It’s a wonderful life, ladies

Listing to the right

’Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even the Silver Fox. He’d run his race too early, the night before the night before the night before, and was now lying supine – defenceless as a welfare recipient under the gimlet gaze of Scott Morrison – on the ergonomically mystifying King Furniture rocker.

Outside, the shed fridge was gently humming, an ex-turkey at rest in its frigid embrace, cushioned on layers of paper towel. Not just any turkey, mind – a turkey that had, for its short but idyllic life, been afforded the most caring of care before shuffling off this mortal coil through sheer happiness, thanks to the ministering angels at Feather and Bone.

The mistress of the house, Keeper of the Double-Sided Sticky Tape and Purveyor of Fine Layers of Dust, beamed as she surveyed her bedecked halls. From the east wing to the west, all was in good order. She had completed her gift-wrapping, sustaining only minor injuries, and the gaily beribboned parcels were piled high around the grand, 800mm Flower Power Living Christmas Tree.

She gently ran her finger along the spines of the cookery books and magazines gathered on the kitchen bench, smiling in anticipation at the sifting and stirring, grinding and mixing, whipping and smearing that lay ahead.

But then her thoughts quickly turned back to cooking and the colour drained from her face. It was the night before the night before Christmas and there was peril afoot. The Knights and Dames of the Kitchen Table were a treacherous and divisive rabble, from M’lady Maggie Beer of the Verjuice, with her damnable double oven bags and resting the bird breast-side down for up to one hour, to Monseigneur Gary Rhodes, Lord of Step-By-Step Cooking, and his delving inside to locate the wishbone and cutting it out with a small sharp knife, the better to facilitate carving.

She must act quickly, lest the morrow’s endeavours overwhelm her. Before she knew it, it would be the night before Christmas and the calm she’d worked so steadfastly to achieve over the past 10 days would be lost. She would once again be transformed into My Lady of the Last Minute and surely would not go to the ball.

She would return again to the oracle Stephanie Alexander, whose sagacity in the dark arts of large trussed birds and marshmallowy pavlova was hailed in all four corners of this flat, square earth, even as far as Empress Nigella’s Land of the Midnight Snack. Soothed by this thought, she sprayed her chastity belt with a little more WD40, pinched her ashen cheeks to their former rosiness and took up her smoothing iron once more. She must make haste with her liege’s doublet and hose before he awoke, then check on the nominations for the Queen’s New Year Honours list. Perhaps this time…

 

2014 Frocktober round-up

I know many of my blog-readers have lives, which means they don’t spend their waking hours terrorised by the multi-headed, fire-spewing beast that is Social Meejah, so I thought it might be opportune to re-post here the images and words I published each day through October in one fell swoop. And while I hope it makes for entertaining reading, it might also have the added benefit of coaxing more of you to dig deep and add to my Frocktober sponsorship tally here, if only out of sympathy for the depths I’ve stooped to maintain people’s interest in my month-long quest.

So, starting from Day 2, as you’ve already had the pleasure of Day 1 in my previous post – please come with me on a non-chronological journey through the windmills of my wardrobe. And for those of you who have already been subjected to these images on Instagram and Facebook, it might be time for you to avert your eyes.

Day 2 Singapore, November 1983, en route back to London after a year of living dangerously and fabulously in Sydney, Darwin, Broome and Perth – but mostly Sydney for a year’s working holiday. Raffles hotel is the backdrop here – we couldn’t afford to stay there, but had a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar anyway. The outfit was designed by Perth friends Annie, Gem and Brett, who had an indie label called XX. The hair, well, it was the 1980s. Enough said…

 

Day 3 Let’s go back more than half a century – sigh… My favourite form of attire from about the age of seven (which is about how old I am here) until, well, now really – but only in the privacy of my own home… Hair obsessives who have still not got over the last photo, please note the straight tresses, due in no small part to my mother’s vigorous brushing regimen (and a snug-fitting riding hat). It was brown velvet as I recall. Tally ho!

