Comfort food #4: Tuna casserole

Comfort and sophistication are awkward friends. The truth is, the food that is more comforting to me than any other is entirely devoid of kitchen glamour. It is my mother’s tuna casserole.  It’s an embarrassing admission. As a self-respecting cook, I normally dismiss recipes that include a can of anything. I’ve sniffed at those contributions…

Piqa Boo

So a couple of years back I happened upon a variety of pears I’d never seen before: Piqa Boo from New Zealand. I saw them again today at a local restaurant-turned-fruitshop in Carlton and bought a small bag full. Crisp and juicy like the Asian Nashi (of which I am not a great fan) blended…

Comfort food #3: Apple pie

In an early issue of the journal Bread, Wine and Thou, editor Yossi Klein reflects on the role of the ‘maternal’ in our table life and its connection to our need for comfort. He describes the maternal broadly as “things that make us yearn, make us whole” but includes the more particular “dishes that feel like…

Comfort food #2: Mum’s fruit cake

Comfort has a smell. Sometimes it’s an aroma so potent it can knock you a six. When I first gathered supplies to recreate my mother’s unfortunately named ‘boiled fruit cake’, I was not ready for it.  Standing at the stove, my saucepan filled with a buttery mound of fruit and a blend of sugar, cinnamon,…

Comfort food #1: Seafood chowder

I need comfort. In times like these, we all do. In the uncertainty of lockdowns, we crave reassurance. We need somehow to hold and be held — to be reminded of life’s love and security. Food is comfort. It certainly is for me. All those sourdough starters bubbling on suburban benchtops across Melbourne suggest I’m not…

The grace of good bread

My partner makes bread. The habit went dormant for a while, but it’s back. Though it’s upped by daily consumption of carbs, there is something of grace in good bread made at home. It comforts, sustains and nourishes in a particular way. The Canadian-American writer Monica Shannon (1905-1965) was raised on a cattle ranch in Montana….

Ghosts in our kitchens

I don’t believe in ghosts. Never have. Not once have I imagined the creaks that I hear in the middle of the night as anything other than the ageing sounds of an old house. That said, I do believe in spirits. Especially in my kitchen. In fact, I have one and I feel her presence…

Isabella Beeton on cooking and happiness

“[in the past] only to live has been the greatest object of mankind; but, by-and-by, comforts are multiplied and accumulating riches create new wants. The object, then is not only to live, but to live economically, agreeably, tastefully and well. Accordingly, the art of cookery commences; and although the fruits of the earth, the fowls…

Priya Basil on recipes

“A recipe is a story that can’t be plagiarised. Compare cookbooks by cuisine and you’ll find recipes that are almost identical, distinguished by minor variations of ingredient quantity or slight deviations in procedure. Debts are gladly acknowledged, sometimes in the name — ‘Julia’s Apple Tart’ — or in a sub-line — ‘Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’. Recipes…

Rousseau on the joys of eating seasonally

“Nothing is more insipid than forced fruits. A wealthy man in Paris, with all his stoves and hot-houses, only succeeds in getting all the year round poor fruits and poor vegetables for his table at a very high price. If I had cherries in frost, and golden melons in the depths of winter, what pleasure…

Rousseau on the joys of eating locally

“In my food I will always choose what most owes its charms to nature, and what has passed through the fewest possible hands on its way to the table. I will be on my guard against fraudulent shams: I will go out to meet pleasure. No cook shall grow rich on my gross and foolish…

On monks and large coffees

When it comes to coffee, I don’t do large. That Venti at the American chain Starbucks is just gauche! There’s something about excess in coffee that disrespects the genius (and potency) of the espresso shot. No thank you. My regular will do me just fine. That said, the monks of the 18th century might disagree. The…

Slater on what makes food good

“And don’t let anyone tell you that the food is the only thing that matters. That’s rubbish. Where you eat something, who you eat it with and what you do afterwards is just as important. Eating is a whole package, not just what is on the plate. Food always tastes better in the right place,…

Marin on food and eucharist

“One might say that every culinary sign is Eucharistic in some sense and to some extent; or, to pursue this vein of thought one step further, one might say that all cookery involves a theological, ideological, political, and economic operation by the means of which a nonsignified edible food stuff is transformed into a sign-body…

Berry on eating

“The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet. People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best….

Nouwen on the table

‘Although the table is a place for intimacy, we all know how easily it can become a place of distance, hostility, and even hatred.  Precisely because the table is meant to be an intimate place, it easily becomes the place we experience the absence of intimacy.  The table reveals the tensions among us.  When husband…

Grocery shopping in the time of coronavirus

I went to the market this morning: the Queen Vic on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD. It’s a Friday morning thing. My son and I load up our fold-away shopping cart in the back of the car and make the short journey to do our weekly shop for veggies, meat, seafood, dairy and coffee. Most of our…

What’s for dinner?

So about this home cooking business. I enjoy it, mostly. But honestly, cooking in this weird time of social isolation and lockdown, the pressure to make each meal an event — a highlight of an otherwise grey day — is considerable. The stakes are higher, don’t you think? It reminds me of a passage from the…

A bellyful of oysters

In 1798 I was at Versailles as a commissioner of the Directory, and had fairly frequent dealings with Monsieur Laperte, who was secretary to the tribunal of the department. He was extremely fond of oysters and used to complain of having never eaten enough of them, or, as he put it, ‘had his bellyful of…

Lemon and poppy seed cake

You could call it my opium cake. I prefer the more genteel descriptor: lemon and poppy seed. It’s a delicious cake, made all the better when, straight from the oven, you douse it in a lemon glaze that seeps all the way through. It’s a lovely addition to afternoon tea. In fact, it reminds me…