Entries in food (5)


Lessons from living on $2 a day

This was my seventh year doing Live Below the Line – a fundraising and awareness initiative run by Oaktree Foundation to help end extreme poverty.  You live on (food and drink) $2 a day for a week … the equivalent of the poverty line in developing countries.  Though that includes transport, accommodation … everything ... for those people. 

The challenge never gets easier, but each time I am reminded of important lessons, which is one of the key parts of doing it.  

The first and most obvious is that we have so much more than some people, and you really don’t need as much food as you think you do.  I come from a family who would pile dinner plates high with delicious food and we’d happily devour every last piece of whatever was served  … then maybe a little bit of dessert afterwards.  When you’re faced with a half filled bowl of bad bland pasta, it’s amazing how you can still fill up – and not be wanting more.  Note to self; stop over indulging.  (Have I done this since?  Sort of. I’ve certainly tried.)  

The week of LBL was also a reminder about how much free food we get at work.  Cake for birthdays.  Cheese Platters on Fridays.   With wine.  Catering from clients.  Home made treats from the people who like baking.  There’s always something tasty and free up for offer.  A few people suggested I could just eat the food because I didn’t have to pay for it, but I reminded them that there’s no free food in Cambodia or PNG, so unfortunately I’d need to wait a week to enjoy their to-die-for brownies.

My job is quite social, so I probably took it for granted that so many clients want to meet over a coffee.  In the five days of Live Below the Line I was invited to four coffee meetings.  And a breakfast.  In previous years I’ve met people in cafés and just drank water but sometimes it makes them feel awkward so this year I moved the meetings to another week – or told them what I was doing and we made it an office catch up.  Now I’m back and my barista is loving me again. 

Catching up with friends over dinner is a huge part of my life too.  We love going to our favourite restaurants, enjoying a wine or seven, and swapping stories on what’s happening in our lives.  My gorgeous friend Dani was a trooper, hanging out with me one night when we went to a movie preview, turning down the complimentary wine, popcorn and choc tops to drink water with me.  My stomach grumbled a little, and I went home straight after the movie to ‘enjoy’ a bowl of bland pasta, but she never once complained.  Our catch ups usually involve cool new restaurants or piles of funky gourmet pizza.  I’m sure we’ll get back there soon. 

The one thing that wasn’t a surprise – but continues to humble me – was the generosity of my friends, family and workmates.  So many of them donated to my fundraising page – some quite large donations, along with a whole lot of people who are suffering tough times but still dug deep to help me with my fundraising goals.  I was hoping to raise $1,200 but, with the generosity of so many people, hit $2,542.08.  My first year of Live Below the Line saw me raise $400.  A stack of amazing people in my life donated to the cause – and also sent me beautiful words of love and support.  I have some fantastic people in my life.  But I already knew that. 

The thing I didn’t know was that you can lose 3kgs by stuffing your face with white home brand wheat filled pasta and bread three times a day.  So carbs are actually good for you?  I knew it. 


A second chance 

I’m all up for giving people a second chance.  People make mistakes. They mess up. If they’re sorry and have learnt a good lesson, why not give them the chance to make things right. 

God knows I’ve done that a few times with friendships and relationships.  The ones that have worked out have made me happy I gave them a second chance.  For the f*ckwits who didn’t learn anything, it was fun but you’re on your own.

So what about a restaurant or your favourite bar?   Would you give that a second chance?

I’m not talking about bad service or a bad meal.  I’m talking about something a little more full on.

A health and hygiene issue.  Something to warrant you being shut down by the authorities.

Rat pooh in flour.

Yes, Pooh in flour.

Are you gagging right now?

One of my favourite restaurants was shut down six months ago by the health department for breaches in food hygiene.   It’s not like anyone died from food poisoning. That I know of. They just found a bit of rat faeces in their flour.  I didn’t even know Asian food needed flour (or rat crap) but you learn something new every day.

I walked past my Food on Sticks place yesterday.  It was filled with diners.  Everyone was eating and drinking and having a great time.  I was jealous.  I miss plates of marinated tofu and crispy skin prawns.   I miss funny little Japanese waiters who look like they work in an Apple store and could fix my laptop in five seconds.   I miss my favourite restaurant.

