28 February, 2011

From first to last

I had the privilege on the weekend of seeing a band's first ever gig. It's a daunting moment for those on stage - the first time you take the music you've been making in a garage or lounge room, and sing and play it into microphones and amplifiers in front of friends and strangers.

The thing about first times is that they happen a lot, whether it's noticeable or not.

What about the first time you ate somewhere, or the first time you experienced a particular food? I can remember the first time I ate pesto (which I blamed for a particularly ugly hangover the next day, thinking it was some exotic condiment I was unlikely to seek out again! Now I look forward to making it every summer). I never really understood tomatoes until the first time I ate proper ones, glowingly red in the Greek salad that was the first thing I ate on arrival in the dish's home country.

Sometimes the first time is the only time. I'll never take off backpacking around Europe on my own again. I'll never again leave the country for the first time. I'll never again see my first cathedral, waterfall or fall of snow. And that's just it - once you've done something for the first time, it's done. You've experienced it. What was unimaginable is now part of you. Once you've set foot in a new place, or felt a new experience, it can't be undone.

You may or may not remember the first time you saw someone you were destined to fall in love with. I remember seeing my partner for the first time. No lightning bolts shot between us, and it wasn't an immediate attraction, at least, not in a romantic sense. I remember the moment because lots of new things happened that day (it was my first day at a new job) and our relationship started soon enough after that I was still able to draw that first sighting from my memory banks and file it under 'Special' rather than 'Too random to remember'.

Whether you remember that first sighting or not, you can almost never know, as it's happening, when you're seeing someone for the last time. There are people from my past who I haven't seen for years, yet when I say, 'The last time I saw them was...', I mean it as a qualified term, as in the 'most recent' time. It doesn't necessarily mean the last time ever.

Watching that first-time gig came hard on the heels of watching a DVD of my favourite ever band's last gig. The Lucksmiths were together for 16 years before calling it a day. That's another experience, knowing it's the last time you'll ever do something. Sometimes you don't realise that either, but other times it plays on your mind throughout the experience, as you try to draw out those last few chords, put that extra emotion into each of the lyrics, make a small passage of time go for just a little longer.

You might be more comfortable with your material by the point you do it for the last time, but you can be as emotionally jumbled by memories and associations as you were by nerves and uncertainty the first time.

14 February, 2011

Meiotic biscuits

These almond yummies did a good job of demonstrating cell division as they spread during the baking process!

Given I studied science at uni for two years you'd think I could remember the difference between mitosis and meiosis...I can't, but any sciency readers out there are welcome to remind me.

I can tell you, however, how these little babies came into being. They're a simple mix of butter and caster sugar, one egg, a cup or more of flour, enough almond meal to get the mixture to the right consistency and, for good measure, a lash of golden syrup.

They're pliable, not too sweet and are currently demonstrating the reverse of mitosis/meiosis, as the number in the biscuit tin reduces rather than multiplies exponentially!

It's always worth having biscuits on hand. As Gourmet Farmer Matt Evans poetically put it:

A cup of tea without a biscuit is a missed opportunity

08 February, 2011

Art of the Picnic at NGV

180 St Kilda Rd; (03) 8620 2444

The National Gallery has a rather marvellous thing going on for the weekends of the warmer months. Not content with keeping their art indoors, they've moved outside and are offering patrons the chance to experience the art of the picnic surrounded by the art of their sculpture garden.

The hampers are arranged by the on-site caterers, and they've thought of everything. Picnics, more often than not, are something you arrange yourself and the most careful of picnic packer can be forgiven for forgetting an essential in the haste of making the most of a beautiful day.

In this case, the organisers take care of all that forethought for you. Your hamper consists of a sturdy blanket, wrapped in its own carrying halter, cloth napkins and tablecloth, cutlery, plates and breadboard. Even the apple-box it all comes in can serve as a table once you've unpacked.
The edible goodies for two comprise a baguette, butter, quince and goats cheese, a quiche each, chickpea salad, a selection of cured meats and, for when you've nibbled through as much of that as you please, two macarons.

It's worth lingering over lunch while you ponder the serenity of this garden, nestled and protected within the city's most populated and visited precinct. Eureka peeks over lesser apartment buildings, but one suspects even those looking down from the comfort of their own home couldn't feel more at ease than the couples lounging on the dappled lawn.

While it's not included in the price ($35 per hamper for two), they haven't forgotten about beverages, and a bar in the garden (from where you also pick up your hamper) offers wine and soft drinks.

Pick your day right, and it's just about a perfect afternoon out.

Just watch out for this guy while you're there.
See the What's On page on NGV's website for menu and booking details