Archive for August, 2012

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Lurking in the Cupboard: Manual Coffee Grinder

August 29, 2012

An occasional post about long-forgotten household gems in my mother’s kitchen

I could feel it doing me good. Core muscles engaged and arms clenching the machine would produce great results. Am I in a gym? Hardly. I’m grinding coffee beans at the kitchen bench on my new obscure object of desire (apologies to filmmaker Luis Buñuel).

I’ve located our long-forgotten hand coffee grinder in my mother’s kitchen cupboard and it’s been getting a good workout at my house. I thought it had been donated to charity, but there it was, over 40 years old and looking at me with a downcast bottom drawer. Last used in 1989 by my dear late dad – and sometimes me  (see older blogpost) it deserved to be rescued after I developed my hankering for a fresh daily grind.

Vintage manual coffee grinderMade in Holland, it’s a wooden “burr” grinder and still works like a dream. I love the soft crunching sound of the beans being crushed between the mechanisms. Much nicer than the  screeching noise of an electric blade grinder that has me imagining a dentist’s weapon. And the aroma of the oils released by the ground beans is nothing short of heady.

I’m guessing my mother found it too much effort to use (my father being chief coffee bean crusher) and stored it away. Interestingly, she planted a coffee tree in the back garden about 15 years ago and it’s making a brave comeback after her indiscriminate pruning festival two years ago. Prior to that, we’d harvested its crimson beans and roasted them as an experiment. Then threw them away. Now, with the hand coffee grinder resurrected, we’re ready for the next stage of the ‘torrefazione’ (such a nice Italian word) process. Illycaffe – watch your back.

I’m liking the idea of calling our future crop Fairtrade coffee: if my mother promises not to go near the tree with any sort of hacking implement, I promise not to call her a terrible gardener. Fair trade.

But back to the workout. It’s quite a job turning the coffee grinder handle and keeping it steady on the bench. Multiply that by four caffeine fixes per day and hello rock-hard biceps. Ta-ta tuckshop arms.

More about manual coffee grinders

And for manual coffee grinder freaks, here’s a museum

Have also just found these many uses for leftover coffee grounds. Brilliant.

♦ I welcome your thoughts or retorts. The Comments button is only a click away…

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The Gardens of Ninfa – I’ve Died and Gone to Heaven

August 16, 2012

That’s it. I’m officially an old person. Last night I had dinner in front of the TV, near the heater, wearing woolly slippers, watching a GARDENING PROGRAM.

I’d managed to all but miss the four-part BBC series Monty Don’s Italian Gardens. But this episode promised a sense of ruin and loss on a Thursday night – as well as calla lilies and clivias.

Monty was travelling north from Naples to Sermoneta, 40 kms south of Rome, to wander the Gardens of Ninfa. Breathtakingly beautiful, Ninfa is a ruined medieval town rescued by two dedicated gardeners in 1905 and captures the liberated, looser spirit of southern Italian gardens.

Gardens of Ninfa near Rome

I did some googling and one blogger couldn’t understand Monty calling Ninfa “the most beautiful garden in the world” for all sorts of reasons, but apparently he’d misunderstood: Monty had called it “the most ROMANTIC garden in the world”. Sssshhh. Let’s keep our voices down and not upset the flowers.

Another blogger at Library of Design posted straight after watching the show and also has a crush on Monty. How could you not, when at one point he has to catch his breath when he spots a beautiful rose growing high in an oak tree. “Aaah, that’s just lovely” he says in a voice that’s pure honey.

Monty Don at Ninfa Gardens

Having declared myself an old person doesn’t mean I don’t have needs. And I need to buy this series NOW.

Here’s a seven minute teaser.

Gardens of Ninfa image: Daniele Muscetta

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Late Bloomer Gilds the Lily

August 13, 2012

‘Clivia, oh Clivia, say have you met Clivia … Clivia the Tattooed Lady’.

OK, if you’re not a Marx Brothers’ fan, you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about. If you are a fan, please indulge me. It’s of course the wacky song Groucho sings in the 1937 film A Day at the Races.

Sometimes pronounced “clive” after their namesake Lady Charlotte Florentine Clive, I much prefer the flower name to rhyme with “trivia’ – otherwise how could I possibly burst into song each year when they show themselves?

orange Clivias

Who says gardens are dull in winter? Apart from my singing (and clivias) we’ve got an explosion of  pale pink marguerite daisies, cymbidium orchids, violets, snowdrops, enormous calla lilies and gorgeous bearded irises that just keep on giving.

I love calla lilies and they’re especially striking this season, standing tall opposite the front door. I like to think we chose that position in keeping with the Romans who planted them inside the portal to their homes for a winter solstice bloom, simulating indoor sunlight for the darkest days of the year. The greater the display usually meant the wealthier the resident. We’re still playing Lotto with no success, so the display’s modest.
Calla Lillies in gardenSuch a versatile flower too: it’s both a symbol of fertility and death – used at weddings and also placed on graves. Or on female TV vampires in 1960s sitcoms as they slept corpse-like at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

American artist Georgia O’Keeffe painted some exquisite calla lilies in the early 1930s.

As for memorable calla lily film scenes, there’s a pearler in the 1937 comedy Stage Door, about a boarding house full of aspiring actresses and their dreams and disappointments.

“The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower…” Can you guess the actress in the scene on this sound clip from Stage Door?

I’m a late bloomer, much to my mother’s delight. Neither of my parents were good gardeners, only growing an essential patch of north-east Italian radicchio and various herbs (see earlier post Secret Radicchio Society).

For a while, my mother tried her best, showing a talent for breaking off geranium stems, sticking them willy nilly in dry garden beds and hoping for the best. (I think she secretly wanted to create a bit of Tyrol in Sydney’s inner-west, bless her.) The result was a little sad until I took over and brought many neglected plants back to life.

I’ve left one geranium for her to tend round the back of the house. And I tend the lilies.

It’s a win-win really.

The photo at right is of my mother and me in 1960, in our Sunday best, standing proudly in front of a spider fern. Notice the ubiquitous geranium lurking in the background.

 

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