Tuesday, February 17, 2009

the letter F

i've been tagged by squib to do a meme. remember them?

so it's 10 things starting with the letter F.

easy peasy. here goes.

F is for Fire. The last 10 days have been awful for Victoria, regardless of whether you've been "in them" or not. I have never been so teary in my life over something not directly involving me.

F is for Fire-fighters. Fucking heroes the lot of them. I'm one of those people who hates the bandying around of the word "hero". Sports stars are not heroes; people who save drowning children are.

F is for Fear. I can't imagine the fear of the people trapped, and as they were dying. It must have been very painful. Fear is something I conjure for myself most days. If anyone is familiar with the World According to Garp (novel) the central character is a catastrophising parent. I am sometimes that parent. I think I figure if I think about it, there's no way it will come true. Silly I know.

F is for Fortitude. Yesterday, I was telling my daughter that the guts and courage of the CFA as well as others who fought the fires was incredibly inspiring to me, and symbolic of not just the Australian character, but the essence of humanity. We have hope, we don't give up, we keep going. Generally, this is true of all people, and it moves me to tears at times.

F is for Friendship. As Jerry Seinfeld said, "I'm not hiring." I know that sounds ridiculous and self-obsessed, but at my age I don't need too many more friends. The last couple of years, after losing a couple because they just weren't working (what is it about keeping these relationships going when they make you feel shit to be around them and you really don't even like them/have much in common/understand them?) Life, I've realised, is too short to be having high-maintenance friends. I'm the only one who's allowed to be high maintenance, but that's in my intimate relationship, not with friends. I behave with them and am really quite good. I think I am a good friend, I'm a good listener, I care, and I always try to help people, even strangers.

F is for Fish. I love it. What can I say? I could eat fish every day almost. I love fish 'n' chips, but not often. I love salmon, whole schnapper, flathead. Hell, I even like anchovies. I thought Anne Anchovie in Snugglepot and Cuddlepie the most glamorous creature I'd ever seen when I was little.

F is for Flummery. When I was little, my mum used to make a dessert that was a mint blancmange concoction, which resonated with my literary world at the time (Enid Blyton jolly good hijinks etc). This flummery was mint flavoured, and while as an adult I'm not a big mint fan, my memory of this dessert is that IT WAS SUBLIME. On top I think there was cream and then some GRATED MINT AERO CHOCOLATE BAR.

F is for Fool. I like to think I am one of those people who don't suffer fools gladly. I am intolerant of what I see as slowness, or stupidity, or intolerance. But really, deep down, I think I am probably a fool, one of those I condemn. I bear all the hallmarks. I talk too much at times. I can't be quick to judge, very opinionated, and stubborn about being right. I think I am right all the time, can be boring to other people, selfish and rude. I'm not quite sure how I arrived here, I think it's to do with being hurt alot but I am devoting the second half of my life to trying to not be a fool.

F is for Fiction. Recently, I've realised I've gone off fiction quite a bit. I was puzzled for a while, wondering if I'd simply reached saturation point, or whether all the stories and plots and characters were starting to repeat. Anything that goes like this:

So and so returns to the house of her childhood, and with her siblings who have each been on journeys of their own, she starts to make sense of the memories that keep returning. As she rebuilds the chook-run, so she rebuilds her life.

I know I can't go there. I can't seem to stand most popular fiction, though don't get me wrong, I can lose myself easily in the crap. I just read a book on the Jaidyn Leskie murder.
I crave literary fiction, but as it seems to be hard to do well, it's hard to find. I don't want to discover new authors, but I do want to read retrospectively. So I am looking up the golden oldies slowly; I want to read more Hemingway, I want to read the Russian authors, the French and more Australian authors, ie Patrick White. I want to read books that either aren't anything like what I want to write, or ones that are, but I'm always scared of stumbling across one of my stories that's already been done. Stephen King, who wrote one of the best books on writing said that reading is research. Read, read, read. Well, I've been doing that since I was little, voraciously. When is the time to stop reading, and start doing? I've been doing since I was a teenager - first the cruddy, autobiographical stories, then the ridiculous plots with one-dimensional characters, no dialogue and too much description. So I am learning. Learning to be very sparing with adjectives, to show by doing not telling, how to craft believable intersting dialogue.

I think really if I keep cramming my head with fiction, then there's no room for my stories to grow. There's no room for me to keep in mind that I'm trying not to be a fool, and trying to grow up more myself.

F is for Food. Interesting that I got this far without even thinking of food. I guess I did the Fish one as a separate thing. Could I combine them? Then I get an extra berth for my ramblings. No, best push on.

So, food. Anytime I think I'm definitely a savoury type of person, I come across a special sweetness. I do like ice cream, sometimes it talks to me from the freezer, but mostly I can ignore the voice. If there is a certain cream sponge party cake in the fridge, left over from a kid's birthday, that is the voice I can't ignore. It is the best cream sponge cake in the world. Yes, even better than the Patterson's chocolate roll sponge cake, which used to be the standard birthday cake in our family, until I discovered this other one.

