Menopause Mayhem

Dare I say it…I may be hitting menopause! I’m approaching that dreaded stage in a woman’s life where we start drying up like the Sahara Desert. I have another 260-ish days before I turn the BIG 4-0, but the signs are there.

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It all went downhill when I turned 30. Just when I’d snagged my better half and was finally getting a regular shag, my metabolism decided to slow down to a snail’s pace. Nine years later, I’ve turned into what looks like the feral offspring of the Michelin man. I’ve become a beached whale. My waistline has been missing in action since 2010. My former size-8 frame has obviously gone to a better place. I picture it sunbathing in some exotic location with a mojito in hand. Forget a 6-pack. You can’t even describe my jelly belly as a muffin top …..I’m shaped like a keg!

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I’ve let myself go to the extent that nothing in my wardrobe fits me. I know I need to get off my ass and be more active, but the motivation is simply non-existent. I work up a sweat just watching fitness videos via YouTube. Forget sit-ups or downward dogs, the only exercise I do these days is lifting a Krispy Kreme into my mouth. I’m a couch potato…my bum’s fused to the sofa. I have a yoga mat and a treadmill in the lounge, on the off chance I feel inspired to work out, but most days it’s a Mexican standoff. The tension is palpable, it’s a daily confrontation between me and the exercise equipment. The first who blinks loses (me, hands down – every time!).

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Then there’s my emotional eating habits. The roller coaster ride of binging on food when I’m happy, on a downer or bored. Even when I’m tired of eating…I still have this strong craving to drown my sorrows in a packet of Oreos. I have a theory that my hormones are all over the place. These days, I’m not just emotional when Aunt Flo comes to visit every month, it seems to be a weekly thing. At its worse, my hormonal outbursts consists of tears and tantrums, with a few glimpses of laughter in between, almost like four seasons in one day. It’s a vicious cycle. My poor better half doesn’t know whether he’s dealing with Jekyll or Hyde. Lucky for me he has a soft spot for both.

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But wait, there’s more. The bazoongas have started to sag…one’s heading east and the other is running in the opposite direction. The jugs aren’t so perky these days, they’ve lost that B-B-Bounce. They need a bit more pep, a little pick me up, maybe a tweak or two? It gets worse. I can’t seem to hold my bladder like I use to. There’s nothing worse than coming home after a night of boozy frivolities and you’re busting to pee! As you accelerate up the driveway (pedal to the metal, full throttle style), I’m simultaneously un-buckling the belt and undoing the pants. I often find myself performing the hot shoe shuffle as I stand at the front door, searching for my keys, saying a silent Hail Mary hoping desperately that the No. 1s can hold it in for two more minutes. By the time I reach the throne, a minor tinkling accident has leaked out.

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To top it all off, there are the sweats. There could be a blizzard outside, yet all I want to do is wear is a pair of socks (and only a pair of socks – much to the delight of the better half). My partner is as snug as a bug in a rug, tightly cocooned under the sheets, yet I’m lying on top of the doona sweating like I’m on death row. I could be doing the most mundane of tasks, but I’d be showing tell-tale signs of perspiration. Despite the super strength deodorant I wear, I’m so conscious that the body odour follows me around like a bad stench!

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I admit, I’m no spring chicken. I’m certainly not getting any younger, skinnier or prettier. My thirty, flirty and thriving days are coming to an end. As I approach the naughty forties, this swan is fast becoming an old goose!

Imagine….

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John Lennon was onto something extraordinary when he wrote Imagine, a song with a simple melody backed by a profound message of peace.

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Everyday we’re bombarded by tragic news headlines centred on terrorist acts, wars, murders and mass shootings. The 24/7 rolling coverage showing violent and horrific crimes headed by the worst of humanity are all aimed to generate anger, create fear and overwhelm us with despair.

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These racially charged attacks against innocent lives are further fuelling the simmering hatred and the growing tension between different ethnic groups, doing more to antagonise and divide people based on bigotry and race. Which leads me to the question, why can’t we all just get along?

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I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. So, I won’t attempt to explore this subject matter with an in depth analysis. Instead, I’ll take a boofhead friendly approach in assessing this issue. Firstly, I’d like to use our canine companions as an example of tolerance. Dogs are oblivious to factors such as an individual’s gender, sexuality, heritage, religion or even the football team their owners’ follow. The truth is, dogs don’t care whether we’re black, white, rich, poor, young, old or where we stand on the social hierarchy. Instead, dogs look up to us like the sun shines out of our arses, without any form of prejudice.

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I’m not suggesting that we all bend down and sniff each other’s nether regions but dogs are unconditionally loyal. They love us just as we are, free of judgement or any preconceived notions based on our social, racial, ethnic or religious status. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see the rest of humanity in a similar light?

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Let’s dig a little deeper with this topic. Is racism inherent in people or is racial intolerance a learned behaviour? Visit a crèche for toddlers (preferably in a multicultural setting as an added bonus)…..you’ll notice a childcare centre is like the United Nations, albeit, with a playground. I’m amazed at how young children form budding friendships with other rug rats without any hint of cultural or ethnic bias. These pre-schoolers can barely talk, let alone understand each other, but it doesn’t stop them from having fun and enjoying each other’s company. I truly believe that any form of discrimination is an action or conduct that’s taught or learned from what we see, hear and experience amongst the people we encounter.

