+Hello and welcome to a very special history happy hour.
Because today, December 17, not only do we have a super fruity and delicious cocktail to celebrate today’s event but also two yummy recipes courtesy of one of my (and hopefully your) favourite bloggers, Jenny from Silver Screen Suppers. Jenny is also making the same trio of recipes so when you have finished here, please head over there to have a look.
But what, and how are we celebrating?
On The Beach – The Film
December 17, 1959 saw the première of the film On The Beach. And just look at this for a cast list – Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins. There’s galaxies that wish they were that star studded!!!! Oh and just for fun, Frank Sinatra came along too. Not to be in the film, Just to hang out with Ava. On the beach.
And that beach was in my home town of Melbourne! Or in a place called Frankston on the outskirts thereof. In fact, for many a year, there was a scurrilous rumour that Ms Gardner had made the snarky comment that Melbourne was “the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world.” Not true my friends, not true. Said quote was totally invented by a junior reporter from a Sydney newspaper, obviously miffed that we got Ava, Gregory, Fred, Tony (and Frank) and all they got was a bridge and an Opera House.
On The Beach, based on a novel by Nevil Shute (which I have not read but now really want to) is a post-apocalyptic romance in which Australia is the only country to survive a nuclear war. However it is only a matter of months before radiation clouds doom the survivors to the same fate as the rest of the world. Unless…Dah dah da dah….
This is a film worth seeking out. A stellar cast, some superlative acting, and an engrossing story line, which although somewhat dated has much to speak to us about our current situation. And, if you can watch the scene with Tony Perkins and Donna Andrews without welling up? You’re already a little dead inside.
On The Beach – The Drink
What more appropriate way to celebrate the release of On The Beach than with the classic cocktail Sex on The Beach! And it’s so good. Peach schnapps where have you been all my life?
This is fruit, fruit and more fruit – peach from the schnapps, cranberry, orange juice and pineapple juice all playing a role. With a hit of vodka to give it some backbone.
This is the best summer you have ever had, in a glass. And unlike its namesake you don’t have to worry about getting sand in your privates if you have one. And you can have two, maybe three in one night with lots of different people without anyone looking askance at you!
On The Beach – The Food
Jenny (this woman is a marvel!!!) sent me a host of recipes by the stars of On The Beach but there was one that stood out for me above all others.
Gregory Peck’s recipe for Happy Pappy Eggs. Oh my…..it’s not often that words fail me. But….first up how you could you not love something called Happy Pappy eggs and second…the recipe came from Gregory Peck. AKA Atticus Finch (pre Go Set a Watchman). And then I also chose a Gregory Peck recipe for ratatouille.
The Happy Pappy Eggs were scrambled eggs with some slow cooked onions. Simple and delicious!!! But oh man, that rataouille was amazing!!! I have no idea why I don’t make it more often. It went really well with the eggs. And together they would make a super brunch dish after a long night of Sex on The Beach (either way).
I also ate the rataouille for lunch for a few days with some cheese in a toasted turkish roll and OMG…it was a revelation! So good!
On The Beach – The Recipe
There were some rather frightening copyright restrictions on the Gregory Peck recipes so we decided not to print them. However, I’m sure if you asked Jenny very nicely she would send you a copy. For personal use only. Don’t let us find you in a dingy alley handing out illegal copies of the recipe of Happy Pappy Eggs!
There are also a myriad recipes and variations for the Sex On The Beach Cocktail. This is a fairly classic take on it.
As I enter week two of Paleo, there is one recipe that I made earlier this year that is lingering in my mind as containing pretty much all the sins of Paleo but all the glories of delicious food. Funny, the things I thought I would be craving – coffee, chocolate, hummus…not so much…but if you put one of these in front of my right now, I would step on you to get one.
I found this recipe in the same folder I found the recipe for the Smoked Trout Empanadas.I’ve changed it a bit to include the chili and the original chopped the salami and mozzarella and mixed them together.
I’m not sure if the lure here is:
The gooey, melty cheese
The crispy breadcrumbs
The spicy salami
The silky sauteed eggplant
The slighty sweet tomato sauce
The little hit of chilli
Or all of the above
But believe me, the sirens are singing this song loud and strong. And you will be too if you make them. So crispy, so cheesy, so gooooood….
I’m not going to say much this time (because I might cry). I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves.
