|My first wedding day...6th April, 1966|
|From left...Mum, Nana, Me, Mervyn, Mervyn's father and Graham, my brother|
|The Bride & Groom...I was the ripe old age of 21 years.|
|Part of Fortitude Valley, Circa 1968 (Brisbane trams ceased running in 1969)|
Many years ago which, for me in lots of ways, could be referred to as the Enlightened Age of 1969-1970 while working within the fashion industry I also had a casual, part-time job a couple of nights per week at The Pelican Tavern, primarily waiting on tables.
My first husband, Mervyn and I had separated, amicably, in September, 1968. I moved out…my choice…to a flat/unit not far from where we’d shared the previous two years of our lives. Mervyn helped in the move…not because he was happy to get rid of me…but because he was a nice guy. We knew our run together had come to an end. We’ve remained on good terms ever since. That’s the way life should be, in my opinion. Spite, hate, vindictiveness and all the rest of the nonsense that some people carry on with is wasted emotional energy. Relationships break down…it’s a fact of life.
Wanting to earn a bit of extra pocket money over and beyond what I was earning in my five-days-a-week-full-time job I started working, at first, only two nights a week at the Pelican Tavern…Friday and Saturday nights, but before long I was working sometimes up to five nights a week; never less than three.
The Pelican Tavern was situated on St. Paul’s Terrace, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Don’t choke! I know I’ve written about the Tavern and my times spent there in previous articles throughout the years, but bear with me…please allow me to write another one. As you see, no matter what you say - I’m going to continue writing this, anyway.
I enjoyed working for Kyriol Wypow, the owner of The Tavern. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Mr. Wypow didn’t like what was happening in his country of birth after the Russian Revolution. He wasn't a big fan of Communism - I can't say I blame him! (If he was still alive, he’d hate what's happening in Ukraine today even more).
As a young man in his early twenties, Mr. Wypow high-tailed it out of there as soon as he was able to do so. He trekked down through Turkey, eventually arriving in South Australia; and then, after a few years, he moved to Queensland where he lived until his death in the Eighties. He built the Tavern with his own hands, blood, sweat, and tears, even if the tears remained invisible. The Tavern was as strong a structure as he was a man.
Unfortunately, The Pelican Tavern no longer exists; and unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of it. The floor of the tavern was slate. Sturdy wooden tables, some built to seat two; others to seat four; and some to seat eight were strategically placed throughout the interior. Empty Raffia-clad, melted wax covered Chianti wine bottles along with empty Mateus Rosé bottles bearing candles sat on the table cloth-free tables. They lit the dining area during service giving it a “bohemian” feel.
Kyriol Wypow and his wonderful Pelican Tavern were probably to blame (in a nice way) for heightening my interest in the hospitality industry; in cooking and in all areas pertaining to the industry.
Mr. Wypow was a self-taught cook, and proud of it. Come Saturdays he’d pick me up on his way to the restaurant. We lived only a couple of suburbs apart; and he didn’t have to detour out of his way to collect me. He and his wife lived at St. Lucia and I lived in Toowong. Their next door neighbours were Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento…the parents of the now late Diane Cilento – the well-known Australian actress of the Fifties and Sixties, and one-time wife of Sean Connery (the best James Bond, in my opinion).
On those Saturday afternoons I’d help Mr. Wypow prepare for the evening service. I learned a lot from watching him. He didn’t like to give away any of his tricks of the trade – but I had my antennae on high alert. Nothing much got by me. He was cagey, not wanting to let go of too many of his secrets, but I was cagier! He wouldn’t give me the recipe for his Lamb Shashlicks, which was his own, put together from when he lived in Turkey; but by power of elimination, I gleaned the ingredients out of him. If he was aware of my craftiness, he didn’t let on. He probably was, but enjoyed the game of cat and mouse; and he willingly played along with it. Nothing much, if anything, got passed Kyriol Wypow.
I loved serving the diners who enjoyed the food and the ambience the Tavern offered
Sometimes the behavior of diners caused me to lose interest in them, but that’s another story (or stories) for another day. Overall, to be fair, good customer percentages over-ruled the bad.
One fellow visiting from Sydney spat the dummy one Saturday night. The rest of Brisbane and I learned he was from Sydney because when I confronted him, while in the meantime purposely blocking his escape route, he declared the fact clearly, proudly (read “arrogantly”) and loudly for the rest of the world to hear.
