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When I was sixteen or so, I started staying overnight at my friend, Fay’s place. She lived with her grandmother during the week, and being close in to the city, it was much better — and safer—for me  than traveling home at night on a tram followed by a one-hour train trip. Her grandmother (who I called Baba, as Fay did) was a little old Macedonian lady and over the years she taught me to cook various dishes. My mother was a good cook, and used peppers in her cooking, but not like this.

Of Baba’s dishes, one of my favorites is piperki (peppers) fried with fetta and eggs, and every year I wait for piperki season  (which is toward the end of January in Australia) so I can make it.

The peppers I use are the ones Baba  always used and other kinds of peppers just don’t taste the same to me. You can see them in the photo, along with some fried ones in the bowl, waiting for tonight’s dinner or tomorrow’s breakfast. I cooked up a batch of peppers and ate the first half  for lunch and it didn’t occur to me to take a picture of the finished dish because. . . I wanted it, NOW! 

It’s very simple to cook — just three ingredients plus oil, and I don’t have a recipe — it’s all “by eye”. I just chop up the piperki (at least 4 per person) and gently cook them in oil until they’re soft, then I toss in an egg (more if I’m cooking for more than one person) and crumble in some fetta, stir it around until it’s cooked and whack it onto a slice of toast. It doesn’t look all that glamorous, but take it from me, it’s delicious — though if you don’t like peppers or fetta, you won’t like this. 

Baba used piperki in so many ways —  her back yard had long strings of red and yellow peppers drying in the shade,   and she made a wonderful fiery and vinegary dried pepper soup, and many other things — but my favorite (apart from the dish above) was piperkis grilled over a flame until the skin blackened. I sometimes make this, and then I chop the peeled flesh into large chunks, add garlic and salt and pepper, sometimes a squeeze of lemon,  pack it all into a jar and cover them with oil. They don’t last long because they’re too delicious.



I had planned to put this tale of the Cockatoo I rescued when I was a child on this blog.
But my wench blogging date came upon me, and as I’m madly working on finishing my new book, I decided to put it there. 

If you’re interested in reading it, click HERE

I’m pretty sure there will be more Cocky tales in future. My friend Cate Ellink took the photos of a wild cockatoo, clowning on a telephone wire, and they brought back so many memories.


A Christmas tree?

For most of my life, my family had a real Christmas tree, generally a pine tree planted by my dad, or a branch cut from one. For me the smell of the freshly cut pine was always a big part of Christmas. When my parents got too old to host Christmas, my sister and I took it in turns, but hating the dropped needles of the real tree, she bought a fake one made of fibre optic strands that reflected many colors. Pretty enough, and no needles but none of that magic, evocative pine fragrance. When it was my turn, of course, I continued to have a real tree, sometimes a branch from the trees that Dad planted, sometimes a bought tree.

But many of my childhood Christmases were spent beside the beach, and though we did have a real tree either at my grandparents’ home nearby, or once in the annex of the caravan, the beach is the strongest memory. It’s a bit of an Aussie tradition, and the photo of this little driftwood tree is a wonderful reminder of those days. 

I had a chuckle this morning at an article about bad Christmas trees. It’s here.

I wish now I’d taken Mum and Dad’s boxes of decorations, but they were stolen by thieves — along with a heap of other things. Stinkers! I gather that beautiful antique Christmas ornaments are worth something. For me, they involved priceless memories.

These days, with no family closer than a thousand kilometres away, I don’t make such a big deal of Christmas. My gatherings are of friends, not family. I still have a tree of sorts, but a teensy tiny one. This was the smallest yet — a sprig in an old glass inkwell, and yes, that’s a match box beside it.  I’ve also used bunches of twigs, sometimes spray painted silver, and hung small paper ornaments from them. 

I  love making things, and have a pile of hand-crafted ornaments that I’ve made — quite a few from paper, and easily made. If you’re interested, I’ll share some, along with instructions for making them.

I have two gatherings planned, the first in my new house. One is for a small group of friends — we’ve been meeting for dinner and cards for decades. That will be a reasonably traditional dinner. And on Sunday I’ve got some of my old school classmates coming, and that will be a surprise, as it’s “bring a plate” — which I think is a bit like an American “potluck.” But I’m not sure how much Christmas decorating I’ll do. I’ll keep you posted. I’m always interested in what other people do and eat at Christmas, so feel free to share yours.