Next stop on our trip was the old Imperial capital of Hue (pronounced Hway). There is an airport at Hüê but it was closed so we caught a bus from Da Nang airport, a journey of around three hours. The bus ride was an event. Vietnamese roads aren’t great and, as mentioned, the driving is terrible. It’s sometimes best not to look – seeing a fully laden tourist coach or truck heading straight towards you on the wrong side of the road is both scarily common and just plain scary!
The bus driver had no teeth. Which I’m sure is an occupational hazard of driving up and down those potholey roads all your life. After a while, I guess your teeth just jolt out. I’m surprised he had bones! The only solace from the bumping and the impending doom was that I had a Buddhist monk sitting next to me. Surely nothing bad would happen to us with a man of God on board. After one particularly scary near miss he took out an Ipad and began typing away. I took a peek over his shoulder to see if he was maybe sending a terse email to the guy upstairs but he was just on Facebook.
Hue is a great place to soak up some of the culture and history of Vietnam and the ideal way to do this is via a Monuments Tour. First stop was the tomb of the Emporer Minh Mang. This was pretty sensational, consisting of three main areas – the main gate, the temple and the tomb. The Minh Mang tomb was very elegantly laid out, very orderly and symmetrical. When we were there, these ponds were filled with lotus flowers which was gorgeous.
Minh Mang was quite the lad; fathering a total of 151 children from his 40 wives. Not so Khai Dihn, whose tomb we visited next. On his death, one of his concubines said that Khai was “not interested in sex” and “physically weak”. This, along with his love of fashion design has lead to speculation that he may well have been the gay prince of Vietnam.
If the Minh Mang tomb is a model of restraint and orderly design, then the interior designer of the Khai Dinh tomb, was to steal a phrase from the Luxe Guide’s description of the Cao Dai Temple “clearly Liberace or on drugs or possibly both”. It’s awesome!!!!! An absolute riot of gold and the most lovely intricate mosaics!
There was also a third tomb but you know, after you’ve seen the Khai Dinh, there’s only one way to go…and it’s not up. Also, the open air café next to where the bus stopped was selling freshly squeezed sugar cane juice and who doesn’t want a bit of that?
Me actually, it wasn’t great. Freshly squeezed sugar cane juice tastes, quelle surprise, like sugary water. Still, the prevalence of the fresh stuff could explain why the mojito’s in Hüê were the best I had.
In the afternoon we went to the Thien Mu Pagoda which was beautiful – we reached this via a boat ride. The Pagoda is situated on the banks of the river in some very pretty gardens. The complex does have a dark heart though. In one of the outbuildings is a car from the 1960’s one of those ones with the fins you always see in the movies. “Cool” you think. “Even the monks in the ‘60’s had wicked style.”
Then you read the plaque on the side and find out that this was the exact car that a monk, Thich Quang, drove to Saigon in 1963. When he got there, he stopped the car, sat down in the middle of an intersection, poured petrol over himself and set himself alight in a protest against religious persecution. Those monks from the ‘60’s were hardcore. No arseing about on Facebook for them.
The actual act is on You Tube for anyone who wants to see it – I haven’t watched it (and won’t be watching it) because it’s a person burning themselves to death and hence the type of thing that is likely to give me the screaming heebie-jeebies for months. But the link is here.
If you’re so inclined, knock yourself out. For those of a not so psychopathic more sensitive disposition, you can learn more about Thich Quang and this fascinating piece of history via a BBC podcast here.
There was a detour on the way to the pagoda. We were ushered off the boat into a garden and I guess, like me, a few of the others assumed we were at our destination. We were greeted in the garden by an old lady who told us to follow her. Which we did because she was going to lead us to the pagoda right? Not so much. We start walking through the garden. Then she pauses and points at a tree. “Mango” she says, pointing at it. “Nice” we say, nodding.
We walk on. She points out other trees. “Apricot…lychee…banana” and we continue to nod. “Yes…I see…interesting”. We keep walking. She keeps pointing out trees. We keep nodding and agreeing. This went on for a while – possibly too long – there was a moment towards the end where I think both sides were just phoning it in. She gave us a bit of “Mango….mango….mango,” and we gave back some “Yeah…right…whatever.” It might been more interesting if there had been fruit on any of those trees. As it was, she could have told us pretty much anything and we would have nodded and agreed like a bunch of dummies.