 

 

 

Day 4 Heading to a wedding (not ours, I hasten to add). It was 1976 and I was 20 years old, and wearing a cream crepe culotte ensemble, doubtless from my father’s shop, Belle, in Queensway, Bayswater (of which you’ll see more later in this post). The bold accessory in the grey top hat to my left was the best man – but not for me it turned out, much to my eternal relief…

 

 

 

Day 5 Here’s a sun-kissed number from 1984, on a package holiday in Tunisia I went on with one of my oldest friends, Charlotte, who had, and still has, big hair non pareil. But, my friends, the sky-high hair here is not the limit – there’s bigger hair to come, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

Day 6 Enough of the hair, already, although in 1968 or thereabouts when this was taken, I could have done with a bit more. The only girl in class with a short cut – not a happy time for an insecure tween. Having more or less grown out of drawing horses, I had turned to ‘fashion illustration’, including the one here, for an ad my father put in the local rag to tout his maison du couture in London. I’m guessing my inspiration came from the cartoon romance comics of the day, including Romeo and Jackie.

Day 7 One week down in my Frocktober quest, so it must be time to hit the drag. It’s 1983, and I’m ready for my first Sydney Mardi Gras. The make-up and hat are by my sadly departed first Australian friend, Danny Smylie (aka Beautiful Jenny), a window dresser and part-time drag queen who took me under his wing when I was flown out to Sydney from London in 1980 for two weeks to repaint the faces of the mannequins at Grace Bros in Chatswood (as the store was known then). At the Mardi Gras party, I was swept onto the dance floor by a gallant gent who whispered into my ear, “Love your drag, sweetie.” I still wonder whether he realised I was a girl. Story of my life, actually…

Day 8 You’ve seen my 1983 Mardi Gras debut; now see my finale, in 2000. Rather more restrained on the drag front, though I think the pink suede boots should get brownie points, n’est ce pas? Pictured with me here are Andrew (foreground), whom I’ve known since the big-hair days of the mid-80s in Perth, and, making ready for a hasty departure at the front door, François, another Perth-vintage pal. Both of them were founding members with me and another beloved Perth boy, Robert, of The Miserable Club – all boyfriendless together, comforting ourselves regularly with Flintstone-sized schnitzels at Una’s restaurant in Kings Cross and laughing more than I’ve ever laughed since. One of my rules of thumb of friendship is invariably having more fun getting ready together than being at whatever event we are getting ready for. And here I rest my case…

Day 9 What goes around comes around – corduroy hot pants with bib and braces, anyone? It’s 1971 and we thought we were so hot right then, even before so hot right now was a thing. Most of our time was spent holed up in my or my friend, Amanda’s, bedroom, brandishing hairdryers, Carmen heated rollers and Mary Quant three-toned eyeshadow sets. Here we are, in a brief interlude from preening – Manda, a tortured-haired me and my cutie-pie little sister, Belinda. Manda had a boyfriend who was a hairdresser, pretty much the coolest kind of boyfriend you could have in 1971. They were the Brangelina of the Stonegrove Jewish Youth Club. I just played ping pong.

Day 10 So I’m cheating a little here, but cars have always been my favourite accessory, and this will always be my favouritest of all – a 1961 Holden FB ute, with scarlet bench seat and original three-on-the-tree gear shift. I would drive to work with Cake blasting out of TripleJ, and still can’t listen to ‘The Distance’ without it conjuring up this beast’s rolling gait, and me and my dear friend and (then) workmate, Leah belting out, “He’s going the distance, he’s going for… speeeed!” as we headed home from the city up Oxford Street, our elbows hitched over the window ledges like proper tradies. Annie (blue cattle dog) and Judy (Paddy’s Market mutt) in the back completed the ensemble out of office hours. The outfit here is of the suitably Aussie-serviceable vernacular – swimmers and shorts – but not Hard Yakka brand, I hasten to add. One has to draw the line somewhere.

