jewin' the fat

Killer Queen Cuisine – Cooking for the UnDomesticated Goddess
April 24, 2010, 10:36 AM
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Thanks a lot Poh. You too Nigella, KylieMyrna – hell, even those women from Better Homes & Gardens are making me feel like a pariah, with their easy-as-1-2-3 bread and butter spectaculars and feed-the-poor-tired-and-hungry enthusiasm for kneading bread and basting flesh. 

Personally, I’d rather pop a Coopers and watch someone do it for me. And most nights, I do. 

See, I suffer the unusual and glorious ailment of living with a Kitchen God. That’s right, a God. Masculine. Dexterous. Full-flavoured. Talented. Gentle. Often sans shirt. And possessed of a natural ability to turn the most banal of canned items into culinary gold. It’s a delicious predicament. The only downside is this: It means I don’t cook. I can’t cook. I have no desire to learn to cook. My mother learned to cook because her mother-in-law is a domestic goddess. My sister learned to cook because her mother-in-law is a domestic goddess. And without a husband or mother-in-law to inspire/shame/berate me into kitchen up-skilling, why bother? 

‘Nuff said.

 I mean sure, I can boil an egg and put together a pasta – if I really tried I could probably marinade a chicken breast and not burn it – but with little or no reason to put myself out (thanks to Kitchen God), I will forever remain a Lady of Lunchtime (and dinner-time) Leisure. 

When I first moved out of home, there was a mad-scramble to accumulate recipes. It  was clear that I would not be mastering complex french cuisine, and so I collected easy, 1 pot standards that would see me through the week and remove the temptation of an ever-rising tab at the local Thai take-away. And they were pretty outstanding. On paper. Likewise, these days, the slow cooker is still tucked away in its cupboard, gathering dust and derision from generations of women who loved nothing more than feeding their loved ones. The carefully removed Food and Wine pages of the Sunday papers are dutifully tucked in and amongst the unopened pages of recipes books, which proudly proclaim simple satisfaction in ten minutes or less. That is, if they were used properly. Or at all. 

I was brought up in a family where women were confined by their gender to traditional roles of domesticity. My father brought us up to become financially independent, educated and self-reliant. Professional fulfillment was ours to take. Except that as well as career achievement and happiness, there was an another hope for three daughters – personal fulfillment, families, yes – but futures filled with more possibilities than just a variety of baked goods.

It’s tough being a woman these days. Body surfing in a bikini is hazardous. Body-scaping for a bikini too. Toddlers are promotion-kryptonite, and nannies are a definite no-no. The higher we climb, the less able we are to manoeuvre between a precarious stacked ladder and a double-glazed 3 inch thick glass ceiling – and now? The competition is only going to become more fierce, as men suddenly realise that the kitchen is not just a place to “mix it up”, and that the nutella isn’t actually a welcome addition to the bedroom, but more like a welcome addition to a batch of brownies. 

But never fear. For every sharply dressed and confident SNAG who grows his own herbs, strawberries and chilli, and who knows the difference between a heavy based saucepan and a large tin bucket, there are still a few sharply dressed, confident and spoiled mummy’s boys who can’t boil the kettle without alerting the fire department. 

Making sure the one you find supplements your skills – that’s personal happiness ladies. And at least one of you will use that damn slow cooker.


Top Ten: The Zionist Conspiracy

In honour of the biggest Zionist day in the calendar year this week, here’s a tribute to the ten or so biggest Zionist-stereotypes, all of whom claiming to hold the key to what a ‘true’ Zionist really is. The reality is, at the end of the day, that Zionism is not a political theory, power conspiracy nor a policy of a government (as detractors/hacks/ignoramuses may assume), it is an ideology which is inherently personal, and interpreted by the individual to facilitate self-determination as a member of the Jewish people.

As it turns out, a bunch of those Jew-Individuals got together a couple hundred years ago and, determined to do more than argue with each other on the value of a state for Jews or a Jewish state, actually set about creating it.

