I know, I know, Camy Shanghai Dumpling House in Chinatown is gross. When I say gross, I mean I’ve seen things there that have made me and fellow diners want to puke. Still I ate there countless times after and the only reason I stopped going was I saw a worker, possibly owner, manhandle a bogan couple in the alley. I kid you not: actual violence. It was like I was on Victoria Street in Richmond…
Thankfully, the Box Hill David and Camy’s Noodle Restaurant is another matter altogether. A few months ago as a treat whilst catsitting, three of us headed out and of course ordered far too much. In fact, one of the dishes we ordered didn’t come. Thank goodness for such small mercies!
Of course, David and Camy’s was packed. The Box Hill one looks a good deal less seedy but yes, the service is as…efficient. Let’s face it, we come because they give us good, cheap, reliable dumplings. But god, what ones to order? I guess it makes sense to go fried, steamed, vegie and meat in some combination, right?
Behold, steamed pork dumplings with chilli oil, nom. I absolutely love steamed dumplings with thick skins. Hit me up!
Under pretense of ‘health’, vegetable dumplings. Don’t worry, they’re fried, so that cancels out the vegie goodness, hehehe.
And what these beauties look like inside. Damn, they were (temperature) hot! So don’t be too tempted to inhale them. You will get burnt.
The last dish, the dumplings in chilli oil, was what truly defeated our stomachs despite the amount of generally digestive-aiding Chinese tea drunk. I think Tristan really took one for the team and with considerable effort demolished them when me and K could not.
An excellently cheap late lunch and boy did it ensure I didn’t need dinner. You can roughly expect to pay about $10 a person, maybe $15 if you’ve gone all out. Bargain basement meal: achieved.
When I first started food blogging, it was to escape the drudgery and soul-destroying nature of the penultimate job I had: the job sucked but I had wonderful employers who were sympathetic to my chronic illness and I left my job at the door because I wasn’t interested in the politics. I just wanted to be employed in the hope of being ‘cured’ like my father insisted. He told me to stop dreaming, get real and get used to the fact that everyone has jobs they hate. Even as ‘grown-ups’, it amazes me that we still do stupid shit to get our parents off our backs. I’d known for a while I wasn’t well enough to work but I stuck it out for him. I figured, being a dutiful Asian child, I owed it to him.
This may or may not have been coloured by the fact that both my parents are suffering psychiatric nurses. Don’t get me wrong, both my parents are highly skilled at what they do but it’s not for the love or the ‘calling’ or if it was, that part of them died a long time ago. They did what they had to to make sure wankers like me could go to uni and read books for fun and learn weirdo early music instruments and for that, I’ll always be grateful (if unemployable, sorry Mum and Dad).
After a year of antibiotics for recurring infections and general burnout, living became difficult and I had to quit my job. For a month, I tried to get my health back and got back into yoga which according to this vitriolic commenter, makes me even more of a wanker. It did offer some respite: I started sleeping better, physical ailments cleared up and though I was exceedingly poor, I was happy and even cooking, dear god. For people. I can only really cook when I’m happy and healthy which is shit for my poor 9-to-5 partner.
Then I got it into my head that I’d try the employment thing again even though I was barely on the mend, got jerked around by a place I actually really enjoyed working at who dismissed me without due consideration of the fact that people go away over the Christmas holidays. It was devastating: I was just getting back on my feet and I got told they couldn’t afford me and they dumped me there and then. Everyone came back from holidays and as I’d predicted, things picked up. I was asked back. It was a hard decision to not choose to return but the lesson had been learnt the hard way: if I were disposable when things were rough, who was to say it wouldn’t happen again, soon?
I’d worked really, really hard to not let my actual chronic illness get in the way of that job. It wasn’t glamorous and I wasn’t paid well, being but a lowly ‘sandwich artist’, I liked to joke. The clientele were absolutely lovely and it was nice getting back into a routine of working, writing and sometimes being ‘normal’. At times, my bastard insomnia even granted me reprieve.
Sadly some chronic illnesses have periods of aggravation and eventually I did end up in hospital. Sometimes these things can’t be avoided. One of the hot, young nurses upon learning that I had a food blog (I hope he’s reading this: if so, he now knows I think he’s hot, haha) thought it would be hilarious to do a joke blog post on the culinary…’offerings’ that the patients had to experience. For reasons of confidentiality, alas, I cannot divulge the name of said excellent health institution.
I spent a good few weeks in hospital and I am ashamed to admit that upon admission I was of a portly nature (yes, yes, more so than now. Thankfully this gives me immunity from being a hipster, phew). This was largely due to only having one fucking gigantic daily meal and spending twelve hours of the daytime asleep. Not that good for your metabolism. Such only-sleep-and-eat behaviour in hospital was not tolerated. You got yanked out of bed for medication and food at all the ‘right’ times. Initially, being a late riser, I rarely made it down in time for breakfast which had the usual breakfasty type cereal and toast items. They exercised a fair bit of leniency for me, knowing I generally slept like shit.
But you bloody well bet I was there for some serious lunchtime action.
Firstly, the humble sandwich. Alas, no pics.
The sandwiches were freshly made and my personal favourites were – always with brown bread, you understand – cheese, ham and tomato, or chicken and salad (Oxford comma intentional). We did have many communal bean and potato salads available to us but once I saw one lady pick up and immediately put down a piece of salami on a communal plate, I didn’t go near any of those. Shame, I’m rather a fan of the potato salad even though it’s probably not highly nutritious. The thing I liked about sandwiches was if you wanted to take a couple and retreat to the quiet of your room, you were free to do so. A luxury as hospital cafeterias can be fairly depressing places – as some of my devoted visitors will attest.
Generally, for lunches I stuck to sandwiches though on the odd special occasion, I did indulge in fish and chips, sans chips much to the cafeteria serviceperson’s confusion. The fish and the batter were top notch, I kid you not. Succulent fish and crispy batter. Mind you after a few weeks of sandwiches, I think they could have deep fried cardboard and I would have inhaled it.
Ah, but it was at dinnertime that the hospital cafeteria shone. One special evening, I gave in to the epic carb craving and had some indeterminate pasta bake thing. The sauce wasn’t too bad – rich and creamy but the pasta was stodgy and…dare I say, I got my cardboard craving wish granted.
I generally made a policy of avoiding carbs as much as I could and filled up on protein and steamed vegies, as is evidenced by my next few dinners.
Here we have some roast pork with gravy and the requisite steamed vegies.
What about roast lamb with mint jelly and…steamed vegies? Uh yeah, they may have given me too much meat.
On a particularly adventurous day, I sampled the shepherd’s pie. Where was the potato topping, waaaaaaaah???
And the day I succumbed to dessert…being British, I love a good trifle. Give me a slice of that childhood memory any day! The following picture illustrates something that apparently resembles trifle but in what manner, I am yet truly to learn. Admittedly, the medication I was on at the time had a good hand in making me hurl and the appearance of this dish did nothing to quell this unfortunate side effect (I didn’t finish it).
There were a few dishes I didn’t get to photograph such as the butter chicken diluted for the less…intrepid eater and without fail, Sunday evening pavlova for dessert. I was very fortunate that loved ones came to deliver takeaway packages of repute often and reminded me of the culinary delights waiting for me, as I dreamed of the great outdoors…
Hospitals are generally pretty shit places. I am not one to cry in public (thank god for the Anglo-Indian parent raising me to have the stiff upper lip and all that) but a few times, I did turn up to the cafeteria in near tears, overwhelmed by the loneliness of knowing that life was continuing outside and thus highlighting my insignificance. What a fucking cliché, existentialist nausea in soulless hospital, groan. The staff always had a kind smile, a nice word or two and were always happy to give an extra helping of food and kindness if one desired it.
So if any of the staff at said anonymous hospital read this, I want to say thank you for looking after me, for being so caring and for making it feel like it wasn’t just your job to care. Oh and for the limitless supply of Arnotts sweet and dry biscuits (dry was important because often a lot of folks can’t eat much because of treatment), Twinings tea and Bega cheese. Pretty sure I drank my body weight in chamomile and peppermint tea during my stay.
You guys better hide this mug because should I ever have occasion to ‘visit’ again, I can assure you, it will be leaving with me…giggle. Don’t even like dogs that much!
As the lovely birthday celebrant Anna pointed out, who can refuse a cheap beer and burger deal and alliteration? But seriously, Melbourne’s favourite non-blogging food blogger was celebrating – who could miss it for the world? 1000 Pound Bend has been around for quite some time and they even have a Cafe Poet but to be honest, I’d been too wimpy to go. It would appear it’s not hipsters who have a problem with me, maybe I’m the hipster racist! I like the inclusive ones, honest! There just doesn’t seem to be many of them…
Anyway. Anna’s birthday. As soon as I got through the door, a jam jar of mulled wine (or three) was the ticket. Melbourne had been gorgeous all day and then fog descended like mad and it got fucking freezing. They really hit the spot.
An amusing blog post has been making the rounds of late and I realised that, sadly for you, dear reader, I identify with quite a few types. My personal favourite is this one:
The Literary wannabe
Probably the least read of the tribe. Pepper their posts with writerly posturings and clumsy literary references that any grade five kid could recognise.
Oh so guilty as charged. However, this post conforms to another one of the types listed which to be honest I find a little less shameful:
The ‘what I ate last night’ crowd
Totally pre-occupied with explaining in excruciating detail, the contents of their bowl of Weetbix and milk
I guess one of the reasons I find the latter less shameful especially in this particular situation is, laugh if you want, but often looking back on this food blog has been a chronicle of really positive memories and meeting people who have given off those vibes. It’s also been a lovely pleasant distraction from not being able to write any poetry, or find readers for said poetry when written. Of course there’s nothing wrong with your friends not wanting to read your poetry (it is nice when they invariably do) but when an activity like that means the world to you and you have no audience, it gets very lonely.
So my apologies – you’re reading about the burger, beer and cake I had the other night at some trendy joint because I’m trying not to sook about my ignored, appalling poetry!
Personal disappointments aside, there are a few reasons you should probably check out 1000 Pound Bend if you’re in the area and particularly on a Tuesday night. $2.50 pots of St Jerome’s Caledonian lager and $8 burgers – you can choose from a patty of roo, chicken or saganaki. I know Anna went the saganaki. I had a roo one which while absolutely delicious is not a first date experience: you’ll get it all over your hands and all around your mouth and one napkin will not be enough to save your dignity.
Tristan came fashionably late (a few folks did have an half-hour wait at some stage in the night because the burgers were very popular, do note) and his order got a little lost in the matrix and only chicken was available to him. I believe you need to turn up between 5-11pm for the cheap beer and burgers.
I may have got a little enthusiastic about eating my burger, so much so that I nearly inadvertently body modified my lip with a skewer piercing. Uh yeah, remove the skewer before you eat your burger, folks, even though it will fall apart. You can see how they would be unwieldy – look at it, leaning all Tower of Pisa-like. Beautiful sweet-sour relish and a not too gamey pattie. Could’ve had two, really.
Billy of course had his burger-eating technique down-pat: the trick is to take the top of your burger bun, scoop out the soft underneath, replace and then proceed to eat like a…fast food burger, and with some dignity. Both in Melbourne eatery and kitchen know-how, Billy really never fails to make my jaw drop (unfair, man). On this particular night it was directly because of the lovely birthday cake he made with Penny and Henry’s help. He is going to make the best guncle ever to future nephews and nieces.
Of course it was delicious, the birthday celebrant loved it and Billy sliced it and doled it out like a pro. Truly.
The venue were kind enough to supply extra crockery and cutlery.
A wonderful night was had by all. Happy birthday, dearest Anna!