Category Archives: Tastebuds Incorporated

Washing up at the wash up.

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At my wick's end.

(The one where I do not let go of the dinner party hosting – yet).

According to Angelfire, there are six signs of a “good host”.

“1.  Once seated at the table, no one should ever have to ask for a refill”. 

That.  That is a thing that is not an issue in this household.  Ever.

(Special guest stars – in order of appearance: Wynns Coonawarra Estate ’11 Riesling, Mâcon-Villages ’10 Chardonnay, Yarra Valley Sticks ’10 Pinot Noir, Macedon Ranges Zig Zag Rd ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon).

Didn’t consult buddy pal James Halliday on any of these, but they did the trick.  Enough said.
“2.  Avoid blinding your guests with candles or obstructing their views of each other with large flower arrangements or large centerpieces. Do not use scented candles- they can have an unappetizing effect”. 

Hm.  Possibly me and my feelings for candles have been guilty parties at other parties regarding this minor matter.

(Shut up).

Still.

My only duties pre-show revolved around all things floral and wax.

Whatever.

There are a lot of wicks to set on fire about this place.  A lot.  And I love lighting them quite frankly.  It’s not so much the lighting, per se – well.  Well, it’s when you have enough of them burning.  Together…

(It’s pretty, ok?  Geez!)

Anyway, anyway.  Appetites, spirit and reason remained in-da house.  (Plato still pops his head in the door of my life).

“3.  Help guests shine in conversation. Stop a bore from droning on. Steer away from topics that might cause arguments or offend someone”. 

Um.  Alright.  This is where we perhaps strayed into remotely Bret Easton Ellis territory.

But.  It is important to be topical.  (Isn’t it?)  Not our fault if politics and religion are waiting impatiently at Australia’s express check-out right now.  (Is it?)

(After all…)

We are talking the evening directly following the day the ALP National Conference went down.  The one with the airing of some interesting topics.  Marriage equality, offshore processing, lifting bans on uranium to India.  You know, little stuff.

(Stuff that’s interesting to talk about).

Also.

Not our fault if one of our (co-host and I) most entertaining stories to tell involves some great Jerry Springer moments.  (One headline reads: Family Performs Exorcism at Birthday Party).

There is that –

(Stuff that’s interesting to talk about to strangers).

Whatever, whatever.   I think the big things playing on your feelings and emotions should be discussed.  Out in the open and all.  More so to strangers than anyone…

Think: skewed-social-litmus-test here.  After all, at least you know where you all stand, sit, or fall flat on your face with one another.

Turns out: I think we’re all on the same page about many things.  T and L have not run for The Grampians… yet.

“4.  When serving, place food in distinct areas on each plate. If all the courses won’t fit on a single plate, make sure you provide an extra small one”. 

Say whaaa?

I don’t understand this point at all.  Probably got something to do with the fact that I can’t be bothered reading the whole sentence.

(Still, I guess I can be slow on the uptake).

Whatever:  the food did done real good, it did.

(No thanks to me.  I spent the entire time at the kitchen bar being useless.  Well, it’s just… Fine.  Fine.  I had my hands full, ok?  One hand on my iPhone, the other on a Bulmers, laptop on my lap.  Research).

Anyway, anyway.

Two different curries:  Vegetarian and a Chicken/Pistachio.  I’d give you the fab recipes.  Both from Crispen Pants.  But, you know, copyright infringements are my excuse today.  Amazing flat-bread to accompany (I’ll suss out the maker on that one).

Then…Dessert was this jaw-dropping stunner: Vanilla semifreddo with pistachio praline.  And…and… raspberry coulis.

(‘Like’)

(Despite my best intentions I didn’t get photographic evidence.  Too busy with my hands full.  This time with the wine.  You’ll have to amuse yourself looking at my candles).

“5.  Before dessert is served, the table should be completely cleared of all dishes from the previous courses. This includes wine glasses, salt and pepper shakers, and condiments dishes”.

May not have pulled this one off either.  It’s highly unlikely I’d ever move a wine glass unless it was toward my mouth.  The other stuff might have been moved though.  (I don’t like anything getting in the way of my dessert).

There are probably some other rules too –

“Make sure you cook the chicken” and “don’t glass the guests” immediately spring to mind.  We pulled those off better than well.

Oh.  Oh…

But this one –   this one we may have had some memory issues on:

Do not serve the dogs something different to their normal diet.  And if you do…. If you dare to… do not let them within 500 feet of your guests.

(Sorry guys, hope you’d finished eating by then).

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

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No.  Seriously. We might have to.

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Relish in newness of being a newbie.  Make a good impression.  Make friends.

(These are a few things we told ourselves we would do when moving to a new hometown.  Had the capacity for, even).

So, it’s important to get off to a good start, right?  Keep the ball in play early.  Not be penalised for silly mistakes.

We probably should have Googled “dinner party etiquette” before this particular adventure started then.

(Modern Manners and Etiquette tells me of the importance of the invitation in making “a happy host and a good time”.  It’s the voice of reason really: be clear about dates, times, venues – well, you know?  Some details that might be relevant to anyone expected to attend).