I wondered if the diners knew what I knew.  Or if they were oblivious to it.  I wanted to run in and yell “they have rat crap flour!” … but really they deserve a second chance, don’t you think?  Maybe it’s even cleaner than ever with the health inspectors checking it out regularly.

My friend International Louise used to live in Sri Lanka.  She once asked me to come visit her straight after the Tamil tigers attacked.  I thought she was mad until she explained that flights were always cheaper as people were scared to travel and that the likelihood of a second attack that soon after was rare.  Stay away if nothing bad has happened for a while was her advice – it means there’s a good chance they’re planning something.

That’s how I feel about my Food on Sticks place.  They’re currently on high alert.

When I mention returning to my now sullied restaurant my friends look mortified.  Some are a little angry that I’ve taken them there for dinner at some point.  Hey, I didn’t know they had rat pooh issues.  Besides, could you taste it?  I hear it has the same flavour as chicken. 

I’m willing to risk it.  I’m sure there are lots of restaurants with dodgy kitchens and less than high standards of hygiene.   They just haven’t been busted by the Health Department yet.    I miss food on sticks and really, what’s the worst thing that’s gonna happen?  I lose a few kilos and get a week off work.  It’s Bali Belly in my backyard.  

Anyone free for dinner this week? 


Too late 

It’s Food Festival Season.  One of the best times of the year.  The time when my calendar is filled with a plethora of food festivals and events.  The time that my taste buds get teased and my bank account gets depleted.  The time that I live on salad for lunch and canapés with wine for dinner.  It’s a great time of the year. 

This week I’ve been to four events – one after the other – night after night.  It’s okay, don’t feel bad for me.  It’s a perk of my job.  I get invited to a lot of stuff.  I also say no to a lot of it because, well, I like to exercise, sleep and eat proper meals now and again.  At Christmas time I could eat out every night with the number of parties I get invited to.  Just call me Paris Hilton.  (Sans the weedy little dog in a handbag).

Tuesday night’s fun involved drinks with workmates after we kicked some serious company goals.  Our boss sent out an email inviting a few of us out for a ‘sweet small sherry’ to celebrate.  At 2pm.  I looked at my crowded inbox and list of things I still had to do.  I’ll meet you there around 10pm I joked.

Hipster Kim and I powered our way through as much urgent stuff as we could and jumped in the car … getting to the pub at around 5.30pm.  Not a bad effort.  We had arrived just in time for a quick drink and to finish off a bowl of hot chips.  Better than nothing I guess.   Thank God for the kebab shop near my house.  #trashy   

Wednesday night:  A new hotel launch. Hipster Kim and I got caught up in the office (again) and arrived at the event about an hour after it started – just in time to grab some water and see the entertainment. The female singer was pretty good – she belted out some tunes – including a crowd favourite by John Farnham, complete with a live bagpiper. Best thing ever. #kilt

Unfortunately our only food options were giant hamburgers and 15 different types of chicken. We’re both pescatarians. Giddy, we grabbed our goodie bags of toiletries and nice smelling body lotion and headed out.  #HelloDimsum. 

Thursday night: An upmarket food festival – in a grassy park in the fancy part of the city.   We left the office a little later than we’d planned to (as usual) and both got lost on the way.  Ah, its fine. Stuff happens.

As we entered the VIP party, we grabbed a glass of champagne and agreed that after a big day, we were both starving.  We were excited at the thought of a canapé or 27 from some of the city’s top restaurants.  “The food’s finished”, a colleague informed us.  Shite. Here we go again.  #Hungry

Tonight’s fun: My favourite foodie event … a stack of amazing Asian restaurants sprinkled along the river as thousands of people wander back and forth trying to decide what to eat.  So many options.  So many yummy choices.  

As Hipster Kim and I enter the VIP dome (only an hour late this time), we're greeted by two of our media buddies, who thrust giant glasses of gin and tonic in our hands.  We play catch up on each other’s gossip – and I feel my eyes wandering every time a waiter passes by. Damn, they’re just collecting empty plates. There’s no food in sight.

My eyes and brain beg “Please, bring me some food” for around 40 minutes until, finally, my heart sinks. We missed the food service. Again. 

On Sunday, there's a fun run – which culminates in a brilliant after party. They always have amazing food.  Hipster Kim and I will be running that 5kms as fast as we can.  I may even hit a PB.  There is NO way in Hell, we’re missing out on the catering this time around. 