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If we all took a step back and look into the eyes of our babies, young children or man’s best friend, with Lennon’s Imagine playing in the background (and a cheeky drink in hand), the world might actually learn a lesson or two about peace and love.

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Imagine a world without borders, where we didn’t have labels that defined our race, cultural background, religious beliefs, social status, our gender or sexual preferences, lifestyle etc. Instead, it was one planet where we assimilated with each other, did more to understand one another, found means to embrace our differences and accept diversity, and developed greater cohesion or mateships as oppose to attacking our neighbour.

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We’d soon recognise that we all have similar needs, desires, hopes and dreams. Regardless of who we are, where we come from or which side of the fence we sit on, we share the same fears, frustration, anger, sadness and despair…but it’s the barriers we build (whether geographical, physical or emotional) that divide us. It’s time to break the barriers and come together, right now, to unite as one.

Like Lennon, I may view the world through rose-coloured glasses, but I’m not the only one.

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Imagine

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

LENNONS 25TH

References

Imagine
Writer(s): John Lennon
Producer(s): John Lennon Yoko Ono Phil Spector

 

Losing My Religion

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That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion…

I’m lost, confused and disillusioned. Nothing makes sense to me about God or religion anymore. These days, I find myself questioning the very values and belief system that was once at the core of my existence.

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I’ve reached a crossroad in my life and now I sit on the fence when it comes to my faith. I’m probably more of a doubter than a believer and more agnostic than an atheist. I’m plagued by guilt and fear of going to hell (and my hair can’t stand the heat)! It’s the one principle stopping me from being more definitive about my opinion on whether God exists or not.

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I was raised a Catholic, attended church every Sunday, prayed most nights (to be a supermodel – never happened) and was surrounded by a devoutly Christian family. But the world, the people I’ve immersed myself with and personal experiences has taught me more about how to live a loving, positive life than the dogma that dominated my upbringing.

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Sadly, religion doesn’t always unite people. In a lot of instances, religious conviction divides families, communities, even nations around the world (more than a soccer game in the UEFA league). We witness every night on television the effects of hatred caused by extremist beliefs. Who’s to say one religion is more ‘right’ or ‘better’ than the other. At the end of the day, whatever floats your boat. But faith could be the biggest bunch of bollocks ever, up there with the Kardashians and Donald Trump.

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Every religion has elements of brainwashing or a cult like hold over its members. The moment you lose your right to freedom of choice as a result of religious persuasion is a violation to human rights. Life throws curve balls at you every day, therefore every individual has the right to make rational and logical decisions based on their own circumstance as oppose to the teachings of systematic indoctrination. Let’s face it, “the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some”.

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I’ve learned to keep an open mind, not to judge people based on whether they’re Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Scientologists, Pastafarians, Collingwood supporters etc It’s not your beliefs that make you a good person, it’s your actions and behaviour. You can go to church, a mosque, synagogue or temple as often as you like; read the Bible, the Torah or the Quran daily, but it doesn’t mean you’re more righteous or virtuous than a person who attends the footy every weekend. My theory is, how you’ve inspired and encouraged those around you, your integrity, kindness, generosity, patience, understanding and the love you’ve demonstrated will have a huge impact on others, and consequently will be your lasting legacy. Ultimately, it’s how you respect and treat people that matters.

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References

‘Losing My Religion’

Writer(s): Bill Berry Peter Buck Mike Mills Michael Stipe
Producer(s): Scott Litt R.E.M.

Giant Marvels of Melbourne

The Design Statement

Melbourne is a vibrant, urban metropolis of skyscrapers, giant structures towering upwards to dizzying heights. The heart and soul of the city is a concrete jungle of high-rise commercial and residential buildings constructed in a fusion of architectural styles, which suits Melbourne’s evolving cosmopolitan landscape.

Below are a selection of Melbourne’s most noted skyscrapers:

Eureka Towers

Standing at a height of 300 metres, Eureka Towers is one of the world’s tallest residential structures, consisting of 576 apartments in addition to office, retail and hospitality facilities.

120 Collins Street

Designed in collaboration with Hassell Architects and Daryl Jackson, this 53-storey landmark echoes characteristics of art deco architecture, including a central mast and setbacks similar to New York’s Empire State Building.

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Located at the ‘Paris’ end of Melbourne, 101 Collins is a monument epitomising style and class. The building facade is accentuated with glass buttresses, while the focal point within the interior are the travertine columns and…

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There’s No Joy in Darkness

 

Hello. It’s only me. Is there anybody out there? Can anyone hear me? I’m on the flip side of heaven, the other side of hell. I’m existing in no man’s land of purgatory, languishing in limbo, slowly wasting away the days through constant stormy weather. Suffering under dark clouds hovering over me, a downpour of rainy days and relentless winter blues.

 

Does someone else feel my pain or understand the fear and anxiety that tortures my head on a daily basis?  I pray to a God that I barely have faith in, in the faint hope that someone or something out there in the universe hears my cry for help. I simply just wish for my luck to change.

 

I’m sick of pretending to be in a happy place when in all honesty, I’m breaking down and falling apart on the inside. I’m lost and disillusioned. I’m losing the race and close to giving up. I have no strength to keep fighting this battle.