Anyway, shortly after the mango, mango, mango episode, we ended up at the front gate (exactly where we started) and she asked us all for money for touring her garden. Huh? Where’s the pagoda? There were rumblings….the Germans and the Dutch were not happy about this development but she was not letting anyone go without them paying up. One of the Dutch tried to sneak past her – I’ve never seen someone so old move so fast. She was spry!!! Must be all the fruit. No one ever explained why we went there. I suspect she was the tour guide’s grandma.
Given that the actual tropical garden was kind of underwhelming, it was ironic that our favourite restaurant in Hue was a place called the Tropical Garden. This was really cute with tables set in the garden with little thatched rooves over the top. Very Gilligan’s Island! I so wish I’d worn my gold lame dress just like Ginger’s. Until I remembered I only own one in my dreams…
Huh… I just realised my whole sense of fashion, hair and makeup is pretty much derived from Gilligan’s Island and Get Smart….who says tv doesn’t influence young minds?
The food at The Tropical Garden was super tasty but the best thing about it is the absolutely terrible band. I guess Vietnamese folk music is an acquired taste because, our first time there, Mark had his back to them and shortly after they began to play frowned and asked. “What’s that noise? Is that cats? Or the band?” Mind you, they also set the local dogs to howling so I guess that, much like us canines can also not appreciate the nuances of the Vietnamese folk scene.
By no means should you let this put you off though, in fact I”m only telling you this to encourage you to go and hear it for yourself….we went three nights in a row….
Our other favourite place was a restaurant / art gallery called Confetti. This had great food at great prices and nice art. But you know what? After the quirkiness of The Tropical Garden, it all seemed a little normal….
So, I have a new camera and have been cooking up some Hüê inspired delights. Aubergine was a popular vegetable there so first up I have a very simple grilled aubergine / eggplant based on the recipe in Simple Good Food by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman called Grilled Aubergine with Nam Pla and Basil.
My version is called “Hey, Hüê, It’s Vietnamese Inspired Aubergine”
1 Eggplant / Aubergine, sliced into rounds about 1/2 centimetre thick
1 tsp tumeric
1 -2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 tbsp Nam Pla (Fish Sauce)
1 tsp sugar
1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped
Chives, finely chopped
Basil leaves, finely chopped
Mix the tumeric and the olive oil and dip your eggplant slices into the mixture then place them under a hot grill. Turn them once they start to brown – you may also have to redip them if they get too dry.
Whilst your eggplant is cooking, mix up your lemon juice and fish sauce. Add the chopped chilli and chives. Once the eggplant is cooked, place on a plate and dress with the fish sauce mixture. Scatter the basil leaves over the top.
This is a great side dish or, I quite like it just on crackers. You can also mess with the mix as much as you like. Add some ginger or garlic or your choice of flavourings!
And here is my “Minh Mang-o” Daiquiri.
Minh Mango Daiquiri
I large mango, chopped
1/2 cup white rum
1/4 cup lemongrass, ginger and chilli simple syrup (I used the recipe here)
Juice of 1 large lemon
2 dashes Agnostura Bitters
8 Ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
So last time we left off, I had been eating for love and beauty for 4 days and loving it.
However, through the week, I began to see a certain theme running through my dishes…
I made two recipes from Eating for Love and Beauty.
The first was a delicious Egg Curry.
This was very tasty, spicy and quick to make. I will definitely make this again. Also, I didn’t have fenugreek because…well who has? However, I noticed my Garam Masala contained fenugreek, cumin and coriander so I used that in lieu of all individual spices.
I think we all know eggs are a symbol of fertility…I had my egg curry with a Rice Exotica – Saffron & Lime Casserole. Rice Exotica huh? I think the Swami might be getting a bit saucy!
Sadly, the Rice Exotica, was the least sexy dish of the week. Probably because in my first mouthful of it, I bit directly into a clove which spoiled entire dish for me Yes, it was my fault and I should have been more careful when I was counting them as I fished them out but still, not good. I was also not happy with the texture and I only par boiled my rice initially! I like my rice light and fluffy and this was a bit too mushy and stuck together for me. I dread to think what it might have been like had I cooked it all the way through the first time as per the recipe.
If I was going to make the rice again, which is unlikely, I would probably not cook it at all before bunging it in the oven with the nuts and spices. Hmmm…maybe I will try it that way. Sans the cloves!
Next up was an Eggplant Dish….and lo and behold, the internet tells me that eggplants are a symbol of abundance or fertility, passion and devotion. See what I mean about a theme beginning to develop?