Day 11 A Saturday-night special, and a brief respite from moi for a change. My grandma Esme (my mother’s mother), in 1920, aged 20, ready for her first fancy-dress dance. Nothing more to say – just sensational.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 12 Camp Ecstasy, 1989. Those of you who’ve been trudging through this month of fashiony fun with me so far will have already encountered Horsey Sal on Day 3, as well as XX label-clad Scarey Sal outside Raffles hotel on Day 2. Here, it all comes together in a slightly more louche get-up (that T-shirt must have been at least five years old – never let it be said that I don’t get plenty of wear out of my clothes, as those who know me will testify). A weekend spent camping at a friend’s property, with a whole bunch of 24-hour party people gathered to celebrate a 30th birthday. The name is probably self-explanatory – it was Woodstock, only a whole lot faster, with a soundtrack heavily tilted towards Soul II Soul, Inner City, De La Soul and New Order. The Silver Fox and I drove there in his 1970 maroon VF Valiant – no wonder I fell for him…

Day 13 Frou-frou Sal, circa 1959, in pink bridesmaid dress for my aunty Valerie’s (my mother’s sister) wedding. On the back of this photo, my mother has written in pencil: “Three guineas – from Nurseryland in Edgware. A bloody fortune!” Apparently this outrageously overpriced frock was then handed down to my sister, then family friends’ daughters, which is something of a relief, because in today’s money, that dress would be worth about a trillion dollars. As for the crazy patterned carpet – no wonder our childhood pets were always so neurotic…

 

 

Day 14 Circa 1980. Window-shopping on the Kings Road, Chelsea, after a day painting mannequins at Adel Rootstein. I was on my way out with friends from work (one of them, Cheryl, took this photo and sent it to me in solidarity for my fundraising efforts this year, bless her cotton socks). The hard-to-spot apple-green shirt was a hand me down from my then flatmate, Kaya, whose weight spookily dropped in direct proportion to the weight I gained while I lived with her. The black dinner jacket may have been from the Chelsea Antiques Market or Antiquarius. I think the bag was from The Great Gear Trading Company or perhaps Stop the Shop, and the skirt might have come from Wallis (still trading), whose head of merchandising at the time, Kevin Arpino, eventually took over the Rootstein business after Adel died. My friend, Jed, not pictured, but with us that evening, told me of a dream he had in which my ankles got thinner and thinner until my feet dropped off and I was left walking on little points. Not hard to imagine looking at this image. Those black suede shoes had scalloped edges, and I loved them, but that didn’t stop me looking for more. Plus ça change

Day 15 An English wedding, June 14 1996. Mine actually (and the Silver Fox’s, of course). Pictured here with my dynamo mother, who arranged the whole event in 10 days – from the day I popped the question, to a perfect midsummer afternoon reception in a lovely country pub called the Bedford Arms, in Buckinghamshire, with 40 friends and rellos. She, the SF, my girlfriend, Val and I went shopping in Hampstead for an outfit a couple of days before the big day, and this was the first one I tried on. It’s a Karen Millen number, before she apparently took hallucinogenic drugs and discovered hyper-bling. It was bling enough for me (and short enough for the Silver Fox). The shoes were from Hobbs, also in Hampstead, and I still have them, though they’re a little mould-stained from 18 years of cupboard life. The jacket was chucked out this year, also stained, and the dress a couple of years before that (no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fit into it and keep what dignity I still had). If you are wondering at the continued absence of the Silver Fox among these images, it’s because he prefers to eschew any interweb presence, and, after all this malarkey, I can’t say I blame him.

Day 16 This one brought the house down on Instagram – can’t imagine why… It’s 1971, and we’re on a family Easter holiday in Holland. I learnt from my mother after I originally posted this photo, that it was actually taken in Monnikendam, not Amsterdam, a town that’s the namesake of mum’s uncle Maurice, husband of her beloved aunty Marjorie, who lived way beyond her centenary. So here we all are without even the benefit of having visited one of those Dutch wacky-tobaccy cafes (although perhaps we should have, as Mum and I might have looked more relaxed and happy).

