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So I’m not sure how you spent your Saturday, but we spent ours didgeridoo shopping.  Yep, you heard it right.

We visited Bruce Rogers in Kangaroo Bend, VIC, out near the Yarra Valley, an amazing musician and craftsman who handmakes didges for a living and travels the world performing. Check out Bruce playing at the recent Melbourne Didgeridoo Festival.

It was literally one of the most interesting Saturdays we’ve had in Melbourne. Bruce was incredibly knowledgeable and willing to share with us, over the course of two hours, the history of the instrument, how it is constructed, and basic playing techniques. This incredible instrument not only sounds bad ass (when played correctly), but it has a 2,000 yo heritage and originally hails exclusively from the Northern Territory of Australia, where a particular species of termite devour the inner chambers of gum trees, leaving a hollowed-out chamber perfectly conducive to rhythmic vibrating breathing.

(as I type this, Steve just leaned over and said, “I want to be playing didgeridoo!”  Yep, you could say we’re hooked…)

Oh and by the way, in case you were wondering, when played incorrectly, the didgeridoo sounds like a massively amplified, messy fart.  So much so that when I bottomed out one (ok, ok, quite a few), the sweet two-year old daughter of another didge maker we visited with giggled uncontrollably.  It’s going to be a fun learning process….

Last weekend, we spent some down time for our fifth wedding anniversary in our favorite spot in Melbourne — Mornington Peninsula.  With Bentley in tow, we headed down to Rye Beach for some R&R.

Among the weekend’s activities: golf at St. Andrews Beach, strolling on the sand, multiple rounds of competitive ping ponging courtesy of the “table tennis” at our rental house, wine tasting and champagne sipping at the Cups Estate, catching the panoramic views up at Arthur’s Seat, snapping shots of the sculpture work of William Ricketts (a Richmond native famous for integrating Aboriginal imagery into his works) and getting reacquainted with the finer points of our Sony Cybershot HX1, testing out manual aperture and shutter speed and playing with variable color filters.

A few photos… on the photos page.

Have you ever seen such a lovely bunch of daisies? 

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Cheers to traditionalism: a bunch of daisies and a wooden didgeridoo from my hubby for the 5-year marriage mark!

This NYT article is great on so many levels: pointing out an obvious reason why 1 in 3 Americans are obese and 2 in 3 Americans overweight; highlighting the basic tension / interplay of market capitalism and regulation; and doing it all with math!

Shockingly, Carson Chow, a mathematician, concludes that the rise in obesity in America over the last few decades can be attributed to… increased supply of food.  The mantra certainly holds true in my house:  if you grow it, I will eat it (though I like to think, in moderation).

And if you grow it cheaply, and on a mass scale, economics dictate that I will pay a lower price for it and be able to consume more of it in relative terms.  It’s a common refrain from visitors to Melbourne:  “food is SO expensive here.”  But it’s only because food is so cheap in the U.S., in fact, perhaps TOO cheap.

Sadly, I suspect another key part of the equation missed by Chow is a cultural one — Americans have proved in the last 50 years to be a culture of convenience consumers.  Which unfortunately means that, so long as supply is high, there will be demand. And so long as quick and cheap alternatives are available to maximize not only food consumption but minimize lost opportunity costs for other consumer activities, Americans will seize them.

It makes me nostalgic for a time when my dad would cook 7-days’ worth of meals in advance on the weekend, to freeze until each meal’s day came, so we could enjoy home cooked dinners quickly (and I suspect cheaply) when he got home from a long day at work. (And trust me, we probably BOTH thought we’d never be nostalgic for such things…)  What’s the incentive now, when a parent can just pick up a box-o-food in the same amount of time and at the same cost?

It’s a well-timed article for me, as I’ve been pondering a lot recently about the role of government in a capitalist society and whether there is any hope for effective national legislation in an increasingly gridlocked political system.  I’ve also been cooking, and therefore eating, ALOT (as you can tell from recent posts) with some downtime at work and an increasingly chilly winter descending on Melbourne that sends me straight to the oven for warmth.  (Plus, I havent shared a “random musings” post in a while…)

So what should be the political response to Chow’s mathematical answer?  It seems politically untenable and perhaps callous to suggest as a response that we should (1) remove farm subsidies (i.e., put the squeeze on struggling American farmers in the heartland of U.S.A) or (2) herald an age where food is more expensive, and therefore more financially burdensome to struggling families.  An obesity rate of 1 in 3 people suggests that Americans aren’t just “breaking even” on food, they are gluttonously profiting.  But political rhetoric is hardly that discerning.

Perhaps in the current political climate, cultural change is the best we can hope for… I’ll start one home at a time; my own.  After all, if a corporate lawyer can manage to avoid fast food and cook for her family most nights, I promise, you can too!

