Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I never had a burning desire to travel overseas. I lacked that particular gene! It was mislaid at birth…my birth, that is. I’ve always been just a broad who didn’t have a need to go abroad! As my peers boarded Qantas Boeings or queued for berths on ocean liners heading off to intriguing foreign shores, I blissfully bade adieu from the sidelines; tossing streamers, blowing whistles and kisses, not in any way envious of their wanderlust.

Later down the years I did trip (flew, actually) briefly to Singapore, Papua New Guinea and across the ditch to annoy our Kiwi mates. I’ve grappled an apple or two on the Apple Isle, but other than those enjoyable sojourns, my heart and feet have contentedly and firmly remained planted on Aussie (sorry, Tassie) soil, sand, and, once or twice, in mud, as well; and I’ve not forgotten the time I planted my hands in wet cement; it’s set like concrete in my mind.

And it is the concrete that is the impetus for the story I relate below.

The setting for the story of my concreted hands is Collinsville. Firstly, I must say, the Mafia had nothing to do with it!

My then employer, Morris Catering, held the catering contract with Collinsville Coal, a subsidiary of MIM. I’ve described my years dabbling with Morris previously, and if, perchance I’m boring you, I do apologise…but, please bear with me in deference to the uninitiated.

I was Chef-Manager of the single men’s mess and single men's accommodation quarters.

With the growing number of heads (stomachs) to feed and house more storage was needed to hold dry goods, etc. A free-standing shed was the answer to my problem, I decided. To execute my plan I hired a local handyman. A strange little man, he reminded me of that wonderful British actor of old, Edmund Gwenn aka “Kris Kringle” in the original (and best) “Miracle on 34th Street”. He also appeared in “Lassie Come Home”. Gwenn mostly portrayed kindly, gentle souls in his many movies. The similarity between the mild-mannered actor and my handyman proved to be superficial and short-lived. My “Jack-of-all-trades” became more like a cranky garden gnome than Mr. Gwenn.

When my odd, odd-job-man finished laying and levelling the cement for the shed floor he headed off to attend to another job elsewhere with the intention of returning the next day when the cement or concrete or both, perhaps, had time to set and dry.

The plan was that once the shed and the shelves were in place, the area would be loaded to the hilt with cartons of dry stores, crockery, bed linen, towels and the like, which were already waiting piled up in the existing store room and all other spare spots. Once everything was transferred to the shed, there would be little floor space left in said shed.

As soon as “Odd-Job” left to attend to his other chores, I expressed to my staff my life-long desire to leave my imprint in wet cement! I pointed out that we’d never get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but our chance at emulation lay begging at our back door! Like mythological sirens luring innocent sailors, the lure of the wet cement was impossible for us to ignore. With much gaiety, we not only imprinted our hands, we also wrote a brief message and left our autographs. Our boss-employee bond was cemented that afternoon. Any future relationship with the handyman was shattered!

“Grumpy” was not amused upon his return the following morning! Mumbling under his breath, but loud enough for all within hearing range, he begrudgingly redid the floor, destroying our artwork forever! Immediately the job was completed, cartons and all manner of other things covered the shelves and the floor making it nigh impossible to espy! After the shed affair, I shed the odd-job bloke! Some folk just can’t take a joke!

I left Collinsville and Morris Catering for a period of about nine months - (no - I wasn't pregnant! It just worked out that way!)- only to return to the township when I took up the position of chef/cook at the Town & Country Hotel-Motel in Collinsville's main street.

“Grumpy” and his wife, “Mrs. Grumpy” were a matching pair (dispelling any rumours you may have heard to the contrary…Snow White didn’t marry any of the Seven Dwarfs…and, she most definitely did not hook up with “Grumpy”)!

Grumpy and Grumpier used to come to the hotel only during “Happy Hour” on Friday and Saturday evenings; I could set my watch by them – if I wore a watch, that is. At the same time the free bar foods landed on the bar for the drinkers to enjoy during “Happy Hour”, Mr. and Mrs. Grumpy would appear for their free snacks; every time, without fail! Once the snacks and “HH” were over…they’d disappear out into the darkness to go and haunt their own home, no doubt!

I can’t stand greed…I can’t stand cheapness…and I can’t stand greedy, cheap, grumpy people!!

Pickled Pork with Stewed Apples: Stir 1/2c caster sugar, 1/4c cider vinegar and 1/2 cup water over med-heat until the sugar dissolves; bring to the boil; add 3 delicious apples, cut into wedges; cook until just tender; set aside. Place 1kg pickled pork in saucepan; cover with cold water; toss in some peppercorns, whole cloves, 1/2c cider vinegar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1tsp dry mustard, 2tbls brown sugar, 1 whole onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk. Bring to the boil; reduce heat; simmer 2hrs. Drain. Serve sliced pork with apples, syrup.

Apple Coleslaw: Combine 380g thinly-sliced white cabbage, 4 coarsely-grated red apples, ½ small red onion, finely-chopped, 1 finely-chopped celery stalk, celery salt, 1tsp finely-grated lemon rind and 2tbs lemon juice. Whisk together 1/4c crème fraiche or sour cream and 1tbl natural yoghurt; add to slaw; gently toss to combine; season.

