Friday, September 15, 2006

Jamie's Kitchen

Watched this new show last night. The concept in brief: celebrity chef Jamie Oliver opens a restaurant in Melbourne ("Fifteen"), the aim of which is to train disadvantaged young people as chefs, giving them opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have. It's already been done in London, Cornwall and Amsterdam, and has now come "down under".

Now, Jamie Oliver cops a bit occasionally, and I can understand why people would see him as a bit of an annoying young upstart, lapping up the glory and media attention and celebrity and using words like "pucker". But I'm going to stick up for the guy.

Firstly, he's a darn good cook (at least on air and in print - I've not personally tasted his stuff). We've been cooking from his books for years now and watching his shows and he makes good cooking look easy and fun, and his recipies taste fantastic. But the thing we've been particularly impressed by is these causes he's taken on.

Watching the predecessor series a few years ago showed that the young James really put himself on the line financially to open the first "Fifteen" restaurant in London , and a lot of the kids he took on showed no gratitude at all. But he persevered and really gave these kids a go. One of the best parts of last night's show was when they were interviewing potential recruits for the Melbourne restaurant and had to turn away the guy who'd been modelling in Milan and the girl who had graduated from uni - they were too successful. No, the concept is to take kids who've genuinely hit the bottom and try to give them a lift up.

The other series that endeared us to Jamie was the School Dinners series where Jamie made an effort to change the appalling diet of crap they were serving up to kids in state schools and getting their canteens to instead serve tasty, nutricious, healthy food. He no doubt got a few noses out of joint from people who didn't want to change, but good on him. (Serving decent food to kids is a bit of a hobby horse of mine, but more of that in another post ...)

Some might cynically say he's doing it all for attention. I have no idea and it's not for me to question his motives. I reckon its great to see him using his celebrity and wealth and culinary skills to improve the lives of young people, both by giving some who are down and out a bit of a kick start, and by improving the disgusting diets that many kids are fed. Keep it up Jamie!

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 years on

I'm not really into getting overly sentimental about anniversaries of key events, but I bought the Herald this morning and their front page (see left) reproduced the full front page of the Herald reporting on September 11, 2001. I was somewhat surprised how it brought all the memories flooding back.

I remember holding that same front page in my hands 5 years ago, of all places at an airport about to board a plane, terrified that these same people might also attack another Western outpost like Australia, but trying to reassure myself and my equally terrified wife that a domestic flight from Sydney to Perth didn't quite have the same symbolic potency as the World Trade Centre or the Pentagon.

I remember having earlier arrived at the airport in a taxi, my wife crying in the back seat at the whole shocking thought of it all. We were both exhausted - we'd stayed up late the night before to finish painting the kitchen cupboards in our newly purchased house, to unpack boxes from the recent move and pack our bags for holidays. We heard the story unfolding live on the small clock radio in the kitchen as we painted. First one plane, sounds like some freak accident; then another, sounds terrifyingly planned. Time to turn on the TV and see what was happening. A very late night, and an early rise for an early flight, acrylic paint fumes inhaled, and the emotional exhaustion of listening and watching the unfolding horror, not to mention the thought of boarding a plane ourselves, the very weapon of terror these people had used - no wonder we were exhausted.

I remember the feeling of guilt that I was so shocked at this one event, when people die horrendous deaths that go unreported all the time, and the media puts an earthquake killing tens of thousands on page 7 of the paper, while this event that killed comparatively few has occupied so much front page space and prime-time air time over the last 5 years. But I think the shock was that it brought the reality of death and terror to a place much closer to home. It wasn't my city, it wasn't my country. But it was so close to where I'm at. Office workers turning up to work in their sleek city skycrapers, thinking it's a day like any other. That's what I do every day.

I remember for weeks later staring out my office window at the high rises in my city thinking why couldn't it happen here. I'd stare across the road from where I worked at the high rise which contains the US embassy in our city, the building where I went to park one day a few weeks after 9/11 and had my car searched as I entered, such was the level of gripping fear.

I remember this feeling being brought even closer to home when little more than one year later, they attacked a favourite holiday destination of Australians. Bali brought home that they wanted our blood too. And then there was Madrid and London. Buses and trains, once again ordinary city workers on their way to work in cities not that different to mine. That's me. I'm Australian, I'm a city worker, I catch the train to my tower of glass and steel.

Did 9/11 change the world forever, as they keep telling us? I'm not sure that it did. We ought not be surprised by wars and rumours of wars but an event like this can bring that home to someone like me who lives in an age and a country where, rather abnormally in world history, life has been relatively untouched by such horrors. For me, that is the lingering memory and legacy 5 years on.

been a while ...

Has been so long since I put anything on here that (a) I couldn't even find the page to begin with; and (b) once found, I couldn't remember how to create a new blog post!

Oh well, I'm here now ...