Thursday, June 07, 2018

I SPY WITH MY EAGLE EYE.....


Lorikeets
Collinsville Main Street...leading out to the coal mine
Two photos of Airlie Beach


Having watched and enjoyed the US television series, “The Americans”...I am now, like many others, espying the final episodes of Season Six - the final season. 

In my opinion, the closing of series has come at the right time, without it being dragged on...ad infinitum.   

Extending the series any further would detract from what was... overall not a bad series.  I’ve seen better...but, then again, I’ve seen much worse. 

If a show/series is not my cup of tea, mug of coffee or glass of vodka, I give up on it after a couple of episodes, though,  Why waste time on something not worth wasting time on?  It’s not a bad mantra to live by...and I do my best, my way, to follow the motto.

Watching “The Americans” rekindled fond memories of Andrei, a fine young man, who I was fortunate to meet and spend time with back in the early 90s.  I’ve written previously about him.

In 1988, Gorbachev – no, Mikhail wasn’t the “fine young man” to whom I refer, although Gorbachev, too, left his mark; and not only on his forehead - introduced previously unknown freedoms to the Soviet people, including freedom of speech.   

Massive changes were underway, but the road ahead was long and winding. 

The dissolution of the Soviet Union happened on 26th December, 1991.  On the 25th, President Gorbachev handed the baton to Boris Yeltsin.  The Cold War was at an end. 
Of course, the whole story isn’t as simple as I’m making it sound. 

During the complex political brouhaha and changes that were going on following the formation of the Russian Federation, the granting of self-governing independence to the former Soviet Union, one hundred special, clever young people from across Russia were chosen to spend six months in capitalist countries such as Australia, the US, the UK, Canada, etc.   Selecting 100 young men and women from such a vast area was an incredible feat in itself.

It’s impossible to imagine how it was achieved, and even more difficult to imagine is how those chosen few felt stepping out into an unknown world.  Excitement, wonder, fear, surprise, anticipation, joy etc., etc., et al.  A potpourri of emotions vying for attention – pushing and shoving like a crowd of eager music-lovers trying to enter a rock concert venue.

There are scenes in “The Americans” series, which is set in the years leading up to the history-making changes to the Soviet Union that depict the almost bare shelves in Russian grocery stores/food markets of the time.

Unlike us here in “the Lucky Country” - and those in similar other lucky, capitalist countries, at the time Russian people had little or no choice of products from which to choose.  Just one or two items sat forlornly, alone on the shelves.  It appeared to be almost a case of – ‘first in, best served”.  Speaking for myself, I’ve never had to face such a situation; and, I feel sure, most of you haven’t, either.

During the years the changes were being made in Russia, around 1992/93, I was employed by Morris Catering (Morris Corporation) as their Chef-Manager in Collinsville.   

Again, previously, I’ve written about my time as a Morris employee.    

I was employed by the company both in Glenden, a coal mining town north-west of Mackay...as “chef” in their restaurant, “Lorikeets”.  After a period of time in Glenden, I went to Collinsville...still in the employ of the Morris Corporation.  

Both towns are in the Bowen Basin - a rich coal-producing area of Queensland.

My job at Collinsville entailed managing the single men’s quarters/accommodation; managing the mess/canteen, ordering provisions etc., preparing and cooking meals; three meals a day (plus their cribs, as well as morning and afternoon teas) for the single men who worked for Collinsville Coal, a subsidiary of Mount Isa Mines.

A normal day for me began around 5.30 am, and continued through to between 8.30 pm-9 pm.   

Each day, the well-cared for, well-fed men had a vast, varied choice from which to choose – hot, cold; cakes, biscuits; fresh fruit, juices; tea, coffee.  Some meals were also delivered to the workers at the mine.

Early one morning, a young man arrived at the back door of the mess building.  He'd travelled as a passenger via the Morris Catering delivery truck.  The large truck that made it's weekly visit dropping off provisions to me....from the company's Brisbane headquarters. 

Alighting the truck was 24 year old Andrei who hailed from Yakutsk, east Siberia. 

Being one the special chosen young people from across Russia, Andrei’s destination was Australia, and for a time, when in Queensland, Morris Corporation was his base. 

The company, no doubt, was chosen because it had ongoing overseas catering contracts with the UN and our defence force....and for those reasons, is how Andrei ended up in Collinsville, and in my care. 

