Tuesday, April 23, 2013
SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Since I ceased working (retired, I guess, is another word for what I've done) a few years ago one of the greatest pleasures I’ve gained are those first few moments upon waking. Moments when I can lie in peaceful harmony with the early morn, gathering my thoughts together; or not thinking at all, if I feel so inclined. Five minutes, maybe 10, or somewhere in between the two in total silence is all I need.
When I was slogging away in the workforce as soon as I opened my eyes, I’d leap out of bed. I had things to do; preparations to be made in readiness for the day, and more often than not, the night ahead, as well; a place to go to, or sometimes, places; people to see; others who needed attending to in so many ways, and, probably most important of all, people to feed! Impatient, empty, growling stomachs of diners aren’t prepared to wait for anyone!
To my way of thinking, there are many good things about living alone…and I really do enjoy living alone. I must do because I’ve lived by myself with only my furry rascals as my housemates, for the past 27 years since my marriage break-up.
One good thing about living alone is being able to spend, not only those quiet moments upon waking, but those moments after rising, as well. Not being inundated with unnecessary, pointless chatter first thing in the morning is something I cherish dearly.
My ex-husband, Randall, never understood my desire for only the sound of silence as I went about preparing coffee and our breakfast. I needed that hushed space in the morning, but he was the polar opposite. He found it necessary to jabber away incessantly with idle, joyful trivia!
Each to their own, of course; I understand. And, I’m not in anyway being unkind about my ex-husband. Randall and I are still good mates…but, no matter how often or how many times I tried to make him understand my wish for silence at that time of our mornings, he failed to have empathy. Natter away he would; and then wonder why I’d constantly get cranky!
Randall would say to me: “Why do you always get up in a bad mood?”
Exasperated, I'd glare and growl at him; “I don’t get up in a bad mood! After all this time, and after being told every day, you still don’t know why I get grumpy, do you?”
I became sure that he behaved that way on purpose just to stir me up; and as hard as I tried, his early morning joyfulness still made me grumpy! His efforts worked, time and time again!
No one should be that cheerfully noisy first thing in the morning…other than the birds!
I’m not sure if it’s a male thing or not, but my older brother knew how and when to push my buttons, too. Sometimes he and Randall worked together in tandem against me when my brother visited. I’d grit my teeth in an effort to show them they weren’t succeeding in their endeavours to raise my ire! My ability to ignore their childish efforts grew somewhat over the years, but it still failed me at times, too; more often than not, if I must be honest! I found it best to walk away from their inane laughter; but more often than not, to my dismay and their enjoyment, that was difficult for me to do, too!
Another time I cherished silence was after a successful fishing outing.
When my husband and I first moved from the city to the Sunshine Coast, we stole a few weeks to ourselves, away from the madding crowd and workplaces to plot out our future.
I’d been working in the fashion industry, and had been employed in my job for 14 years. I had taken six weeks off at the most during those years. There were times, also, during those 14 years I’d worked part-time at nights and weekends in the restaurant industry.
Every other day throughout our chosen leisure, pondering time, we went fishing. Randall was always after the “big one”; his fishing gear was rigged, accordingly. He wanted to catch the biggest jewfish aka mulloway on the Sunshine Coast or beyond. Needless to say, he never did catch that elusive prey; but his determination in trying to do so was as potent as his determination to keep chattering in the early mornings!
Mulloway/Jewfish can grow up to 2 metres in length (6ft 6 inches).
So while Randall was up one end of the beach trying to snare his dream, I’d be down the other end rigged up to catch bream; and catch them I did! Our chosen fishing spot was the northern side of the mouth of the Maroochy River. Back in 1979, progress hadn’t progressed down that far to the river’s mouth. There were no buildings, no houses or people; just sand dunes, grasses and She-Oaks along the ocean front; and mangroves protecting the upper banks of the river. It’s a different scene today.
There was a perfect sand bar out just to the right of my preferred fishing spot. The bream fed off the side of the sand bar. I had a 12-foot surf rod with an Alvey side-cast reel. I’d cast out to the inner rim of the bank. Using fowl gut as bait, the bream were hungry little beggars; some were not so little! In no time at all, I’d be reeling them in, one after the other, filling up the ice-filled esky.