Sweet Potato-Apple Tart: Preheat oven 200C; line baking tray with baking paper. Cut 2cm border around edge of 1 sheet thawed puff pastry, cutting only halfway through; transfer to baking tray. Combine 300g fresh ricotta and pinch cinnamon until smooth. Spread over pastry leaving 2cm border. Cut 150g kumara into 5mm-thick slices; cut 1 pink lady apple similarly; arrange slices over ricotta; brush with melted butter; sprinkle over 1tbl brown sugar. Scatter over 2tsp fresh rosemary leaves. Bake 30mins until golden. Serve warm.

Apple-Mint Sauce: Combine 6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, coarsely chopped with 2/3c sweet white wine, 2tbs sugar over low heat; cook 5mins. Increase heat; boil, covered 10mins; puree; add 3tsp chopped mint; serve warm or chilled with roast pork.


  1. Have always put some sort of fruit in my coleslaw. Especially apple. Crushed pineapple works well too.

  2. Hi Cosmo...I've never, personally, put crushed pineapple in coleslaw. I must try it one day. Cheers!

  3. Again I was totally entertained by your story of Grumpy. LOL I have run across folks who cannot take a joke and they are very surly. I was taught to make mayonnaise slaw by Mother and we never added fruit or sour cream and yogurt. I think that half head of cabbage in my frig needs to be used trying your recipe. Peace

  4. Hi Lady Di...I rarely make coleslaw for myself these days; but I did make loads of it when I was cooking professionally. I never used mayo on it...I always used sour cream. I'm not a big lover of mayonnaise...and that's probably why.

    I've just put a huge pot of chicken-vegetable soup on the stove...and I'll be weak from the aroma and starvation by the time it's ready!!! Cheers. :)

  5. Handprints and graffiti in wet cement... When I find messages from the past, I'm pleased and intrigued. My favourite handprints ever were in a roman amphora I borrowed from the museum when I was doing an 'Artist in School' residency.
    Three sets of prints, a man's, a woman's, and a toddler's tiny hands, all left in the damp clay of a roman pot, dug up after nearly two thousand years in the earth. The pot travelled from its place of origin in sicily to northern england, filled with wine.
    The makers are long gone, but those handprints brought them to mind for me, a father, mother, and child, together on a sunny day.
    When I lay concrete myself, I screed the surface flat and smooth... And if I caught someone poking their hands in it, I'd be likely to be unamused.

    As for Happy Hour, it is, by definition, designed to lure in those people who would otherwise not be customers. Cheap drinks and free snacks, will inevitably attract cheapskates and freeloaders.
    Are you implying that it surprises you?

  6. No, soubriquet...cheapskates, freeloaders and greed doesn't surprise me, but it sure annoys the hell out of me. I saw much of it when I worked in the hospitality industry, in particular...and it's something I will never get used to. I hate greedy's as simple as that.

    As for us putting our imprints into the floor on the shed...the majority of the floor surface was completely covered by shelving etc., when the shed was fitted out and filled with goods etc. so the imprints would barely have been noticed anyway. It was, after all, just a storage shed...and the only people accessing it were my staff and me. He was just a person with no sense of the fun. Sour old puss!

    Thanks for popping in, soubriquet. :)

  7. When I designed the schoolyard habitat garden for my children's elementary school, I added in a 'border' of handprints in concrete that edged the walkways from the school to the garden and outdoor classroom. All the kids in the school were able to imprint their hands, along with teachers and volunteers like myself. Now that my two oldest are college age, it is fun to go back and hunt for their 10 and 12 year old selves' handprints. I think it is a grand idea :)

    If you work in any form of service/ hospitality / retail, you have to develop a fairly thick skin against the not so desirable traits of humanity. For me, the customers who feel entitled tend to get under my skin. My sweetheart kindly allows me to rant. Then he sends me links to Zen sites.


  8. Hi rdg...yes...dealing with the public can be very trying...and tiring! lol I should go to those Zen sites, too!!

    Your schoolyard garden sounds great...I bet the kids loved putting leaving their hand prints for future discovery. Good stuff! :)

  9. You know Lee, they say if you woke up this morning feeling sneezy, grumpy and dopey, you don't have hay fever, you're Snow White.
    Your story reminded me that we forgot to christen the cement in out new kennel. However, it's not too late. There still is a bit to pour this spring.
    I'm with you on the cheap and grumpy folks.

  10. "I can’t stand greed…I can’t stand cheapness…and I can’t stand greedy, cheap, grumpy people!!"

    My aunt and uncle were just carrying on a family tradition.......

  11. Lee
    I made the coleslaw and the folks on the hill loved it. Thanks for sharing and I am starving now and would love a big bowl of your soup. Peace

  12. Cliff...thanks for the smile first thing in my Snow White!

    You must christen the floor of the kennels...after all the hard work that's going into that wonderful just must! :)

  13. Adullamite...I hope you've broken with the family tradition, then! ;)

  14. G'day again, Lady Di...I'm glad the folks on the hill loved the coleslaw.

    I made a stack of soup...and froze a lot of it for future slurping upon! So when you're passing by...pop in and share a bowl or two with me! ;)

  15. I have always wanted to take an extensive tour of Europe on account of being so interested in medieval history, but now that I have become so decrepit long before being old enough to be that way, it is looking like I will never make the trip(s). Oh, and I would have loved making at least a few trips as the driver of a truck-train in and around your outback while I was still trucking all over the place here in America. Hey, what could have gone wrong?

  16. G'day there Jerry...thanks for dropping in. See! You have taken a trip to Down Under, after all! ;)

    Yep! Those road-trains that traverse our outback are quite awesome.