Day 17 More fancy dress – this time for the Silver Fox’s 40th birthday party in 1998, which he shared with a friend, who insisted on a ‘Renaissance and Sporting Heroes’ theme. She’s a history teacher and rugby union coach, so it kinda made sense at the time. Kinda… I painted a mural-sized rendition of Botticelli’s ‘Venus’, among other things, to decorate the room (you can just spot it behind me on the left), but ignored the dress code and hired this twinkly number just because I liked it (and because my sporting hero is Ginger Rogers). One wag asked me if I’d come as the Queen Mother. One was not amused…

Day 18 Proving that leopard print and brogues never go out of style. I posted this photo, taken sometime in the early 1960s, to pay tribute to my sister Belinda’s birthday and as a homage to elasticated waistbands.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 19 Well, I had to get this over with at some point. My first wedding, November 1983. The bride wore black (and a surfeit of netting), the groom wore a shiny, chat-show host jacket, and the reception was at the bandstand on Observatory Hill. Guests included my pal, Danny, as his alter-ego Beautiful Jenny, and a cast of mohawked crackpots from Sydney College of the Arts, where my husband was studying. We all ended up dancing on the stage at a Spanish restaurant/flamenco spot in Liverpool Street, while the marriage ended amicably about eight years later.

 

Day 20 Venice Lido, mid-1960s. Rocking the pink and the beribboned pigtails. So successfully, I might add, that I stole the heart of a dashing young (extremely young) waiter called Franco at the hotel where we were staying, the posh Quattro Fontane. It was the first time I’d had my bottom pinched and eternal love declared to me in a sexy accent (in fact, the only time for either, come to think of it). I wonder whatever happened to Franco…

Day 21 A carefree time – 1961 – the days of frilly knickers that matched one’s frocks. My mother was – and still is – a fiend for ‘matching’ and I still get the once-over every time we get together. The one powerful memory I have of this garden, in our first home in Edgware, Middlesex, is of picking tiny wild strawberries growing at the bottom of it. I’ve never tasted any as good since.

 

 

Day 22 Sometime in the 1960s. Me, my little sister and our family pooch, Petra, named hopefully after the smart and handsome dog on our fave kids’ TV show, Blue Peter, but sadly lacking in the looks department. This worked to our advantage when we entered a picture of Petra ‘grinning’ into a competition on Eamon Andrews’ ‘Today’ show on TV, for the Daftest Dog in Britain, in 1970. She was a finalist, so Mum had to go on the show with Petra. It may have been Mum’s then-Arian-blonde good looks and uber-fashion-forward herringbone maxi coat that clinched the deal with the judges (among them, actress Sheila Hancock), but our dear old pet-shop pooch won, and was presented with a bone bigger than she was, tied with a large red bow, a crown and a cheque for five pounds.

Mum made the local paper looking characteristically strained under the glare of publicity and photography. Petra never made it through that bone, but lived a full and happy life, nevertheless, out of the media spotlight. And I never did find my waist.

 

 

 

Day 23 This photo, dug up by my mother, is of Dad’s aforementioned boutique – the last and grooooooviest of the three he owned. He designed the interior – inverted-scalloped ceiling and all – as well as being a dab hand at window dressing, as you can see. Mum ran the lingerie section, and was one of the first to stock Gossard Wonderbras (of which she had a vast personal collection in various colours – with knickers dyed to match). I would drive at weekends with Dad to work as a ‘Saturday girl’, and listen to Kenny Everett on Capital Radio. Not sure when this was taken, probably the very early 1970s. My sister reckons the shop was still there a couple of years ago, in Queensway, Bayswater, with scalloped ceilings intact. Our father was nothing if not visionary…

Day 24 Circa 1980 – the mannequin painter. More photos courtesy of my former workmate, Cheryl, one of a bunch of creative, eccentric and exhilarating people I worked with at Adel Rootstein in Chelsea, from 1976 to 1981. Style notes, clockwise from top left: turquoise glitter sunglasses, frequently matched with a turquoise lurex tie and Annie Hall-esque shirt, jacket and pants (had a huge crush on Diane Keaton and Woody Allen); painting Joanna Lumley (or at least her facsimile) with oil paint (other mannequins of the time included Cher, Marie Helvin, Sayoko – probably the first Japanese model to make the big time – Pat Cleveland, whose daughter, Anna, is now also modelling, and Joan Collins – all sculpted from life); lunchtime picnic at Chelsea Green – white dungarees, worn in the misguided belief that they would camouflage my heft, but also quite the thing at the time; ‘Sally’s Other Apron!’, a calico smock (we all wore them in the studio) encrusted with paint that built up over time as we wiped our brushes while we worked, until those smocks stood up by themselves. That job was what eventually brought me to Sydney – and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