 

Life is passing me by at such lightning speed while my own tiny sphere has stalled. I don’t fit in within this ‘dog eat dog’ world. I want to scream, I want to shout, but there’s no one to turn to. I want to cry, but I’ve run out of tears. I’m running on empty and my soul is broken.

 

I wish things were different. I yearn for my life to finally head in the right direction. I’d love to get back on track, for my hopes to go to plan and for my dreams to come true. I miss that feeling that anything was possible…that I can conquer the world.

I just want to be happy….

Spiritual Marvels of Melbourne

The Design Statement

Have a little faith, this post is not focused on any religion. Instead, the post is a visual tour of some of Melbourne’s most architecturally acclaimed churches. Praised for their majestic design, these houses of worship will enlighten you with their grandness and history.

St Patrick’s Cathedral

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Designed by William Wilkinson Wardell, St Patrick’s Cathedral is a prime example of Gothic-Revival design. Located on the edge of the city grid, the structure is laid out in the style of a Latin cross, incorporating a nave with side aisles, transepts flanked by side aisles, a sanctuary including seven chapels positioned in a chevet around it, and sacristies.

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A cross six metres in height sits atop of the main spire. The pinnacles of the Cathedral tower upwards, representing heaven above, while the gargoyles perched around the church are trademark features befitting the Gothic aesthetic.

St Paul’s Cathedral

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St Paul’s Cathedral represents the signature style of ne0-Gothic transitional architecture. Designed by William Butterfield, the cathedral consists of three giant spires, with the…

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Iconic Marvels of Melbourne

The Design Statement

Flinders Street Station

I love Melbourne, a city that is defined for its vibrant atmosphere, a passion for sport and a hub for fine food, wine and great coffee, often embraced through its cafe culture.

As a tourist destination and from an architectural perspective, what is quintessentially Melbourne? Nothing else epitomises Melbourne more than the following landmarks, which form the very fabric of this fine city: Flinders Street Station, the Shrine of Remembrance, the Rialto Towers, the GPO, the Arts Centre, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Luna Park and Melbourne Star.

Flinders Street Station

Built in 1910, Flinders Street Station is the heart of a comprehensive railway network in Melbourne. The facade of this iconic structure was a result of a worldwide design competition awarded in 1900 to JW Fawcett and HPC Ashworth.

Shrine of Remembrance 

Constructed between 1928-1934, the Shrine of Remembrance was built in honour of the men and women of Victoria who served in the First World War. The structure is…

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Heritage Marvels of Melbourne

The Design Statement

5efbb110-cee7-4119-b4b6-9f634af95ffc-2060x1236Like most cosmopolitan cities around the world, Melbourne is characterised for its concrete jungles, dominated by modern skyscrapers with shimmery glass facades. But scattered amongst these contemporary structures are buildings noted for their classic architecture.

The very fabric of Melbourne consists of heritage listed buildings, recognised for their historical, cultural and architectural significance. This post is a visual exploration of some of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks including the Royal Exhibition Building, Parliament House, the State Library of Victoria, the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Old Treasury Building, and the Melbourne Town Hall. Each of these structures have a common thread, the very essence of their construction is linked to their traditional charm and majestic designs.

state_library_of_victoria_-_right_sideThe majority of these landmarks (such as Parliament House, the State Library, Supreme Court and Old Treasury Building) were constructed during the Victorian era, a period that saw a renewed focus towards classical renaissance architecture. The classical  aesthetic is characterised for central pediments, a Corinthian style portico, Ionic columns and grand archways. 

The Royal…

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Deconstructing Gehry

The Design Statement

Frank Gehry is a trailblazer in contemporary design, often considered as one of the most highly acclaimed architects of the 20th century. An iconic genius in post-modern architecture, Gehry thrives in pushing the boundaries with his complex, avant garde concepts. Gehry’s bold structures rebels against the status quo, shifting away from the paradigm that ‘form follows function’.

As a proponent of the deconstructivsm movement, Gehry’s projects are defined for their striking profiles, mixed with undulating layers of elements, resulting in structural facades that are both complex and bold. His style of producing abstract constructions are combined with his use of malleable metal finishes juxtaposed against more traditional building components like concrete or bricks.

Gehry portfolio of projects are characterised for their use of unconventional materials, incorporating structural elements manipulated to produce rippled forms and irregular shapes. Although Gehry’s creative vision was inspired by the DeCon architectural style, the silhouettes of his spectrum of famous landmarks mixes a new age revival of cubism and futuristic aesthetics.

Below are a snapshot…

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Into the Wild – Where the Wild Things Are

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In the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight….Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh I was in my own world happily singing this cute little ditty while the better half and I trekked off to Werribee Open Range Zoo on Australia Day. The lyrics played over and over in my head until the mere male asked me, “did you bring the tickets?”  Eeeeeeek! The light in my brain suddenly flicked back on. Bugger me!

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Of all the things to forget, it would have to be the admission vouchers! I slammed the breaks and begrudgingly hightailed it back home. Not quite the start I was expecting. What would The Lion King’s very own Timon and Pumbaa say if they were in a pickle like this? ‘Hakuna Matata’ of course, no worries! I looked on the bright side of the situation, we were only four kilometres into our one hour journey. It could’ve been a lot worse, so all was not lost.

