Sunday, June 29, 2008

Something Shimmering and White

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Food of the Bunya Mountains

You didn't think I went to the Bunya Mountains (indeed, do I go anywhere) and not manage to sniff out the local produce did you?

Well, 'local produce' might be overstating it a bit in this instance, but the Bunya Mountains, being one of the few places in the world where the Bunya 'Pine' grows, is home to the Bunya Nut, which on account of the Bunya tree not growing at all outside of Australia--barely outside of Queensland, even--is quite unique as an ingredient. So, I thought I would take the opportunity to post a few more photos that I took on the Queen's Birthday long weekend, because I can delude myself that an unusual ingredient is a bit more interesting than boring you all with my holiday snaps. 
 

In South East Queensland, the story of the Bunya Nut and its use by local Aboriginal peoples is part of what you know.  At least it seems that way for me, although I concede this might be a consequence of participating in a youth theatre that, at the time, concerned itself with cross-cultural communication between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.  

Ever since I found out about the Bunya Nut Olympics (in the sense of putting aside differences), I've been intrigued.  I think the Bunya Nut has come to assume a mythic status in my mind; this is a nut, and it can bring about world peace!   As a foodie from way back, I can get on board with laying down arms for days of feasting--I've never understood the notion of sport as an impetus to do the same.  

The first weekend in June is not Bunya Nut season.  I have to report that the only actual sighting of the Bunya nut in situ was scavenged casings littering the forest floors through which we bush walked:


I did take a photo of a preserved cone that was sitting on a shelf in the local shop:



It's a pretty awful photo, but I was a bit nervous, unsure of the policy towards people taking random phone photos of the shop displays.  You might do better to click through to those links above to get a proper sense of what the fruit looks like.  Or if you can't be bothered, here's a shot from Wikipedia: 


We were lucky that the local historical society were selling bags of the nuts, frozen, for a couple of dollars. They threw in a leaflet with cooking advice too:



The main recommendation was to boil, peel, and salt the nut.  It was cold that weekend, and since I fancied the skins of the Bunya nut reminded me of the leathery texture of chestnuts, I took charge and roasted them in the oven.

Taste-wise, they were fairly subtle in flavour.  I wouldn't say bland because there was enough in the nut texture-wise (floury, oily) to make them somewhat moreish. 

The next day, after the marathon walk I reported on in an earlier post, we went to a cafe and sampled scones made with Bunya Nut flour:
  
I'll go out on a limb and say they're the best scones I've ever tasted.  The Bunya Nuts added a top-note to the palate that was irresistible, and I dare say that it was the fat of the Nut that imparted a wonderful lightness  to the texture of the scones. 
 
Next time:  Jimbour:  On the Way Back from the Bunyas.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Procrastination 102

It's raining outside,  I reached my marking limit at 2pm today, and I've been up to the local lifestyle precinct to buy various unnecessary items, so what else is there left to do?  There is the small matter of the thesis of course, but my brain hurts, which leaves only one thing: procrastination.

A few weeks ago I had over 1000 unread items in Bloglines.  Since I knew I wouldn't get around to reading the backlog I marked them all as read and promised myself I would do better at keeping up with my blog reading if I could start again with a clean slate. So far I've been pretty good and I've managed to find various curiosities along the way. 

These aren't in any particular order:

After scrawling 'awk. exp.' in the margins of many an essay lately, this list of 'Fifty office-speak phrases you love to hate' compiled by the BBC proved particularly resonant.  

Passive Aggressive Notes is dedicated to sharing 'painfully polite and hilariously hostile notes from shared spaces the world over'.   

I discovered Zigzigger, a blog by a media studies academic in the US.  He's very readable and you know you want to go and read a post with this title: "That cat who lives in a garbage can should be out demonstrating and overturning every institution, even Sesame Street...". There's a link there as well to an excellent mash-up show-down between the Teletubbies and Oscar the Grouch.

I'm most pleased about being diligent in my reading of TV Tonight.  Sometimes there are up to 11 posts per day, which might sound a bit overwhelming, but they're brief enough.  TV Tonight suits my purposes well; it lets me know what's going on in television in Australia covering institutions (business and government), audiences, and texts.  I like that the writer appreciates television and has an opinion too.  

/Procrastination 102

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Other Flora of the Bunya Mountains

On the second day in the Bunya Mountains we went for a really long walk--about four hours in total--along the tracks in the National Park:


Somewhere along the way I read a sign that spoke about the different kinds of forest in the Bunya Mountains.  And so it did keep changing as we went along.  When we started out the ground was covered in these ferns:


One of the friends I went with to the Bunyas had a keen eye for the surroundings.  He pointed out this twisted trunk, describing it as reptilian:


As one might expect, there were a lot of staghorns in the forest.  Some were perched up in trees, while others were not quite so firm in their grip: 


I'm not sure that these mobile photographs have managed to capture the full glory of the colours of the various lichens and fungi we encountered on the trees in the forest, living and otherwise.  This fungus was a series of rainbows in orange, cream, and brown:
 


