Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary



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26 December -30 December.
Somewhere in that lot of fruit, is a single youngberry from our garden (it's the youngberry canes' first year so there's only been a few). The rest were bought at great expense for the Christmas lunch summer pudding. A week later the price of the berries has dropped to half but this is a special recipe and not one for a regular meal. Jan made it on Christmas eve and it was my choice over the standard Christmas pud, since we were having Christmas just with the two girls at home. 

Fitting the small bread triangles so that they cover the bowl is a bit like building a geodesic dome. But it looked most attractive on the table. The purists don't have as big a mix of fruits like this, but there's blackberries, blueberries and raspberries and some strawberries in this lot. Next year we should have the red and white currants growing in quantity and we'll make a more traditional version.

It looks a bit massacred, (I grabbed this image at the table mid feast. Doesn't everyone photograph what they eat?). The white bread encased pudding was once called 'hydropathic pudding' (until the early 1900's) because it was popular at health resorts that banned pastry in their guest's diets. It's light and healthy (until you add the cream on top). 

Summer pudding I've found is only one example of bread wrapped puddings, there's a recipe that uses stewed apples that sounds like an autumn or winter version to try.   

Roasted hazelnuts (and spare a thought for the time it takes to crack this many. This home gourmet routine is very time consuming). We've had those nuts sitting in a bowl since autumn, cracking a few every so often. I've had the idea to make an Italian panforte with them, but one of the recipes made it sound difficult so it was only the days off at Christmas that prompted me to try one. 
The only tricky bit was synchronising the melted sugar and honey, and the melted chocolate. Jan did the chocolate in the double saucepan while I did the syrup and it all came together ok. We made a double quantity and that made the mass of dried fruits and nuts  a bit hard to mix, but I had pre-heated the bowl and it stayed soft enough to spoon out into the greased tins. The kitchen was pretty hot too, so that helped keep it workable.
The result was a bit bumpy and next time I'll worry more about the aesthetics, but Kate gave us the ultimate compliment when she tasted it. "It's just like a bought one". Never having had an un-bought one, I had to agree.

There's a taste in my memory of a stuffed dried fig I had in Umbria that I'd like to capture. Next time I'll go for some more chopped dried figs that aren't glace.

Visiting Melbourne after Christmas seemed a lot less hassled. Now that it's only Jan's parents and my daughter that we organise around, there was time to catch up with some old friends. Not having a house full of relatives seeking beds and floor space also meant that we didn't stay at a motel, and slept in their back room. Hot and airless nights were the downside, but we fitted in. This image is of part of their backyard with their rotary clothes line. 
I'd assumed that clothes line was a Hills Hoist because they're ubiquitous, but when I photographed it, I realised it was an imitation. It's been in Jan's folks Jack and Sheila's back yard since the fifties when the rotary clothes line became a must-have fashion item. Apparently there were lots of imitators of the 1956 Hills patent, and the cost of a unit was high - twice the average weekly wage, so others stepped in. I haven't been able to track down the Mont Albert company, but the National Library's Pandora project has some good background on the Hills Hoist. We never had an original Hills version when we were growing up in the country, but I remember a succession of ones that my father made for my mother in the butter factory workshop. Almost every rental house backyard I've lived in since had one however. 
Jack's paper of choice is the Melbourne Herald Sun. he throws out all the lifestyle and real estate supplements without looking at them, and tears out the crossword pages to keep after reading. He gets up early, and has his breakfast of toast and a cup of tea and reads the paper. Sitting in the small kitchen in his dressing gown and slippers he's comfortable with a paper who's editorial has become his own. In conversation he'll often mention an item he's read and has an opinion from the morning's edition. If we're there and happen to buy The Age, he dismisses it as an intruder and almost resents the space it takes up in the kitchen.
This object is a door stopper. Padded, animal like, with gold sequin eyes, some residual fur and nylon whiskers on a black soft body. It's probably scared more than a few small children over time, if they notice it lurking behind the back door. Sheila said it was a birthday present from Jack and that 'it used to look better with its whiskers'. Hmmmm... ok, get back behind the door.
These Long-billed Corellas where in the tall gums on my sister Jill's block in Diamond Creek outside of Melbourne. They're only found in a couple of regions in Australia, from Melbourne across to the Coorong in South Australia, and around Geraldton and Perth  and near Lake Muir in WA. They're not as common any more as the tall trees in which they nest get cut down. They are ground feeders and often look dirty as they scrape their tails along the ground. I've only really noticed them around the area where Jill and her family are and where my parents used to live nearby. 

The Little Corella are much more common in Central Australia and there are often huge flocks of thousands of the birds. I've seen them blanketing whole trees and wheeling around as they roost in the middle of the day, disappear then flock again at night.  
More eating. We had a family 'yum-cha' lunch to catch up. While we won't admit it, we've all missed the Christmas dinners we used to have when my mother pulled the family to her at this time each year. I'm not sure if the restaurant staff noticed or disapproved when we propped the camera up on the lazy susan and did a 360 degree pan movie shot of the food's point of view of the assembled diners. This image was my point of view as the oolong tea came past. You'll probably guess from all that, it was a fun lunch. 
Hayao Miyazaki's animated feature Spirited Away is probably showing in a movie complex near you. It's not to be missed. 

While I was in Melbourne, Aurore and I went to see it, and she chose the English dubbed version so that she could ' have more time to see the animation' and I tended to agree (if it was a DVD that I could watch repeatedly it might be different). We had seen Princess Mononoke and Kiki's Delivery Service together so we're fans of Miyazaki. Yes, it's a kids movie, but if you don't have a kid to use as an excuse to see it, don't worry (Aurore is 17) the audience were mostly adults appreciating the anime.. She said she would have been very scared if she'd seen it when younger (the lead girl character Chihiro is 10).

The characters are a mix of traditional Japanese and Western folk story, as is the graphic style. I wondered if this was to make it acceptable to western audiences (Disney are distributing it and committed to the other Studio Ghibli output). But as Miyazaki explained on the (very good) nauticaa web site ... 

The reason why I made the world of Yu-baaba pseudo-Western (Yu-baaba is 'the old crone / witch, straight out of Hansel and Gretel) is because it is a world filled with Japanese traditional designs, as well as to make it ambiguous whether it is a dream or reality. We just don't know how rich and unique our folk world - from stories, folklore, events, designs, gods to magic - is. Certainly, Kachikachi Yama and Momotaro have lost their power of persuasion. But it is poor imagination to put all the traditional things into a snug folk-like world. Children are losing their roots, being surrounded by high technology and cheap industrial goods. We have to tell them how rich a tradition we have.

The traditional Japanese spirits and ghosts that inhabit the otherworld the young girl gets trapped in, are fantastic (truly). I don't know how much creatures such as namahage are part of Japanese kid's folk stories but I was certainly fascinated.

John Lasseter is credited as the western producer, I'd like to know what his influence was or if it was just re-packaging, but there's a nice reference to his Luxo Jr clip in a sequence where a one legged lamp leads them to the good witch's house (Yahoo have a small clip of that sequence, and others.)

But, my favourite motif was the train, running on tracks just under the water. It 'used to travel both directions, but now it just leaves' and when Chihiro and No Face and the changed baby and harpy are traveling on it, it's a beautifully crafted animation sequence. If you're into all those themes I've mentioned above, go and see Spirited Away.  

Fred Harden  
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