Athens Olympic Games Challenge

Saturday 21 August 2004

Held at Rialannah Heights

In Attendance: Di & Sam, Irene & Kevin, Julie, Pat, Jan (John was in Devonport so this dinner will be without the usual Bernard King inspired selection. This led to some spirited correspondence – see below.)

Menu

Andrew – Mezethakia (aka Mezze) – a selection that will entice the most discerning gourmands and armchair travellers.

Jan – Spanakoppitta.  French fries are optional as Jan brings us the most recent Greek culinary practices.

Chris – Moussaka which, we have just learned, is also known as ‘Chris’s bersekka’.

Di -Steffado – her traditional rendition.

Julie – Greek salad – your discretion but there should be at least three ingredients.

Kevin – a stuffed vegetable to be decided – likely candidates are zucchini, tomatoes or eggplant.

Irene – a fruit based dessert with no baklava in sight.

 

John:

Thanks for the non-Bali evening – good fun! And I look forward to the Sunday session, but I can’t make the Dins, as I will be Virtuosing in Devenport that evening. It still takes me a while to find out where I am…

 

Julie:

I agree with Andrew but would go one step further. John should make octopus a la bernard when he comes back from his tour of Devonport. He might manage to catch one while he’s there.

 

Andrew:

Just as long as we/I don’t have to eat it!

 

Julie:

Well, yes, however since John doesn’t read his emails I think we are safe.

 

John:

You know, I am very distressed at the high tone of those who question my introduction of the collected works of Bernard King into our little culinary circle.

After all, as a foreigner I am merely trying to bring back into the Tasmanina mainstream the serious efforts of someone who must have had a major influence on the mothers – or, dare I say it, fathers? – of some of our members.  I was also persuaded that someone who was clearly as highly regarded by the Australian television audience as a sterling example of the evolving glitterati of the seventies should still have some place in our collective consciousness as a pioneer of the culinary art in Australia.

Anyway, my middle name is Bernard, so I am biased.

Although I had not thought of Ouzing Octopus John Bernard as an entree dish, I think it demands consideration. Sadly I shall not be there on Saturday to try it out with you.

In fact I am thinking of penning a series of menus ‘a la John Bernard’. But that is, like many, merely a putative work in progress at this stage.

Until the next time

Cheers

John Bernard

 

Andrew:

My dear sir,

As a seventh generation Tasmanian I feel it is no more than my duty to point some serious historical and cultural flaws in your (no doubt well intended) proposal to foist the culinary dribblings of the former celebrity TV chef Bernard King upon what you clearly view as the otherwise starved and desiccated landscape of Tasmanian cuisine in the early part of the twenty-first century.

As a poor immigrant refugee to our land you cannot possibly be aware of various salient facts that must be comprehended and accepted before expecting that any conjecture you may casually make about the various men who might or might not have impressed our (apparently) impressionable mothers (or indeed fathers!) might be taken laying down and without riposte.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of historical television broadcasting practices, procedures and technologies in Australia would know and understand that, whilst the late Mr King may, indeed, have been a member of the ‘glitterati’ in Sydney during his heyday of the 1970s, it did not necessarily follow that he was seen, or even particularly well known, in the provinces. Indeed, the nature of regional commercial television in Tasmania, and in many other far-flung parts of the nation, remained more reminiscent of a friendly local meeting place; a corner shop by comparison to the glittering but ultimately hollow and unsatisfying mega-malls of larger metropolises. As such, local telecasters had their own pantheons of local celebrities with which to fill the dull and lonely days occupied by our poor deprived parents.

Now it may be that, in the opinions of recent newcomers to our land, such stars may have faded from view; indeed it may be argued that at the height of their luminescence they burned more with the friendly glow of a well-tended hearth than the dazzling display of more cosmopolitan counterparts. The publishing deals of our local stars, too, may not have been as substantial as they might have been. Their thoughts, opinions and collected wisdom are not so immediately available in the bargain bins of opportunity shops and weekend fetes, the staples from their books’ cheap bindings long since having given way and their pages scattered to the winds. This, however, does not mean that they do not live on, cherished in the hearts and minds of those with a care to remember them.

On the culinary front, our own dear, departed Mrs Godfrey was a far more substantial and lingering influence on Tasmanian cooks and cooking than any flamboyant flibbertigibbet from the big smoke. A veritable model of thrift and virtue, Mrs Godfrey doled out recipes and good sense from behind her heavy black spectacles and bouffant hairdo on Tasmanian television screens and on local radio to generations of housewives and aspiring cooks, myself included. She had no need to resort to packet mixes and imported spirituous liquors to dress up her honest fare. What that woman could not produce with a cup of Four Roses self-raising flour and a pinch of cooking salt was not worth eating. Desiccated coconut was, to Mrs Godfrey, an exotic foodstuff.

Even in death, it might be argued, Mrs Godfrey demonstrated thrift and practical good sense whereas ‘Saint’ Bernard (for I feel sure he was, in life, rarely ever far from a barrel of brandy) would seem to have taken excess just one final and fatal step too far…

If you wish to make a significant contribution to local culture and cuisine, I would urge you to seek out and celebrate the work of this major force in local foodmaking. Seek her out, in your perambulations amongst the dog-eared National Geographics and the more expensively bound but culinarily less durable memoirs of lesser cooks that pile up in church halls.

If you are still then in doubt, might I suggest the preparation of a meal at which a side-by-side comparison might be made? Mrs Godfrey vs Mr King – a sort of post-mortem ‘Iron Chef’? To do any less, and still to insist upon honouring such insubstantial icons and to attempt to impose them upon a native population that knows better smacks of cultural imperialism of the worst sort. As an Irishman, I would have hoped that you might be a little more sensitive about such things.

Vale, Mrs Godfrey.