Victoria’s own Werribee Open Range Zoo is a wildlife park and is the closest I’ll get to experiencing an African adventure. The ultimate way to traverse through the grounds and witness the menagerie of animals on the premises is to go on a safari tour.

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Hippo

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The bus tour lasts just under an hour and runs at regular 10-15 minute intervals. The mini sightseeing expedition enables you to get relatively close to Zebras, Camels, Giraffes, Hippos, and Rhinoceros just to name a few. During the short ride, the driver gives you an insight into the animal’s habitat, their quirky behaviours and basic facts and figures about the traits of each species.

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As per the walking trail that meanders past each animal exhibit, the bus tour is convenient for young and old and provides ramps for greater accessibility – ideal for kids in strollers, or those with disabilities or in wheelchairs. For something a little more adventurous, some guided tours allows you access into more off-limit areas of the park, even the opportunity to feed or touch some animals under the guidance of keepers.

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It’s a wonderful facility that’s maintained to a high standard to ensure the animals’ safety and well-being. They aren’t kept in cramped enclosures, instead the animals roam freely within wide open fields similar to their natural habitats. One day is sufficient time to leisurely visit each animal exhibit. Although Melbourne Zoo has significantly more animals on display, its walking tracks are plotted out like a web and certainly aren’t as easy to navigate around as compared to the grounds of Werribee Zoo.

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Don’t forget to plan your day. Feeding time is the best opportunity to see the animals in action, you can get best vantage points in selected viewing areas. There is a canteen and kiosk, sheltered picnic areas and kids zones with playgrounds. It’s been 20 years since the last time I visited. It’s well worth seeing!!!

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Tales of a Desperate, Dateless Geek – Part III

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Each time I was single and ready to mingle, I was on a mission, I was out on the prowl, hovering over my prey. I use to go clubbing with work mates despite the fact that I could barely bust a move. It was a competition. Booze was a social lubricant – it made men brave and women loose. But we all know that a bad set of beer goggles can really fog up your senses. I remember one bloke performing the robot dance beside me, totally cramping my style – I thought I was just too good for him. Next!

I struggled to string an interesting funny articulate sentence together let alone chat up a guy.  I was awkward and socially inept. Ultimately, I felt so desperate that I fell for any guy who wanted my number – don’t get me wrong, they weren’t queuing up for me. I was a loser magnet. In the end, there is such a thing as karma. For every wonderful guy I casually dismissed, I had my heart broken and stomped on just as many times. For most, I was disposable, a notch on the belt. The way to a man’s heart wasn’t through his stomach. It was through cheap one night stands, a few bootie calls and zero commitment.

By the time I hit my flirty 30 years, I saw my friends get engaged, walk down the aisle and start families. I was doomed. It’s hard to go out when all your wingmen are stuck at home looking after their partners, living my dream. My biological clock was ticking louder than a supersonic jet. There’s a line in the flick Sleepless in Seattle that women over 40 have a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than finding a husband1. With my track record, I was set to prove this theory.

In hindsight, I was shallow and superficial. I was so consumed by a guy’s looks rather than their personality. Looks fade, but what a man shares from the heart lasts forever. You get what you give. I realised, the problems weren’t always with the guys, the problem was ME. I had no self-esteem, I lowered my standards so much that I compromised my own integrity. I validated my self-worth by having a guy who in all honesty, just screwed me over. I lost all respect for myself and in effect, I was attracting guys who didn’t respect me. Enough was enough!

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Love happens when you least expect it. It’s TRUE! I met my soulmate just over six years ago. He doesn’t look like Brad Pitt but he makes me laugh….everyday he makes me laugh! He loves my cooking even though I’m not a domestic goddess in the kitchen. He thinks I’m pretty even though I don’t scrub up as well as a Victoria’s Secret super model. It doesn’t bother him that I can’t hold a tune during Karaoke. He makes my life blissfully happy. Nothing else matters as long as he’s by my side. He’s my rock…I think he’s a keeper!

Tales of a Desperate, Dateless Geek – Part II

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When it comes to relationships and dating, is it quality over quantity or vice versa? According to a recent study, women will kiss 15 men on average before they settle for that ‘one great love’1. Based on those statistics, I should hang my head in shame. I can count with one hand the number of guys I’ve pashed, and this figure already includes the boy I forced to kiss me when we were 5 years old playing ‘mothers and fathers’! Eeek!

During my footloose and fancy free years, I had a set of criteria, a list as long as The Great Wall of China, and like Santa I checked it twice. If the guy didn’t reach my standards I fobbed them off like there was no tomorrow. I wanted sexy, suave, sophisticated, financially stable, ambitious, smart, caring, honest, romantic, sense of humour blah blah blah. My needs went on and on like a Celine Dion song. If there was no chemistry, too bad so sad, onto the next.  Nice guys came and went. Looking back, I was holding out for perfection….something that obviously does NOT exist.

In between short-lived flings, I experienced dry patches more barren than the Sahara Desert. At one point, I had my mother’s friends arranging dates with their sons. I think one of my friends felt so sorry for me, she tried to hook me up with every single guy she knew was on the market. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that one of the guys she lined me up with was ‘batting for the other team’. Bless her cotton socks – her intentions were good. I was so scared of becoming an old spinster, I knew something had to give. I resorted to drastic measures……I lowered my expectations.