The few days spent with him were some of the best days of my life.  And, I dare say, his.

Now in his 40s, and married, Andrei and his wife, Yulia, live in Moscow. 

Periodically, to this day, he and I keep in contact.  Andrei has written a book.   

At present he is in the throes of editing the first draft.  He’s hoping the editing will be completed by the end of 2018,

Andrei came with me to the little Collinsville supermarket one day during his stay. The supermarket was small, not like the large city supermarkets. 

I can still see the look on his face.  He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the variety and quantity of items available on the laden shelves. 

Watching the scenes in the series “The Americans” showing the empty shelves in the Russian food stores reminded me of that day Andrei wandered along Collinsville’s supermarket aisles, his mouth agape; his eyes as large as saucers. 

Rather than stay in Collinsville for the duration of his visit, I decided we'd head off to Airlie Beach for the weekend.   And, there, we had a ball. 

Andrei's wonderment about his surroundings remained.  He was enthralled by everything he saw, and experienced.

Witnessing his excitement; enjoying his joy, was a special time in my life. 

Too often we take for granted how good we have it here in Australia – we forget. 

Often we need a wake-up call - it shouldn’t be needed, but it is.


Russian Meatballs: Rinse 1/2c Arborio rice; then bring rice and ½c of water to boil; simmer, covered, 5mins. Remove rice to bowl; cool. It will be fluffy and a little under-cooked. Puree 1 onion; combine onion with 1 finely shredded carrot, rice, 500g ground beef, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 egg, 1tsp mixed herbs; season. Form into golf ball-size. Heat 3tbs olive oil in pan; brown balls on all sides. In saucepan, sauté 250g sliced mushrooms and 1 red capsicum, cut into 2-inch pieces; add 2c drained canned tomatoes and 1/4c cream; season; bring to simmer; add 2tbs chopped parsley.  Pour sauce over meatballs; simmer, covered 10mins. Serve with pasta or mashed potatoes.

Russian Pirozhki:  Place 1/2 cup warmed milk in a cup or small bowl. Stir 1tbs white sugar; sprinkle 1tbs dry active yeast over the top. Set aside until foamy, about 10 mins. Pour 1-1/2c warmed milk into a large bowl. Add 2tbs melted butter, 1 egg, 1tsp salt and 1c plain flour to the large bowl with the milk. Stir in the yeast mixture. Mix in 5c plain flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from sides of the bowl, and doesn't stick to your hands. Cover bowl loosely; set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour. Dough should almost triple in size.While you wait for dough to rise, melt 1tbs butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add ½ medium cabbage, finely chopped; cook, stirring frequently, until cabbage has wilted. Mix in 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped; season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until cabbage is tender. Set this aside for the filling.

Place the risen dough onto a floured surface; gently form into a long snake about 2 inches wide. Cut into 1 inch pieces; roll each piece into a ball. Flatten the balls by hand until they are 4 to 5 inches across. Place a spoonful of the cabbage filling in centre; fold in half to enclose. Pinch edges together to seal in the filling.   

Preheat the oven, 200C. Line one or two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Place the pirozhki onto the baking sheet, leaving room between them for them to grow. Brush tops with beaten egg.   Bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven, or until golden brown.

Siberian Rye Biscuits: In a small thick-based saucepan on low heat, melt ½c sugar; stir often until dark brown. Very slowly, taking care to stand back, pour ⅓c boiling water, whisking constantly into melted sugar - the mixture will bubble and steam a lot. Once combined, the mixture will turn very dark brown. Add ½c sugar; simmer until completely melted. Remove from heat; add 8tbs butter. The colour will lighten. Leave for a few mins. Whisk 3 egg yolks. While whisking constantly, very slowly add caramel mixture to egg yolks. Add  3.5c whole ground rye flour, 1/4tsp salt, 1/2tsp cinnamon, 1/4tsp ginger, 1/8tsp nutmeg, pinch of ground cloves and cardamom. Knead, at first with a spoon, then your hand, until dough resembles play dough - just slightly sticky. If dough is very sticky, add ¼c rye flour. Cover/wrap; chill at least 20mins, and up to 24hrs. Bring to room temp.  Preheat oven 175C; line 2 baking sheets paper. Roll dough out to about ⅛ inch, very thin (no need to use extra flour). Cut out your favourite biscuits shapes. Bake for 8-10mins, until the edges start browning just a little. Cool on wire rack before glazing.  Glaze: combine 1 egg white, 1c icing sugar, 1tsp lemon juice and 1/2tsp vanilla; whisk on med-speed until light and fluffy; pipe onto biscuits.  Dry an hour or so. In stand mixer, whisk on med-speed until fluffy. 

