Saturday, April 30, 2011


Subway - 29th April, 2011

Mele, Sam, Trent, Em

- I think the stripper getting a pre-dance tuna melt summed it up best: ‘Are you going to eat that?’

I had made it through the first and second courses and was working on dessert, while getting another sandwich to take away for our kind chauffeur. I put the half-eaten raspberry cheesecake
cookie on the counter to get my wallet out. The upside to Subway is that you can front up with nothing more than a twenty and leave with a full stomach, but you do end up with a lot of spare change and I needed two hands.
My first reaction was instinctively protective. This was a lady who looked as though she just might grab half a cookie at the first sign of ambivalence.
‘I sure am,’ I answered confidently, ready to shield it like a non-answer-sharing nerd.


‘You know people put their hands on this counter?’
‘I just went to the toilet, and didn’t wash my hands! Raaarrgh!’ went the stripper, shaking her hair extensions at me. ‘Just kidding.’
‘Oh good,’ I said, paying for my take away and returning to our primo table.
‘He’s actually going to eat it!’ cried the stripper to her stripper friend. I’ve never been watched so intently while eating. I ate the cookie.
‘Aaww!’ they both cried. ‘He ate it!’
They laughed, pointed and left.

This can probably encompass the complete experience of eating at the Gouger Street branch of Subway: were we really really going to eat that?
Yes. Yes, we were.
‘What’s the weirdest thing on the menu?’ asked Mele, executing our casual sting of the Sandwich Artiste on duty with classic elegance. I will leave it to Mele to talk you through the visceral, emotional, physical experience of eating the food. Suffice it to say that, after questioning us (‘Are you doing this for a bet or something?’) and having the Gouger Street Epic(cure) explained to him, our Artiste took on board the concept of necessary weirdness in our menu choices and offered this little tip: leaning in close as he handed me my change (which I would later use on cookies) he said sotto voce ‘You know, it’s the Asians who have the really weird sandwiches.’
‘Ah.’ I nodded encouragingly.
‘Yes. This salad with that, all sorts of stuff!’
The sharp-minded among you may have already deduced that, since he was telling me this while I was paying, we may not have actually received the most unusual menu item or combination of items available that evening.
What we were handed was a protein-packed combo dreamt up by some free-thinking gourmand and assembled by Dr Moreau – the Meatball Seafood Sensation Deluxe. With Bacon. The first thing that struck me about the Seafood Sensation (an independent menu item, complete with salad and an Artiste-recommend mayonnaise) was the fact that ‘Sensation’ is less often a happy superlative than a worrisome pejorative. For every time it is prefaced by ‘Dancing’, ‘Singing’ or even ‘Banjo Playing’ there is the other kind of sensation. Three examples which spring readily to mind are ‘sinking’, ‘gurgling’ and ‘burning’. These are not the sensations which sell sandwiches. These are the sensations which sell pharmaceuticals. Opening the wrapper on our Meatball Seafood Sensation Deluxe (With Bacon) I definitely experienced more of the latter kinds of sensations, rather than the former. It looked like a shotgun wound to the butt hole. With Bacon.


At this point, you're probably picturing Barnacle Bill-style crumbed butterfish or even the odd bit of prawn cocktail. Nuh-uh. The Looming Seafood Sensation of Dread was made entirely of seafood extender. This is a mock-fish substance composed of chicken offcuts, rodents which are no longer classed as vermin and some kelp (which is technically seafood). The meatballs are indeed that: balls of meat, slathered in a thick, read sauce and composed of the same ingredients as the seafood extender, but in different ratios. The Bacon? Well, they can’t mess around with that too much, can they? Nope, the Bacon was good old, vat-grown, sterilised, homogenised, freeze-dried, re-constituted Bacon-brand meat with Bacon flavouring. I hear it’s the first mass-produced vegan bacon on the market. This was a sandwich for the ages, it’s Surf’n’Turf’n’Laboratory and it is definitely edible.

As long as you clamp your lips shut.


When people ask me ‘where were you when William married Kate?', I will, without hesitation, declare that I was in a Subway with some random degenerates calling for a republic.

Subway customer holds ciggie for his son.

