Tuesday, January 10, 2017

WHAT’S COOKIN’, GOOD LOOKIN’? CHAPTER TWO...WHOO-HOO!






My older brother Graham and I had been raised to have good table manners  we were taught to have good manners in all instances), but knowing how to conduct one’s self at the dinner table didn’t mean I didn’t suffer from nerves when I first began to dine out.  

As a child the only times I dined outside our home were at the birthday parties of friends, around a campfire or in the club house when I was a Brownie and Girl Guide (or in our own yard on Guy Fawkes Night). Also on Saturday nights when strolling along Mary Street, Gympie window shopping with my Nana and Graham after we'd followed the kilted Gympie Scots’ Pipe Band as they played and marched down the main street.   

The pipe band came to a halt at the Memorial Gates...and, conveniently, very conveniently, next to the Gates was “Nick’s Fish & Chips” shop!  It was then when fish & chips-eating-in-public-good manners came into effect.

Wrapped snugly in newspaper, much finesse was applied to extract the golden potato chips and crispy-battered fish from their classy swathe. Even more finesse was required to find those few elusive chips and crispy bits of batter that hid at the bottom of the folds.   

The licking of one’s fingers was allowed, if done with artful delicacy and discretion.

In those days, before I left Gympie in 1965 to live and work in the city of Brisbane, dining out in restaurants wasn’t in vogue; primarily because there were no restaurants in Gympie back in the Fifties and early Sixties.   

The only “formal” dining venues available to the public were the Dorith Coffee Lounge, various cafés and the dining rooms of the local pubs.  The cafés were far more modest and humble than today’s cafés. They were places where you could indulge in a golden meat pie with mushy peas and mashed spuds while sipping on a tall glass of icy-cold Cherry Cola or a Golden Circle Pineapple juice. Tea or coffee, if so inclined, were more the inclinations of the older generations. 

As it was, the Dorith Coffee Lounge didn’t arrive on the scene until the early Sixties. It no longer exists. Back in the day, I enjoyed many a toasted cheese, ham and tomato sandwich there, with glasses of apricot or peach nectar to help wash the sandwiches down.

I’ve written previously about the small parties/gatherings my friends and I enjoyed when we were teenagers and our weekends spent at the coast. We first explored the beaches at Mooloolaba, Alexandra Headlands, and not as frequently, Maroochydore, before we settled on the best (and nearest) - Noosa Heads and Sunshine Beach, with the odd visits to Peregian and Coolum when we could hitch a ride or were offered one, 

During those weekends and our mid-week gatherings I somehow was the one who donned the apron; not that I complained.  I enjoyed doing so.

From those simple beginnings and environs, however, not only had my taste buds been alerted to all sorts of interesting fare, but the cooking and hosting seeds were planted. My love of restaurants was born; and more particularly, what went on in the kitchens of those restaurants!  What went on behind the scenes intrigued me. I was fascinated.  I began reading as much material I could lay my hands on; and I laid my hands on a lot!

After spending the first five years of my working life as a legal secretary in a Gympie law firm, I spent my first six or seven weeks in Brisbane doing similar work for a city law firm, but I soon tired of the taking dictation; typing page after page on the troubles of others.  I was in search of something different; and from attending a party one Saturday evening, I found it.  

To my mother and grandmother's despair (they were back in Gympie), but even more so, my older brother Graham's displeasure, I left my legal secretary role to take up a position within the fashion industry (the Queensland office, showrooms and warehouse of a national company). There I remained for the next 14 years.  

At the time of my switching jobs, Graham threatened to come down to Brisbane (he was then living in Mackay, in North Queensland), and, in his words: "Drag me back home to Gympie!"  

That I should dare change jobs within such a short period after having remained with my first employers, in Gympie, for five years was beyond Graham's comprehension of what his "little" sister should be doing.  That I was 20 years old made no difference to him...to him I was still a little kid!   

He never did drag me back to Gympie, by the way.  And I told him, holding nothing back, to mind his own business!

In my new job, I became secretary to the Queensland Manager, as well as taking on the mantle of Office Manageress, and later, States Sales Coordinator. For our promotional evenings, which we held three or four times a year, when launching new lines, the company hired caterers to cater for our retail buyers; those buyers included the major department stores such as Myer and David Jones.

All the time, my inner, latent “chef” was biting at the bit; rearing to be let loose! I could no longer deny its demands.  My desire to lash out kept nagging at me.

Frequently, I used to host and cater my own private dinner parties within my own home.  Rarely a Saturday night went by that I didn’t have guests sitting around my dinner table...or some kind of party going on.

Early 1969, a few months after my first husband and I separated, to earn some extra money, I obtained a part-time, casual evening job waiting on tables at “The Pelican Tavern”, an eatery in St. Paul’s Terrace, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane! 

Initially, I was to work only Friday and Saturday evenings, but in time, when required, I often worked five nights a week. I was in my element!  I loved it!

With keen interest, I watched, questioned and learned so much from Kyriol Wypow, the owner/chef.  He was a dedicated, self-taught chef/cook. 