It is neither the plot of the 8th Harry Potter novel, 'Harry Potter and the Zionist Conspiracy to take over the world with superior money-handling skills and uber-developed business acumen mu-ha-ha-ha-hacking-cough-ha-ha!" (HT @ : he's a Zionist - he knows!)

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Under-estimated and Under-age
April 8, 2010, 10:03 AM
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I remember sitting in early morning Prayers in high school, a quietly fuming 14 years old and one detention note closer to threatening to turn the whole institution on its head. No, I wasn’t the kid who called in bomb threats to get out of History exams, nor was I the student who lit the computer room on fire, or the idiot who stood on a chair to get the teacher’s frayed attention and stuck his hand in the fully operational ceiling fan. They were the best of times and the worst of  times …  

Nope. I was a rebel with a cause, and that cause was the hypocrisy I could smell on every teacher in every carpet in every classroom. My school reeked of it, and I recall this morning in morning prayers because that is when I came face-to-face with the woman whose hypocrisy went so deep, even Easy-Off BAM’s poor example of grammar couldn’t have scrubbed it out. Looking back it was a simple matter of insubordination – a refusal to a direct order to open a prayer-book. But I stuck it out, protesting the inadequacy of prayer recited without proper intention, and made an offer of silent meditation in its place. My peace-offering rebuffed, I went to that afternoon detention with a smile on my face, content in the knowledge that I had stood up for what was right, and not submitted to what was expected.Lo and behold, over a decade later, I am (sadly) shocked to happen upon the same stench, thick and repulsive, all these years later. It’s still just as offensive, and although I am an adult, with power, influence and killer letter-writing skills, I can still feel the rage of underage subjection and underestimation stinging my senses.  

Except that this time, it isn’t happening to me.  It’s happening to other vulnerable, underrepresented young JC. And that is something I cannot abide.

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The Amazing Race
January 8, 2010, 8:34 AM
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There is nothing more palatable or popular around a hipster wine bar, WASPish dinner party, Labor luncheon, Liberal cocktail party or Green Left Weekly freegan dumpster than the topic of race in Australia. Race Riots, Race Relations or racial profiling or vilification – it seems in a country built on immigration, we are obsessed with what Edward Said termed “the other” – the notion that we define ourselves, not by who we are actively, but reactively as what we are not – not them, not her, not that.

So imagine my surprise to find, while on a tour with a group of Asians from the Asia-Pacific, that I was, in fact with … a group … of people … from … Asia (!) who were more like me than most white, Jewish, Australian women from Sydney – my supposed racial group. We were interested in the same hobbies, argued about the same political topics, enjoyed the same music, ate the same food, watched the same movies, studied the same topics, worked in the same industry, for the same purpose. Same. Same. Same.

It probably would have been very easy to find differences between us – geography, ethnicity, religion, hair, eye and skin colour – but none of those things mattered – because when it comes to positive human interaction, it is our commonalities that bind us together. Each of us empowered by the same things, each of us made vulnerable by the same fears and threats. United we stand, divided we fall.

Several days ago, a young student was walking to work on night in Melbourne. He was attacked, stabbed several times by a gang of young people, and managed to stumble into his workplace, where he died. Does it matter that he happened to be Indian?

Well, apparently in Australia it does.

I’m not pretending that Australians are the perfect picture of tolerance and respect when it comes to the rainbow spectrum of nationalities represented in Australian society. In fact, Australians, through years of controlled immigration, refusal of refugee absorption and the horrors of the Stolen Generation – well, let’s just say we have our fair share of skeletons in the closet.

The attacks on Indian students, which have dominated the front pages of national and most regional/metropolitan papers, ranged from subtle to overtly violent assault, and largely have included some form of racial taunt or slur. But if the name-calling (curry-muncher, kike, fag, bitch) is just a spur of the moment verbal assault, based on visual or audio clues (an accent, skin colour, dress) – does that necessarily mean the motivation to harm is racial?