The monarchy is all well and good for those who are born into it. Those of us languishing in the backwater colony of Australia must celebrate our criminality, drink beer and eat at Subway, a franchise I’m sure no royal has ever set foot in.

They shall never take ... our cookies!

Subway is a mystery to me. The bread isn’t quite real: it smells bad, it’s pumped out of a tube and when heated, the chemical sludge converts to something like a rehydrated biscuit (like spacefood for astronauts, or an army ration perhaps). The fillings are benign (lettuce, beetroot) or weirdly American and out of context (some jalapeno pickle thing, tuna melt mix, meatball).Where are the sundried tomatoes, fetta cheese, artichokes, and tomato chutney?

Where was anything?

The Earl of Sandwich would not approve of Subway’s ‘sandwich artist’ claims, but to be fair, the kids working there were very nice. They were polite, cleaned constantly, engaged us in conversation, gave us informed food choices and manned the front with neither a manager nor an adult in sight. I’d hire them in a minute. The best service on Gouger Street I’ve ever had.

They were also kids who had been drum
med with Australia’s food hygiene standards, something possibly at conflict with the ‘Subway Seafood Sensation’ crossed with meatball and bacon. In the words of Subway Artiste number one, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. That’s mixing cold food with hot food’. Like, WTF.

In the left hand, surf; in the right, turf; in the middle ... Bacon.

Our companions, Trent and Em, stuck to the cookies; Em wisely decided not to risk the future of her unborn child by eating any of the cold sandwich fillings. I took a bite from the triple meat monstrosity with great reluctance: eating here for our epicurean adventure was bad enough, food poisoning would be taking things too far.

Pictured: too far.

The surprise of the night was that the meat sanger was actually more edible than Subway’s most popular sandwich, the chicken parmie. There were so many chemicals floating about in the strange seafood and tomato meatball sauces that it tasted flavoursome and much more palatable than the combination of items suggest. The chicken parmie was dry, processed and tasted like a manky biscuit.

Subway had neither the lows of Ding Hao (chicken and jellyfish) nor the highs (the ribs). It was just crap in general. I don’t really get the point. McDonalds may destroy rainforests and exploit fourteen-year-olds but the French fries are awesome. I could make a sandwich at home that would out do Subway in a minute. The
strange, slightly astringent but sugary bread can be outdone by a slice of bleached white Tip Top.

Yes, I am a fancy bread person. I eat bread that comes from an Italian bakery and often has no English name. I eat Ciabattini. I have pane burro. Last week I read an article on The Age about the classification of wholegrain bread in Australia. Yes, because I was actually interested in our food labelling laws (I realise someone interested in fibre content is showing their age). I’ll eat rye, sourdough, pumpkins seeds, whatever’s actually made with some knowledge of what bread is.

What am I really saying? Well, just in case you missed it, don’t go to Subway, the bread sucks. In Em’s words, the presentation of it was no better:

‘Looks like a dirty nappy’.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I was interrupted about five times while posting this, for example

I am one of the few lucky people who "need access to Youtube at work".
It's "for work purposes".

But it allows me to perform wonderful feats of magic. Yes, the italics mean that you should read that word to yourself in awed whisper. Let's do it again: MAGIC (oohh aaahhh).

Every time I "need to" watch a Youtube video for "work related purposes", I can make the phone ring. I can have the video there, all queued up, ready to roll for some "work-related" yucks and have it sit there for an hour, while nothing happens. I can be motionless; still, like a heavy rock in a mountain stream. But the moment I click that little triangle, BBBRRRING!! BBBRRIINNGGG!!

'Hi, I'm just ringing up. I've got a question? I don't know if I've called the right place ...'

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ding Hao

Every couple must go through the good times and the bad before they can truly say that they have passed every test given unto them and are ready for whatever may come. For testing times prepare two people for the long, exciting journey of their lives together, safe in the knowledge that they are an inseparable one of mind, yet two of strength. Some couples go overseas together before getting married, some get a dog before trying out those nurturing skills on a child.

We have travelled around the world, gotten married, worked together and had a baby.

These were but tests of our mettle. We are now ready for The Real World and its challenges.

We are ready for:

The Gouger Street Restaurant Epic(urean) Adventure.

