Thursday, 11 September 2008

Balladonia Blues or The Whore's Pasta

For the start of the story

Take Two

Balladonia Blues or The Whore’s Pasta

Woke up to the sound of pots rattling in the kitchen next to my room and realised that I was still in Kalgoorlie and out of a job.
Angelo and the publican had given me three days’ grace in the staff digs at Hannan’s, just enough time for the circus to get to town.
She had left a note by the bed six months before in Carlton.
A short classic: “gone to join the circus”
Circus Oz was quietly germinating from the ashes of the Pram Factory. This new performance art was to be physical; a circus without animals, left of centre, proudly Australian. The players needed to pay their dues and learn the ropes so she had joined the big-top at Circus Royale and hit the road. Thirty or so years later she would be setting up the now magnificent circus school at Swinburne Uni in Prahran.
Meanwhile a brave new restaurant scene was emerging in Melbourne from under the red velvet corset of a dozen pregnant reptilertaurants. The labour was going to be long and painful.
We were a disparate bunch of upstart cooks and waiters. The common cause was to liberate a few kitchens and dining rooms from the stranglehold of thick starchy liaisons, frozen muck served by bow-tied blokes with bad fake Franco- Latin accents. We already had our mentors. Bilson had left his mark at the Albion, Mietta and Tony had begun their journey. Hermann was at his peak.
We dreamed of eventually opening a place in the country with a big vegetable garden and in the meantime planted shallots (and other unobtainable vegetables and herbs) in the backyards of our shared household digs.
Jeremy our leader  had a good year at the track and found a cafĂ© for sale in Carlton less than 500 metres from Jack Canals seafood store.Bruce came on board and I was given the back room upstairs as the live in second cook. The fit-out was serious Austin Powers and we loved it. We could lightly send up the flocked wallpaper, cull the Victoriana and eventually add a coolroom to the tiny but well–set-up kitchen. We also added a private dining room, spruced up with an original French Degue egg chandelier and a killer deco dining suite that was pure Rhullman in Queensland maple and ebonised blackwood. It was so big that the architect owner had nowhere to put it and was dead-set on building a room next to his studio especially for it.
We could have it till he got his act together.
I bought two paintings from Barry Humphries via the High St dealers that had originally hung in the cocktail lounge of the Menzies Hotel and suddenly the industry began to come. The room had the X factor in spades.
We cooked postcards from China, veal, eggplants, giant live bugs cost fifty cents a kilo. Mains cost $3. We gave away the mineral water, wokked the vegetables and flirted with Asia. Jeremy had worked in a good grill in New York, I had had a week in a kitchen in Rabaul, Bruce was just a natural. It was a crime of passion.
Downes reviewed us after a tip off from Aiton and then la merde really hit le ventilateur. Booked solid for three months after a month’s trading. No one was prepared for the rush. We were making it up day by day. The plonge, just out of the nick, was in love with the Persian princess. The boss had come down with a mystery virus and was often confined to bed; the band next door didn’t know it but they were soon to be initialized. XS was the name of the game. Sunday lunches morphed from the after party at Trotters.

After 9 months it was time to hit the road.

Highwire and I were still mates, good mates I had the farewell note somewhere in the swag. The posters around Kalgoorlie declared Circus Royale was about to hit the goldfields.
After the caravans had tented up near the footy field I heard she had bailed out at Balladonia for a better offer. It would take another two years, an island, a crossword and a big cray before our paths would cross again.
My second encounter with Balladonia that day was at the dole shop. The notice said: “Grill Cook Wanted accommodation and transport into the site provided. Balladonia Roadhouse”.

I really wanted to see the desert.

The roadhouse was well-named, about as sad as any roadhouse could be. Small cold caravans for the kitchen staff next to the generator that kept the complete food supply deep-frozen and the staff awake all night.
We fried stuff, grilled stuff, sang a lot of songs into the morning watching the satellites and meteorites over the desert sky. All children of the road in a time when hitchhiking across the Nullarbor was a safe and wonderful adventure. Then the order came into the kitchen. Table five are all vegetarians!
Now that was quite an order from this room as most of the stuff we cooked was some sort of cryogenically held animal protein fried into next week or grilled beyond recognition straight from the freezer. But one look into the room told us these guys were serious oids. We asked them if they ate anchovies and proceeded to cook them the whore’s pasta, our usual staff dinner.
After service we saw their rigs-- Joe Cocker’s Band. It was in a time when semis carried the gear on the road, Joe and the band flew. The roadies were really roadies.
They took us to Fremantle, we thought we were off to Africa..

Pasta Puttanesca or The Whores’ Pasta

This classic store cupboard pasta sauce has its origins in the red light district of Trastevere Rome. The name puttana means prostitute.

Two rules:It has to be prepared in the time it takes the water to boil.And

No cheese is served with it.

Peeled tomatoes, black olives, anchovy fillets or better still saltedsardines (rinsed), capers, garlic, parsley, a pungent extra virgin olive oil, dried chillies.

You don’t need the quantities. The method would only confuse you, but start with the oil.

I like it with very fine aldente spaghetti with all the ingredients cut very small.

For the Authentic Gonzo Instruction video click below.


Thermomixer said...

And you look so meek and mild ...

Thanks for continuing the story. Can't wait for the next exciting episode.

Thermomixer said...

Forgot to say CONGRATULATIONS on the spread in VE+T - v.v.v. impressive - just your usual generous self, oragnising a casual little lunch. julie & Sandy's lamb looks divine - just like in Spain.

See you soon.