Random Play by Graham Reid

12

Food for Thought

It is in print so therefore official: I am to the left of Winston Peters and -- more surprising -- Helen Clark. I am also, it seems, to the right of CK Stead. At least I am in the new book The Word for Food in which any number of worthies (and worthless types such as myself) were invited to contribute anecdotes about food and a favourite recipe.

My invitation came so long ago -- a year at a guess? -- that I had forgotten all about it until I received a phone call to attend the launch in the Auckland City Library a week ago. We dropped what we were doing at the thought of much fine tucker (alas, finger food only) but it was casual event where various people read their anecdotes. None of the famous names mentioned above were in attendance but this modest book of homespun and simple recipes to the more exotic (mine for Mika's Coconut Fish is here) has already proven a valuable addition to our shelves.

I commend it to you and I think it is only $20 in Dymocks. Contributors were unpaid and get nothing from sales, so I feel no shame of self-interest in recommending it to you.

In which regard might I also add this: in recent months I have been an occasional reviewer of restaurants for the Herald’s Canvas section again and we have encountered some serious disappointments in Auckland.

No reviewer goes out expecting a bad meal -- especially not if, like us, you have invited family or friends along. But with rare exceptions we have often felt we could have done better at home. And often do, or at friends’ places for sublime dinners -- and always in much more comfort than most restaurants provide.

Times are tough in restaurantland right now and will only get worse in the coming months (as I have mentioned in a forthcoming piece) but the national malaise is such that many appear to have given up on service and cuisine already. We’ve sometimes been made to feel we were at a wake for a stranger, and one we were paying for.

That said however, we have also had some excellent experiences and so I faithfully report the good, the bad and the indifferent.

However I want to add this: I have written about local and international restaurants off and on for a very long time, and for a while for this website.

But that was more than two years ago and to my embarrassment and astonishment many of those reviews are still on their site. I have asked them to remove them -- chefs, owners and menus change -- but many remain. They are undated unfortunately but make the site (and me) look foolish: I wrote about Winehot in Kingsland in its opening week (that is clear from the comments) and some months ago it celebrated a second birthday.

Such websites, like restaurants reviews, have to be current to be relevant. Ignore anything I say at that site. But check out my recipe (well, not mine as you will see) and check out The Word For Food, edited selflessly by the tireless Joyce Irving (Heritage Press).

The PM’s fish curry sounds real good and there is a recipe for a proper Cornish pasty (among other winter-fuel delights).

Ten-Four: Before truckies get even more deluded about how much public support they got for their protest could they breathe through their noses and consider the following.

1) People in this country like the idea of rilly rilly big trucks en masse in their city streets. It’s kinda different and exciting, like a muscular Santa parade. I’d honk and wave for that too.
2) Kids waving at you don’t count.
3) CW McCall’s Convoy was a big hit in this country, good buddy.
4) The New Zealand public seems well disposed to assisted-suicide for the mortally imperilled, so the “support” might have just been people’s way of giving an increasingly unpopular and wounded government a helpful nudge. In other words, it wasn't about you.

And before we get too heated about the perceived injustice meted out to poor truckies -- although Annette King scored a brilliant own goal and a PR disaster in one simple, ill-conceived announcement -- maybe some cooler analysis of the government’s case should be considered.

And if you can’t be bothered with the boring maths then Aucklanders might like to stand on Symonds Street on any given day, somewhere around the university where scores if not hundreds of students are crossing the road. That this narrow, pedestrian-heavy, tree-lined road through what is now the centre of the sprawling campus should be a thoroughfare for massive articulated trucks is a dangerous disgrace.

And look at the state of the road there: I doubt it is the gentle step of students’ feet, their motorbikes, or the traffic of Jap imports which is causing the damage. In user-pays land you have to wonder.

Almost finally: a lot of very diverse music -- cult classics, alt.country, neo-rock (I made that one up), Indian spiritual music sanctioned by the Dalai Lama, “metal lounge” and much, much more is here.

And if you are interested in the Patti Smith movie at the Auckland film festival you might like to read this interview with her.

Righto, I’m off to Real Groovy to rummage their cheap vinyl bins again. I do this at least every fortnight (where else are you going to find a mint-condition six-album set of Bing Crosby in a faux-leather box for $2?) but doubt my meagre, across-the-counter contributions are going to help keep them afloat if what I read here is true. It’s an “if” of course -- but this news-cum-astute PR exercise was the talking point at party I was at last night and people were shocked.

I suggested by way of support for Real Groovy -- which is one of the few businesses deserving that overworked adjective, “iconic” -- we should all come to town in our cars decked out in orange banners with “Life is Groovy” on the side. We could drive slowly around the central city in a convoy for an hour or so and see how many honked and waved in support.

My guess is a lot of people would. Hmmm.

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