Mash it up 

I have a mashed potato fetish.  Or Potato Mash if you’re in a fancy café.  Or Smashed Potato if you like it lumpy and overpriced.

Either way, I can not get enough of creamy, mashed carbs filled with butter and cream.  It’s comfort food.  It feels good.  The texture is smooth and it slides down your throat.  Mashed potato makes me happy.

I’ve been known to order bowls of mashed potato as a side dish, even when I didn’t need a side dish.  Like when you order pasta.  And a side of mash.  Or your meal comes with roast potatoes.  You still need a side of mash.   Maybe you can’t find anything you want on the menu.  So you order a plate of mash.

I think my mashed potato addiction came from my Mum.  She told me that when she and her best friend first moved in together, all they could afford to eat was mashed potato.   On payday, they’d splurge and add fried onion.   Mum ate a lot of it as a teenager, so it makes sense that she passed it on. Pretty sure that’s how genetics works. 

I’ve eaten mashed potato all over the world.  The French do it best – filling it with garlic and crème fraise.  Mygod, that’s a mash to die for.  Americans aren’t bad at it but theirs feels like they’ve added extra lard.  Which is what most food in the US tastes like.  Don’t even bother in Asia – they don’t make it and if you can get it, you’d wish you stuck to something a little more local.  Like barbecued rat. 

My Aunty Deb used to make the most perfect mashed potato in the world.  It was smooth – not one lump in sight.  Just enough butter and milk to make it creamy but not too rich.  It would sit like a giant mountain of hot goodness on your plate.  Perfect.  Every time.  This is where my mashed up love affair began.

I’ve tried several times to make mashed potato.  In a cruel twist of fate, God has decided he’s not prepared to give me decent potato mashing skills.  No matter how much I want to make smooth, creamy mashed potato, I always end up with something a little lumpy – or a little dry – or a bit watery. 

My creative Master Chef skills have been tested on occasions and I’ve added condiments in an effort to shake things up.  Mustard – nope – too bitter.  Fresh cream – fine, but a bit too sweet.  Grated cheese – yummy, but with a gritty texture.  Basic mashed potato eluded me, there’s no way improvised mash was going to be any better.

At dinner recently, my Mum watched me down a whole bowl of mashed potato.  All by myself. I had ordered barramundi and vegetables but was disappointed.   Lord have mercy on a hungry girl as the bowl of mash was perfect.  Spoon by spoon, I smiled my way through the mini carbs party, while my fish (greasy and tasteless) sat on my plate.  I’m sorry that barra had to die and go to waste, but there’s no way I’m ever going to see a bowl of mashed potato be thrown away.  I will sit and eat every last bit of starchy goodness until you can see your face in the bottom of that bowl.

Mashed potato is my crack.  Don’t judge me.  We all have our vices.  Share yours and we’ll both feel better.  I promise.  



A friend asked me if I’m thinking of becoming a food blogger.  Uh oh.  I’ve crossed over the line of too many photos of food on Facebook.

Its not like I’m the only one who takes photos of my meals.  People do it all the time.  Instagram is filled with beautiful photos of food creations.  Chocolate.  Fresh fruit.  Hand made pasta.  Pinterest is a place to pin your favourite recipes.  Facebook provides a visual menu of all the great places we eat.

I’ve been out a lot lately.  To some amazing restaurants.  Top chefs.  Organic cafes.  Foodie Heaven.  There are so many – with new ones opening all the time – we’re spoilt for choice.   I’m lucky enough to get invited to cool bar openings and long lunches.  It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it.

I’m an okay cook.  I can whip up a Cajun fish stew and tasty comfort food, but I’d never make it through on Master Chef or My Kitchen Rules.  I don’t plate up my food.  There’s no artistry to my meals.  They taste good, but really, when you eat with me, you’re there to fuel your body, not be visually stimulated.

Some of the meals I’ve had lately have been beautiful in every regard.  Bright, colourful and fresh.  Creatively displayed.  Flavours that bring my taste buds to life. Tempting and teasing.  Exploding.  Each and every part of the meal is a joy.  I want to share that.

Just like people share photos of their kids – or dogs – or expensive shoes – of which I have none - I like to share photos of amazing food.   Think of it as a little diversion of joy.  A gift from me to you via Facebook. 

Its either that or 3,249 photos of my cat.  Your choice.