27 comments:

  1. Very long days for you back then. While I don't think any Russian would want to turn the clock back to the days of bread queues, it is such a shame that so many were allowed to exploit the country's assets for huge personal profit, much of it invested in London property, and political patronage. While communism did not work, there are problems too with democracy, especially dictator led democracy.

    Is Andrei's book biographical? Will Lee feature heavily in the 'My Time in Australia' chapter?

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    1. Hi Andrew....Over many years I worked very long hours....anything to do with the food industry...and when I was managing the resorts etc....long hours on one's feet are the norm.

      I imagine from what Andrei has told me his book is be based on some of his own experiences...; on his personal search; on his emotions and thoughts about certain elements of life...and of his life, no doubt. I don't believe I will feature in it, heavily or otherwise.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  2. I have no doubt that you will want a copy of Andrei's book.
    Long hours are a feature of many of the 'service' industries aren't they? And rarely appreciated as wholeheartedly as they should be. Our nurses/carers also work very similar hours.

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    1. Hi EC...Yes...the service industry does have long hours. I enjoyed the parts I played in my particular fields of the industry, even though, it was at times very tiring. The adrenaline kicked in...and that always kept me going.

      I would like a copy of Andrei's book when it is finally published...and if it is also in English. I'd have no hope of understanding Russian! lol

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. I've heard of empty grocery store shelves but never ever seen any. I always wondered how on earth people managed. Did they grow their own fruits and vegetables? Make their own soaps? and so on.
    Is Andrei writing his book in English? I'd love to add it to my "to be read" pile which is growing in leaps and bounds (*~*)

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    1. Hi River...people survive on what they have at hand...it's difficult to know. I guess they did make their own soaps etc., and grew what they were able to grow in not always good weather or temps.

      I imagine, River, Andrei's book will be in Russian when it's first published. He speaks and writes perfect English, however.

      His late mother, who died a few years ago taught English at the Yakutsk State University...now known as the Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University. It's the largest higher education institute in the Russian north-east. Hence, his command of the English language both written and verbal.

      I'll keep you posted on developments. I am, naturally, very interested in how it all progresses.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  4. Lee you have met so many interesting people in your lifetime- do you ever miss the hustle and bustle of the life you led?
    I realise you must protect the privacy of past visitors but I'm sure there must be tales to be told other than those you've regaled us with already. Go on....spill the beans....there's nobody here but you and me!!

    The Golfer and I will be making our way up Collinsville way again in July. Several weeks relaxing in Bowen is what we need and hopefully what we will get. Queens Beach and Rose Bay here we come :)

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    1. Hahahaha, Cathy. The rack! The rack! She's threatening me with the rack trying to make be spill the beans!!! :)

      I did meet many interesting people, Cathy...in the past I have written about a few of them; and no doubt, somewhere along the line I will resurrect the tales and add a few new ones.

      No...I don't miss the hustle and bustle of those years...but I am glad had those times. I enjoyed it all at the time. The hospitality industry, in all its many forms, is a very interesting, stimulating industry of which to be part.

      Oh....You know what? I had some wonderful, fun times in Collinsville, as strange as that may sound to some. There was always something going on.

      When I stopped working for Morris Catering, I then became the cook at the Town and Country Hotel-Motel in Collinsville.

      I don't know the latest re the below projects. I hope the militant CFMEU keep its nose out. They used to have a strangle-hold over the miners. There is no love lost between me and that mob...any union, for that matter.

      And during that time there were musical acts/groups/performers coming through and playing at the venue...once, oft times, twice a week. The hotel had a rather large back bar/function/dining area, as well as a separate little restaurant, and the main, large public bar.

      It was great...never a dull moment. Kerry and Leslie Wall(husband and wife, respectively) were the then owners/operators of the business. It was a very busy place during those years.