Don’t be fooled.  Australia is not an island of anti-Indian sentiment, festering away in the Asia-Pacific, waiting to set themselves upon innocent students. As well as this, Australia may not have the best track record when it comes to personal safety on our streets, and indeed there are neighbourhoods and areas when it is blatantly unsafe and stupid to walk around at night. Wearing jewellery, iPods, walking alone on unlit streets, even on main roads alone – all these things draw attention to the individual, and heighten the risk of attack.

But when it comes to this kind of randomised violence, every person who puts themselves in a dangerous situation is fair game.  To assume that every person who is a minority, or of a lower class, who gets killed/attacked is being hurt because of their ethnic background or upbringing or social status is a little simplistic, and inversely bigoted: “They are Indian, therefore it must have been about their race.”

The sad reality of life is that random, ugly violence is ugly and random, but it does not need a motive, nor a media beat-up to create one.

Older and/or Wiser

First things first – Happy New Year y’all. Here’s hoping that resolutions were made and broken, champagne glasses emptied and dignity lost in the fun and fury. It’s 2010, and we are officially living in a sci-fi novel – Brave New World indeed.

Secondly, an apology – I have let life, love and living get in the way of blogging. Especially because, if you weren’t aware, I’ve been Mid-East side for the past month or so. And in among all the crazy, I have let slide this little venture. … Mostly because I didn’t want to spill Jameson on my lap top. And despite being in the thick of it, with a million and one things to write reams and reams about, to put it simply, I’m on holiday, and cbf. So Sorry.

But then again, it has been a fairly decent while in cyber-terms, so here’s my resolution. I will make a concerted effort to not be a lazy ass, and get back on the blogging-bandwagon. Starting now.

2009 was a memorable year. It taught us the value of money, once we lost it, and the stupidity of trusting financial institutions. It also taught us that hiding $1 million in a mattress can backfire. It began with a bang that shook Gaza, and is still shaking the world, and ended with a silence on Darfur that is deafening.

 2009 was brought to you by the colour Green, and Twitter became (and still is) the protest medium of choice for thousands of young Iranians. 2009 was the year Australian politics got (mildly) interesting – and the first year an Abbott and a Bishop ruled the Liberal Party. It was also the year that his Honour, the Honorable Honorary Jew himself, Malcolm Turnbull, found himself out on his ass (but still with that amazing BRW Richest 200 fortune to fall back on), Nathan Rees locked us out of parliament, and the year Kristina Keneally found the spare set of keys.

Melbourne trains got an overhaul, Brendan Fevola got pissed and lost his shit at the Brownlows, and Nate Myles got pissed and actually took a shit in a hotel corridor. The British Supreme Court ruling against the Jewish Free School told us how to be Jewish, and John Safran’s Race Relations showed us how to be crude – ish.

Settlements, Satire, Sexting and Sagging – we remember 2009. Another year older, but not necessarily wiser. Except for Ron Weiser. That guy is a champion.

For Shame
November 11, 2009, 10:28 AM
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Remembrance Day is a sacred part of Australian culture and history. There is nothing more spine chilling than a nation stopping on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, to remember their fallen sons, brothers, fathers and friends. 

Even as I stood for a minutes silent reflection, I found myself moved to tears at the awesome sacrifice over 102 000 people have made in the name of our country. It is an overwhelming act for many people, and an all to real one for others.

But standing at work is not the only way to mark Remembrance Day. I was only 19, beautifully re-created by Australian hip hop group The Herd(here), the power of Laurence Binyon’s poem, For The Fallen, and services at Australian War Memorial in Canberra have long been a means to remember our fallen soldiers.

But how on earth did the Queensland Retired Servicemens League imagine a RINGTONE would be an appropriate, respectful, and tasteful way to bring Remembrance Day into the 21st Century?


Jew is as Jew does

We knew it would happen eventually, and you know what they say – when the shit hits the fan, everyone gets covered in it.

