Can I have a rescue kitten with my beetroot latte?

kiven-zhao-536685-unsplashRescue animals are the latest must have accessory. As heard on James Valentine’s Afternoons show recently, he joked about ordering a turmeric latte and a rescue greyhound. The strange thing is that it isn’t so long ago that special breed dogs were de rigueur. Every man and his dog had an Alaskan Malamute crossed with a Portuguese Water Dog mixed with Bernedoodle or a Neapolitan Mastiff mixed with Whoodle. It was the epitome of everything to have a Scottish Fold Cat mixed with Sphinx. It signified individuality and care, as though you’d matched your lifestyle with a particular breed. In a way it was brandbuilding under the guise of thoughtfulness.

How things change. Now to hear someone say that they have got a breed dog would be the equivalent of saying you support child labour. To rescue a poor distressed poverty-stricken animal with no family, breeding or connections from a third-world suburb and offer them a “forever home” denotes depth and authenticity. The more tragic the tale – rescued from a flood, senior dog with broken leg, cat blinded in hit and run car accident even better. You are hot smoking woke.   

Once rescued, these animals have a pampered life. If you live In Melbourne you can even order a beer for your dog. Beerdog Bitter is a beef flavoured lightly carbonated drink that is on tap in a number of Melbourne ale houses. You can now take your dog out to lunch and a drink. How nice. Still in Melbourne, why not visit the café for dogs – dogachinos, pupcorn and grass-fed beef dog loaves. On the other hand, cats drink wine. You can order online a MosCATo or Pinot Meow, which substitutes alcohol for catnip. There are dog laughter workshops, pet reiki, behaviour therapy because – you know – rescue animals have … issues. And if your rescue pet is cute or quirky enough they can become Instagram stars and launch their own brand of merch. Life was never this good for designer pets of old.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course, I think it is much better to rescue an animal rather than pay an exorbitant fee on a specially bred family pet. If a nice middle-class couple doesn’t rescue these animals more than likely they will not have a happy life, or any life at all. I’m just wondering why having a rescue pet has suddenly got so popular. Are people hoping for extra love and loyalty from their new pet given they saved its life? (If you’re looking for love from a cat, good luck). Is it that they feel powerless about world events so are putting their energy into a rescue kitten? Instead of solving the entire refugee crisis are they just going to try to help one abandoned pug? Is it instead of volunteering because, you know, who wants to spend all day in a soup kitchen when you can play with your new rescue puppy! Or is a rescue pet a little something to casually brag about on Instagram? Maybe it is because relationships with actual humans are just too complex now and better to get a new family member that can’t speak English.

Whatever the reason, I just worry these rescue animals will be dropped at the next fad. When the pet rock makes a comeback.

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Keel over Kale, Cauliflower is in town

Take a bow and move aside please, Kale. Cauliflower is the new Must-have vegetable accessory. There’s nothing you can’t do with cauliflower – make it into rice or pizza or chug it down raw. You can smash it, mash it, pulverise it, roast it. You can spiral it, grind it, bind it and blowtorch it. Take that kale! You could do some of those things but you could never pull off rice or pizza.

It’s strange to think that the humble cauli, the veg that used to be like an embarrassing cousin at the wedding, is this year’s new It food.

But why? And how? Who decided you could rub it with spices and roast whole in the oven and call it Cauliflower Roast? Who exactly is the cauliflower Insta-influencer who told us cauliflower’s time has come. Who is the marketing genius who pared it first with pomegranate? And most importantly, with demand skyrocketing, where are the cauliflowers grown? Did farmers have to rip out kale plants to put in cauliflower? The logistics are fascinating.

Now that cauliflower has been elevated to the big league, I want to know how did we ever survive without having cauli in every meal? That was madness.

I’m not anti-cauliflower (although those those teensy tiny florets sure are mess mavens). If you smother it in salt and oil it tastes pretty good (which is the only way we got through the kale years). As far as fake rice goes it tastes pretty good and is nearly as cheap. It’s good to see it is finally getting the recognition it deserves but I’m worried for it. Kale lasted about 3 – 5 years and cauliflower is destined to do the same. Once you’ve had it as rice pizza, mac and cheese, whole roasted or raw with a vegan dip where can you go? And what will be next?

Zucchini has some form thanks to zucchini noodles, it probably has a little too much Latin flair. I’m thinking celeriac, which has a face like a dropped pie, or else turnip. They both have the advantage of looking and sounding bad, a prerequisite for the next hit vegetable. Until we can 3D print the next new veg, Kalieflower, perhaps?

Fancy a Tonka Bean Fizz?

So who decided that drinking gin and whiskey is now a thing. In the last few years there’s been an explosion of gin bars, speakeasys and whiskey rooms popping up faster than a Donald Trump tweet. These bespoke bars are a study in comfy clubby leather furniture, old-school framed pictures and hipster pot plants. Many of them invoke the 20’s and 30’s – an era that millennials are obsessed with and think they invented. It goes with the fixed gear bikes, upturned milkcrates and jam jars in an ex butcher’s shop. Throw in a bearded bartender, artsy menu and ridiculous prices and you are all set to order your gin fling (craft beer and organic wine is so last century).

