Ever been in a restaurant and got the wrong meal? It was probably me. That lady at Il Casino in 1992 who ordered the pheasant and got venison? I'm sorry. I only heard your vowels. I know you had to wait half an hour for your plucked tucker when everyone else on your table was ready for dessert. If it's any consolation, Remiro Bresolin filled that long wait with loud expletives every time I Manuelled past him to the kitchen. Remiro said FUCK the way most people use the space key. eg. "What theFUCKare youFUCKINGdoing?" On arriving in the kitchen, the chef would threaten to break my legs. This one had a reputation for throwing knives at waitresses. Always speak kindly to people who use knives for a living and be prepared to duck.
But by the end of the night, while we were waiting for Winston Peters to leave, we'd sit round drinking Perrier Jouet 1979 and trade stories. Later on, Remiro would be shouting rounds of vodkas at Ecstacy Plus (sadly now the slummy Sports Cafe). I would swap gossip with the hookers and courtesans who had shut up shop for the night, although one or two were open all hours. Then a feed at The Diner and a few games of pinball (a better judge of reasonable force you are unlikely to find) before off home to bed at The House of the White Virgins in Adelaide Road.
It was with a heavy heart that I read earlier this year of Remiro's terminal lung cancer. A toast to Il Cavaliere! Forever Northern Italian, Kiwi by choice. More colourful by far than the scores of suits and black skirts who display their powerful anonymity the way a priest wears the frock and dog collar. Walking by the gutted remains of the pink finger in Tory Street is a bittersweet shiver of change. Such is the nature of nature. The vanilla people have won this round.
Before the '70s, NZ was stuck in a terrible rut of corned beef and boiled cabbage. No wonder we were a miserable people. Then Des Britten and Hudson & Halls burst onto the scene, demonstrating sophisticated dishes such as French Onion Soup with croutons. Thank Dagg for Alison Holst. It would take another ten years before our wines started to catch up. Talk about bad memories of Montana Muller Thurgau.
Although I was too late to enjoy the coke-snorting waitering days before the '87 stockmarket crash, my 12 year stint in hospitality gave me the extraordinary pleasure of working with NZ's finest chefs. If there is one quality that these epicurean artists share, some Kiwiality if you will, it is one of fusion. Italian. Brit. German. Dutch. Indian. Thai. Korean. Chinese. Samoan. Maori. Mexican. French. Indonesian. Russian. Jewish. Yanks, even if their contribution is the Peach Melba and trans-fat Trojan Horses. The NZ food artists take it all in and blend it til it's good and new. It started with Kumara and Orange Soup. I lost track after bok choy, tamarind and the Monteith's Wild Food Challenge (link not available coz DB have stupidly killed it).
I have been going quietly apeshit for the last two months over Fly My Pretties. If there was ever a couple of albums that every expat Kiwi should have it is Live at Bats and Return of Fly My Pretties. It is music to get seriously homesick by. I've had it looping on my ipod but buggered if I can stick a genre to it. It's a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. Roots album doesn't do it justice. It is what it is. Unquantifiable. I had a similar giggle of delight after witnessing Recloose during the Radio NZ gig at Bodega earlier this year. Magic.
However, I have no problem labelling Barney Weir's latest fling as definitively fusion. And I'm gagging for it. However, I'll have to wait for the gig at Indigo (aka San Francisco Bathhouse) on 7 December. Aye, it's good to have money again.
I'm off to the NORML conference in Pakipaki this weekend. Have a good weekend and don't forget to be different.