He tried to leave the restaurant without paying for his meal; a meal he’d devoured. His plate was bare with not a skerrick of food, not even a crumb, nor a scraping of sauce left on it when I cleared the table. To make matters worse he left his knife and fork skewiff; not that I should’ve been surprised from such an ill-mannered person as him.
Remaining at high volume, he said he’d never set foot in the place again. To which I calmly replied, with a slight smile on my face: “That’s the best news I’d heard all night.”
Before departing never to darken our doors again, he paid his bill.
Mr.Wypow looked on, amused, from the kitchen; his monocle placed comfortably over his left eye. He didn't use his monocle all the time, but he did wear it always securely attached to his jacket or shirt; and used it when the occasion suited.
Another evening I walked past a table of two diners; not an unusual occurrence. They were lost in an intimate conversation as they enjoyed their juicy, thick steaks. Without warning, the male diner began spluttering and acting like Mel Gibson after a night out on the “turps” (as is said here in the land Down Under).
Stopping dead in my tracks, I asked the female of the two how well she knew her date. Had she known him long; did he have a medical history of taking fits, perhaps; but she was useless. Like “Fawlty Towers’” Spanish waiter, Manuel, she knew nothing! She was less than useless. While she sat there gaping, her date’s face went from red to a darker shade of purple.
Remember - this was circa 1970 – four years before the Heimlich Manoeuvre was created by Hank Heimlich. Time was of the essence.
Taking a punt, I figured the bloke was choking on his meal; not from his dinner being bad in any way, but from the way he’d ingested it. Perhaps he’d gotten a little over-excited while talking with his date, dreaming about what might lie ahead, and he’d forgotten, for a brief moment, where he was and what he was doing.
Cat Woman to the rescue! With all the force I could muster I gave him a humongous thump in the middle of his back. I didn’t hold back; I whacked him good and hard!
Out of his mouth flew, not a surprise engagement ring, but a huge hunk of steak!
Fortunately, the projectile missed his date, the surrounding diners and me. Reasonably controlled applause echoed throughout the Tavern.
I’ve never seen a diner abscond from a restaurant so quickly…after paying his bill. He had no reason to be embarrassed. After all, Cat Woman had saved his life! Following my life-saving good deed I hung up my leather outfit, mask and claws.
I was never asked, nor did I have the opportunity again to come to anyone’s aid, so there was no point in getting around in my Cat Woman outfit. It only drew unwanted attention.
If you find yourself choking…don’t call me…I might choke!
Three Cheese Artichoke Bites: Preheat oven 162C. Spray mini muffin tins. Sauté 1 chopped onion and 1 minced garlic clove and 1tbs olive oil until just tender; remove from heat. In bowl, combine 1 can marinated artichokes, drained and chopped, 6 beaten eggs, 1c each shredded cheddar, mozzarella and grated parmesan, 1/2tsp Italian seasoning, 1/4c chopped parsley, 1/4tsp pepper, 1/8tsp Worcestershire sauce and 1/8th tsp chilli sauce; stir in onions and 1/4c Italian-seasoned dry breadcrumbs. Scoop mix into muffin tins; fill almost to top; bake 15-20mins, until firm and golden. Remove from pan; serve warm.
Artichokes on Horseback: Drain 2 jars artichoke hearts. Place each heart on one end of bacon rasher; sprinkle with a parmesan and pepper; roll up; secure with toothpick; deep fry in 2-inches of hot oil, 3mins.
Prawn-Artichoke Pasta: Cook 240g linguine al dente. Sauté 1 chopped onion, 1 crushed garlic clove in 2tbs olive oil, about 5mins. Remove to bowl. To the pan drippings add…1-1/4c artichoke hearts (or fresh artichokes*), 1/2c dry white wine, 2tbs lemon juice, 2tsp lemon zest, salt, pepper and cooked onion. Heat over high heat; reduce to simmer, covered, 4-5mins. Toss with the pasta and chopped parsley. *If using fresh artichokes rather than canned; Trim and halve lengthwise about 10 baby artichokes with stems; discard outer tough leaves. Put artichokes, 2tbs lemon juice and 6c water in saucepan; bring to boil; reduce heat; simmer until crisp-tender, about 5mins. Heat grill pan over high heat; place chokes cut side down on grill pan; cook 6mins per side. You could also add sun-dried tomatoes to pasta, if desired.