So what to choose? Why not start with a staple. For instance a freshly foraged Lemon Aspen Gimlet with locally foraged berries which are pureed into a sorbet using liquid nitrogen.

Or how about a Pressed Kale Fizz or Green Ant Gin Julep with dill infused green Chartreuse and orange marmalade syrup. Want something more nuanced? Try a Norwegian foraged Cornish Cumbrian or a charcoal filtered sling with a shot of green pea tonic. To mix things up a bit add a single origin shot of peanut butter bitters mist, a cold drip coffee sphere, wood smoke popcorn or an infusion of whey vapour.

If this seems more confusing than ordering a glass of house red, then it’s important to know who is to blame. HIPSTERS! Not content with beer, wine or a gin and tonic, hipsters have to overdramatize the gin and whiskey scene. Make it something it is not, make it expensive and impenetrable. Make it an expensive conglomeration, not just a drink you have in summer on the balcony before you get stuck into the vino. And now, not only does it cost the earth but you have to wait a long time before that first sip. By the time the bartender (sorry, mixologist) has added small batch cardamom mist and hand-massaged pomegranate seed to your drink, it is a good six minutes, which is five and a bit minutes longer than I ever want to wait for a beverage. Anyway who wants salad in their drink. The more greenery you put in it, generally the less gin there is and the more it costs. Clearly hipsters are not very bright.

Not content with gin, hipsters have also moved into whiskey and spinning it like a vinyl record. I can see why whiskey is hipster heaven or on point as an actual hipster would say. Whiskey bars are intimate and clubby and the names of whiskies usually sound bespoke and hand-crafted. Besides who doesn’t want to imbibe a wee dram in a place called Irish Snug, Swine Moonshine, Whiskey Ginger.

Luckily for hipsters, no-one really knows how to drink whiskey. It is a drink that was last around in the 1950’s and 60’s, which means millennials have been able to pretend they invented it. Anyone who was thoroughly refreshed by a whiskey bar in the 50’s isn’t going out to bars any more.

Even though I’m not that ancient, I yearn for that time a few short years back when I could order a glass of $8 wine in a bar with only a short queue. Of course, this gin fling and whiskey fetish is nothing new. It’s the new smashed avo only in liquid form. Like edible flowers it won’t last. And like millennials it will fade and get old then wither. Just not soon enough.

Government? Who needs it?

So, Australia hasn’t had a proper government for around three years. The Abbott experiment was a mad scrum of throwback ideas, awkward doorstops and daily outrage followed by months of inaction.

The start of the Turnbull experiment was a melee of ideas, broad smiles and a collective sigh of relief that we finally had a prime minister who spoke in complete sentences and didn’t walk like Donald Duck.

But as it turned out, a prime minister who spoke in complete sentences was too much to hope for too. Fasttrack to a year later and we still have a prime minister who speaks in three word slogans and looks like a ghost of his former self but with a manic grin on his face. Meanwhile Prime Minister meekly submits to the schoolyard bullies and nothing gets done; nobody is obviously in charge and the government limps on. At least I think it does – no-one is paying attention.

But it’s got me thinking. Do we need government at all? Maybe we are a self-governing society. People are still going to cafes, going to the beach, going to work and getting paid. They are still getting married, going to the doctor, going to school and catching up with friends. They are going on diets, they are exercising, they are planning holidays and continuing to ignore politics. Life is going on as normal.

In Belgium a few years ago a hung parliament meant that a caretaker government with very limited powers was put in charge for nearly 18 months. And exactly the same thing happened. Life went on! Who knows, maybe it was better with fewer politicians. I do realise Australia has a majority government, but in a way it is similar to a hung parliament – we have a gridlocked agenda and a parliament not able to make decisions.

So, here’s my solution – a plebiscite question as follows: Does Australia need a government? Yes/No.

And … make the result binding, please.

 

 

 

Jobs for Pollies

The politicians of Australia are not doing a very good job. If they were, things in the 45th parliament would get done. But it’s not the pollies fault. Many of them are in the wrong job and should be in an entirely different profession altogether. Like these:

Malcolm Turnbull – with his posho voice, old-man handsomeness, tailored suits and didactic hand gestures, he is like the headmaster at an exclusive boys school on the last day of third term delivering his address. By then students are long past caring. Occasionally he may raise some good points but no-one’s listening.

Bill Shorten – is hard to get an occupational handle on, but Operations & Logistics Manager for Woolworths seems like a reasonable fit. He gets to be the nerve centre of Woolies, but in a behind-the-scenes kind of way. It’s a respectable job that pays well but he gets to deal with truckies and, if he’s nice to them, they sometimes let him drive the truck.

Richard di Natale – Richard loves the countryside, otherwise he wouldn’t be a Green. He’s got acreage, runs livestock and makes his own pizza. I’m thinking cheesemaker. He’d look great in a white coat and, being a doctor, can handle the cheesemaking chemistry. Let’s let him loose with a Wattleseed Gloucester, a Kumquat Colby and Red Gum Honey Runny and he could be the best cheesemaker in the land.