At the moment, I am doing no carbs after 12 noon. It's going well actually. For while I do eat healthily, and don't have a junk food problem, I do have a struggle with portion control. So I will cook pastas and rice dishes, and find it very hard to eat small portions of those dishes.

I adore eggs. I could eat eggs almost every day. Poached eggs on crumpets are ace. Scrambled are good, avec les fines herbes which my aunt gave me, a mix of dried parsley, tarragon and chives.

I do love a good steak, but tend not to cook it at home. When we go out, I often order steak. Other people might order seafood when out, because they don't cook that at home. I'm the other way. I cook lots of seafood at home - it's something I can do well. I'm not scared of cooking seafood.

If I had to list my favourite carbs in order it would be:

1. pasta

2. rice

3. potatoes

4. bread

I'm not one of those bread addicts. I can take it or leave it. Rice and pasta are probably very close equals on the list, but pasta has more variety. Potatoes beat bread only because you can mash them, with butter and milk and then eat little bits straight from the pot which still have melty butter in them. There is a fabulous Nora Ephron scene in one of her books where the narrator's marriage is falling apart and she consoles herself with mashed potatoes, and eats every mouthful with a slice of butter on top of the spoon. And it always has to be butter, never margarine, or even that spreadable shit. We do have the spreadable, and I do use it on my toast occasionally, but butter is better for most everything else. On the subject of butter, my dad always uses butter on his toast, sandwiches. Butter which is rock hard, and he cuts it a certain way, so if you share his butter, you'd better do it right otherwise he will get shitty. He kind of slices off thick slabs of the stuff and rests them on the toast, maybe pushes them down a bit but doesn't even try to spread them. His mother used to do this, I remember being in awe of the butter and vegemite toast at my grandmother's place when we were kids, so obviously this is where he got it from.

If I had to choose vegetables or fruit I would choose vegetables hands down. I kind of have to remind myself or force myself to eat fruit. Strange, I know. But maybe something to do with that savoury vs sweetness thing. I love salads, and my idea of heaven is some cooked rice, topped with tinned salmon and salad. Or rice and steamed vegetables with some olive oil and salt. I also love cooking a single serve of spaghetti and tossing it through pan-fried spring onions, chopped fresh tomatoes, melted anchovies, olives etc - puttanesca is one of the most heavenly pastas you can have. Puttanesca is to carbonara as water is to mud.


squib said...

The reason I didn't tag you on your blog Melba is because it didn't seem right to do so on your posts about the fires

I'm a pescetarian so I get a bit sick of fish sometimes. On pasta, do you like chillies, if so, do you ever cook Aglio e Olio?

I had a fiction dark age once and it coincided with the end of a lit degree. It was really really odd. I think it happened because I started buying new release literature and it was often empty and bimbo-ish. The covers were always luscious though

Melba said...

Cool squib, thanks for that. It also felt weird to do the letter thing without mentioning the fires, especially as I got F!

I LOVE chillies, and yes, do aglio e olio. It was my favourite ever pasta about 10 years ago. Spaghetti, diced fresh garlic, diced fresh parsley, lots of oil, salt and sometimes parmesan. Recently I did a breadcrumb pasta, which I'd been reading about for ages. Made some chunky breadcrumbs from fancy-pants bread, then fried along with anchovies, red chillies, garlic, parsley etc. YUMMO.

Yes, the covers are annoying. I think why waste such lovely covers on stories like that? Oh well.

Perseus said...

"So and so returns to the house of her childhood, and with her siblings who have each been on journeys of their own, she starts to make sense of the memories that keep returning. As she rebuilds the chook-run, so she rebuilds her life."

I keep remembering why I like your blog so much.

jo_blue said...

You are no fool, definitely not. When you talk, even when it's too much, you are intelligent and funny. And you ARE a great friend and for that I thank you.


Oh, and can you email me one of your nice pasta recipes - when you get a spare minute of course. I'm still sick of chinese food and the ones you mention sound so scrummy. :)

squib said...

Melba, I was reading David Crystal's 'A Glossary of Netspeak and Textspeak' (as you do) and I came across GSOH. It says it can mean 'good sense of humour' or 'good salary, own home'


Melba said...

Am I right in thinking this reference goes back a way squib? Did we have an exchange about the meaning of GSOH? I have a vague recollection. If so, I stand corrected.

Clokes reads books like that. As HE does. I don't. But I like it when people tell me interesting things they find in books like that.

squib said...

I thought it meant 'Got Sole Ownership of Home'

(I was using the book to write a poem in SMS)

KittyMeow said...

I love your blog too :-) Very interesting post. I am totally with you on the steak thing. I never cook it at home so I often buy it at restaurants. I don't have the gas cooktop to do it myself. Boo! to electric. Hehe.

And I know what you mean about the fiction thing - I went through a bit of a reader's block (lol) where I couldn't find anything new to read. I am exhausting my list of favourite authors! Though I still urge you to get your hands on some Ian Banks. Read The Bridge and The Wasp Factory and there you will not find that same storyline :-D

I'm not Craig said...

If you plan to try to convince people that you are a fool, young lady, you should stop to consider that you have no hope of succeeding when your audience is made up of people who have met you and people who have, you know, read your blog.

I have an insanely strong craving for puttanesca now.