Mr. Wypow recognised my interest wasn't superficial. He became a willing teacher; and a good friend. 

I loved teasing him...and he enjoyed my teasing; it was more baiting, than teasing, probably.  It was a two-way street,

The other waitresses were in awe of him (and a little fearful), but I wasn’t. I could see through his sometimes serious, abrasive exterior.  His eyes were dead give-aways.  The mischievous glint that always lurked was obvious to me.  He never fooled me; and he enjoyed the games of cat and mouse we played. 

Mr. Wypow originally came from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. It was in remembrance of the numerous pelicans that inhabited the area around the Dnieper River the tavern was christened as such. 

Kiev was caught up in the turbulence of the Russian Revolution.  Kyriol Wypow wanted no part of the Soviet Union; of  communism. Therefore in 1920 or 1921 he packed his swag. Alone, he trekked his way south through Turkey, ending up in Australia. His first port of call was South Australia.  A few years later he wended his way up to south-east Queensland.

With his own hands, blood, sweat, and probably no tears, he personally built the tavern from the ground up. He was deservedly proud of his achievement.  He was married to a lovely lady who had her own hairdressing salon in the inner city.

Mr. Wypow was a fine, intelligent man.  And one I’ve always felt honoured to have known.  He taught me so much, and not only about cooking. His knowledge on most subjects was vast.

One day I approached my boss (of my day job) with a grand plan I’d concocted. Being agreeable to my idea he, in turn, approached Head Office in Sydney.  Without hesitation, they agreed to what we’d put before them. 

I believed I could do a better job for our promotional evenings than the commercial caterers who handled the company’s needs.

One is filled with bravado when one is younger!  Taking the dive off the deep end, my eyes were open, even if my heart was pounding.  But, I did believe in myself (as far as the catering was concerned, at least); and with that determination, in the first place, I refused to let myself down, or others thereafter!   I didn’t belly flop – thank goodness!

Under the banner of “John Galt Distributors” I would cater for the company’s future Brisbane promotional evenings.  No longer requiring the services of the catering company we had been using, I would purchase, prepare, serve, and then invoice our Sydney Head Office for the job performed.  The company would pay John Galt Distributors, which was, in fact, me.   

My little “company” was so named in honour of Ayn Rand’s protagonist in “Atlas Shrugged”.  Ayn Rand, herself, of course, in 1926 at the tender age of 21 years, moved to the United States from Russia.  She left her family behind, but over the ensuing years she made many attempts to bring her parents and sisters to the States, but permission was never granted for them emigrate.

I was on my way – still with many roads ahead - all of which at that point in time were still unknown - to explore, but on my way, nonetheless. Not in my wildest imagination would I’ve envisaged what lay ahead for me.

However, my first steps had been taken in the professional food industry...steps for which I would be paid, no less!   

So much to learn...and so much fun to be had in the learning...and doing.

Let the games begin!



Lamb Shashliks: Dice 500g lamb, into approx 1-1/2 inch square pieces.  Cut onions into wedges; separate the pieces of onion (the onion pieces should be about 1-inch to 1-1/2 inches in size). Cut a red capsicum, a green capsicum and a yellow capsicum into pieces about the same size as the lamb and onion.  You can also do similar to pieces of bacon, if you like. Combine the lamb, capsicums/peppers, onion, and bacon, if using, 3tbs olive oil, 4tsp finely chopped garlic, juice of 1 or 2 lemon and 3 rosemary sprigs together (or substitute white vinegar instead of the lemon and/or dry white wine; add some oregano, too.  Just make sure you’ve enough of the marinade to cover all ingredients.  My quantities are not exact quantities – I always make the shashliks without taking much notice of exact quantities – and I always make them using the white vinegar and white wine method – free-wheeler that I am). Season to taste  Cover and marinate overnight; or even for a day or two.  Thread ingredients, alternately onto metal BB! Skewers.  Place on grill; cook about 5mins...then turn over (the shashliks, that is, not you) and cook for a further 5-10mins, to your taste..


30 comments:

  1. My brothers are yet to accept that I am an adult and capable of making my own decisions (and mistakes). Tough.
    I am glad that you acting on your youthful courage. It took you a long way.

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    1. I think perhaps all brothers a like that when it comes to their sisters, EC. I know that until the day Graham passed away he still thought of me as still being his little sister who had no idea about the way of the world! Little did he know! It got very annoying at times...oft times! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  2. It's wonderful to be so definite about the way you wanted to go. I'm still trying to decide what to be "when I grow up". I never found my direction.
    I didn't know cherry cola was in Australia way back then.

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    1. Hi River...Cherry Cola for us was a small bottle of plain old Coca Cola with a dash of cherry-flavoured syrup added to it. Either served in a glass or in the bottle with the flavouring added.

      I don't know if I was "definite" about the way I wanted to go...I just wanted to try things I was interested in. Much was spontaneous, not planned or expected...but as it was in the ball-park of what I was interested in and like...I jumped aboard and went with the flow! lol

      Never you mind...I've not yet grown up, either. I don't want to!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. Wypow is a funny name - like Wipe Out! Even so one has to admire a man like that. Someone who arrived in Australia with nothing and yet built a successful business through his own endeavours and it's also nice that you remember him with affection. Perhaps that's the best kind of memorial.