There truly were some glorious, yet delicate shapes too:  


This fungi reminded me very much of the dried wood fungus I sometimes use in Asian recipes, after it's been reconstituted.  Given that they were growing on a tree, I don't think my supposition was too outlandish--still, I wasn't going to risk it:


Here are some more instances of the different kinds of forest that we came across, all within quite short distances of one another.  What was extraordinary was how isolated these spots of completely different foliage were.  For only a short distance, in a gully, there was a copse of these large-leaved elephant-ear plants: 


Then there were these grassy patches amidst the various types of forests which were called 'balds'.  Apparently these are indicative of a much colder climate once upon a time.  Again signs explained that the local Aboriginal people had once managed these areas, control burning them to stop the forest encroaching.  Now, of course, the forest is slowly invading these grasslands:


This photo was taken the day before, but it seemed to me that this vegetation was quite similar to that in those areas that led into the balds: 


It was in this kind of forest that  we came across another copse of trees the next day, this time grass trees, a sprinkling of them just in one spot:  


And finally, I thought I'd show you this, because it was a pretty spectacular sight to come across.  It made me think about when the tree fell; I'm glad I wasn't around for any kind of Judy moment.  But the sight of that broken trunk lying there also made me think that it would soon be covered with fungi, delicate and fecund, of the kind we had seen along our walk.  Soon it would disintegrate back into the forest to nourish the ground where once it had flourished.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Procrastination 101

I'm in the middle of doing some marking.  It's been made a bit easier because, well, quite frankly, more than a few students didn't really seem to take the assignment topic seriously.  

They were supposed to do a critical reflective essay on team work drawing on case studies arising out of their own experience of team work throughout the semester.  They were supposed to keep a learning journal to reference as a primary source and make broader connections with the wealth of  literature on team work

I've read a couple of outstanding ones so far (go you girly swats!), but the worst of them have just submitted their learning journal with no critical essay attached.  I guess they missed the instructions distributed in lectures,  tutorials,  emails, to say nothing of the assignment sheet itself, that stipulated the learning journal didn't need to be submitted, but it should be quoted and referenced, along with secondary sources, according to the usual referencing conventions.  Oh well, as they say on teh internets these days:  FAIL! 

Meanwhile, I am in need of some desk bound amusement where I can convince myself that I'm still working:  OH RLY! 

I've decided to do a meme that I found over at Keeper of the Snails wherein I am to reach for the nearest book, turn to page 123 and avail you all of the fifth sentence. 

Reaching.

Flip, flip, flip.

One, two, three, four...

Five!

'His first authorized biography appeared in 1879, written by the editor of an official government newsletter, and several more were to follow before he was dismissed as chancellor in 1890'.

The sentence is from this book:

It's from the section on Germany, 'Mass Circulation Newspapers Shaped by an Authoritarian Setting' by Ulf Jonas Bjork.  The biographies referred to are those of Otto von Bismarck, who was apparently quite the one for using the press to self-promote.

The only reason I have this book next to me is because I was looking at it as part of one of my Research Assistant positions. I have no special interest in the topic myself, aside from the curiosity I have about most things,  but the meme didn't specify it had to be a book of any particular priority.  If that was the case, I might have dug to the bottom of the pile and picked this one:



The End.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bunya Mountains: Trees

I went to the Bunya Mountains National Park over the Queen's Birthday long weekend. I forgot my camera, but that didn't stop me from using the one on my mobile phone to try and capture the grandeur and beauty of the  area. 



I had been invited along on the weekend by friends of a friend so I didn't do any of the travel planning (except for a couple of meals), which meant that I wasn't even really certain exactly where the Bunya Mountains were located, never mind anything specific about them.

I was surprised by the wallabies that I saw when I looked out of the window on the first morning after arriving in the dark the night before. 
 

And then there were the Bunya pine forests for which the region is named. 





I kept trying to capture the unique shape of these rare and magnificent conifers.


I ended up with too many photos for just one post.

Next time:  Other Flora of the Bunya Mountains.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Duck, Duck, Goose!

Via Bloglines I first read this Some Facts About me! Meme at Lorraine Crescent, then at Ampersand Duck, then at The View From Elsewhere, and finally at Northern Lights whence I discovered I'd been tagged.  There are rules that I'm supposed to post, but you know, they're the usual about answering the questions and tagging people and letting them know you've tagged them so you can be certain they are actively ignoring you when they don't do the meme.

What was I doing 10 years ago?:

I'd just started my Master's degree at a different university from where I'd done my Undergraduate and Honours.  At this stage I was probably still under the impression that I had enrolled in a PhD. It was only later that I discovered the department I'd enrolled in was a stickler for  making people do Master's regardless of whether one had achieved First Class Honours.  

I'm sure it's all been good for me.  Ask me how much I know about things I mightn't have otherwise.

Five snacks I enjoy in a perfect non-weight gaining world:
(The horse has well and truly bolted on that one).