Day 6 – Eggplant Gourmet
This was AWESOME!…
Earthy eggplant, sweet, sour..all sorts of deliciousness rolled into the one dish. The flavours reminded me very much of a Sri Lankan Eggplant dish that sometimes contains cashew nuts…and maybe dates?
(Dear mother given you have started to chime in on here, maybe you could offer some insight into the constituents of an eggplant moju???)
Either way, I had some cashews left over from the Rice Exotica so I dropped them in for extra flavour and crunch. I’m definitely making this again….
I also ate it more as a side dish than as a main. It’s also pretty good cold on crackers or some tzatziki on pita bread.
Day 6 – Lovers Dandelion Salad
If you’ve read my earlier post…(here)…you know I have a bit of a penchant for a bit of foraging. So the Swami’s Lover’s Dandelion Salad was as good a reason as any to go comb the local environment for some dandelion leaves which, luckily, were plentiful.
I loved this salad. There is something about bitter greens that makes me feel incredibly virtuous and just oozy with health! Again, I had no fenugreek sprouts so I just used a sprout combo. I was becoming curious about why the Swami used fenugreek in so many dishes so I did a bit o’ research and hello…fenugreek is sometimes used to cure erectile dysfunction.
When the Swami wants you to eat for love, she doesn’t muck about!
She also says this salad is good for those suffering from mental or sexual debility. I ate mine for lunch a the office and it kind of worked. It certainly gave me a mental boost for the afternoon!
Day 7 – 21 Essences of Kama Sutra
I followed the Lovers Dandelion Salad with the 21 Essences of Kama Sutra Salad although I guess I only had 19 Essences as I subbed a yellow pepper for the red and green peppers and could not find soy sprouts for love or money. Then again, I used my handy sprout combo per the last recipe so maybe I had more than 21 Essences of Kama Sutra! The Swami offers no comment on what the 21 Essences of Kama Sutra is good for. I think she’s letting the name speak for itself.
This was also a very nice salad, although if I made this again, I wouldn’t bother with the Lotus Nuts. In the first pack I bought there were two dead moths. That made me gag and I had to throw them out. The second lot of lotus nuts was, thankfully, mothless but also largely tasteless.
I read on the internet Lotus Nuts are good for irritability. Well guess what? After the moths, and having to make two trips to the Asian food store to buy them, then finding they taste of sweet F.A. I guess they are. I was certainly a lot more irritable after all that palaver than I was before I started!
And quelle surprise, also apparently good for impotence!
It’s Plum Wonderful
I ended my week with the Swami’s recipe for an uncooked Plum Pudding which is basically dried fruit held together with jello. It’s really tasty, and has all the flavours of a plum pudding but is fruitier and not so heavy. It would be a perfect alternative to a heavy pudding, particularly here when it is warm at Christmas.
I recently read that a good maxim to use when trying to moderate your alcohol intake is to abstain one day a week, one week a month, one month a year.
It doesn’t work for me alcoholwise as I am aiming for far more than one AFD a week but it’s certainly a philosophy I can embrace when it comes to adopting the principles behind Eating For Love and Beauty.
That book, which also had a whole host of other good advice was:
Apart from the moths and the failure of the Rice Exotica, Eating For Love and Beauty has been fun and I feel really healthy. It is winter here now and whilst people around me have been dropping like flies with all sorts of horrible lurgies, I have never felt haler or heartier!
I really want to go to the Swami’s retreat now….
I’m going spend my week trying to find a yoga class I can do at lunchtime so I can exercise for health and beauty as well as eat for it. Enjoy your week whatever you do!
Can you believe I’ve been doing this for nearly a year?
And as the anniversary approaches, I’ve been thinking about how to celebrate. Somehow my normal process of pulling one of the many vintage cookbooks from the pile under my bed at random doesn’t seem quite joyful enough. Primarily because this invariably involves me knocking the pile over, uttering some sustained invective as I pile it all back up then muttering “I really should Hoover under there one day”. That is not the stuff of celebration!
I had planned to sift through the pile to find something special. However, when I found “Eat your Way To Love and Beauty” by Swami Sarasvati in my local charity shop I thought I had found my birthday book! Who doesn’t want to be loved and beautiful? Especially on their birthday? And, why not eat my way there? It beats getting there by the other “e” word. You know, the one we try very hard not to mention here. Hint: it rhymes with…mexercising. Yes, I know that’s not a word. If you’re so smart, you try coming up with a word that rhymes with exercising. Anyway, it’s obviously working for The Swami. She’s cute. And limber!