**Keep an eye out for the conclusion of this tale in the next post!**

Citations

1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2532213/No-one-said-finding-The-One-easy-The-average-women-kiss-FIFTEEN-men-enjoy-TWO-long-term-relationships-heart-broken-TWICE.html

Tales of a Desperate, Dateless Geek – Part I

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Finding true love is like searching for a needle in a haystack. I’m sure a few of us had to pash a few frogs before we captured our very own Prince Charming. I always dreamt of being swept off my feet but I confess, I met some toads along the journey before I found ‘The One’. The quest for true love is a rollercoaster ride and sadly not all relationships end happily ever after. Even fairy-tales are plagued with legends of rocky roads to romance – Snow White got poisoned, Sleeping Beauty was put to sleep and Cinderella lost one of her Jimmy Choo shoes (yikes!) – before each hooked up with their knight in shining armour. Let’s face it, love isn’t black and white, there’s 50 shades of grey in between!

One of our dearest friends recently announced his separation with his wife of over a year. I was rocked by the news. Apparently “Miss Cruella De Ville” had simply lost that loving feeling. I always thought she was hard work, a high maintenance, self-centred, pompous twat. How could this happen to such a lovely guy who catered to her every whim? The idea of ‘forever’ – is this somewhat of a myth in this day and age? It got me thinking, what if it happened to me? What if my better half woke up one morning to realise that only a crazy fool would be mad enough to put up with a drama queen like me?

It’s like one of those profound questions Carrie Bradshaw would ask at the beginning of each Sex In The City episode. To go through the journey again of finding that ‘one great love’ gave me goosebumps and sent shivers down my spine for all the wrong reasons. It’s hard enough trying to mend a broken heart but to hit the singles scene again – I’d be mortified!

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I’m still scarred by my dating history – or lack thereof. The list was short but the tears were many. Some experiences left me cringing with humiliation. To this day, I don’t think I’ve recovered! From the time I was young, I was never one to stand out in the crowd. Even my first crush at grade 3 ignored me for a red head with freckles. But he did dance with me at my primary school graduation – I was so nervous, I almost peed my pants!

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It only got worse in high school. For four years, I had the hots for ‘Mr. Wonderful’. He was handsome, funny and athletic. I’d stare longingly at him. But he didn’t know I existed. Whenever he’d strike up conversation with me I’d just stutter and turn into a blubbering idiot. I’d go weak at the knees wishing the world would swallow me up from embarrassment. Unrequited love is a bitch and it was the story of my existence throughout my teenage years.

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I was such a wallflower. What’s worse, I was painfully shy, with zero personality. I wasn’t a tall, sexy, blue-eyed blonde bombshell. In stark contrast, I was a geeky nerd who was never in the popular group and whose name no guy could remember. Yep, I was THAT girl in high school who never got asked out. By my late teens, I was destined to be the oldest virgin in the world who’d never been touched, kissed or oomphed!

Anthony Bourdain – The Rebel Chef in Cowboy Boots

Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel the world, sample cuisine from the finest restaurants and to write about your adventures from the most exotic cities of the globe? Well, Anthony Bourdain is living my dream – he writes, he travels, he eats – the trilogy to a perfect life!

I’ve only just jumped on board the Anthony Bourdain bandwagon. After watching his appearances as a guest judge in the series Top Chef, I initially thought Bourdain was an arrogant twat. He dished out criticism with an acid tongue to wannabe Gordon Ramsays. Yet it was the same sharp wit that sparked my curiosity. So much so, I was intrigued to find out more.

Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3099418/Bourdain-plants-digital-footprint-editor-food-website.html

A recent episode of No Reservations reflected on the beginning of Bourdain’s rise to fame. Bourdain initially gained critical acclaim with his scathing expose on the seedier side of the restaurant industry in the article titled Don’t Eat Before Reading This, published in The New Yorker1. The scandal generated by the piece paved the way to a book deal and the publication of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly2. Its success kick-started Bourdain’s career as a host of various travel and lifestyle programs including No Reservation, Parts Unknown and The Layover and was the catalyst for further book launches. The rest they say is history3.

Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2442016/Anthony-Bourdain-apologizes-angry-New-Mexicans-ridiculing-famous-Frito-pie.html

Prior to his celebrity status, Bourdain admitted that he was a “journeyman chef who didn’t create 5 Star dishes or have his own show on the Food Network”4. So, why would a chef achieve so much recognition by slagging off his counterparts in an obnoxious newspaper article? It’s simple, Anthony Bourdain is the Howard Stern of cooking! He’s the antithesis of the sweet and cuddly likes of Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver. Instead, Bourdain is a foul mouthed, crude, sharp shooter without a filter. He’s got the balls to speak his mind and tell it how it is while wearing his signature cowboy boots.

Image Source: edition.cnn.com/shows/anthony-bourdain-parts-unknown

On the flip side, Bourdain is articulate with a quick wit, a dry sense of humour and offers copious sprinkles of sarcasm. His shows are eloquent. As he treks through cities, towns or villages, Bourdain mingles with the locals, visits their homes or drops by at local bars or pubs to discover local cuisine. Each segment delves into hot trends of the culinary world including old style cooking versus molecular gastronomy and comfort food as opposed to fine dining. He’ll explore markets along roads less travelled to reveal unique ingredients. However, in contrast to other lifestyle programs, Bourdain’s series have an edgier vibe, often intertwined with current political or economic affairs, uncovering the heart and soul of a country, its lifestyle, culture and its people. Best of all, he’ll taste test native cuisine from high end restaurants in addition to traditional home cooked meals.