Randall, in the meantime, would still be in the hunt for the “big one” further along the beach! However, our pattern worked well.
Once we arrived back home, it was my job to scale, gut and fillet them. Sometimes, if I was in the mood to do so, I’d even skin some fillets. It was my choice to do all of this. I was happy to be the one taking care of the fish I caught. Meanwhile, Randall was in charge of cleaning our fishing gear and storing it in its rightful place.
I'd pack the fillets into meal-size portions etc.
Our neighbour was a lovely, gentle elderly lady. She'd been widowed a couple of years before our becoming neighbours. I used to love seeing her eyes light up when we gave her a few portions of the fish. Her meals were covered for the week; and we’d keep some also for my husband’s parents when they visited…and they visited every weekend. They were happy with their regular fish supplies, as well.
When we first moved to the coast, we lived for the first few months in my in-laws new home at Coolum, a Sunshine Coast beach area. They'd built the home they’d for their retirement, which was only a matter of months away. However, at that time of our own arrival to the coast, my father-in-law was still working; and they were still living in Brisbane. They offered their vacant new home to us until we bought our own house. We covered all costs, including utilities while living in their home, telling them to always arrive empty-handed in exchange and gratitude for their generosity. Staying in their home allowed us time to breathe. We welcomed their weekend visits.
Come dinner the nights of our fishing excursions, I’d cook up a feed of fresh bream fillets for Randall and me. Without fail, I’d just begin eating my delicious meal of freshly-caught fish when Randall would begin to describe, in detail, our fishing outing and the fish caught!
Every time he would go into minute details about this and that about the fish; how they were biting; how good the fowl gut bait was etc., etc., et al! And every time, he’d put me off my meal because I’d been the one, who had caught, scaled, gutted, filleted and cooked the fish that now graced his and my plate!
I didn’t want to discuss the ins-and-outs of the fishing side of it; that was gone; in the past. I wanted to block all of that from my mind and pretend that someone else had caught, scaled, gutted and filleted them! I wanted enjoy my meal. I wanted us to either talk about something else, or eat in silence, but Randall made it impossible for me to do either! No matter how many times I asked him not to discuss the fish while we were eating it, he never heeded my wishes! And every time, I lost my appetite for the delicious, fresh fish before me…but I found my crankiness with no trouble at all!
I think Randall had a death wish!!
While bream are silver – silence is golden!
Beer-Battered Bream Fillets: Grab 1kg bream fillets, skinned or otherwise. Beer Batter: In a bowl, add 1 egg, 1tbs olive oil and pinch of pepper; whisk together. Add 375ml of cold ale; whisk again. Gradually add 1-1/4c self-raising flour (or plain flour with 2tsps baking powder added). ¼ cup cornflour and salt to taste; whisking all the time; the consistency of the batter should be like cream; don’t over whisk, a few lumps don’t matter. Lightly coat the bream fillets in flour, shaking off excess; and then dip into the batter; drape fillets on edge of bowl so excess batter drips off. Cook fish in preheated oil (180-190C) in small batches, until golden; allow oil to reheat between each batch. Drain on paper towels; serve with lemon wedges (or vinegar, if you prefer), crunchy hot chips and fresh salad!
Tarragon Butter Jewfish Provencale: Blend together until light and fluffy - 250g softened unsalted butter, 1tbs chopped fresh tarragon, 1tbs lemon zest, 1tspn lemon juicel season with salt and white pepper; cover and chill until firm. Place 8 garlic cloves, 8 chopped anchovy fillets and 2tsp fresh thyme leaves into a pestle and mortar; pound until it forms a smooth paste. Stir in ½ olive oil and 1tsp mashed roasted red capsicum; mix well. Place 4 mulloway-jewfish fillets and marinade in baking dish; coat the fish evenly in the marinade; cover and chill, 3 to 4 hours. Preheat barbecue on high; turn down to almost the lowest heat. Brush grill with oil. Brush the solids of the marinade off the fish; grill fish 3 minutes; turn over (the fish, not you); cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove fish from the heat, keeping it warm, loosely covered with foil for about 5mins to rest. Serve fillets topped with a spoonful of the tarragon butter. Serve with steamed new potatoes and a tossed salad.