Food & drink
John Lethlean: Sharing ing a kitchen. Take Three: What’s good at the market. Max Allen: Australia’s newest cellar door.
It glows like a white and grey architectural beacon. I’m looking longingly at it right now. My friend John’s magnificent kitchen. Clean lines of pure white Corian, precast cement and beautiful Calacatta marble punctuated by the occasional icon of American iron and German stainless steel. A kitchen designed and equipped with the best, of everything. Jealous, moi? An (unconfirmed) bachelor with no offspring we know of and an unusual vocation that makes unconventional demands on his time, his home is his sanctuary and the kitchen his most significant investment. When he decided to renovate, it was the kitchen of his comfortable, bachelor-compact home that became the project without compromise.
Behind those self-closing cupboards and drawers is everything you could ever ask for: iconic brands. The kitchen I, and possibly you, covet.
But because he is out a lot, travels for work, constantly on-call, often works nights and weekends and frequently eats on the job … let’s just say a lot of that gear looks awfully new, John.
But ask him for a food processor and, my goodness, does he have a beautiful black American food processor for you. A set of German digital scales and not one but three sparkling Pyrex measuring jugs, all of different sizes. It is a kitchen almost too beautiful to cook in.
We are of different types, John and I, united by a common interest in food and wine, a shared sense of humour and a very close mutual friend.
I am Type M: messy. He, Type F: fastidious. An occasional odd couple.
Little wonder the dishwasher is of a kind that closes itself with an electric motor; cleanliness and order are everything. This should be a clash of fronts resulting in storm and tempest.
Instead, to his credit, John puts up with me for days on end when he opens his door to the interstate visitor.
Rarely, however, do we get much further than making toast in a fancy toaster, opening French cheeses to nibble or pulling another bottle of wine from a sensational, built-in refrigerator where everything from the Fever Tree tonic to the French confiture is lined up in disturbingly neat rows. If I’m in town to eat out, we eat out. But at Christmas, over a well-lubricated discussion about his rarely used but oh-so-elegant black American stand mixer, and the various accessories he still had sitting in boxes behind neat white resin doors, I flew the kite of sausage-making. How much fun would that be? I thought I heard him agree. I don’t know whether it was the porky smear of pig back fat I’d left on his polished cement kitchen bench, or when the mincing attachment for his KitchenAid starting spraying little bits of wettish pork all over the marble floor tiles and cupboards — and us — but there was a moment during the Sunday afternoon sausage session when I realised this was a bad idea.
No matter how good the ultimate product, the look on my host’s face right then was one of undisguised anguish. It was, almost certainly, the first time the kitchen had been this filthy, chaotic and possibly scarred in the three years since the reno. It’s not the look you want to see on your host’s face. It was, as I said, a Sunday. I’d bought the pork, the fat, fennel seeds and chilli flakes; even the salt. I’d gone down to one of those fancy foodie havens where they sell French enamel- ware for mere hundreds a frying pan and acquired the “sausage stuffer” attachment for the mincer for some absurd amount. They’d even sold me a packet of collagen casings, not as good as the natural product but I was a stranger in a strange town and settled for something rather than nothing.
Ready to go. It was like a friend buying a new car and me grabbing the keys for the first fang.
We gave the aforementioned new stand mixer its maiden rev. Pulled the mincer attachment from its box, brand new. We put 2kg of meat and another 600g of fat through the bloody thing, spraying dead pig everywhere in the process (blade installed incorrectly, please read the manual).
We tested the sausage meat in a new stainless frying pan and left it with an (almost) permanent black stain. We went to the web to find a cure for the fat-scarred (but very handsome, not so well-sealed) concrete kitchen bench (fabric stain remover followed by washing powder, lots of elbow grease, and it worked).
Someone decided to make mayonnaise in the neverbefore-used industrial grade food processor and that took an hour to emulsify properly.
Then that same person decided the massive granite mortar usually used as a fruit bowl would be ideal to make a batch of pesto a mano with fresh basil from the garden. What a glorious mess.
Two of us were having fun; one, I believe, had decided the omelet wasn’t quite worth the broken egg. But we ate well that night, despite the stress.
And when I woke next day, the kitchen was immaculate. Perfect. John was smiling again.
We ate out that night. Some things, like kitchens, are just too personal for guests.
There was a moment during the Sunday afternoon sausage session when I realised this was a bad idea
I flew the kite of sausage-making. How much fun would that be? I thought I heard him agree