The rules are thus (so far)(they may be added to):

1. Every food-serving establishment must be visited for dinner.

2. The restaurant must have its door on the Gouger Street footpath. No laneways, side alleys, upstairs, downstairs or Central Market food stalls. That’s just getting ridiculous.

3. Each restaurant must be sampled in order. No skipping. Nothing is too boring or too zany. We can eat at other places during that time, but that dinner will not be included in The Epicurean Adventure.

4. If a restaurant is open at dinner time and serves something that can be considered dinner, we must attend. Subway is on the list. Gellatisimo is not. Dessert-for-Dinner advocates can complain in the comments. If Coffee Bean can raise a filling club sandwich, they will get a guernsey.

5. We must order a) what the restaurant considers to be its “best” dish and b) what appears to be the wackiest, weirdest most entertaining thing on the menu.

6. If the recommended dish is too bloody expensive for it to be fun, we reserve the right to veto said dish and bitch about how bloody stingy the place is. Not us. Them.

7. Everyone is invited. Everyone else does not have to eat the wacky stuff.

8. We pay for our own meals, therefore, we write our own reviews.

9. We are not obliged to do research, be well-informed or have balanced opinions.

10. We will each write a review and you can read them RIGHT HERE!

Ding Hao - 15th July, 2011

Attendance: Sam, Mel, Triton, Tess, Dougie, Cristi.

Sam - I’ll cut right to the chase. It’s a traditional Chinese restaurant, you want to know how we dealt with rule 5b. The weirdest thing on the menu was … Chicken and Jellyfish. And there were some strong contenders, which eventually got voted down by our supporters for this first restaurant of many. Kangaroo is not traditional Chinese, but was too sane as a stir-fry. Crocodile had a look-in, but I remembered that it is basically chicken. Braised trotter also got itself a support-base, but I had to be honest and confess that I would be gleefully face-first in little piggy’s tootsies before it hit the lazy susan and this didn’t really qualify it for weird, nor wacky. I did try to wriggle out of Chicken and Jellyfish for a few rounds, but there was enthusiastic nodding and so I wasn’t getting out of it without looking like a total wimp.

It arrived first.

Holy yum yum!

It was cold. The jellyfish took up most of the plate and, if you closed your eyes, had the texture of firm sauerkraut. I hate to disappoint, but … it wasn’t half bad. I’ve had worse. I can tell there’s some tendons and chitlins a’waitin’ for me up G-Street, but this was like mildly salty cabbage. The undercooked chicken strips took a little bit of mental stomach tightening, but the jellyfish was, in semi-cured death, much as it was in floaty, stingy life: salty, a little flaccid, terrifying at first aspect and then disregarded in favour of larger flavours. It struck me as one of the things that really, really starving people took up with so many years ago because it was literally that or rocks. But in the interceding years, everyone’s grandparents have forgotten to say ‘Hey kids, we used to eat this crazy shit when it was a mouthful of wobbly, sea slime or starving to death, but now that we have industrialisation and farming and stuff, we don’t have to eat flavourless cartilage treated with salt! We can have ribs!’

Weirdo dish number two was Steamed, Salted Anchovies With Minced Pork and Prawn.

What the hell is that shit.

It looked like it had been served through a sphincter and sprinkled with lawn. I’ve seen better presentation in my grille after a country drive through a locust plague. But really, with the holy trinity of pork, prawns and anchovies, even the three-year-old they’ve got knocking this one together in the bathroom could do an all right job. We have a contender for ugliest meal.

Their claimed flagship dish was the Tea Duck, but I would have filed that one under ‘best kept secret’ Nothing to blog about.


I’m used to Chinese restaurants bringing all the food at once so you can have to gorge yourself pantless and then leave, but the Ding Hao staff brought one little plate at a time. Maybe this was the tip of a new wave in the Chinese dining experience. Maybe they were just confused.

Mele - An informal vote was taken on weirdest dish by our fellow diners. Early contenders were ‘Pork Ribs with strawberry sauce’, ‘crocodile with snow peas’ and ‘chicken and jellyfish salad’.

