Sunday, January 10, 2010

Get some grub up ya

Late 2009 sparked a bit of a culinary experimentation mode for the Love Den inhabitants, thanks to a birthday present of one of the most amazing cookbooks I've owned - SBS' Food Safari. The show is pretty cool, but the book is a great romp through the ethnic colours and flavours that Australia's multicultural base has granted us. I almost immediately got hooked on the wholesome and exotic sounds which the melting pot of African cuisine presented, and so kick off the journey with a homely meal of Mahindi Ya Naz (corn in coconut sauce), which, the book explains, is typical on the Swahili Coast. It suggested combining this with suqaar, a Somalian meat and tomato stir-fry and mahamri (or Swahili buns) - sweetened, deep fried breads.

First up, I whacked all the ingredients for the buns into a bowl and set aside to raise for a bit. The main flavour here is the sweet cardamom, which tempers the slightly sticky and doughy bread. When ready, the dough is shaped and

lightly deep fried to achieve a very slight crust and golden texture. (The Tiger gave the remains of the mahamri-dough a Japanese flavour by
inserting small balls of red bean paste before deep frying - which was

The corn was next on the chopping block, simmered gently for 10-15 minutes in tomato puree mix with coconut milk powder (which is surprisingly hard to source).
To be honest, I found the mix rather wasteful, as 90% of the flavoursome elements remained behind in the saucepan come eating time, but whatever. It was an interesting way to prepare a rather bland and unimaginative veg.

The suqaar was a fairly straight-forward and no-nonsense stir fry of red meat (we chose lamb) with some capsicum and finished with tomato puree. When served up you could tell this was not haute cuisine, but neither did it even pretend to be. You could see thousands of African mums whipping out this old gold standard as quickly as any Moonee Ponds mum would reach for the safety blanket of rissoles and mash on a tired Tuesday eve.

The experimentation has continued since then, with The Tiger admittedly taking over the culinary goddess duties. We'll blog the highlights from time to time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In search for the new Love Nook

And so begins 2010, which shall be dubbed The Year The Love Den Died (or possibly just Relocated, but I'm feeling rather dramatic this eve). It's been a relatively shitty start to the new decade, with the usual string of complaints relating to workload; the current toxic office environment; not having enough time or money for the things I love; even finding some of those things I love rather underwhelming... all bubbling to the surface and putting me in a dark way. Only to be greeted with the news today that the developers had lodged their Final Response to council amending their plans for the development which is to replace this beautiful old wooden girl. The amendments don't, however, extend to leaving this place the fuck alone to exist in its Love Den-y goodness, alas.

There still seems to be a few flaws in the developer's arguments, mainly centering around the scale of the proposed 3-story building and its impact on the attached Heritage Listed bakery and shop, as well as the visual impact on the pre-1940s street scape. But being rather negative and cynical about, I feel this current council is decidedly lacking in the romance required of them to deny such a development based on the above two factors, so I'm sure it's a given that the rubber stamp will be rapidly and enthusiastically brought down on this application. Before long, no doubt, the very place where I'm sitting will be no more and there'll be at least 11 more cashed-up bogans to boast about their owning "a delightful 2-bedder in the restaurant district of the inner-northern suburbs" (to whit, my response of "Oh really, you mean that glorified 75sq m shit-box with the fetching views of the cement trucks hurtling down Sandgate Road" will probably result in a bloodied nose. Mine. Again).

Here begins the happy task of house-hunting for the first time in nearly 11 years. The last time I did this, I had a crappy double bed, a bookcase, a stereo and a couple of suitcases of personal effects and CDs. I now have, in addition to the now even-crappier double bed, a 2-bedroom unit full to bursting point with rapidly depreciating furniture, decrepit soft furnishings, a champions' collection of CDs and books, as well as the accumulated detritus from 11 years of being in the one place and share-housing. Yep, this is going to be as shit as it sounds.

The Tiger and I have begun the relatively monumental task of trying to learn and organise what it takes to find a cool new place worthy of a Love Den tag, get approved to move in, get everything over there, clean this place up, etc, etc. Oh fuck. We have, however, found a non-faff related use for the much-maligned Google Wave to keep all our ideas and house-hunting endeavours in the one place, which is actually quite nifty.

All of this organisational joy, however, will not save us from the coming hell of dealing with the plastic real estate agents and property managers as they sneer and jeer at this couple who is "still renting in 2010, why don't you just buy your own place?" Grrrr... FUCK YOU, wench. Hmm... yeah, I got issues.

Wish us luck. Most importantly, provide us a solid alibi if you read in the news of a trail of beaten and battered plasticed, make-up plastered, fake-tanned real estate agents and property managers through the northern suburbs of Brisbane.

(And, yes, there'll be some sort of party planned to kiss this slice of heaven goodbye)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What have I really been listening to?