Including the hosts).

It’s just, well.  Well, it’s just unfortunate that we had forgotten that we had dished out invitations to our new best friends (read: only acquaintances we have had interactions with more than twice).

Yep.  We forgot that we asked some people to dinner.

(Scene of the crime:  The night before the 80 flies incident.  The crime that I refuse to evidence further at this point).

By some stroke of extraordinary fortune, fate, and destiny that we are clearly not deserving of…. Good Lady Luck swung our way again (albeit giggling madly).  The prospective ‘friendiners’ it would seem, are more up with dinner party etiquette than we are.

They called.  They called to check.  They called to check one full day in advance of the event.  The event planned by us.  The event we forgot that we had planned.  “Are we still on for dinner at your place tomorrow night?”

That’s the question they asked.  Thank the Greek Gods they did actually ask it I tell you.  If there was not a question such as this asked – well.  I guess we could have …..

(As it was, the question prompted a flurry of activity: frozen peas, canned beetroot and 6 month old cornflakes all tossed on to the kitchen bench in an effort to see if there was a chance in high hell that the event could, in fact, take place).

Still.  To my own credit –

It should be stated here that I have very strong coping mechanisms when it comes to being on the receiving end of shock waves.  (Don’t ask me to give you tips though.  As it is, I am in denial about my over-use of denial).

Anyway, anyway.

With our tails between our legs and remorse drifting gently in the breeze, we sat quietly in the confessionals of truth.  We told our friendiners that we had forgotten about those particular invitations.

(Way to make a good impression to people who will be potentially part of one’s future social life).

It gets worse.

We also had to ‘fess up that we had already run with the bulls and created another set of invitations for the following weekend… A set of invitations apparently that were relayed to other people when we were in possession of our mental faculties.  (“It’s not you, it’s us” – really the only excuse that we could offer up).

Of course, we (the arrogant duo that this household contains) still expected that they would show up the following weekend… even though they had not been in receipt of that invitation (mark two).  Confused?  Well, so am I quite frankly.  (Always and generally speaking).

No time for self-pity, though.  Because… despite the poor form, despite the social ineptitude, despite it all – This thang is going down.  Dinner party is in-da-house.

Tonight…

(And a sprinkle of irony from the measuring cup: the only ones actually able to make this date were the originals from the forgotten invite.  Karma really is my fate).

……

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention: You were invited.

Locals night. Lots of meat.

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Someone to watch over meat.

It’s taken me months to put this post together.  Actually, I tell a lie.  It’s taken —days.  Strike that.  Hours –  across many days.  (It’s taken some time for me to come to grips with my feelings, ok!?)

But.  I had to tell someone out there in the universe about this episode in my life, at some point.  Someone… outside the rest of this town.  (Let me tell you: the townspeople know).

So.  This is a story about meat.  (Consider yourself: warned).

Just as well the tenuous grip that I had on the roof-racks that looked like a freight train headed to Vegetarianism… slipped a little while ago.

Technically: this meat came in the form of a meat tray.  Of the kind you win when you participate in a meat raffle.  (That type of event spectacular that unfolds with a high degree of frequency all around the plenty and many pubs, clubs and variety shows that have infiltrated Australian culture).  If we’re taking a good long hard look in the streaky mirror of honesty here, we (us, all of us,) would surely have to confirm that the meat tray is as much a dominant Australian sub-culture as 30/40somethings fangirling Khe Sanh (or anyone who sings it) each time it makes an appearance at a similar venue.

I digress.  (Well, that’s… new?)

The meat tray wasn’t actually won by me.  Technically.  That’s what SOMEONE would have you believe.

But.

The money that was handed over to the two nervous youngsters selling the raffle tickets did come out of my broken down purse.  The purse that was on my person, people.  (Inside my broken down, red-wine stained WSDPP handbag – cos Fair is Fair).

Sure, that money may not have been hard-earned by me.  Figuratively speaking.

Still.

What goes around comes back to my purse and therefore me, I say.  I am not keeping a ledger that clearly shows the balance of probability that the money belongs to one side of the equation or the other.

Enough of the petty penny counting though.

This meat tray was there to be won, and I was party to winning it.

I would like to insert some MeTube footage here to show you what happened when the winning took place.  This is a thing that cannot be happening though.  There is no footage.  None.  (It’s not like Mike Moore – cool kid – finds my life interesting enough to follow me.  Despite the persistent fan-mail I address to him and his greatness).

I will describe it though.  (Because I would like you to feel like you’ve had your eyes gouged out every day for the past two weeks).

Ah, feelings.  One of my top 10 favourite things that exist (existentially or otherwise).

I felt:

Overjoyed.  Surprised.  I also felt like the Gods of the land of Good Lady Luck Land had finally…. finally… taken a good long hard stare-face at me (and the other party who was party to winning) and thought:  “Let us amuse ourselves here for at least a good ten seconds”.  (I am only remotely amusing on a few pints of Bulmers.  No more, no less.  No doubt you’ll agree).

