We drove back to Sydney from beautiful Salamander Bay at the crack of dawn this morning, so I’m rapidly starting to fade though it’s not yet my new Total Collapse Hour of 7 pm. We’ve been up the coast for a long family weekend celebrating Llew’s dad’s 75th birthday. Seventy-five… it hardly seems possible, and you’d agree if you knew P. We had a lovely weekend, the J clan (seven of us – parents, three kids and two wives – with a couple of cameos, as P’s brother and wife live up the road from the rental house), including some seriously foul weather, fiery debates, fireside ruminations, long coastal walks in both rain and shine, a sensational morning swim at One Mile Beach, and of course vast, dedicated bursts of sustained over-indulgence.
As you know, I’m not bad on the tooth, frankly I take some defeating, but man, can these people eat. They really leave everything out on the field. There were three cakes in three days. Cheeses. Seafood. Steak. Salads. More cake. Long, late brunches… my sis-in-law even managed to steam some gyoza last night as we grazed on scant leftovers, and you know what? After Shanghai and the joyous discovery there of my favourite street food of the sojourn, sticky pot dumplings, I have decided dumplings – all dumplings, I’m not fussy – definitely rate among my favourite foods. Love ‘em. Like any self-respecting foodie, I’ve been hoovering delectable Japanese gyoza for years, and while Japanese cuisine is right in the mix in my Chow Down Showdown (whenever I try to pick a winner, my taste buds stampede), those sticky pots were nigh on an epiphany, and I’ve been wanting to dabble in dumplings ever since. When we first got back, I asked my Shanghai-ese beautician Sherie about making my own dumplings, and she stared at me, hot wax dripping menacingly from the applicator in her hand like a schlocky special effect, as though I were certifiably insane.
“Why you want do that?” she demanded, clicking her tongue in exasperation at my loose grip on reality, so I explained my love of cooking, and of sticky pot dumplings, telling her of my ardent desire to bring the two together, in my kitchen, as a matter of some urgency. Sherie nodded vigorously, proceeding to tell me, very slowly – presumably because I was being so dense – that these dumplings are available for anyone who wants them in the freezer section of any Chinese grocer. Conversation closed. She simply couldn’t countenance the idea that I wanted to try my hand at making them; this concept was patently ridiculous to her: any idiot could see someone had already done the job for me, and no doubt with much greater success, so that’s where my tilt at eliciting some local know-how ran aground. For now.
Where was I?
Oh yes. More food.
A mouth-watering Thai nosh kicked off proceedings on P’s actual birthday last Thursday night (the family lived in Bangkok among other Asian cities when Llew was a boy, and the happy consequence is that Thai cooking is Llew’s mum’s speciality and the family’s flat-out favourite cuisine), featuring such Jenkins classics as fishcakes, mussel pancake and Pad Thai (yes, I know, it’s all very trying, such a tough life joining this lot…), and it just went on and on from there until I thought I needed to make an emergency move into elasticised pants.
Home again, I feel like a slowly deflating whoopee cushion, bloated and belching, which is always a sign of a very good weekend.