I posted “Westies abroad …”!

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 200,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 9 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Where do you go for a gelati fix?

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On Christmas Day, after we’d had our fill of super-spicy food at Dosa Hut, a strong gelati lust came upon us.

Knowing places that sell gelati that were even vaguely local were bound to be closed, we headed cheerfully headed to Lygon Street …

… where we figured, Christmas Day or not, somebody would be selling gelati.

Nope.

Upper Lygon, lower Lygon and even Brunswick Street – we were luckless.

OK, OK – Christmas Day and all, but … COME ON!

Seriously, had it been any sort of normal day we would for sure have hit Hello Gelo right in Yarraville Village.

We’re first-name regulars and enjoy at-least weekly visits.

We love checking what new flavours Scott has dreamed up and really like one of his latest – gingerbread!

Outside of Hello Gelo and taking in the broader west?

Well, there’s actually four gelati and/or ice-cream emporiums on Nelson Place in Williamstown.

We’ve been customers at all four at one time or another over the years.

But we’ve not warmed to any of them.

Outside of those options, I can’t for the life of me think of any other good gelati joints in the west.

Tips anyone?

My camera done died

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For the more than 600 posts on Consider The Sauce, I have uploaded more than 3800 photographs to the wordpress blogging platform.

I’ve had some help in that regard.

But overwhelmingly, the CTS photographs have been taken by the above pictured compact camera.

And those uploaded would, I’m guessing, be less than half of those taken.

I’ve been well pleased with the results and the camera’s ease of use and durability.

But now that durability has reached its limit and my camera has died.

The problem is purely mechanical, which means it’s not worth fixing … as far as I am aware.

That’s OK – I have been thinking of an upgrade anyway.

Anyone got any tips for a classy compact camera under $500?

The Consider The Sauce Top 10 for 2013

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The life of Consider The Sauce is so rich and multi-facted that naming a yearly Top 10 in an attempt to choose and rank our best meals, eateries or experiences of 2013 has proven an impossible task – or maybe I’m just a wuss.

So here is a reflection on our 2013 with a selection of wide-ranging highlights:

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1. The Westies: Dishes of Distinction

A year’s planning culminated in an incredibly intense but enjoyable November, which in turn finished in a picnic and awards presentation that were simply brilliant.

So much hard work did we do but it never really seemed arduous.

Thanks to everyone who supported this Consider The Sauce/Footscray Food Blog initiative.

We’ll be back bigger and better next year!

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2. The Consider The Sauce Feasts

This year CTS hosted three feasts – at Hyderabad Inn, Vanakkam and Dragon Express.

We loved meeting so many fellow food hounds and we especially thank the three retaurants involved for being so generous and welcoming.

There will be more of the same in 2014, though the format and other arrangements may well change.

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3. CTS sigmature dish: Biryani

How much do we love this Indian dish of supercharged rice and its bells and whistles?

Very, very much!

We find it impossible to choose beyween the equally fine versions served by the aforementioned Hyderabad Inn and Vanakkam.

Our firm suggestion is you try them both for yourself.

The biryani at Dosa Hut is a blast, too.

West Footscray rules!

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4. CTS signature dish: Burgers

If biryani is the thing for CTS Senior, burgers are it for CTS Junior – and mostly I’m happy to indulge his passion.

The above rendition, eaten at the Spotiswoode Hotel, was pretty good, but Bennie continues to wistfully reminisce about the jalapeno-inflamed beauty we had at Chase Kitchen, also in Spotswood.

We also enjoyed fine or good burgers at Junction Beer Hall and Wine Room in Newport, Sri Murugan in Werribee and Mama Bear in Flemington, and from food trucks Mr Burger and Dude Food Man.

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5. Rickshaw Run

We had an absolute ball volunteering for this tasty, rolling romp around Footscray central.

And we’ll be fronting up for more of the same at next year’s Rickshaw Run, which will be held on February 7, 8, 9 and 10, when for the first time it will be under the management of our wonderful and wise friend Lauren, of Footscray Food Blog fame.

Volunteers will be required, so why don’t you join us?

Lauren’s contact details are here.

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6. Spicy Corner

Sadly, Bennie and I have visited this lovely Tullamarine Sri Lankan joint just once for a sit down meal.

But I am thrilled that Friday takeaway lunches of their simple, always delicious food have become part of the weekly routine for myself and a goodly group of my colleagues at the Airport West office of my current gig in the journalism world.

I am looking forward to a whole new year of weekly curry hits from this place – especially as, if that situation does indeed eventuate, it will mean I am still employed!

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7. Racecourse Road, Flemington

It may not have the same cache as Melbourne’s other, more famed foodie precincts but we love a trip to Racecourse Road.

It’s not a particularly attractive area and the parking can be tricky.

But it packs a surprising punch when it comes to the quality and variety of its offerings.

Our fave remains the lovely welcome and terrific Malaysian-based food to be found at the Grand Tofu – they do a killer laksa!

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8. Longest Lutheran Lunch at St Matthews, West Footscray

This was a wonderful Sunday event at which CTS was made to feel very wlecome.

Bennie’s more formal association with Pastor Cecil has ended, but we certainly hope we “stay in touch”!

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9. Beyond the west

As ever, CTS enjoyed a number of non-westie eating experiences during the year – even if trips to the CBD have become an outright rarity.

Among the more noteworthy were our brekky on opening day at the swish new Brunetti’s in Carlton and a swell Saturday lunch at Weasel’s Garden Cafe in Richmond.

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10. Best decor

Without  a doubt Afghan Master Kebab in Sunshine!

The meat’s a treat, too!

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11. Bennie

The junior but no less important member of the CTS team has finished primary school and embarks on his high school adventures next year. More pertinently to this summary, he continually throws himself into our foodie adventures with gusto and is a top-rate companion in every way.

Thanks, mate!