Now, I have no intention of writing about Paul Simon tonight– I do however really love this song– and find any given opportunity to have a wee giggle at those fucking sneakers of his– refreshing somehow. He’s so cute. And so Jewish. Naturally, I’ve always wondered who Al was. And am yet to meet a roley-poley little bat faced girl. Funny.

No, what I wanted to write about is the Australian series of Masterchef. And not just because it concluded last night– but along with it came the conclusion also of the contract I signed with them in October of last year stipulating that I not write about my experiences with the program until the season finale.

Home dry.

The beginning is a good place to start for this story, I think…

I had been umming and arring with the idea of doing the ten days of nobel silence meditation retreat: Vipassana for months. And not just toying with the idea but really committing to it. It was, as I said, October of last year and I’d been working rather laborious odd jobs in Sydney since I’d moved the year prior. I was looking for something and to be honest, not really finding much. So I figured Vipassana would sort me out, good and propper.

It’s no easy feat scheduling 12 days off when you live in a big, expensive city so once I’d finally signed up and managed to clear my dairy for the fortnight I grew terribly frightened.

Frightened of all number of things—Frightened of what I’d find, frightened of what I might potentially miss. Frightened of not being able to hack it. Frightened of caving in. Giving up. Not making the entire 10 days, which is in fact 12, technically. Frightened of loads of things.

Still I packed my bags and sauntered out to meet a friend for breakfast. A good breakfast. A big breakfast. I’d been forewarned of the porridge antics at Vipassana and was most eager to chow down something really carnal before so much Buddhism.

My friend was funny over breakfast. Curt, somehow. He left without paying which was cause for recap—I replayed the conversation over in my head, looking for clues:

“It all sounds a bit fucking self-flaggalating Al. If you’re that scared? Why do it?”

“Because that’s the point. I can’t not do the things that scare me. It doesn’t make sense.”

I didn’t mind that he didn’t pay for his breakfast. He’s paid for loads and loads and loads of things for me in the past—What caught my attention was more the motivation behind his behavior—rather than what he did. Because that doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. Why he did it, in my opinion, I fascinating. I kind of got the sense that he felt annoyed with me, confronted somehow, the way people get when they realize you’re doing something they could barely fathom for themselves. You’re scaring them, in a way. And they don’t like it. So they do things like peck you on the cheek and then leave without paying.

I settled the bill, ducked across the road to collect my belongings and then stopped in at my neighbors place to give her my house keys so she could water my plants while I was away.

I was sitting on her futon rolling what I knew would be the last of a great man cigarettes for some time when my phone rang.

It was the producer for Masterchef. She was phoning to inform me that some 8000+ applicants had been whittled down to a large handful, of which I was one.

I laughed.

“That’s so funny.”

“Why’s that?” She asked.

“Ar because… I laughed again… I’m about to get on a train to the Blue Mountains for a Buddhist silence retreat for two weeks. So.. you calling is kinda funny.”


We discussed the logistics of the audition, my application and she commended me on my phone manner.

I laughed again.

I said, “Listen, I’m really flattered, but can I get back to you? So, in an hour?”

My train was due to leave in an hour and I knew I could decide in that time. I had made myself so nervous for weeks about doing this Vipassana thing, it seemed fortuitious that an opportunity to reneg, in such a qualified manner, would rear it’s little head.

I had to think about it.

“Alexandra…” She continued… “Need I remind you we’ve had more applicants this year than we could ever have imagined. We’ve spent a lot of time culling through a lot of paper. And we’d really like for you to come in and audition on Saturday, this Saturday.”

I said that I was flattered but that I needed the hour to think. That I would either audition Saturday or I wouldn’t and that an hour what make no real difference at all, to her, for her.

So she agreed.

She commended me on my phone manner as we ended the call and I stared at the wall for a bit, digesting exactly what had just happened.

My friend was leaning against the wall in the divide between her kitchen and her bedroom, listening–

“Am I making tea or vodka? Was that Masterchef!?”

The timing was pretty fucking tidy—give it that.

And she liked me, I could tell.

Which is what it all comes down to in the end, doesn’t it? They’ve got to like you.

And she did. I could tell. And I liked her. Big hot shot producer, calling me, with a lovely deep voice, telling me what to do—Excellent.

I’d mentioned to her that I was somewhat spun out by the fact she phoned when she did—Had she phoned at 3pm instead of noon my mobile would’ve been off for 12 days.

The timing was pretty good.

So I went for it.