The caption to this photo says
“Swami Sarasvati, her youth and vitality living proof of her cooking, exercises among her health dishes”
Please note: Retro Food For Modern Times in no way condones its readers exercising among their health dishes. Nor will I bear any responsibility for damages incurred if you decide to do so. To put it bluntly, if you end up with a pineapple up your clacker by engaging in this you’re on your own. And be aware that hospital staff will mock you behind your back. “Of course you slipped over whilst exercising among your health dishes… that’s what all the deviants say.” You have been warned.
Swami Sarasvati was a tv icon on Australia in the 1970’s, where she taught a generation of early morning tv watchers the art of yoga and the delights of a vegetarian lifestyle. I wish she was on the telly now. I would totally watch her. Well, I probably wouldn’t get up that early but I would record her shows, meaning to get around to doing some sun salutations one day…right after I vacuum under that bed! She also still runs a yoga retreat in New South Wales. It is currently ranked the number one hotel in Kenthurst on Trip Advisor. That it is the only hotel in town is by the by.
Speaking as someone who has been on a yoga retreat, the Swami’s looks pretty good. I had a miserable time the last one I was on. It was freezing and in lieu of heating, my room came equipped with a massive spider. I thought it would be not in keeping with the yoga/vegan/hippie vibe of the place to beat the ugly fucker to death with my shoe. This meant I was too scared to sleep for the entire time I was there in case, during my slumber, the spider decided to break our unspoken entente cordiale to crawl into my hair or lay eggs in my face.
You will be disappointed, though if you click through the link. Eat Your Way To Love and Beauty is no longer on the list of the Swami’s books available for purchase. We’re about to find out why.
Some of the sensibilities of the book feel very modern. Take for instance the Swami’s response to the question:
“What is healthy food?”
“It is food as fresh as possible and eaten as soon as possible. Refining, preserving, canning or colouring food should be avoided wherever possible”
That doesn’t last long…we descend into the land of the loony almost immediately.
Q – “How can food make me more loving?”
“A well nourished woman will have the strength to be patient and understanding and loving even when life seems impossible. Your children won’t turn to drugs”.
Q – “My Husband won’t eat health foods”
“Girls, to keep your marriage fresh and exciting, you must keep yourself and your husband youthful and vital….there are enough tangy gourmet health dishes in this book to tempt your husband. Before long he will be better at business and sport.
You know what Swami? You had me at love and beauty…let’s not bring my husband and non-existent children into it.
But despite all this…despite dooming Mark to bankruptcy and failure on the sporting field (by which I mean his PS3 breaking) and the poor dogs to having to sell themselves to strangers for Schmackos…I will not be celebrating this birthday by eating my way to love and beauty. Eating for hatred and ugliness has got me thus far, I guess I can continue for another week or so!
I have made a few recipes from “Eat Your Way To Love And Beauty” being a celery soup, an eggplant bhurta and a carrot halva.
Here they are:
These all tasted ok. Actually, the carrot halva was really good once I added a bucketload of brown sugar – kind of like carrot cake without the cake. And the eggplant was also pretty good. The celery soup was average. There was nothing wrong with any of them. They were just a bit drab. Look at them. They’re not screaming party are they? They look, earnest, well-meaning, brown. The food version of Coldplay. Worthy but kind of boring…
Which brings me to the second reason, we will not be celebrating Retro Food For Modern Times first birthday by eating our way to love and beauty.
Now, for those of you who are not au fait with the gimlet, it is defined by the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, as:
“A cocktail made of gin and lime juice”
Two ingredients. One of which is missing from the Swami’s recipe.
Never mind, I thought, the next recipe is called Singapore Gin. Maybe I’ll make that as my birthday cocktail.
Or maybe I wont…we like our booze here at Retro Food For Modern Times, celebrating anything without booze is anathema.
No wonder this book isn’t for sale anymore, it was probably banned for false advertising. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to call a cocktail Singapore “Gin” when it contains not the slightest whiff of a juniper berry!
Next week we’ll party like it’s 1969. I won’t give too much away but there will be gin and there will be gelatine; if I can get sufficiently organised there maybe something else starting with a “g” to make up a full three course meal…cocktail and dessert count as 2 courses don’t they?
I’ll be spending my week frantically trying to think of that third course…