1. Wafer biscuits, preferably a particular brand beginning with 'L' (I can't quite remember it now), but I only see them in Melbourne 

2. Liverwurst on rice crackers

3. (Continuing to propagate the misconception that my surname is of German-Jewish extraction). Sauerkraut and Kransky sausages

4. Peanut butter M&Ms

5. Red wine.

Five snacks I enjoy in the real world (especially when I'm trying to be good):

6. More red wine

7. 70% cocoa solids chocolate

8. Kalamata olives

9. Edamame or soy beans, boiled and salted

10. Frozen blueberries and raspberries (as I tell my niece and she repeats back to me:  'a sweet icy treat').

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Buy a dwelling

2. Travel.  I'd especially like to camp on all those little islands in Scandinavia 

3.  Not worry about taking 10 years to finish my PhD

4.  Give money to friends and family, enough for them to have economic security for life

5. Donate to charitable organisations especially those committed to mental health and abused and neglected children

Five jobs that I have had:

1. Checkout chick at Woolworths

2. Checkout chick at McDonald's 

3.  Checkout chick at FoodStore/Super C/IGA (all the same shop, the franchise kept changing)

4. Temporary administration officer level 2 at ATO and Queensland Health

5.  Sessional academic tutoring and lecturing in television, media and cultural studies.

Three of my habits:

1. Procrastinating

2. Procrastinating

3. Procrastinating

Five places I have lived:

1.  Lichfield, UK (Yes, the home of Dr. Johnson)

2. Nunawading Migrant Hostel, Melbourne, Vic

3. Cobar, NSW

4. Pine Creek, NT

5.  Lake Placid, Cairns, Qld

Five people who might be looking for a kick start to their blogging lull but are perfectly entitled to ignore this:

1.  Tim  at Sterne

2. Tseen at Banana Lounge

3. Amber at Wednesday Night Comics (maybe she'll do an abridge comic version)

And since they've already done it, and quite possibly I might have tagged them anyway, I'm going to claim:

4.  David from Lorraine Crescent

5.  Duck from Ampersand Duck

Thank You!


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Domestic Goddess

Lately when I do my clothes washing, I feel as though I have some sense of what it might have been like for those women in the 50s, just after WWII, when all the fruits of aircraft engineering for wartime destruction were used to engineer time-saving domestic appliances.




For years washing was an unsatisfactory chore.  I lived in a old Queenslander house divided into seven flats out the back of which was a funny little fibro shack with a coin operated washing machine.  We only had to pay a dollar per wash, so it was much cheaper, and certainly more convenient, than going to a laundromat, but quite frankly it had all the subtlety of a B-52 Bomber.


It had one speed--turbo--that it applied to everything from stockings and underwire bras to denim skirts, corduroy jackets, and towels.  In order to ward off the premature demise of the more delicate items in my wardrobe, I would place them in a wash bag to protect them from the destructive force of the washing blades, but somehow I still managed to find bra wires lodged in the drainage holes in the sides of the inner drum, or else they were bound up in endless knots of stockings that by now were stretched to accommodate the legs of the 50 Foot Woman

Stain removal was made tedious by the absence of any hot water in the laundry at all.  Oxygen bleach, even that from the eco store, requires warm water at least for it to work. If I wanted to get any hot water into a bucket, I'd have to hold a bucket beneath the shower, high up so I didn't lose any water to the floor of the shower and so down the drain.  Usually I'd end up with water dribbling down into armpits, and that would cause me to get irritated and lose my balance, and very soon profanity would follow.

In the end, I pretty much gave up on nice clean clothes and would more often than not go out in stained and shabby outfits figuring nobody expected anything more of a student.  I learnt in one of my undergraduate French classes that jeans delevee were the standard student uniform, and if those doyens of fashion, the French, could make such a statement then I figured so could I.

Oh but how life has changed since I bought my first white goods. Perhaps one day I will wax lyrical about the fridge (which has brought about a similar revolution), but for now it's the washing machine's turn to shine.

One of the biggest novelties for me, still after 6 months, is that I can do my washing whenever I want to. While everyone may have wanted to do their washing on Saturday morning back at the old Queenslander, not everybody could.  And woe betide anyone who left their finished washing sitting in the machine while others were waiting to use it.

I made every effort not to leave my washing languishing when I was sharing a machine with other people, but I admit it's my natural tendency to forget about it or get caught up in doing something else and not want to be interrupted by hanging out the washing.

Enter the front loader.  It takes hours for a wash to complete, which is perfect for me.  But should I want a quicker wash then the machine I purchased has a time saver option which reduces it down to about 40 mins, and there's a Quick 30 minute wash cycle too.

Sometimes I just sit and watch the washing go around. I watch how gently the washing is spun around with no damaging blades to get caught on. I feel secure that my bras will emerge intact, that my stockings will still fit my short legs. I marvel at how the washing powder and bleach are flushed from the powder drawer and dissolved before coming into contact with the clothes.  I have come to embrace the smell and textures of my clothes and towels that have received the soft touch of fabric softener (channelling Milhouse here).  Ahh.

And I'm especially glad that I was able to get a washing machine with a four star energy rating; that just tops everything off.