Over the weekend, Steve pointed to this foreign looking substance at the market and said, “what’s that? can we eat it?”

Never one to pass over a new vegetable opportunity, especially with such enthusiasm from Steve, I bought two.  With a budding sore throat, I was craving something warm on Monday night, so I whipped up this amazingly hearty, soothing, creamy without cream soup.

celeriac and apple soup

1 large celeriac, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
50 grams butter
3 apples, sliced
500-750 mls of chicken stock
3 handfuls sage

topping: leftover baguette (diced into cubes), 50 grams each chopped bacon & walnuts

Heat butter and onion in a large saucepan and let simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Add celeriac and sweat for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add stock to cover the celeriac entirely and sage (or season to taste) and allow to simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until celeriac is soft.  I had some deep-flavored chicken stock on hand that I’d brewed over the weekend, which I’d like to think added to the heartiness of the final product, but regular ol’ store stock will do.

Add apples, cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly and blend for 2-3 minutes to give it a soft and silky texture.  Voila!

Now, you may have realized my trick to getting my husband to eat veggies by now:  always add bacon!  This soup is no exception. But I thought the topping, objectively, really gave the soup a punch; the smoky bacon and nutty crunch adding another dimension to the creamy texture of the soup.  To partake, fry bacon for 3-5 minutes, then add walnuts and diced baguette and continue to saute until bacon is cooked and bread is slightly crispy.

So after a year and a half searching out a decent bagel in this city, finally, we have struck gold!   I managed to drag Steve to Beans and Bagels in Fitzroy this Sunday, despite pelting rain, and oh man was it worth it.  Bagels made in the proper NY style (boiled then baked), thick creamy schmear and a buffet of bagel sandwich-making items.  We each got a sandwich, devoured it, and then got another.  Yep, we love (and have been craving) bagels that much…

Fellow American-Melbourians, take heed, Beans and Bagels is where it’s at!

This dessert was a confluence of coincidences. I had rhubarb on hand, which I had bought Saturday morning to make apple rhubarb pie.  But we had too much fun at the Kellybrook cider festival on Saturday, and in the end, I forgot to buy a bag of apples! I’ve also had lemon curd on the brain, since lemons are just coming into abundance at the trees in the neighborhood.  So I searched around, and came up with this concoction to put my rhubarb to good use:

rhubarb curd tartlets

1 portion sweet short crust pastry
6 stalks rhubarb
1/3 cup sugar (or honey)
6 egg yolks
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs butter, chopped

1. Wash rhubarb and chop into small pieces (always remove all leaves, they are poisonous!).  Mix with sugar (or honey) and stew over low heat for 20-25 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and puree in a food processor.

2. Roll pastry, cut and shape into greased mini muffin or tartlet pans. Bake for 10 minutes until golden.

3. To make curd, whisk eggs, sugar and lemon juice in a heat proof bowl.  Add 1 cup of rhubarb puree and place over a saucepan of simmering water, whisking constantly.  Add chopped butter and continue whisking for 5-10 minutes until thickened.  Cool, and pipe into tartlet shells.

I’ve always loved rhubarb, and typically stick to the classic apple or strawberry plus combinations. But this curd really allows the rhubarb to shine through on its own.  Sweet and oh so tart; what a fantastic experimental coincidence.

As for the cider festival, I did manage to remember to bring home a liter of scrumpy from Kellybrook…

(the merry men dancers at Kellybrook Cider Festival)

OK, so its May and I’m STILL working on posting all the pictures from our March/early April adventures.  Rather than give you the impression that I am ambivalent or lazy, please note this is due to the sheer abundance of fun had by all (partially offset by the necessary balance of work and picture weeding).

So needless to say, we had a blast during Lisa & Matt’s trip, hot on the heels of the parents visit and our hiking adventures.  We meet the  jet lagged couple in Sydney for the Easter weekend, and showed them our favorite sights in the city.

On Saturday morning, it was off to the Blue Mountain. Just an hour’s drive as the crow flies (but certainly NOT as the traffic accumulates) east of the city, rich gum tree forests earn the Blue Mountains their name, as a blueish fog settles on the hills through a combination of mountain climate and aerial eucalypt oils.  We stayed in a cute little house in the middle of a bird paradise, managed to rope Lisa & Matt into the stairmaster of all hikes and only got a little lost along the way, and enjoyed ourselves a serene dawn-hike over (literally) the Wentworth Falls.

Check out the pictures on the photos page.

After we returned to Melbourne, we had a whirlwind week to show them the best side of our city.  And although it may not have an internationally recognized opera house, it does have a golf course that’s home to hundreds of kangaroos.  So on their sunny last Saturday down under, what else could we do but journey down the Great Ocean Round and play a round at Anglesea Golf Course?  I played photographer to what I’d like to call golf-a-roo…

Thanks Lisa & Matt for the visit!!