Francisca’s Empanadas + stories of the early Berkeley Food Collective.

Francisca’s Empanadas + stories of the early Berkeley Food Collective.

I left the comfort and safety of my home, left behind all the friends that I had forged into family, left behind the town I loved from rooftop to gutter. There is so much for me in Melbourne, but I left because I wanted to see what (and who) else the world had to offer.

I left to meet new people, cook, hear stories, share food, laughter, wine.

I flew in to the USA late sunday afternoon, my first stop on my new life of adventure, and on Monday I was fortunate enough to go to Davis, California, to stay with Francisca Rodriguez. She is an inspiring woman, full of stories of the old days when she worked at the Berkeley Food Collective with her Chilean husband. Francisca is from Mexican descent, and together, along with the other Latin American workers, they contributed one Latin American recipe each to the menu. Francisca learnt how to make empanadas there, both in the Chilean way and the Argentinian way, and I was blessed to have her spend the day showing me how to make them. My first day away from home, and I was launched straight into my new life with a bang – what better way than to be taught empanadas in California from such an interesting, amazing woman.
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Making Korean Gimbap + my introduction to SoMac (Soju bombs).

Making Korean Gimbap + my introduction to SoMac (Soju bombs).

One of my favourite things to do is to cook with friends, and I have been blessed with friends from all around the world in Melbourne. This has the excellent side effect of cooking nights with every cuisine imaginable.

A few months back, my Persian friend Pouya taught me to make a number of dishes from Iran (post on that night here), and tonight, Edward, who previously lived in Korea, set up a cooking night with his Korean friends. We were making Gimbap, steamed white rice rolled with various fillings in dried seaweed.
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Fishing for trout.

Fishing for trout.

It’s my last weekend working with Joint Councils Access for All Abilities – it’s the longest I’ve ever stayed at a job (almost 3 years), and it’s the only one I have loved from beginning to end. JCAAA really launched me into my culinary adventures. My interest in food came early, but my jumble sale of a career of culinary adventures combined with media was instigated by my appointment as program coordinator of the community kitchens. I went to pastry school because it was the same price as a food handlers license. I started a blog because I was cooking so much I wanted to record my recipes. And the rest is history….

On top of that, I met my best friend there. Our Abbott and Costello party routine would go:

‘How do you two know each other?’

Angela: ‘Well….’
Lani: ‘Don’t do it!’
Angela: ‘She’sssssssss..’
Lani: ‘I’m not!’
Angela: ‘She’s ma bawss!’

*both laugh hysterically while question asker giggles mildly uncomfortably*
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A Persian Feast.

A Persian Feast.

I’ve been blessed with some incredible friends in Melbourne. What’s more, most of them join me in my passion for good food. They have been more than willing to initiate me into the cuisines of their home countries, by cooking me their favourite dishes, or in this case, teaching me to make what I can only refer to as a banquet.

I met my friend Pouya through Angela, and he is such a welcoming, friendly man. Him and his partner Shohre are marvellously interesting people and are always a delight to be around. They come from Iran, and have so many stories to tell, and so many friends around the world. I count myself lucky to be counted among them.
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