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    1. I guess I never thought about his name as being funny. He was just Mr. Wypow to me.

      He used to wear a monocle at times which thrilled his diners greatly. Monocles weren't often, if ever, seen except for Kyriol Wypow. He wore his around his neck at all times. And only used it when peering out into the tavern's dining area to see whatever it was he wanted to see. The dining area was lit by candles stuck in empty wine bottles on the tables. Mostly Mateus Rosé, Mateus White and Chianti bottles were used.

      He was an interesting, knowledgeable man. I often would spend my lunch hour with him (the Tavern was on the next corner down from my work premises, within easy, short walking distance). We would discuss all types of subjects.

      He used to look forward to those lunches, as did I. He'd always have an array of cold dishes for us to graze upon while we conversed. Foods that he was used to from his home country. And we'd sip on lemon tea. They were special times.

      I've met some good people; some interesting people/characters over the years during my passage through Life - and I'm grateful that I've had those opportunities.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. Yorkie...on further thought, just to clarify - Mr. Wypow's name was pronounced - "Whip-oh"....not "Wipe-OW". :)

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  4. Interesting, and in the short space of less than a month, I have come to expect no less. I did laugh and then wistfully sigh at the same time at this, 'One is filled with bravado when one is younger!'. Indeed one is.

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    1. Hi Andrew...you snuck in while I was writing my response to Yorkie's comment! You were as quiet as a mouse! :)

      Yes, indeed, indeed we were full of bravado; all part of the rich, fun, colourful tapestry of Life.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  5. That's interesting how you started your cooking, lots of fun I'm sure on Sundays, then doing the catering in the evening for your work at that time.
    Manners at the table, had them drummed into me too, I think most of us did back then.
    Always used to eat lunch out at lunch time when it was called dinner when I was 14 and 15 with my dad when mum was away...then often went out for coffee in the early evening when off duty, was lots of fun in the early 60's.

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    1. Hi Margaret...I'm a little confused (I'm easily confused) about your "Sunday" mention. Sundays were my days off from cooking and from my Monday to Friday regular job.

      Yep...the Sixties were lots of fun...a unique time. I'm glad I was of the ages to enjoy that decade.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. My father's idea of manners was to clean his plate and utensils so thoroughly (licked clean) they wouldn't need washing. We washed them anyway. I don't recall being taught proper manners, I've had elbows on the table and a book by my plate as long as I can remember.

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    3. Lee, have no idea where I got Sunday from :) or why!
      Suppose I miss read....meaning you must have had fun Friday and Saturday's cooking for your guests those nights..

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    4. River....we would never have been allowed to do either, read at the table or have our elbows on the table. Definite no, no's.

      Margaret...I guess you were right in your thinking in a way....Sundays were mostly days I could just put my feet up and do a bit of reading sans people, cooking and waiting tables. :)

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  6. It sounds like you took the right road in your professional life. The hospitality business is a much happier environment than the law.

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    1. Hey Arleen...I did many things in my working life. I even returned to legal offices a couple of times...once when we were living at the coast and then later in 1994 for a brief period when I was living in Townsville! A coat of many colours I wore!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  7. You have had amazing experiences and have met so many interesting people. Growing up table manners were of the utmost importance in our home. I raised my children the same and when they questioned "why" I explained they never knew when they might get an invitation to dinner at the Whitehouse.

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    1. Hi Anny...yes...I've quite a few tales to tell...and have told a few of them!

      Good manners are very important in my opinion...even in today's crazy society!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  8. What a chequered life you've led! And isn't it amazing how activities draw us in like cooking and catering did you?

    And by the way --- a belated Happy New Year to you too!

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    1. Hi Molly...yes, my life's been a bit like a tarten quilt! lol

      I hope 2017 treats you well...thanks for coming by and for your good wishes. :)

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  9. You certainly have led a varied working life. Never a dull moment but you have to have courage to make all thee changes and you certainly have that.

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    1. Variety is the spice of life, I guess, Helsie. And I like spice! A much quieter existence these days, though.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  10. I love those quotes. So real and honest. Way to go for women. :)

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    1. Hey there, Lux. Rand had much to say...and she said it well, in my opinion. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  11. You've lived a fascinating life, Lee. And you are such an entrepreneur. Kudos.

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    1. G'day Sandra....I had some fun times; and again I've had some not so much fun times! All part of the tapestry, I guess.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  12. That's so lovely that you migrated into doing something you really loved.

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    1. Hey Lynn...I was up for an adventure; and I enjoyed making my jobs fun and interesting. :)

      Thanks for popping in. :)

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  13. It will all end in tears I tell ye!!!

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    1. Is that so, Mr. Ad-Man? I'm sorry to disappoint you, but no, that wasn't how it ended at all. Actually, I know how the tale pans out because I was actually there...I played a lead role in the story. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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