I watered my own plants and spent the next three days ensconced in all things food.
I read. I wrote. I researched. I worried. I wondered what the fuck to make. What to wear. How the hell I’d manage to get to Ryde so early on a Saturday, so full of nerves and loads of plates.

It was good fear.

And a bipolar opposite, really, to Vipassana.

My dear friend– who’d not paid breakfast that morning– took me out for dinner at Fratelli Fresh in Potts Point and spent a small fortune on what he labeled, “Inspiration.”

And it was.

We had the most banging meal—my goodness—it was so lovely. And I was such a nerd, all night. Memorising the menu, picking the staffs brains, eating small morsels of everything so as to observe, and to remember.

I was really skinny on cash at the time and was somewhat panicked by how my budget might effect the kind of dish I was to plate up on Saturday.

And there were rules, of course.

And rules always make me nervous.

The dish would be able to be heated upon arrival and if I’ve learned nothing else from my years spent auditioning, shooting, rehearsing—it is that time is by no means something you can depend upon—There’s going to be a lot of waiting. Loads of the stuff.

With this in mind I wondered what I could make that would be indicative of me as a personality, as an entertainer, as a host—and that wouldn’t grow lame or tepid—hours and hours after the fact.

I had lots of ideas.

I make a pretty special sienna cake and a rather lush espresso if my namesake does not serve me so… I considered serving them a high tea of sorts, cold or not, with something really delicate but rich all at once.

But I’m not a desert person.

And the entire angle of my application had been focused largely around Food As Medicine.

Stuff your body needs.

I understand that my relationship with food and health and medicine is separate to the mainstream but I refuse to believe that my story is in any way unique.

I know there are loads of people out there who don’t know shit about food.

Plenty who don’t understand what their bodies need.

And nobody really needs desert, be honest…

I didn’t want to make a desert for the audition. The thought spoiled me. So I threw it in.

The way I cook is entirely social. Nigella Lawson once said in an interview I watched of her with Parkinson that she wouldn’t cook at all if it weren’t for people—

The same is true of me.

I do it to spoil people.
I do it to make people feel good.
And over the years, increasingly, I’ve realized that I also do it to educate people.

I want to share what I’ve learned.

And I’ve had to learn.

A girlfriend recently reminded me of a conversation she over heard in a church pue when she would’ve been 13 or 14. My mother and her mother were talking about me having signed up for Jenny Craig. My mate giggled as she bawked,

“You must have been like what!? 10!? Bloody hell…”

I’d written about my relationship with food in my application for Masterchef during a lunch break at work, ironically. I wasn’t hungry that day. Not for food anyway. And I’d remembered seeing the add briefly, on mute, on TV and knew I had a strong angle and a fighting chance.

So I gave it a shot.

I had some great discussions with friends after the fact, which I’m only remembering now because I’m writing this.

People just came out of the woodwork—From all corners—Excited, supportive, impressed, inspired, so lovely… A friend offered his car, another to drive me, which was great, I was so nervous, I really didn’t want to have to wrestle with public transport and Ryde on top of that. I never go to the western suburbs, I should probably add. I never really leave the city. Except for the beach and the Blue Mountains… but I digress.

I felt ready. Nervous. But ready.

And I felt like I should make my paella.

I shoplifted the ingredients to be fair and worked hard all night, thinking mainly about colour, placement, shapes—

My lover at the time affixed post-it notes all over my apartment saying encouraging things that were spelt wrong in two instances.

I wanted him to go home.

I wanted to be alone.

I wanted to think.

He left which was a fucking miracle and I got an early night, rose early, cooked my dish, got all dolled up and sauntered out to meet the dear old family friend who’d agreed to give me a lift—and who knows, incidentally, a shit load more about food than I do.

He’s run restaurants and B&Bs, he’ put on some of the best dinner parties I think any member of my family has probably been too, he’s really health conscious, and he’s always been remarkably supportive of my siblings and I over the years—so it was an honor really to be chaperoned by him. That day.

We laughed about having to drive to the fucking western suburbs and I dropped my favorite pen somewhere in between my seat and his console.

He told me everything he knew about food in the time we had an asked me when my audition was scheduled for. I was three hours early. My preference really. I cannot stand being late for something I deem really, really important. You know? If it matters, be on time.

So I was really on time.

Oh gawd, I’m exhausted now and I don’t really feel like telling this story anymore—Wordpress has been a real shit all night and my eyes have grown heavy—can I insert a to be continued? Is that allowed? Sure it is…

It’s my year with Leonard Cohen.

I can do whatever the fuck I want.



So to be continued…



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: