Author Archives: gem

About gem

Born in London, lived in the Philippines, current Melbourne-based writer.

craft beer runs riot in market

What a fantastic word week it’s been! I went to a poetry book launch and forced myself to talk to people (why do I still find these events terrifying when I’m a page poet…?) of one of the folks behind Cordite PublishingKent MacCarter’s California Sweet, which also features some fab lime green, and it was on the same evening as the Emerging Writers’ Festival 2018 programme finally dropped on dear ol’ Melbz!

The super-exciting thing about this is I got asked to take part in a panel with Sonia Nair & Cher Tan about food writing! Excitement doesn’t begin to cover it?! It motivated me to get some work done on another work-in-progress, and am already plotting to become a morning person just for the festival (wish me luck!).

So with words, lime green, and off-kilter food influences in my mind, this zine-drink catch-up post is…

zine: I Love Food Network: a 24 hour Food Network fanzine by Holly Casio / Cool Schmool Zines (UK)

beer: Hop Nation (Footscray, VIC) Market NEIPA (375mL, 6.0% ABV)

Let me chuck the can notes for easy ref here:

Hop Nation is a Melbourne-based brewing company specialising in the production of small-batch beers. Our MARKET NEIPA was inspired by the flavours and aromas of the Footscray Market.

A hazy, juicy IPA that starts off hoppy, big and bold before a journey through the subtle flavours of the market begin. Kaffir lime leaf, mango, coriander, Vietnamese mint and subtle chilli integrate and lift this juicy IPA.

NE IPA = New England-style India Pale Ale (so…a juicy, hazy citrus-forward beer that then goes on to taste hoppy and bitter, as IPAs tend to do; IPAs historically had hops to preserve the beers from going off when travelling long sea journeys)

Oh WOW. The chilli kick is glorious, and the coriander adds this odd savoury note that will have you craving good Viet food, but somehow still in the body of a beer that is slightly citrus-hinting?! There’s some bitter, oily lime too! Think of the citrus oil you could squeeze or scratch off lime peel. I love that this beer was inspired by a walk-through one of Melbourne’s most diverse markets – Footscray used to get a bad rap but it has loads of cool shit going on. There are some ace watering holes, and there has always been an abundance of choice in cuisine there, due to the migrant population.

Holly Casio’s zine starts off with how comforting watching the Food Network can be, despite a binge watch session after being at home sick with a tummy bug. Watching others cook is incredibly relaxing when they’re enjoying it, and she notes that it comfort is in as simple an act of sauteeing onions or garlic, or supervising a stew. What will follow now is summaries of the shows discussed in the zine.

There’s apparently a show called ‘The Kitchen’ which is described as a cheesy morning breakfast show, but the presenters aren’t really chefs and perhaps failed auditions for what they wanted to be on! There’s one cast member who is a woman of colour, and she seems to like serrated knives as much as the Ryan Seacrest-wannabe on the show.

She hates on ‘Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals’ which is something I can get behind – he tries to make it sound like everything is so easy and slapdash, but is really just a privileged jerk with a handful of useful tips that relate to home cooking. I know, it’s not cool to hate on Jamie, but he’s not one of us, like he’d have you believe.

‘Lorraine’s Fast Fresh Easy Food’ sounds pretty cool – she’s just made some dessert that involved no baking which reminds me of my cheat method for making trifle!

‘Pioneer Woman’ sounds cool, except her husband and kids sound like chauvinistic jerks by not helping her in the kitchen. She’s all about beans and cornbread, and no veg?! She lives out in a ranch and sounds like a vastly under-appreciated human, pout.

‘Mystery Diners’ sounds like the food version of ‘Tabitha Takes Over’, where fledgling hair salons get a management makeover (usually, kicking and screaming) except that there’s actors/staging?! That’s not how fixer-uppers are supposed to work!

‘Barefoot Contessa’ sounds pretty awesome and she sounds well-loved. She educates her public on how to set tables, and recommends that you garnish dishes with something that represents what’s in the dish she makes e.g. cheddar and blue cheese grits – sprinkle cheese on the finished dish (!!!). Gosh, those grits sound good, and I’m in that point of my beer where a savoury snack would be gobbled up greedily.

Our final show is ‘Diners Drive-Ins + Dives’ – possibly a poor man’s ‘Man vs. Food’ except better because Adam Richman is not very nice. This bloke Guy Fieri goes around to joints, chats to chefs and they make delish not-vegetarian stuff. Like, ALL THE TASTY UNHEALTHY STUFF. American diner food…sounds so artery-clogging, but this isn’t off-putting!

I tend to buy cans of beer in twos, and this ‘Market’ NEIPA is actually comparatively old, but I feel like the flavours have developed in a way that wasn’t obvious in the freshly canned beer, which is a surprise given that NEIPAs are usually drunk ASAP (just trying to get in all the abbreviations, lulz) and at their best then. This had been at the back of my fridge for a bit, and I’m really glad I saved it – it’s kind of the perfect warming foodie beer.

sip as you play along

beer: Bridge Road Brewers (Beechworth, VIC) ‘Magical Christmas Unicorn’ vanilla ice cream ale (330mL, 7% ABV)

zine: Widget: women in development, games + everything tech! by various contributors

I promised myself this year that I’d get better at self-promotion and to be honest, I’m doing a lot of cool shit, and I’m still struggling a lot with this. My mood disorder doesn’t help with this.

I submitted a proposal to be a speaker at this year’s Freeplay Festival, and as thrilled as I am to be taking part, there is a small voice at the back of everything in my head telling me that it’s a fluke, I’m not worth it, people won’t be interested etc. which is ridiculous because the organisers of the festival certainly wouldn’t feel that way – they’ve chosen the participants for a reason.

It could also be tied up in the fact that I’m not a professional in the games industry – never have been, never will be (unless I get a full-time job writing game narratives or game crit/reviews and such) – my chosen craft is writing, one I’m only starting to feel comfortable in.

I imagine impostor syndrome and its related iterations is one of the reasons zines like Widget exist: on the cover is a (white) woman with a rockabilly-50s-style scarf, holding up what looks like a Nintendo 64 control (what do Playstation controls look like? it’s definitely not an XBox one). The first few pages already – and rightfully – claim trans-inclusivity and the importance of women-only spaces…but so far, there’s nothing about women of colour. I don’t think this is deliberate, but ouch.

That’s pretty much been my life the last fortnight – wincing and second-guessing whether I’ve been oversensitive about the racial identity issues. But! there are the also those moments where meeting up with a mate who gets it at your fave nerd hangout and smashing dumplings next door then venturing to another craft beer hangout to make up intricate backstories for poop on the run emblazoning Omnipollo beer bottles! Chix-‘n’-beer is totally a thing!

Having lamented the lack of persons-of-colour direct rep in Widget, there’s some ace basic, super-useful info about looking after oneself, with or without a mood disorder – some super-compassionate stuff!

Of course it now makes sense why I chose a beer with ‘unicorn’ in the name, which incidentally is mentioned (just the unicorn bit, not the beer! though its consumption is generally perceived as masculine earlier in the zine). At first, there’s no vanilla creaminess at all…am starting to wonder if my seared salmon sushi bowl lunch thing has warped my palate. As the beer warms, it does get those teasing hints of vanilla! I remember when this was out in kegs and I chased a few beer places to try and snaffle a pint, but it was not to be – unicorns of any form don’t linger around long! I even drank it out of a schooner glass, rather than straight out of the bottle. I was briefly seeing a dudebro-in-disguise who tried to buy bottles of this particular beer for me, but they got smashed up in transit. It didn’t occur to him that I might have better supply network intel.

Thankfully, this female-identifying beer nerd is single and in possession of her/their own unicorns – yes, plural. I feel a bit weird drinking a not-dark beer when the nights are getting delightfully chilly, but it’s been a great, subtle dessertish beer.

Oh! Self-promo! If you’re in Melbourne, come on down to Freeplay! I’ll be chatting with Rory Green (like srsly they matched me with another poet who is writing poems to the first 151 glories on the Pokedex! and they’ve got a poem in Rabbit’s ‘Queer’ issue! it’s like I have a Sydney twin?!). We’re going to talk about our creative practice and the role playing games can have on one’s mental health and creativity generally. Teaser: it’s a win-win sitch!

I’ll also be leading a zine workshop a few days before the conference bit of the festival, and will be using boardgames and gamebooks for some inspiration as we get zine-making. I’m stoked because straight after, I get to go to Louis’ workshop on ‘bespoke’ controllers, then head to the Rabbit ‘Queer’ issue launch as part of the inaugural Melbourne Spoken Word and Poetry Festival.


***in case you need the reminder, my definition of ‘woman/women’ includes female-identifying humans of all types, colours, creeds. So should yours! <3


feck yeah females all the way

Yeah wow, went to hell for a bit and only just emerging. I’d put on Julie Ruin while writing this, reading a zine that features female-identifying talent, and drinking beer by a female-run brewery, but because I’m always late to the party, I’m listening to M.I.A.’s album Kala (it is soooo good! but all of you in the noughties already know that huh?) because my roots are Anglo-Indian, and Kathleen Hanna (who is quoted in the intro to the zine I’m reading) would totally fucking be for it – I like to imagine. Good thing my Le Tigre album is in my car’s CD player (it’s great for getting your arse into gear on days when you’re not feeling life generally).

zine: Paper & Ink 12 ‘Girls To The Front’ by various authors

drink: Two Birds’ Brewing stout (Melb, AUS)

Katie Doherty, the guest editor, has an intro to explain her coming to writing, and also to keep up that call to arms:

It’s 2018 and we have the internet. It has been a wonderful tool to bring women together, it is inspiring and this is how it should be, long may it continue.

I’ve just finished a fantastic dinner of dukkah-crusted chicken breasts and roast veg, and dark beer is where it’s at! The weather in Melbourne is awful, but it’s also the perfect excuse to get comfy, wear lots of warm layers, cuddle cats and mates, and hold your hot drinks for longer than you need to. A lot of Australian breweries have been putting out some fab sours and goses (no, really, the taste combos and ingredients are just grown-up-sweets!), so it’s nice to have an excuse to hit the stout and um, not become too stout…? (I’m currently overweight, so that’s a dig at me, not anyone else. YOU – yeah, YOU, reading this, don’t hate on your body the way I’m hating on mine. I’m working on not hating mine less, honest).

Anyway, Two Birds being a Melbourne brewing stalwart in an industry that is still quite male-dominated is fucking fantastic. For women to stand out, it’s hard – you pretty much have to be flawless, work harder than your male counterparts who will see you as a bunch of shitty things they shouldn’t see you as (try being a woman of colour in ANY industry here in Australia, and the microaggressions are pretty depressing. This is one of the reasons I hadn’t been blogging here regularly, despite achieving some cool shit in my personal writerly life). Seriously, this stout is just ticking so many boxes for me – it’s not sweet, but not salty, so it’s washing away that savoury dukkah hint left in my mouth. It’s silky and sippable – after a mouthful, the roast malts linger on for a while. The taste sensation that keeps on giving. I’ve stretched it out to about the halfway mark of the zine I’m reading.

Don’t make me single out any contributions from this issue – there’s poetry, short fiction, sequential art, and general beautiful artwork, from creatives from North America, Britain, and Australia After reading it all, I felt full in that way you feel after eating one of the most notable meals you know you’ll have for a few years and not wanting the full feeling to disappear!


Totally listening to The Julie Ruin now, not to be confused with Julie Ruin – which I do confess to having on a burnt CD but would lovelovelove to buy a legit copy of it if it’s ever available again #feministwishlist

It’s also taken me two sittings to read; when I started this, the plan was to read a zine in one sitting, but this one is long, and good, so it really deserved the proper amount of time to read it. I’ve finished it the day after I started this post, chugging down my ol’ faithful, big mugs of my regular looseleaf Earl Grey tea. ‘Girls Like Us‘ chimes as I finish writing this post. I’m glad there are so many awesome women in the world. Maybe one day it’ll become a regular thing to actually acknowledge and appreciate that.


Speaking of which! If you want to support this female-identifying creative, I will not say no to a few bucks to cover zine or drink costs! I have one of these: