Parliament of Fools.

The three independents at the center of the polarising 2010 Australian election have finally begun to show their hand. Instead of getting on with the job of deciding which of the two parties they would prefer to work with to form a stable government, they seem to have decided amongst themselves that their true task is an immediate reform of the Australian political system. Their list of demands on its own is cringeworthy for anyone with a few brain cells to rub together. If taken and implemented at face value, then these three loons would essentially be running the country, while whomever the unfortunate “prime minister” was being reduced to some sort of dancing puppet on a string. Such is the desperation of Gillard that it seems that she would be ready and willing to attach the string to her own shoulders. At least Abbott has some sort of pride, wisely refusing to ever counternance a situation where the three amigos would be privvy to sensitive defense information even before the prime minister got their eyes on it.

One smells the unimstakeable reek of Bob Katter behind this document of fools. Katter is a man whose stupidity is such that he seems to be the driving reason for why SETI has been spending so much time and money searching for intelligent life in other universes. Calling Australia’s Westminster system “primitive”, he opinioned that it needed to become a multi-party parliament, like say Italy. This is like telling the French that they need to start cooking like the English. His almost equally stupid independent partner, Tony Windsor, reckons that Australia is one of the “worst examples” of the Westminster system. What, worse than Bangladesh, India, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu? Gee, we must really be shit then. Finally we have Rob Oakeshott, the last in the trio, assuring us that the three of them “act for good not evil.” What a relief that is. I think I’ll go to bed now, happy and secure that these clowns hope to be running the country tomorrow.

The most laughable thing about all of this is their insistance that any government formed with their ill thought out demands has to agree to guarantee that they will see out a full three year term, when on the face of it they would probably be lucky to last three weeks. At a deeper level, this entire series of events of having the Australian political system reduced to a garage sale is largely the fault of the main political parties themselves. Apart from the fact that they both seem to be equally shit, there has been a creeping shift over the last decade to the point where both parties seem to have met in the political centre. About the only way to tell them apart is to have some politician with a giant cowboy hat on his head. Now if only he could pick a side.

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La Porchetta

This last Sunday I organised, with my Italian friend Luca, a grigliata, (Italian for BBQ), at my “disco-pub” as it is referred to in this part of the woods. We are closed on Sunday, so I suppose it takes a special kind of masochist to want to spend 14 hours at his place of work on his day off. Preparing a porchetta is the marathon version of a BBQ. A porchetta is the Italian version of roasted pig, and it can take many forms, from a whole pig to something much smaller. My own weighed in at 10kg, and was a boneless pork loin prepared by my local butcher who slaughtered the meat himself. He then scoured the tough outer skin and secured it all with cooking string. It looked like a long thick log of meat, which it essentially was.
The plan was to cook it in the pizza oven that resides outside at my bar. We don’t use this oven, although the BBQ pit next to it has seen heavy use in the last few weeks during the busy summer period. When cooking a porchetta it is good to have the oven very hot when you put it in. In this way the skin blisters and forms the wonderful crackling which also protects the meat inside. However, it is necessary to then reduce the heat so as to not overcook the meat. Alas, this was not something we could do, as we have a wood fired pizza oven. No handy knobs to turn here, not even a temperature gauge. So we decided to accept the fact that the crackling would be sub-standard so as to maximise our chances of having perfectly cooked meat.
Luca was the prefect partner to attempt such a cooking feat – he presented himself with three bottles of wonderful French champagne as well as two outstanding reds. These would be needed as the cooking time for la porchetta was going to be a little over six hours. With thirty guests scheduled to arrive beginning at 7pm, the race was on to have everything ready on time. Our guests were a mix of friends, work-mates and customers from the adjacent rafting base that the riverguides were attempting to hit on. Thus we were ensured of several delightful members of the fairer sex to gaze upon in what would undoubtedly be a drunken stupor when looking at the provisions that Luca showed up with. I however, do own a bar, and with the first act being to fire up the grill, what was needed was cold amber liquid from a fresh keg.
It took us a couple of hours to get the oven hot enough for our purposes, and by the time we had finished preparing the pig and slid him into his doom, it was half past two in the afternoon. One bottle of champagne had been finished, though to be fair, a good portion of that went on the pig. I ground up some fennel seeds, chilli’s, top quality sea salt, lemon rind and bay leaves, (a concoction that I swiped from a Jamie Oliver book), and rubbed this into the skin. A liberal flinging of sea salt pieces as well as enough virgin olive oil to drown it in was our initial preperation. Our great challenge was turning it by hand, which meant trying to heave the thing over while it was half sticking out of the oven and not burning ourselves in the process. This was done every 30 minutes. The first time we did it we poured a couple of pints of beer over it. The second time we used some of the champagne. Luca wanted to give it a try with some red wine as well, but I thought that this was going just a little too far. After a few hours the cooking porchetta had formed a nice natural gravy in its roasting tray where it sat, and we spooned this over it each time it was turned. This kept the meat moist and fresh. All the while we transferred hot burning coals from the adjacent BBQ pit into the oven. It was hot, sweaty work. By the time another friend joined us we were down to the last bottle of champagne.
At 6.30 we added roughly chopped onions, carrots and celery to the tray, along with whole garlic cloves. We then poured half a litre of home-made chicken stock over the pig. This was the final hurrah. In the meantime we had prepared a tomato/garlic/basil mix for bruschetta, which is toasted Italian bread. Toast your bread, rub some garlic over it and dump on some of the mix. Lovely, and it keeps the hungry horde at bay while you try to figure out if the pig is ready. We also threw a bunch of steaks and sausages on the grill which the clueless filled themselves up on. Some of us knew better.
At 8.30pm we withdrew the pig to general shouts of amazement. La porchetta was divine, eaten between two pieces of bread that had been soaked in the gravy that had formed beneath it. The onions and other vegetables had almost caramalised, which I gleefully smeared over my porchetta roll. As the night wore on, one of the rafting guides jumped up to DJ, people danced, much drink was consumed, until at midnight I threw the lot of them out from sheer exhaustion.

The sausages and steaks had been worth it though – over three kilo’s of porchetta remained uneaten. It’s pork all week at my humble abode.

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