Day 25 Aged four, 1960. I’ve always loved getting frocked up – especially when there was a wand involved.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 26 Sutherlandshire, Scotland, summer (yup) of 1974. The first time I saw the Scottish highlands, I burst into tears – such vast, gaunt beauty was just too much for a nice Jewish suburban girl. I was 18 and travelling with my first proper partner (you may remember him in the top hat from Day 4) and our two friends, Val and Phil, in Mum’s borrowed Renault 6. Crammed to the gills it was, not just with us, but all our luggage and our combined body weight in chocolate bars and crisps, plus an inflatable dinghy and outboard motor strapped to the roof. The crofter’s cottage we rented, near the Kyle of Tongue, was the creepiest place I’ve ever stayed – so much so, that one room became completely off limits, due to said partner convincing us that the person in the portrait on the wall kept shifting position. It’s still one of the most heart-catching, life-changing places I’ve visited. And the Renault was never the same, either. Sorry Mum.

Day 27 Jeez Louise, what was it with me and dungarees? It’s 1980-ish, and I’m at my friends’ house with their beautiful rescue dog, Paddy (short for Padworth, which is where the rescue home was). I spent a lot of my time with Val and Phil (whom I’d ‘stolen’ from my ex-boyfriend and adopted as my own personal rescue home), travelling the countryside in the back seat of their car with the dog – both of us sniffing the hedgerows out the windows. Happy times.

 

Day 28 So, enough about me… You’ve seen my wedding outfits; now here are my grandmother’s and mother’s. At far left, Esme Nordon, my maternal grandmother, who married Bernard (Barney) Parker in 1925 – that’s him with her in the top photo. Below, my mother, Rosalind, who married my father, David, in 1954. She was 21, he was 32. How beautiful she looks here. My sister and I wore her wedding dress for dress-ups for years afterwards.

 

Day 29 Another example of a seeming penchant for channelling the late Queen Mother (although some commented on my original post that I looked more like Princess Di, perish the thought). It’s 1983, and beside me is Danny – seen here in his Beautiful Jenny persona (via Alexis from Dynasty). We were guests at another crackpot wedding in the city – the bride and groom serenaded by a woman in man-drag playing an accordion on the steps of St Mary’s Cathedral. Danny was one of a handful of dear friends I lost to AIDS, and the world has never seemed quite as vivid without them.

Day 30 Following on from the above post – and bringing us almost back to where we started on Day 1 of this frocking marathon. It’s February 1983 and my friend, fellow traveller, soul brother and old soul, Jed, and I are heading down William Street into the city, armed with our mannequin portfolio, probably to an appointment at David Jones or Grace Bros to wrangle for work. Danny took this photo. I think the shirt-dress came from Sportsgirl, and I loved it. So did Danny – I have a photo of him somewhere with him wearing it. As for Jed, 10 years later, he went the way of Danny, another victim of the era, and of being the beautiful new boy in town. This photo just brims with all that potential of being strangers in a strange land, with everything ahead of us, and I’m so glad to have found it after all these years.

Day 31 Sarong, and thanks for all the dosh (with apologies to Douglas Adams). This is the last day’s worth of me regaling you with frockulicity, so I thought we should celebrate by not wearing a frock at all (so to speak). Style notes, clockwise from top left: 1996, on our Bali honeymoon; 1998, a weekend in Noosa to celebrate the Silver Fox’s 40th; 1998, a South Coast summer holiday (naturally – it’s raining), with my old cattle dog, Annie, in the background. And that’s all folks – for those of you who feel inspired to donate to OCRF, to fund the fight against ovarian cancer, just click on this link and it will take you to my page. Thanks again to everyone who’s supported me with kind words, laughter and, most importantly, donations to this cause. Until next year…

 

 

A month of frockdays

The time is ticking swiftly towards October, or Frocktober, as it is skittishly known. Tomorrow, and for the duration of this – so very, very long – month, I am committed to wearing a dress, or some such skirty thing, and to daily document this horror via social media, to raise funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

However, as I remarked last year, this seems a small price to pay for the possible benefits this pathetic struggle with my sartorial demons could bring to further the research into this awful disease. And I raised quite a decent wack last year, to your, um, credit. More than double my target, in fact. So thank you, again.

Most of you will already know I have a personal investment in this particular cause – I am, I admit, nothing if not selfish. My mother, Rosalind Feldman (that’s her above, in 1951, aged 17, wearing one of her sister’s dresses), was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2010, but only after many months of having to endure symptoms that no one had picked up – mostly because ovarian cancer is so bloody hard to diagnose, that by the time it is, the cancer is already doing its evil voodoo that it does so well.

Since that terrifying and dismal day, the good, good folk at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst, along with those at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre and Sacred Heart Hospice, have – with not a little help from Rosalind’s sheer bloody-mindedness and no help at all from my peripheral dithering – kept her ticking over for far longer than her straight-shooting oncologist, the magnificent Professor Eva Segelov, would have been prepared to wager. (Fittingly, Eva is something of a fashionista – particularly in the shoe department – and Ros and I always look forward to seeing what foxy little Italian numbers she’ll be wearing at our next appointment.)

So – how best to make you all part with your hard-earned? While I know some among you took pleasure in witnessing my daily posts on Instagram and Facebook last year, I thought I might mix it up a bit in 2014, just to keep things mildly more amusing for you, and altogether more humiliating (and hopefully lucrative) for me and my donation kitty. And, frankly, I haven’t bought that many new clothes to make my Frocktober posts interesting enough for you to cough up more money to see.

So, I will leave the daily glam shots to those who do them best – you can check out everyone’s daily updates at #frocktober and #ocrf on Instagram – and instead, occasionally throw in some unchronological photographic vignettes through the history of my wardrobe, according to my daily whim.

To start, I take you back to where it all began for me here in Sydney.

November 1982 and 26 years old. I was hot off the plane from London with my best friend Jed, via a week in Bali, for a year’s working holiday. I have no idea where any of the clothes I’m wearing came from, but when we got off the plane in Sydney, Jed and I were the only people in monochrome, that’s for sure.

If you’d like to donate, please hit this link and go for your life. And thanks, in anticipation, from the bottom of my sock drawer.

Killing it in Killcare

Crane at work, Killcare

My foreboding with regards to my dear friend, Kate’s, 50th birthday girls’ weekend in Killcare with a crowd of high-achieving, Amazonian yummy mummies – for which the irony of one YM’s trepidation at the thought of cooking for a ‘food critic’ was brought into sharp relief by my subsequent ignominious hoovering of sharp cheese and Branston pickle – came to nought, as usual.

The payoff for being lumbered with gloom as your default setting is the near-hysterical joy at having a pretty bloody good time, actually.

And we had a pretty bloody good time, actually, each in our own way. As I expected, some ran and ocean-swam the length and breadth of the Central Coast and frolicked n the ice-cold horizon pool (albeit briefly – even their Amazonianity baulking at that intemperate temperature); others read the paper by the fire; some languished in bed with post-karaoke migraine; others walked all the way down to Hardys Bay in the pissing rain and almost had a heart attack walking back up the hill trying to keep up with somebody fit.

After open-heart surgery, I cooked dinner.

We wore fancy dress (of sorts – my foreboding had kicked in again when I was packing, so I played it safe with a caftan and played it dangerous with hair product – not good for reading the paper by the fire). There were nylon wigs and plastic frocks – also not so good with open flames – and a gen-yoo-ine Diane von Furstenberg.

Not the person, obviously. Though I’m sure she’s perfectly genuine, too.