Image Source: facebook.com/AnthonyBourdain/photos/

What makes Bourdain’s story even more quirky is his unconventional start in the industry. He began his career with a summer job in a blue collar restaurant, as a dishwasher and part-time salad man5. In Bourdain’s own words, “it was a place where kitchen employees drank everything in sight, stole everything in stock and screwed the staff and half the customers”. A pivotal moment occurred during a wedding reception held at the venue. The bride stopped by the kitchen and out of the blue, the head chef requested that Bourdain man his station. To his amazement, Bourdain found the chef disappear off with the new bride to do the “vertical rhumba” behind the garbage stockaid. The incident proved to be his teenage epiphany to become a head chef6.

In summary, Bourdain isn’t afraid to rock the boat. You either love him or loathe him. He’s offbeat and quirky. I’m living life vicariously through his worldwide adventures and I’m enjoying the ride.

Image Source: facebook.com/AnthonyBourdain/photos

Citations

1. http://www.anthonybourdain.net/about-anthony-bourdain

2. http://www.anthonybourdain.net/about-anthony-bourdain

3. http://www.anthonybourdain.net/about-anthony-bourdain

4. No Reservation, Dmitri Kasterine’s, ‘Out of the Pan, Into the Fire’ 2000

5. No Reservation, Dmitri Kasterine’s, ‘Out of the Pan, Into the Fire’ 2000

6. No Reservation, Dmitri Kasterine’s, ‘Out of the Pan, Into the Fire’ 2000

Yak Testicles Anyone? Enough to Tickle the Taste Buds!

On today’s menu:  Entrée is a cocktail of deep fried scorpions, salt infused grasshoppers and sautéed caterpillars; Mains includes a choice of grilled iguana on a bed of sliced yak testicles or roasted wild boar on a jus of buffalo mucus, topped off with a brûlée of fermented armadillo lungs for dessert. Bon appétit!

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I use to gag having to finish off my peas or brussel sprouts when I was younger. But Andrew Zimmern, host of the eye-opening travel program Bizarre Foods, is on a mission to explore the flipside of culinary delights. Bizarre Foods takes you on a food safari beyond the predictable gourmet path. Zimmern journey’s the world on roads less travelled, often outside popular tourist hot spots, to discover local delicacies in striking contrast to the taste buds of your average holiday-maker. His motto is ‘If it looks good, eat it’. That is, don’t knock it until you try it – but Zimmern takes it to a whole new level!

Image Source: travelchannel.com/shows/bizarre-foods/photos/bizarre-foods-around-the-world-pictures/page/7

Nothing is off limits. In Zimmern’s own words, ‘There’s very little that walks, crawls, swims or grows in this world that hasn’t crossed my lips’. Anything edible is fair game, regardless of how strange the dish is, how funky or pungent the odour, where you find it, or whether it’s served raw…or eaten alive! From piranhas, raw sea urchins to guinea pigs, Zimmern has devoured some of the strangest of delicacies that would challenge the most adventurous of appetites. Zimmern proves it’s mind over matter. If you can overcome the psychological barrier, you’ll learn to appreciate indigenous dishes you would otherwise have thumbed your nose at.

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Zimmern has visited numerous destinations across the globe, including major cities to remote towns that are off the beaten track, from countries as vast as Vietnam, Mexico, Taiwan to Trinidad & Tobago to name just a few. In his quest to experience delectable titbits of the more ‘exotic’ variety, Zimmern exposes the heart and soul of a culture, revealing unique recipes that define a country’s local cuisine. Zimmern often visits markets to unearth unusual fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, spices and other ingredients that are fundamental to a region’s food heritage. He spends time with locals in their homes to observe how dishes are prepared. He mingles with highly regarded chefs, food critics or local fishermen and farmers to uncover the distinct flavours of a country. Zimmern also doesn’t shy away from food sold by street vendors to fully appreciate a nation’s ‘gourmet’ scene.

Image Source: travelchannel.com/shows/bizarre-foods/photos/bizarre-foods-ho-chi-minh-city-pictures

Along Zimmern’s journeys, you learn that indigenous delicacies are usually shaped by what Mother Nature has to offer. Locals make the most of what their surroundings serve up, living off the land that sustains their villages. Food sources include wild animals and vegetation as untamed as the environment in which they’re found. Farming, fishing or hunting are often integral to a nation’s lifestyle and survival. Zimmern points out that in some countries, the culture demands that every part of the animal be used in the cuisines. These are traditions and customs that date back many generations. Ears, tongues, heart, livers, lungs, to penises and testicles…nothing is wasted or spared. One man’s discard, is another man’s signature dish.