I’m talking of course about the imminent ruling of the Supreme Court in Britain, regarding the case of a Jewish boy who was born to an Orthodox Jewish father, and Progressive Jewish mother (a Convert). This boy, whom the courts have dubbed ‘M’, was denied enrolment to the Jewish Free School (JFS) in London, on account of the fact that the school adheres to a strict Orthodox-only enrolment policy. ‘M”s parents decided to sue on the grounds of racial discrimination, and so we find ourselves waiting with bated breath for the ruling that could change the very way we define ourselves, and our community as Jewish, right here in Australia.


Up until now this has been protected by the laws in the UK governing religious freedoms, especially in running educational institutions. Now whatever you believe about the validity of a school operating for the youth of a particular religion, this case is basically proposing that rather than a religion, being Jewish is purely a blood-line – a ‘race’.  

In fact, this case goes to the very fibre of what a ‘Jew’ is in our contemporary society – a race, ethnicity, culture, nation, religion – and whether it is possible to have our cake and eat it too. 

I’ll begin with a story. As with most great stories, this is a tale follows a simple and popular narrative structure.

There is a boy. He meets a girl. At a summer camp for young (Jewish) people. Needless to say, by the end of the camp, they are smitten, and they begin to date. He is a good Jewish boy, from a nice family in Sydney’s north, and she is a sweet, funny Jewess from the south-East of the city. The relationship barrels along, sparks fly, plans are made and before you know it, he is on one knee on a beach proposing they spend forever together.

Except that Mother didn’t tell her daughter that when she married the girl’s father, she was impatient, in love and ill prepared for the tumult of Orthodox conversion. So she converted as a Reform Jew. And that her Orthodox-educated, raised and believing daughter, according to Halacha, is one too.

Now at this point, the story shifts focus, and for many, it becomes a crash course in choose-your-own-adventure – something that many are not prepared for at all. I mean, she was from the right side of the tracks – hell, she could even be more observant than he is, but it changes little in terms of the strict Halacha that governs these situations. And again, agree or not with the Jewish law, this is a purely religious standard, for those who wish to abide by it.

But what about civil liberties? Where is the space in this paradigm for human rights? The ability of a citizen of a country to choose his or her own destiny, regardless of their race, religion, class, sex or sexual orientations? Recent calls by prominent Muslim community spokesperson, Keysar Trad to integrate Shariah Law into the Victorian legal system were met with anger and condemned as being an affront to the very independence and multilateralism of justice. For all. Imagine if the laws governing Jewish marriage, death, divorce – were all suddenly absorbed into a secular, national system, and overruled by it. It will destroy a system that thrives in its separation of church and state.

Australians are beholden to a justice system steeped in British traditions, as according to our history as a former British colony. Our government system, our past times, eating habits – even the Jewish community in Australia looks to the London Beth Din to dictate the terms of Orthodoxy, and rule of matters of Jewish life and law.

So what happens if the British Supreme Court rules in ‘M”s favour?

Well, no doubt it’s decision would need to be accepted by the London Beth Din, and changes made to the JFS accordingly. It means that the right to define who is a Jew is taken away from the community, and given to the courts, in direct contradiction to the human rights of the individual to practise their religion freely and without prejudice.

It means for Australian Jewish schools, clubs and organisations, precedents are being set removing the autonomy of the institution, and the religious structure of the Australian community may begin to erode. It means that while our claim as a nation may be upheld, our religious rights as Jews may not be.

It means that the rights of the individual are protected in law, above and beyond the rights of the community. Unlike other peoples, Jews have ensured their survival over millenia through the power of tzdaka, the importance of tikkun olam and the power of the many, over the self-interest of the few. It would be a shame to start now.

It also means that for Australians, we may have to accept that being a Jew is no longer just an ethno-culture or religion, but strictly defined by the word ‘race’, a concept created by those groups who would have seen Jews eradicated – and almost did.

And that is something I, and you, and even those still perched on the fence,  should not be forced to abide.