The chicken and jellyfish salad was not a ‘wonder from the Sea Gods’. If tofu turns your stomach (in-the-what-the-hell -this texture- seems-to-be- dishwashing-sponges-soaked-in-Asian spices-kind-of-way) jellyfish is not for you.

Jellyfish has the texture of slowly decomposing rubber bands and cartilage. It has an impressive way of tasting like almost nothing but repeating on you constantly. Served with this was pink, raw chicken; this dish was a bath of cold, potentially lethal salmonella. Worst thing I’ve eaten in my life, and my nonna made me eat an entire boiled rooster crest once. Lost my appetite but was forced to eat at least one bowl. Reeeeeeeetch. Put me off for the rest of the night.

Sam said it was okay. Monkey’s nuts it was okay! It’s okay if you think Sellotape is a bitchin’ meal. I am wondering if jellyfish is digestible. I’m pretty convinced I’ve eaten ribbons that will line my colon like a tapeworm, undigested for all time.

Jellyfish was a shit idea.

Aniseed Tea Duck, which was the waiter’s best suggestion, was pretty standard. The surprise of the night was the Dry Roasted Pork Ribs, which came out wet, sticky and tasty (as Manuel from Fawlty Towers would say, Che?). It got five out of five votes for being better than the Red Vinegar Ribs at Ying Chow, always held as the gold standard of ribs on Gouger Street for the last five years. So head down to Ding Haio if you love ribs. Don’t order anything else, they were amazing.

Table service was slow and inconsistent. But who cares about the banal details; I wasn’t hungry after the jellyfish. I felt nauseous and only ate the other dishes I had to. So an excellent appetite suppressant; perhaps I should set up a shonky diet and make a million bucks before people realise that it doesn’t work.

On the way home we stopped off at Cibo’s for larks. Here’ s a photo of a fire hydrant that I managed to rip from the earth with my little lady hands. Franzway was disappointed at the lack of water blasting into the air. Can’t make miracles happen, wasn’t lifting the fire hydrant from the earth enough?

True love and jellyfish gave her the strength.

Stay tuned next time for: Subway.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scape is great. Long live Scape.

"Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakely-Cartwright and David Lesley Johnson has all the appearance of a book for teenagers. However, it is no such thing. It is an AU$18.99 McHappy Meal Toy with an ISBN and nothing more. "

My review has been published online and is now on the wonderful new YA speculative fiction e-zine, Scape, for you to gasp at in wonder at how I could so bravely make such powerful enemies in an industry that I actually want to make cash from.

I suppose I will just have to wait out the vampire zeitgeist until class novels are all the YA rage. If that ever happens. The next big thing will probably be time ghosts.

Actually ... that sounds kind of cool.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Anybody here like cats? Fuck YOU!!! Ha!

Most situational comedians I've ever seen:

Hey, you know that thing that we all do every day? You know how it seems quite trivial, right? But let me tell you, that I've just noticed that quite a few people do it. What's with that? Isn't that annoying? There's also a funny noise and face associated with it that I'll demonstrate now.

And have you noticed how children sometimes behave in ways that aren't the same as how adults do? But sometimes they do? I'd like to suggest an overreaction to their behaviour because a non-politically correct reaction to children is quite unusual in a public forum.

Also, I have a crazy friend who's not here tonight because they're doing something crazy. It's actually related in a whimsical way to that first trivial thing I mentioned? Remember that thing? Crazy, right?

Does anyone here take part in a popular but not universal activity? I can tell you that I have a surprisingly incongruous reaction to it!

I watch TV. I've certainly seen some shows and advertisements on TV that are worthy of imitation and comment and I will do that now. I even have an idea for my own version of a popular show on TV at the moment which could be construed as ridiculous. I’ve learned three chords on a guitar and I’ll play the slightly altered version of the theme song for you now.

Heckling, eh? I’ve got a number of rehearsed responses that I’ve practised enough to sound spontaneous, so you are just going to get me slightly more laughs than if you’d said nothing. So there.

Anyway, I have time for one more anecdote which I will relate to that trivial thing I mentioned at the beginning of the show so that I can recycle some of the laughter I got then, without having to think of another pithy insight into the audience’s everyday lives.

Please tell any journalists with cameras how funny and cute you thought I was.

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32