Local Joy, Local Madness

There’s nothing more local than a home garden. I often wander around with my camera, capturing seasonal change, growth and decay. The garden takes me away from my moods, my inner chatter, my inside world. In any season, il giardino is quiet and full of sensory pleasure.

Another ock for my buddha
Another rock for my old Buddha

This Buddha sits close to our house. It is the stone Buddha from our old garden, one of a handful of surviving objects from the Black Saturday Bushfires of 2009 which destroyed our home. When I find an interesting looking stone or rock, I add it to Buddha’s feet. Bushfire is a hot topic in the local area, with extremely divergent views on how to deal with the bush. One local plant, Burgan, is at the centre of this debate, a bush known by the CFA, a fire fighting association, as ‘petrol bush’. Due to its high flammability and tendency to spread like an invasive weed, most locals like to keep this pest under control on their bush blocks. Permit requirements to clear Burgan were dropped by our local shire council (Nillumbik) after the Black Saturday bushfires.¬†Seven years after that fire, which razed a quarter of the shire, with 42 deaths within the council‚Äôs borders and hundreds of homes destroyed, the local council plans to reinstate permits to clear this bush on privately held land. Our local Council has become wedded to an extreme ideology which is at odds with reality. Local Madness.

front
View from my front door.

View from my front door. A dam is a wonderful thing and was the first improvement we made on our land after arriving in our current home almost 7 years ago. It is our local water supply for the vegetable garden, a local water supply for the CFA fire brigade should they need it and is also a local watering hole for native animals and birds. Can you believe that our Local Council does not approve of dams on private property? New local planning laws have become fraught with red tape. A line has been drawn on a map which includes this wonderful dam. It is now part of a Core Habitat zone, which, in effect, prevents us from removing any local plants from its perimeter or fixing the walls should it spring a leak, without resorting to a lengthy and expensive local permit process. Local madness.

Echium
Echium in flower.

Planting in purple and blue attracts more bees to the garden. The local bees have been sleepy this season as the weather has been too cold and wet. Now that the sun is shining and the Echium are out, the bees are returning. This blue flower is often completely covered with bees.

Borage in Flower
Borage in flower

Borage flowers can be used in salads, but more importantly, bees also love borage. Many of these flowering shrubs, because they are not native to the district, are viewed as weeds by some prominent local environmentalists. Without bees, our vegetable and fruit supplies would vanish very quickly. There are also many native Australian flowering bushes in the garden. Bees like diversity and so do I.

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A purple native Grevillea plant and the winter flowering Hardenbergia violacea in our garden. More bee attractors.

Spaghetti Carbonara: I Can’t Believe it’s not Bacon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about eels lately, eels to eat and those other slippery and be-suited characters poncing about in politics and local government. There are the crafty eels standing for election, their slick¬†barrage¬†of three word slogans masquerading as debate. Then here in Melbourne we have the serpentine organisation called VCAT, the Victorian Civil and¬†Administrative Tribunal, their nefarious machinations designed to¬†twist words and regulations faster than an eel can swim backwards. Our local government is not immune from eeliness, with self-important planning committees proposing an eel pit full of new draconian restrictions, designed to trap the unwary ratepayer, like a sharp¬†toothed moray lying in wait.

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Spaghetti con Anguilla ( nello stile di carbonara)

How did poor innocent eels get to be connected to untrustworthiness and devious dealings? The saying ‘as slippery as an eel’ is associated with the most duplicitous and sly behaviour.

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I can’t believe it’s not bacon. Frying diced eel in butter.

But getting back to my foody eel thoughts, I was excited last week when my fishmonger turned up with one long smoked eel, vacuum wrapped but otherwise fresh. This set my mind racing. Eel is rich and has that umami taste missing in my diet. Time for a Spaghetti Carbonara I Can’t Believe its Not Bacon. It’s a pescatarian delight.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Smoked Eel. Recipe serves two.

  • 200 g spaghetti
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 20 g grated parmigiano, reggiano or grana
  • one large handful of Italian parsley, very finely chopped
  • 15 g or so of unsalted butter
  • 85 g diced smoked eel, skin and bone removed. This amount was from about one quarter of a whole smoked eel.

Directions

  1. Cook the spaghetti in ample boiling and salted water until al dente. Reserve a half cup of cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the diced smoked eel in butter in a large frying pan. Fry gently until golden, around 5 minutes. I like using a non stick wok these days, providing room to toss through the pasta at the last stage of preparation.
  3. Beat the egg yolks, grated parmesan cheese and parley together.
  4. Drain cooked spaghetti, add to the pan with the eel, toss about, then pour in egg mixture. Toss until the egg sets, adding a little reserved cooking water for creaminess. Keep tossing and heating for a few more seconds, adding a little more water as you go.
  5. Serve with lots of freshly ground pepper and more parmesan.
    Hmm, eel carbonara
    Hmm, eel carbonara

    This recipe has been adapted and simplified from a Gourmet Traveller recipe, March 2014. It has been filed in my mind for two years now, waiting for that illustrious smoked eel to appear.

Another weird eel expression found while researching this post.

Sposarsi √® come mettere la mano in un sacco pieno di serpenti, nella speranza di tirar fuori un’anguilla.
Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.  Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.