Spots of Time

December 23, 2002

Daily Life

The Homested

When I first arrived, I was living with my friend Jacqueline and her mom, Lynn. They were incredibly generous and kind, and did not rush me to find a new place, but I was getting itchy and wanted to settle down. Not to mention they have a cat and I am allergic. Hmm, maybe that explains the itchiness? ;)

Anyway, after a full week, I still had no leads. That Saturday, the paper came out with all the new listings. I awoke that morning and was bound and determined to find a place to live. I then began what I like to call "The Great Melbourne Apartment Race."

9 a.m. -- Wake up, go to corner and get newspaper and VERY large coffee 9:30 a.m. -- Read paper, circle appropriate ads, begin calling to set up appointments to view rooms

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- Hit the ground running and literally dissect the town going from north to south, east to west. Encounter, among other things, an interesting British Sculptor/Poet with a bed sit (tiny studio), a novice witch and her black cat (no joke), several nice, rather normal people with normal apartments, a killer deluxe apartment with a pool and amazing view of the city, and a room in an apartment behind a secondhand bookstore. The bookstore won out, of course, as it is my retirement dream to run a little bookstore somewhere and be found most days with a cup of coffee in one hand, a book in the other, and a cat curled up on my lap (I'm hoping my allergies will diminish with age). The house is made up of Joyce, the owner/landlady, her daughter Zoe, their cat Minou, which causes me surprisingly little strife, and a student from Indonesia named Elna. Joyce is American born (Alabama), but lived all over including the UK, Australia, San Francisco and Tasmania. She is incredibly nice but very shy, almost painfully so. But, I think she is beginning to come out of her shell - how can she not with me jabbering in her ear daily? :) I feel like I am living in some kind of television dramatic series, unlocking the bookstore every night when I come home from work, leaving through there every morning. Whenever I ask Joyce a question about something (Philosophy, Tasmania, Aussie Slang), I am rewarded the next morning with a pile of books on the subject, sitting right by the coffeemaker on the kitchen table. It makes me very, very happy. :) Working Stiff

As for the job front, I am currently working two jobs. The first is at Via Volare, a great little cafe/restaurant on Brunswick Street, a hippy/yuppie enclave with a ton of cafes, bars and clubs in the inner suburb of Fitzroy in Melbourne. I really like it here and was hired my fourth day in Melbourne. Unfortunately, they are not as busy as they need to be to keep me fully occupied, so I only work here 2 days/nights per week. My second job was harder to find, but last week I was hired at The Red Olive, an Italian restaurant/upscale pizzaria in North Fitzroy. The restaurant is huge, the pace is frantic, the owner is young and inexperienced, and the whole place is rather chaotic. However, the job is located two blocks from my apartment, and you know what they say about location. :) As I am so new and still learning the ins and outs of how this place works, I should be fair and give it at least two weeks before I pass any (public) judgement. All I can say now is I have a few reservations about this place and I am planning to keep looking for alternative employement. Stay tuned. :)

Hope you all have a wonderful Holiday Season!

December 06, 2002

Thanksgiving, Aussie-Style

As a thank you to my friend Jacqueline and her family, for putting me up when I first arrived in Melbourne, I offered to cook a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner. Jacqueline thought this was a great idea and soon we had a group of 8 (Jac, mom, dad, sister, sister's boyfriend, Jac's friend Jo, and mutual friend Adrian) excited for the event.

In my opinion, most Americans look at Thanksgiving dinner as the quintessential "banquet" meal - something for a home cook to aspire to. But, since I was not a novice in this field (I've actually done it all myself more than once) I didn't think it would be too difficult. Silly me. The first "snag" came when Jacqueline informed me that most of her family was vegetarian. Right. "No worries," I said, even though in my minds eye I was picturing the Turkey centerpiece and realizing that the one thing I know how to do well is a Turkey. "I'll work something out." Flash forward to me surfing www.epicurious.com to find some vegetarian recipes. To their credit, they had many options. But it was then I realized that most all of the traditional Thanksgiving foods are those usually found during the "harvest" or fall season. It was late spring in Melbourne. Strawberries were much more plentiful than cranberries, and I hadn't seen a pumpkin anywhere. Still I was upbeat - no worries.

The next "snag" came when we went grocery shopping for the event, my recipe print outs from epicurious in hand. "How much cream do you need?" said Jac. "Two cups," I said. "How much is two cups?" Jac said. Right. Australians follow the metric system, Americans do not. "No worries," I said, "I'll just estimate - how far off can I be?" Yeah, right. In my head I was beginning to panic, but my outer layer was still cool and composed. "What else do you need?" said Jac. "Canned pumpkin." "Hmm, I don't think we have that - but I can get you fresh pumpkin." Ok, that should work. Then she brought back something that looked remarkably like a butternut squash. "What is that?" I said? "A pumpkin," she said. Suddenly, the idea of cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a foreign country seemed rather unadvisable, if not downright stupid. Did I mention that with the exception of the sweet potato dish, I had never cooked any of the planned menu? Oh yeah.

Thanksgiving day arrived, bright and sunny, and I got straight to work cooking. Jacqueline and her mom were out, so I had the house to myself. The night before, we had found an exchange guide that would allow me to transcribe the recipes. Good thing - baking the stuffing at 375 degrees F in a Celsius oven doesn't exactly make for edible cuisine. Still, with the exchange calculator, I was not too worried. Until I saw how grossly I had miscalculated the ingredients. I either had twice what I needed or half as much as was necessary. I quickly pulled out my journal and wrote down the following: Thanksgiving Day, 2002, Melbourne Australia. "Next year, I will order Chinese take out on Thanksgiving day. Regardless of where I am on the planet."

Amazingly, however, everything worked out. The family arrived, the meal was eaten, compliments were thrown around. I was actually pretty impressed with how it all turned out. And, I didn't miss the Turkey as much as I thought I would. My favorite part of the evening came when the family started asking me questions about Thanksgiving, why it is celebrated, what it means - and, the best, are presents exchanged? I gave them a run down (Pilgrims, Indians, Hard Winter, Big Harvest, Joint Feast, sharing what you were thankful for, football, leftovers, etc.). Then, with regards to gift giving, I let them know it was only traditional to give gifts to the person who cooked. :)