Coconut Tree Grubs in Iquitos

My stomach twists in knots at the idea of having to eat jellied mouse nose or a broth of turtle feet. By contrast, Zimmern has no fear. His stomach must be made of cast iron as each morsel is chewed down with a zesty zeal. He’s honest but polite in his opinion of each dish. Zimmern often describes each bite, the flavour, the texture, the aroma in a way to which viewers can relate. To give you an insight, below are a few samples of Zimmern’s taste tests:

Donkeys are a delicacy in China – it’s lean, high in protein and low in fat. According to Zimmern, a serving of stewed donkey meat served cold – ‘it’s fresh, not gamey, great texture, tender – awesome’. Stir fried donkey skin is like ‘chewy meat noodles with a hint of spice’. Sautéed donkey tail is like ‘a pot roast that melts in your mouth – delicious’! By contrast, braised camel paw is ‘an acquired taste, with a funky smell, gamey texture, with a salty gelatinous bite, like chewy jelly’.

Image Source: travelchannel.com/shows/bizarre-foods/photos/bizarre-foods-america-florida-pictures/page/14

Snake is a specialty in Vietnam. A freshly gutted cobra heart is served still beating and tastes ‘milky’. Deep fried snake skin is ‘just like pork crackling’. Snake meat itself is ‘a cross between eel and chicken’. While in Bolivia, llamas are a favourite amongst the locals. It’s a healthy meat to eat and low in cholesterol. Llama brain and tongue with garlic sauce – ‘it’s chewy, not gamey but fresh tasting’. On the other hand, chanfaina, a Bolivian stew of lamb liver, lungs, heart, kidneys with spices like cumin and turmeric – ‘smells like a butcher shop that’s had no electricity for four days. But, it has an intense livery flavour balanced by a seasoning of spices – perfect’!

So, the next time you’re on a gourmet trek, turn to the flip side of the menu and go hard core! Stir fried tarantulas, pickled bulls heart, rotten shark meat, poached buffalo penis, steamed goat testicle dumplings…. Mmmmm, finger licking good! Enough to tickle the taste buds!

Image Source: travelchannel.sndimg.com/content/dam/images/travel/fullset/2014/04/30/7e/bizarre-foods-america-406-ss-007

Kuala Lumpur – A Sizzling Fling

Kuala Lumpur - central business district

Kuala Lumpur – central business district

Kuala Lumpur (KL) is hot, damn hot! As soon as I stepped off the plane, the humidity slapped me right in the face. But it’s not just the weather that’s scorching; it’s the food, the atmosphere and the shopping! After spending just over a week in Japan, I headed back to the land of Oz via KL, with a whirlwind five day rendezvous in this vibrant metropolis.

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From Osaka, I landed in Malaysia’s capital just after midnight. In a lame attempt at stepping out of my comfort zone, I didn’t bother organising transfers from the airport to my accommodation.  But gallivanting alone on a train or bus to my hotel, at such an ungodly hour, in a foreign country, was far from what this ‘precious princess’ was normally accustomed to. So I opted for the easiest mode of transport available, a taxi. I’m such a badass – NOT!

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Kuala Lumpur – Old Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur - Old Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur – Old Railway Station

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Kuala Lumpur – Independence Square

An hour later, I was dropped off at a Sheraton hotel, but NOT the Sheraton Imperial where I was actually booked in. Slightly seething, I embarked on a second cab ride and by 3am, I finally arrived at my accommodation. At that point, KL was sizzling, but not for the right reasons. I got my knickers in such a knot I was more than a little flustered! Ok, in hindsight, it’s not like I was ‘banged up abroad’ and the incident was far from the crazy shenanigans of a Lonely Planet episode, but it wasn’t quite the beginning I was expecting.

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

I’ve never travelled alone. I had every intention to spread my wings during this trip, to loosen up and be an ‘adventurous’ tourist. The aim was to immerse myself in the customs of Malaysia, get lost amongst the sights and sounds of the city, and the hustle and bustle of the crowds. However, after the initial setback upon my arrival, I settled for my usual habit of an organised city tour to explore KL. Oh, I know it’s a bit cowardice and anti climatic, but my obsessive compulsive tendencies steered me away from any impulsive meanderings. So much for winging it!

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

Regardless, the two city tours I did were an ideal way of experiencing the highlights of KL, or at least the tip of the iceberg. Both tours were great for first time visitors like myself. Each excursion was at a laid back, relaxing pace, just the way I like it, lasting 3-4hrs in duration. The first tour focused on the central business district (CBD) of KL, which revealed a patchwork of modern skyscrapers against the charm of historic buildings and landmarks. In fact, it reminded of home (i.e. Melbourne) in some ways, where the beauty of traditional architecture is blended together with contemporary structures.

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

King's Palace

King’s Palace

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King’s Palace

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King’s Palace

The tour involved a quick stop and photo opportunity at the following sights and tourist attractions: Kings Palace, Central National Museum, Parliament House, National Monument, National Mosque, Old Railway Station, Independence Square, Sultan Abd, Samad Building and lastly the incredible Petronas Towers.

Royal Selangor Pewter Factory

Royal Selangor Pewter Factory

 The second tour included a visit to a Batik Handicraft Centre, the Royal Selangor Pewter Factory and a Chocolate Boutique for a chance to purchase locally produced souvenirs. BatuCave was the height of the day’s journey where I slowly ascended the steep 272 steps to the limestone caves, home to sacred idols and statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Despite walking at a snail’s pace, surely I got a work out that day! I was soaking in sweat, the heat was sweltering! Along the way, I passed several cute but cheeky monkeys scavenging for food. As you enter the caves, you’re greeted by a few snake charmers, who were more than enthusiastic at wrapping a snake around your shoulders for a pretty penny or two. Certainly not for the faint hearted!