Anyhoo. We got trashed quite early. Fortunately, I had spent the whole of the previous day at home ‘prepping’, as they like to say on MasterChef before they cut themselves and get blood in their lamb’s tongue and chipotle panna cottas. To this end, I had channelled former MasterChef Magazine colleagues Dame Sophia Young of the Order of the Large Plastic Container, and Lord Dominic Smith, Keeper of the Glad Wrap, and their highly professional (if anally retentive) approach to preparing for a food shoot. I arrived (rather smugly, it must be said) in Killcare armed to the teeth with marinated and chopped-up stuff, knives, tea towels, platters and poultry shears, and enough packaging to do a Christo wrap on Bouddi National Park.

And while it took a little longer than usual to actually assemble the feast, what with the caftan and being trashed and all (oddly, no one offered to help with any residual chopping, content merely to peep between splayed fingers as I diced with ginger and death), it went pretty much to plan. We ate like kings – and shrieked like queens.

Definitely not in Kansas any more

It also resulted in the pomegranate molasses-fuelled invention of a potential trillion-dollar-turnover product perfectly targeted to cash in on Australia’s ageing population, requiring only comfy chairs. We’d named it, marketed it and come up with the spin-offs, all before my kitchen-buddy for the evening, Karn, stuck the sparklers in the birthday cake she’d made for dessert so casually, efficiently and swiftly that very afternoon – with an unfamiliar and very dodgy oven, and nary a plastic container in sight. Respect.

For now, this invention is under wraps – unlike Bouddi National Park, which remains blissfully unfettered by Alfoil. But the recipes aren’t, so, as promised, Kate, Susie, Linda, Shara, Karn, Amanda and Katie – here is the one that brought the house down. And thanks, Kate, for finally making it to the same decade as me – it really has felt like a bloody eternity.

Twice-cooked pork belly
without the pork

Belinda Jeffery’s honey and harissa-glazed eggplant

This is from an ABC delicious. cookbook, World Menus, and it has now become my default recipe for eggplant (with none of the foreboding). It has even convinced the silver fox that aubergine is not the devil’s work. (Indeed, he refers to it affectionately as ‘twice-cooked pork belly without the pork’ – an accolade that will resonate with the arterially challenged among us.) I don’t bother with the sun-dried tomato pesto (a concept I find a little disturbing, for some reason), as it’s just as delicious with plain old tomato paste; and I usually ramp up the harissa ratio, too. I also sling the spices, harissa, honey, tomato pesto/paste, lemon juice and salt in a bowl and stir ’em together before chucking the lot in with the sizzling garlic and ginger. And, as is my wont, I am fairly lax about quantities, relying instead on tasting as I go (the blisters are finally healing).

750g eggplant (roughly 2 medium/large)
110ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons harissa
¼ cup honey
3 teaspoons sun-dried tomato pesto
1½ tablespoons lemon juice, or more to taste
1½ teaspoons sea salt, or more to taste
Coriander or mint leaves, to serve

Preheat your oven to 220C (fan-forced 200C). Line a large oven tray with baking paper.

Halve each eggplant across, then slice each half into 6-8 wedges, depending on the size of your vegies. Add the wedges to a large bowl with 90ml olive oil and use your hands to mix them together to coat them thoroughly. Spread them over the prepared oven tray in a single layer. I like to arrange them skin-side down first, so as much of the cut surfaces are being blasted as poss.

Roast the eggplant for 30 minutes or until deep golden, turning halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over low heat. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and stir for 30 seconds, or, as they say in all the best circles, until fragrant. Stir in the spices, harissa, honey, tomato pesto, lemon juice and salt and cook for a minute or so, then turn off the heat.

When the eggplant wedges are cooked, reheat the honey mixture over low heat. Using tongs, carefully transfer the wedges to the honey mixture in a single layer. Cook them gently, carefully turning them once or twice, for 8 minutes or so until they have become soaked with the glaze (just keep an eye on them, as the honey scorches easily).

When the wedges are ready, turn off the heat and taste – add a little more lemon juice or salt it necessary. Using tongs once again, carefully pile the wedges into a shallow bowl or dish. Scrape any remaining glaze over the top. Sprinkle with coriander or mint leaves and serve warm or at room temperature.

This serves four as a side, apparently, so if you’re wise, you’ll make twice the quantity and have it cold the next day.