Tanya Plibersek – hands-down vet and a damn good one too. With her short blonde hair that won’t get in the way of angry animals, calm yet slightly worried face your pets are in safe hands. Whack on a white coat and she could have her own TV show.

Julie Bishop – it’s hard to get a handle on what the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister is suited to. She looks immaculate, toes the party line, is hardworking and will never be Prime Minister. But there not much personality going on so we’ll stick with the superficial. A brand manager for a high-end make-up company, say L’Oreal, is more her calling.

Let’s break for a minute and chuck in Annabel Crabb who clearly wants to be a pollie’s granny bearing baked goods and wearing weird vintage. Now back to Canberra ….

Penny Wong – another pollie who can rock a white coat AND a suit. She’s private, detailed, boring and good with a precision hit in the senate. She’d make a fine forensic detective. She could have a great future ahead of her.

Barnaby – just be Barnaby. Nuff said. He’s already doing it – Tamworth farmer. Dog lover, actor-hater – Barnaby, stick to what you’re good at.

Christopher Pyne – The Fixer has escaped from the toy box and needs to return! He’s like a jack-in-the box – just when you think he must have run out of batteries, up he pops with his manic smile and recorded message.

Christopher Pyne and Albo – together it’s different. They are like the two old men from The Muppets who sit in the stalls throwing commentary and digging at each other but secretly can never be parted.

Albo without Christopher Pyne is another escapee from the toy box. But he’s the cuddly teddy one, dressed in a miniature footy jersey.

Tony Abbott – is like that mildly pervy guy who is employed by the gym doing no-one knows what and roams around selling big tubs of protein and maybe a rogue steroid or three. Either that or he could be an onion farmer.

Peta Credlin – not strictly an elected official, but someone forgot to tell her. Clearly she is an Amazon, something out of Game of Thrones, riding through the forest, claws at the fore, ready to pounce.

KRudd – with his ever so perfect hair, perfectly round face, bleak eyes and pretend folksiness, he’s like a parson. A parson in a well-heeled suburb in a nice parsonage, that is. Either that or he is Mr Sheen. Or a dentist.

Nick Xenophon –  St Nicholas of Adelaide, the patron saint of Whyalla has the whiff of an enigmatic Greek orthodox priest. He lives a simple life, wears black, lives alone and has a past (but no-one knows what it is) and is champion of the underdog. Amen to that.

Pauline Hanson – Jill of all trades, this one-time fish and chips shop owner, turned pollie/jailbird/reality TV star is in a career rut. What to do? She can’t go back to the fish and chips biz, her shop is now run by Vietnamese immigrants. Perhaps life art model – she would get the attention she craves and she doesn’t get to speak. As for her fanbase of older white men – they’d love it.

Has Sydney lost the plot?

Yes. It. Has.

Sydney’s a bit of alright for a weekend fling or as a place to show off to overseas visitors, but basically Sydney is not a place in which to live an actual life.

Here’s why Sydney ain’t working so well anymore:

It’s too tribal – east, west, north, south are all separate kingdoms and never mix.

It’s too expensive – a meal out is the same as a small Pacific Island’s GDP without the smiles. Also finding a park for said overpriced meal will involve yet another mortgage.

People aren’t that nice here – but in fairness no-one who spends at least two hours a day commuting to their boring job is going to act all that nice.   

Speaking of which …. the city is now an apartment ghetto, with none of the requisite schools, transport, roads, infrastructure. No planning. Zilch. How very Sydney.

It has no arts soul. Unlike Melbourne, it is a follower not a leader in the hipster movement, it slavishly follows overseas trends. It hasn’t had an original idea in its life.

It’s good looking but that’s not enough anymore. No conversation, no soul, no originality, no purpose. As a place to visit, there’s no better. I really believe that but living in Sydney has lost its gloss.

Restaurants hardly provide soft furnishings

Every time I go to a restaurant I feel myself becoming more and more like an old person yelling. Restaurants are now louder than Clive Palmer’s ties (and that’s a Julie’s Rant Fact).

Gone are all the stuff that makes you feel at home: carpet, curtains, wallpaper, comfy chairs, paintings and a working toilet. Instead there are concrete floors and walls, aluminium benches and tables, mismatched cutlery and the occasional potplant about 20 metres up a wall (I mean who is going to water that? Hagrid?).

But still I go out, as it beats cooking. And come back with a cricked neck from leaning forward to hearing what gem of wisdom my dining companion has to say (usually complaints about the noise) and from shouting my order at the waitperson. It goes like this:

Me: I’d like the pork and a salad

Waitperson: You need another fork and a side of lard?

This was an actual conversation apart from the bit I made up.

I don’t know who started this minimalist trend. Did it start in a zen garden (no, zen gardens are quiet!). Or did it start by some evil superchefs who wanted to punish people for not pronouncing jus? Yes! Or did it come from restaurants wanting to save on carpet cleaning costs? Yes!

I think we should only go to eating establishments with carpet, curtains and tablecloths and matching crockery. Oh hang on, that’d mean eating at home.