Food & drink

John Leth­lean: Shar­ing ing a kitchen. Take Three: What’s good at the mar­ket. Max Allen: Aus­tralia’s new­est cel­lar door.

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - JOHN LETH­LEAN leth­leanj@theaus­tralian.com.au

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

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