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Petronas Towers

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Kuala Lumpur – National Mosque

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Kuala Lumpur – National Mosque

 Although the Sheraton Imperial is located on the outskirts of the CBD, it’s just a short monorail ride into the heart of the city. Luckily, the hotel is surrounded by major shopping strips which kept me occupied on my last day. KL is perfect for a little retail therapy. The best thing about the fashion is that the clothes fit me. Good things come in small packages (that’s what I keep telling myself). Pants, skirts, and tops were tailored to my short stumpy stature. Sadly, my shopping spree was limited to a handful of items as my suitcase was already jammed full. So much for going berserk and maxing out the credit card!

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

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Batu Caves

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I wasn’t brave enough to try Malaysian delicacies or food of the more exotic variety dished out by nearby restaurants or street vendors. I’m such a pansy at heart, but I can’t stomach an ordeal of ‘Delhi Belly’ or ‘Bali Belly’ or ‘Lumpur Belly’ in this instance. However, I did sample some local cuisine each night at the buffet dinner served by the hotel. Curries, laksas, tom yum soup and like the weather, the food was scorching hot!

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

During my downtime, if I wasn’t in the gym, I resorted to lazing about poolside. It was the only time I could tolerate the heat. It helped to have a boozy beverage in hand to cool me down. KL was a delightful escapade, yet all too brief. As I look back and reminisce, it was a short but sizzling fling!

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Oliver’s Twist on Fabulous Food

I have a soft spot for Jamie Oliver. His enthusiasm and passion for cooking is so infectious! The acclaimed British chef, with an affable, easy going charm, has a laid back attitude that’s reflected in his down to earth approach to everyday cooking.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

In an earlier post titled “Domestic Goddess Sizzles in the Kitchen”, I pointed out that cooking had never been my speciality. In fact, cooking and I go together like chalk ‘n’ cheese, we just don’t gel. Eating on the other hand is my forte. I love food. But, it’s more than comical that I have a tendency of scorching, nuking and spoiling the most simple of meals like scrambled eggs or even the humble toast. I’ve experienced more misses than hits when preparing food that’s fit for human consumption. Consequently, I have a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ mind-set to whipping up a gastronomic smorgasbord.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

 Often cooking programs focus on complicated feasts, and not surprisingly, I find such recipes way too challenging to even attempt given my limited culinary skills. What’s worse is that you need a myriad of gadgets which I don’t own, just to slice, dice, chop, julienne, mix, mash or boil the ingredients. Otherwise, the recipe consists of exotic components you’ve never heard of, or elements you’d rarely use in other meals and your local store doesn’t carry in any case. To top it off, I don’t have the time, not only to prepare the dish, but to clean up the mess afterwards. It’s all too hard and puts me off from bringing my A-Game to the kitchen.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

On the other hand, Jamie’s signature style to preparing a meal makes cooking accessible to the masses, boofhead friendly and idiot proof! He’s recognised that cooking fabulous food isn’t just for elite professionals or experienced cooks. Let’s face it, we don’t always need to prepare Michelin awarded meals for everyday cooking. Jamie’s recipes aren’t pompous or pretentious. When it comes to casual dining, precision isn’t paramount and presentation doesn’t always require the perfection that’s demanded in 5-star restaurants. Instead, Jamie’s twist on a delectable dish centres on simplicity and big bursts of flavour, colour and texture. His meals have a rustic, organic quality, using fresh, seasonal and/or everyday ingredients commonly found in your pantry. Convenience and ease is the key, but taste isn’t sacrificed.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

 Best of all, Jamie Oliver is a chef with a heart of gold and a conscience for social issues. He takes on causes and challenges close to his heart. Jamie’s highlighted the rising levels of obesity amongst young children and has campaigned tirelessly for healthier menus in school canteens. He opened Fifteen, a not-for-profit training restaurant that empowers young adults from underprivileged backgrounds with an opportunity for a better future1. The initiative offers disenfranchised youths with an apprenticeship and first hand experience in hospitality2.  He promotes a healthy lifestyle through the magic of food, with recipes emphasising the importance of affordable, well balanced meals. Through his cook books and various television programs, he has inspired families to get back to basics with home cooking, to source and use locally produced goods and to opt for freshly prepared meals rather than the fast food alternative.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

 What’s refreshing about each of Jamie’s television cooking series is that they don’t rely on his experience and celebrity profile to humiliate and break down aspiring chefs or avid cooks like a drill sergeant, a la Gordon Ramsay. Mainstream television is flooded by reality based competitions, where amateur cooks and professional chefs are under pressure cooker conditions and consequently ridiculed for their errors or critiqued on trivial criteria as a form of entertainment.

 Instead, Jamie’s shows have a casual, light hearted vibe that centres on what cooking programs should focus on – creating practical, well balanced, hearty culinary delights; comforting meals made with enthusiasm and love.

Sources: http://www.jamieoliver.com/  Viewed February 19, 2013

Citations: http://www.jamieoliver.com/  Viewed February 19, 2013