      I've now learned the hotel-motel has been closed since 2014. The town and the surrounding areas have suffered drastically because of all the protests etc., against coal mining. Lots of people out of work...many have left the area in search of work elsewhere.

      https://arena.gov.au/projects/collinsville-solar-farm/

      https://www.dailymercury.com.au/news/calls-for-collinsville-solar-project-dispute-to-be/3307110/



      As for Bowen...I love Bowen and the beaches around Bowen...they are magnificent beaches...particularly, Rose Bay, Horseshoe Bay, Grays Bay and Murrays Bay. Say "G'day" to them all, and to Collinsville when you visit. :)

      Thanks for coming by. I look forward to hearing about your trip. :)

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  5. Your chef dishes look yummi, as usual!
    The "iron curtain" by which the Soviet Union blocked itself and its satellite nations, from the West, was very bad for them economically.
    Nowadays,seeing that not all is rosy in the West and western democracy, they've reached confidence, so much so, that they boldly claim the future lies in Russia.
    Time will tell.

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    1. G'day,DUTA....The grass is sometimes greener on the other side, and it often needs mowing! :)

      How wonderful it would be if everything was rosy...everywhere. I'm a dreamer! It helps being one...a break from the harsh realities has to be good for the soul!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. "He was enthralled by everything he saw". That is the kind of attitude that I admire and so I would be pleased if you would let us know about his book when it does come out!

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    1. Hi Kay...I felt wonderful being a part of that experience...understanding, appreciating and feeling what Andrei was going through at that time...during those few days we spent together. It was a fantastic experience...for him...but for me, too. To be part of that was something I will never forget.

      I guess, in a way, it was akin to watching your child taking its first step.

      And, I definitely announce, loudly and clearly, the arrival on the scene of Andrei's book! I do so hope it is a success for him. Having written one, is success in itself alone. Just getting that far, is something not many of us achieve.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  7. I have heard about the series, The Americans, but never watched it. I might check it out.

    Seeing the wonder and excitement of a young person experiencing things he could never imagine has to be a wonderful experience. How nice that you have continued your friendship over the years and miles.

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    1. Hi Arleen....I'm sure you will like the series...I did...as I said, I've seen better series....and I've seen much worse. It's just my opinion on the series. It's has held my interest through to the final series.....and I like Keri Russell...I fell in love with her after watching her in "Felicity" many years ago. This is a totally different character to "Felicity"!!

      Yes...I got as much of a thrill as Andrei did, I think....just being a part of that was truly terrific.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  8. what a rich life you have had and to remember it all and the names of those you came into contact with is truly amazing to me; I may remember a time or a place or a person but never in the same previously forgotten memory

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    1. Hi Linda...rich in many of Life's experiences...but not in money! Damn!! lol

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. damn is right, no money here either, re-read and we are so lucky to have grocery stores chock full of items to choose from aren't we

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    3. We certainly are, Linda...we certainly are.

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  9. We have it pretty good on this side of the border too.

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    1. Hey there, Delores...Yes...we have it pretty good this side of the border and oceans, too. We're very lucky...and I hope the status quo remains.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. It's called "habituation." We get used to the way things are, all humans do. That's one reason taking time to be grateful helps us see again the blessings in our lives.

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    3. Hi messymimi...A case of getting used to the way of things...or tolerating them because there appears no other way out. Accepting our lot, but desiring different...I think, is also what many humans do...many who hope for change...change for the better. Always looking for and hoping for a better way of life....

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  10. I have heard of this series, but never watched it.

    As usual your selection of dishes was great, I always enjoy seeing these.

    Hope your weekend is a good one.
    Take Care

    All the best Jan

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    1. Hi Jan. I hope you have a good weekend, too. I'm have a relaxing one...and am now about to start reading the Sunday paper.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  11. Can say I have not heard of it Lee.
    Long hours working - I think many of us did that years ago it was for some of us the norm..

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    1. Hi Margaret..Yes...long hours were the norm.

      I was much younger then than I am now...so the long hours and long weeks didn't bother me. :)

      The series started back in 2013...It started off on one of the main channels, and then went over to Ch. 11, I think it was...on fairly late. I've been watching the last few seasons via Foxtel Now...streaming and bingeing. I think I've only one or two more episodes to watch and that will be that. Another one hits the dust!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    ReplyDelete