Cut to scene setting:

The Farmer’s Arms Hotel, Daylesford.  (A fabulous place with fabulous hosts and a fabulous menu).  A cluster of volleyball medals hang around the neck of a stuffed stag which hangs upon the wall above us.  We (someone who I know fairly well and I) sit at the bar chatting to new acquaintances Alison and Paul (part-time residents).  They are to our right.  To our left are new friends Marty and Geoff (we know them through Sal, who we met through The Farmers Arms gals).

Surrounded by all of us, we are led to believe, are a swarm of locals.  (And I reckon that could be correct, because some of them are starting to look pretty familiar, people.  Pret-ty fam-i-li-ar).

A number of these locals, including us, are here to be competitive about the meat raffle.  (Maybe other stuff too.  That’s not the point though.  Is it, now?)  The thing is: I was amongst those of the locals that rushed there just that little bit too quickly at 5.30pm sharp to get bar seats.  (Or the dress circle as I like to call it.  Best seats in the house to watch the raffle go down).

I can’t totally remember what the raffle was in aid of.  It’s the pints of Bulmers, you see.  It could’ve been for the benefit of Daylesford & District Municipal Band Inc.  (I hope so.  Otherwise my non-hard-earned $10 has gone to a couple of kids with a sneaky sense of humour).

Whatever, whatever.  There are 3 facts important to your vocabulary and memory with regard to what on Lady Luck Land happened for the meat tray to be won and taken back to the house of Hepburn that I live in.

1)      Add em up:  The 2 hours and $10 plus $80 odd spent at the bar on Bulmers and an astonishing looking/tasting tasting plate played a big part in earning le household a whole-lotta-meat.

Value is the watchword here.  (This value extends to the notable fact that the tickets were only $1 each.  I mean, what else can one get for 100 cents these days?  Not a lot, right?  Not a lot.  And, not even only that fact.  When anyone threw 10 bucks at the youngsters, they gave you the eleventh ticket FREE!  Caaa-ching!  And since SOMEONE’s own personal lucky number is eleven/11… well… I think the term is:  Sold! To the lady with the star on her back…and the over-eager one sitting next to her).

2)      Some things are certain in life:  We (the co-winners) were convinced we were going to be winners.  There is good, solid evidence for this.  Don’t try and tell me there wasn’t.  You weren’t there.  Were you?

This evidence would hold up in any court of legal stuff.

Example: Just one week before this particular event we were seated so close to the winner (of the meat of that week) that we could practically touch it.  Not that I did.  That would be weird.  Right?

Well.  It was right there.  And I’m from the school of thought that says: a brush with destiny is not good enough.  You’ve got to go back and get it for yourself.

So.  We did.

We had no questions in our head asking:  “Do you really think you’ll be a winner tonight?”

No.  Our inside voices were merely saying: “Can’t wait until we take that meat tray home tonight”.

High fives to Plato, dudes.  Appetite, Spirit, Reason: those guys were all on the same page in my mental faculties for once.

3)      It was time:  You know what I’m talking about here, right?

It was time to put our mark on this local, this town, these people.

(This is what winning a meat tray can do for you).

I mean:  Whatever, whatever.  I guess I could go gangbusters about the place with other making marks options:  clever street art, tireless volunteerism or soap-box protesting right outside Coles spring to mind.

But.

Those aren’t really things that capture the essence and spirit of me being able to convey my emotions and feelings amongst a large group of people who are congregated together for the mere sake of –

Well, sake of: being together (and together with their pints and hopes of winning the meat tray).

Anyway, anyway.

To cut an even longer story short:

Barrel draw, winners of 6-packs, cheap bubbles and what not.  Those things went down.  Then comes the meat.  And…wait for it…

Our names were not on those tickets. Apparently.

(What?  What??)

But.

Turns out winner winner chicken dinner was actually someone who does not own a fridge in this town (read: out-of-towner).

So.

Amidst shouts of redraw, redraw! We knew that fate, destiny and Good Lady Luck were finally, finally in-da- house.  Yeah, yeah.  Our time had come.

(The situation was perhaps most eloquently stated by friend Crispen Pants as “the Steve Bradbury of the Meat Tray World”.  Thanks to Facebook: We like that one).

A squeal from me (and I can be loud – I’ve done it before).  Yelps from the co-winner.  Cheers from the crowd.  Jealous gasps from new friends.  Arms flailing about by all of us.  All the while of course, the stag stared down at us in – well, probably in wonder.  After all, this was joy in its most overwhelmingly delighted state of affairs.

Suffice to say (and to wrap the story up): Winners are grinners.  We got lots of offers.  We could have made our life-time quota of friends right there and then (it’s something we seem to be trawling for regularly on Friday nights).

Such a shame the BBQ didn’t fit in the U-haul.

Anyway, anyway.  Instead of taking up offers and inviting all-comers back to the house of Hepburn for some ribs and snags, we settled for feeding ourselves for the week.  Lots of meat.  Local style.

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Epilogue:

To make up for the lack of hospitality we vibed the locals that night, we promptly hurled about dinner party invites over some days that followed.  This.  This you will hear about across multiple episodes.  Spoiler alert: We really need to go panning out in them there hills for some etiquette, I say.