In the spirit of the times, I've still been devouring "best of's" for the past few weeks and it's gotten me more High Fidelity-esque over my own habits than ever. Thanks to my obsessive-compulsive tracking of my individual song listens through my account, I can present the albums I listened to the most in 2009. The results were a little startling at first, but then it sunk in that my usual fascination with live shows kicked up a notch this year thanks to a recent foray back into reviewing. Even more interesting is that while compiling this list, each album has attached itself to a mind's-eye type memory which it invokes every time I hear something from it:

10 Michael Jackson - Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection (112 plays): Yep, I contributed to the absolutely ridiculous amounts of MJ being played around the world following his death. Reading just a fraction of the mountain of obit words written in his honour, I realised I'd totally blanked a major part of his career - that of a totally arse-shakin black man gettin his mo-town orn. This triple album is pretty decent and covers some precious moments in this man's career. Pity it became what it did. (The mind's eye recollection is of doing housework and mundane shit around the house)

9 Neil Finn and Friends - Live Neil Finn Auckland 2008 (114 plays): A few years back, Neil Finn invited a few righteous dudes to EnZed for some jamming which culminated in the album and DVD Seven World's Collide being released. It was pretty monumental - the likes of Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway from Radiohead, Johnny Marr from The Smiths (then The Healers, now The Cribs... the dude likes "The" bands), Eddie Vedder and pre-solo Liam Finn rocking out with Betchadupa, all getting together to jam on each other's songs and play 7 nights straight at theatre in Auckland. Fast forward a few years and a similar thing happens, with a slightly different group of musos getting together a Neil's studio to write and record an album of completely new stuff. It's Neil with Ed and Phil again, as well as Johnny Marr, but also with the likes of Bic Runga, KT Tunstall, and even muthafucking Wilco! The album's since been released, but they also played a gig and I downloaded the unofficial bootleg and swallowed it whole. Numerous times. (Mind's eye: travelling on a Brisbane City bus down Wynumm Road at East Brisbane/Norma Park, over Canning Bridge and that delicious view of the city at dusk).

8 Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More (115 plays): These dudes went stratospheric almost immediately on arrival. And while I can almost taste the inevitable coolness backlash, I'm still devouring them while I can. Contemplating a ridiculously-priced festival ticket just to see them this month, too - thanks to the "no side-shows in Brisbane" bullshit embargo. (Mind's eye: striped sunlight reflecting off the Love Den's polished wooden floors in the late afternoon).

7 Ben Harper and Relentless7 - White Lies for Dark Times (119 plays): As mentioned previously, this accompanied me through the Japanese country-side. Like certain wafting smells of a slow-cooked roast can throw up vivid images of home-cooked meals, a couple of bars from any song on this album instantly takes me to hurtling through the mountains of Nippon on a shinkansen.

6 British Sea Power - The Decline of British Sea Power (120 plays): This album and band should really have been in my Best of 2009 list, if only their '09 offering was anything like this breath of angsty noise from 2003. An moodier, crankier and crustier version of Joy Division (if you can imagine it) these dudes have been my best-kept secret for a couple of years now. They're in that category of bands who I think should be more popular, but I would hate it if they became the super-mega-star-wankers of so many of their ilk (Editors, Bloc Party, etc).

5 Jeff Martin - Live in Dublin (121 plays): This was a review-prep album. The recorded gig and the one in person confirmed pretty much every one's fears of the former Tea Party frontman - he's disappeared so far up his own arsehole that it's depressing to be a witness to it. That said, his intimate knowledge of the sweet spots and juicy tunings of a 12-string guitar will always be pretty hard to resist.

4 Gomez - Out West (Live) (131 plays): This was mainly for review purposes. They were coming to town, they're a big band and I wanted to bone up so I at least came across half-knowledgeable. The version of Tijuana Lady on this double album is face-melting.

3 AC/DC - AC/DC Live (139 plays): Acca Dacca! They announced their tour early in 2009, so in the hype of getting tickets and psyching myself (and my increasingly worried wife) up, I sourced as much of their back catalogue for studying. The live album also crept into my "best workout albums" list, as it is the right length and tempo for a bloody decent hit at the gym. And the final song - "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)" complete with perfectly-timed pyrotechnics... it doesn't get much fkn better than that now, does it? (Mind's eye: Fitness First at Fortitude Valley. This album actually invokes the smell of the gym - which is at once sickly sweet from disinfectant mixed with cheap air-freshener and even cheaper body-sprays, and that acrid musty smell of a thousand wet, unwashed towels).

2 Pearl Jam - Live in Brisbane, 2009 (159 plays): This kind of goes without much explanation. Much to some people's amusement, I still hold a candle up for my beloved Jam. Introducing my wife to them this year (and finally joined by my brother, who never got the chance to see them on past tours) was a pretty special moment. They've continued the tradition of presenting official bootlegs of each and every gig they play and so, within a couple of weeks, this was on the Pod and the moments were being relived in my mind's eye numerous times. (Mind's eye - the view of the stage from about 10 metres away)

1 The Swell Season - Live in Melbourne 2009 (161 plays): They're a beautiful little group, centred around The Frame's frontman Glenn Hansard and his one-time love interest, co-star and fellow Oscar-winner Marketa Irglova. They triumped through the movie Once and took off where The Frames left off in my musical love affair with this Irish dude. In fact, The Swell Season while once just a vehicle for the duet of Glenn and Marketa, now boasts the almost complete line-up of The Frames anyway. They toured here recently, and I downloaded both their Melbourne and Brisbane gigs later on - both were electric, but Melbourne clearly won the day in the most loved stakes. (Mind's eye: Glenn walking to the front of stage to start the gig, belting out Say It To Me Now with guitar and vocal completely unplugged and yet still filling the room. Goosebumps, still).