I love deep fried fish and I love eating the crunchy tail

Memories are such strange things, the early ones in particular. Ask anyone for their earliest memory and they will invariably struggle. It will often be as late as age three or four and they will be (at best) hazy. I have powerful taste memories (for reasons of which I am not sure) that reach beyond that timeframe to the days of being bottle-fed warm milk. In addition to the taste I have two distinct memories of place – one under the kitchen table of the house Mum lived in whilst Dad was away at war, the other feeling warm and protected in my pusher in the middle of a cold, wet Port Fairy winter.

Strangely today, I am not at all fond of milk. But I might save that and other memories for later, it’s a major obsession and I want to explore it thoroughly as I do all my pet foibles – I am nothing if not thorough in pursuing my fixations.

I was lucky to be born into a large and diverse family – feuding, making up and being dominated by a bolshy old patriarch. I was equally blessed to have free run of the town and have doors open to me. On many occasions I’m certain I wore out my welcome, driving people crazy with the millions of questions always on the tip of my tongue. We are what we are because of the experiences and lessons of life and so for me, Port Fairy set the pattern of my life. It made me incredibly curious, always loving, occasionally angry, regularly forthright and often impatient as I launched into another venture or campaign with only a cursory nod to planning.

There is a lot to capture in the essence of place, a lot to try to and pursue. For me, Port Fairy was my home and my school. I had a lot to learn, lots to see and do and much to taste. The town and country around it was all open for me to explore. I never planned. School was an inconvenience to be endured. There was always the walk to school and walk home afterwards, bound to be a bit of exploration here and there; pop in, say hello. And of course Miss Bowker at school to make sure that our curious young minds were constantly stimulated. I owe that woman so much.

I left Port Fairy for Horsham when I was transferred there by the National Bank (I can see your raised eyebrows now – Peter in a bank?!!). You’re right of course – it was something I knew I had to get out of from Day One. It took nearly seven years to make good my escape, and even then it was not into the world I know now, but into yet another office and the eventual terminal horror of being found out as a non-office person. Then getting fired. This covers the years until I was maybe 21. I have deliberately left out the stories of finding aspects of my sexuality; there doesn’t seem much point.

There is much that has changed over the years, different emphasis and a very different world. The concept of home and hearth has changed, and as much as we may try and recapture it as it was, you just can’t. Life will go on and in the end will tip its hat to yesterday, but it will forge its own way forward. And that is how it should be. So my longing for the times past is just nostalgia, occasionally grabbing at straws, a reason to moan about quality, a whining moment where I can lament the passing of my time.

It’s my mothers fault, and Auntie Mon’s too; they did this to me – turned me from a sweet faced, gentle young thing into a madly food obsessed fiend that doesn’t know when to stop and must keep pushing and pushing to have his way. It’s just not true that I’m a control freak (well perhaps a little true). I do allow my obsessions full rein and my idiosyncrasies can be very demanding. Meat, bread, porridge, good wine, the way we serve food, ham, bacon, Greek wine, Greek waiters, Italian waiters, Italian food; dear oh dear, this list could go on and on, but you understand.

This collection of tales (often with no obvious theme or real cohesion) is all mysteriously linked and all part of the journey that I have taken. I have written this like a journal, a diary (sort of), because the word journal somehow conjoins with journey and that was what it was. Food is the main centre around which much of my life has revolved, with perhaps two others (religion and design) that exert their influence later in life.

Lots of what I learned about food, cooking and preserving is given here as notes, recipes and hints and in no way should you take them as set in concrete. There are some that are formulas (cakes, puddings and the like) that you have to follow the recipe, but even then there is always room to improvise and improve and I urge you to explore. It’s taken me a while to get around to the point where I accepted that my way in that place and time was not the only way. What I hope from all this is that you will find ways to enjoy my stories and maybe make use of a few hints and recipes.


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