Alien degustation: in space, no one can see you cook

Space brulee torch

So, here’s an idea for a future exciting, challenging challenge for MasterChef Australia: The Professionals Series 1 of the Most Challenging, Exciting Cooking Contest Ever Seen on Television Anywhere by Anyone in the Known Universe, Infinity and Beyond.

The final four contestants – let’s call them Matty, Catty, Bratty and Tatty – are put through a rigorous hour of training at NASA before the first ad break. We witness their physical hardships and share their hopes and fears, as they learn to whisk egg whites to stiff peaks, render duck fat and bone out a quail under zero-gravity conditions.

Their only companions – a large, disembodied voice (let’s call it Hal) and an unblinking, eerily life-like automaton, the MP3W.

Their most audacious, inconceivably challenging challenge? To journey to a far-off galaxy – let’s call it Planet Cake – where they must create a 12-course degustation for 100 VERY DISCERNING, ICONIC, PASSIONATELY FOODIE SURPRISE ALIEN GUESTS.

Cue shocked expressions through Perspex visors. Cue MasterChef flames. Cue McSpaceburger ad.

Cue shocked expressions through Perspex visors again.

Cue Hal: “But there’s a twist…” Cue ominous digital music. “Your guests have only one mouth between them and…” Cue over-long pause.

… “it is only used when there’s an ‘R’ in the month.” Cue MasterChef flames. Cue indestructible space paper towel ad.

Cue “It is only used when there’s an ‘R’ in the month,” again.

Catty is weeping. Matty looks to Bratty for guidance, but Bratty’s trying to remember which months are the ‘R’ ones. Tatty is defiantly confident – he knows his months backwards – but is swiftly put in his place by the MP3W, who thunders, “Respect me, respect me, respect me, respect me, respect me” until Tatty is forced to his knees – which, because it’s zero gravity, are above his head.

Cut to the MasterChef Space Module Kitchen, where our four contestants stand before the large, disembodied voice and the unblinking MP3W.

Cue Hal: “You have just 12.5 million light years to prepare 12 beautiful dishes. Luckily, you have the run of the entire MasterChef Space Module Kitchen Pantry to choose your beautiful ingredients. But Matty – because you won the Qantas Civil Aviation Invention Test, you get a head start of three millennia.”

Cue wry smiles and muffled clapping from the be-space-suited Catty, Bratty and Tatty.

The MP3W thunders, “Your time starts… Now. Now. Now. Now. Now. Now. Now.”

Cue Matty floating above a Coles spice rack. Cue MasterChef flames. Cue ad for Curtis Stone’s teeth.

Out for a duck


A Trojan duck

It’s been a while since Monetise This has put proverbial quill to parchment. This is due, for the most part, to some complicated tinkering with the mechanics of this site and to a general ennui brought on by Sydney’s thick, sweaty summer heat and the burble of cricket commentators.

When we’ve occasionally managed to stir our stumps to leave the cool embrace of the open refrigerator door, it has been to frolic, albeit self-consciously, alongside a youthful crowd to the strains of live music.

This is all part of this year’s concerted (hah!) effort to engage a little less with our sofa and a little more with that oyster of a world we’ve ignored for too long.

Two Door Cinema Club, The Vaccines, Jungle Giants – not names, genteel readers, that roll easily off a middle-aged tongue (if I had my way, ‘Two Door’ would be hyphenated, for a start…). But hell damn, they could all make sweet music and make our ears ring for 24 hours afterwards – just like the good old days.

My most profound discovery that night was that I was no less insecure and self-conscious in my mid-50s than I had been as a teenager, rigid with terror, propped against a wall at my first disco, as Marvin Gaye pulsated through ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’. It didn’t help that I was wearing a denim shirt, which attracted several sideways glances due to its similarity to the uniforms of the security staff at the venue. A sartorial lesson duly learned, my blog brethren…

A week later – Hot Chip at the Enmore theatre, on the hottest day in Sydney for a trillion years. And yet another fashion conundrum, leading to a plaintive Facebook plea. What to wear? “Ketchup” was the smart-ass response from Andrew, my ever-dependable, faster-than-the-speed-of-light London wag.

Hot Chip seemed to attract a much more mixed crowd (and why not, we’ve all gotta eat, right?). Old, young, gay, straight, beautiful, not so much – all dancing (this time propped against each other). Sweat is a great leveller.

As is a barmy art installation. Down at Darling Harbour some geezer’s blown up a creepy giant rubber duck for this year’s Sydney Festival and everyone’s flocking to see it. But all is not what it seems, I fear (hope, actually). I suspect it harbours thousands of armed ducklings (that’s armed as in weaponry, not with actual arms rather than wings – that would just be stupid), waiting for their moment to steal forth under cover of night and storm the barbecue shops of Chinatown to liberate their doomed brothers and sisters.

And if they don’t, I’m going back to Darling Harbour with a very large knitting needle.