A Boat on the Side
16May/120

Danish Pastry

It was over 30 years ago, I was fourteen years old and on my way to Denmark with my parents, my younger brother, and a new blue blazer, brass buttons aglow.

The vast hotel Europa in central Copenhagen swallowed us up with an efficient and polite murmur and in not time at all the younger members of the family were flying experimental paper planes with a hotel crest on each fuselage. The best flew beyond the road to the waterside, fragile white birds from the 9th floor, escaping from the ignominy of ‘wish you were here’ and ‘having a lovely time.’

My brother and I thoroughly explored the hotel room – cupboards, draws, showers, bathroom and bidet. ‘What are these for Mum?’ Then widened our searches to include corridors, reception areas, dining rooms and car park My parents were content to explore the bar with their friends.

The next few days were pivotal in my growing consciousness. It started with a breakfast like no other. England in 1960 was still rather insular, parochial and rooted in the Victorian way. So breakfast of warm bread rolls, iced butter, hot pastries, chilled fresh orange juice, fruit and strong coffee was a revelation to one reared on cornflakes, porridge, bacon and eggs. The backdrop to this gastronomic delight was equally impressive, I have never forgotten it, white wrought iron tables, masses of palms, ferns and a small lake with a fountain making morning music for us. The huge glass roof was partly open and beams of  clear morning light filtered in and, delighted, danced with the water. Our waitress was a vision of Nordic charm – slim and lovely, her smile spoke eloquently of welcome, her blue eyes spoke of love undreamed, to me, just to me, I was sure. I fell instantly in love, suddenly I knew instinctively what all the fuss was about. I was a gentleman and I preferred blonde waitresses.

They dragged me out of that enchanted place, but its spell was engraved, immortal, in my soul. We walked out into the bright sunny day and, waiting by the bridge at the traffic lights, I was bewitched, transfixed, by the sight of a bevy of blonde goddesses on bicycles. The blustery fresh summer breeze billowing skirts and petticoats – lithe brown limbs and flaxen hair, azure eyes and azure sky, laughter and longing (mine) – I was in love with Denmark. I pondered on what, to me, seemed to be one of the great enigmas of history – why on earth did the Vikings go off marauding and pillaging all over the place when their wives and girlfriends look like this? My mother, intuitively sensing my future downfall, hurried me along ‘Do stop staring Derek, come along!’

We saw sights. We lunched alfresco in one of the delightful city squares, drinking in the atmosphere of this vibrant, summer bright city. We enjoyed the beautiful Tivoli gardens, the flowers and shrubs, anxious to show the world their best in the brief northern summer. The atmosphere was light and carnival, warm colours, smiles, everyone here seemed to have shaken off the horrors of post war depression and realised that life was good indeed.

Nyhavn – Everything a Fourteen Year Old Sailor Could Wish For . . .

Our guide was a family friend, Ky Lindcarson, a debonair rogue about town who, that evening, took my father and I to Nyhavn. The very old ‘New Harbour,’ cobbles, narrow streets, the ancient brick and stone buildings leaning towards each other as if to embrace. Huge iron bollards, bars and Baltic schooners, tourists mingled with unsteady sailors, clubs and naughty bookshops. Ky, bless him, took Dad and I inside one, none of us showing the slightest trace of reluctance. After England’s prudish, raincoated attitude to sex, here was a carnal cornucopia (or should I day pornucopia) of nude ladies (and men) of all shapes and persuasions in all sorts of positions. I was amazed. At that age half an hour in a Copenhagen bookshop was to put me light years ahead of my contemporaries. Ky bought me a matchbox with a swim-suited girl on the cover – the costume miraculously disappeared as the box was opened. Later, back in my British school yard I was eagerly sought after for a glimpse of this treasure, my popularity at an all time high.

My education in this Paris of the North continued in a club call To Kan Ten. Inspired by Hawaii, the place reeked of tropical nights, grass skirts and lurid colours. Hanging from the ceiling and occupying most of the air space was a huge outrigger canoe. How did they get it through the door? Hot jazz and cold beer were the order of the night, and my father’s efforts to get me a shandy were thwarted by Ky. ‘Let the boy have a beer or two,’ he said extravagantly. The boy, of course, readily agreed and so we all sat back, three cool and sophisticated men, ready to take on all that Nyhavn could offer. After a while I needed to use the toilet. Inside, on the wall, was a mural of dancing girls with, of course, the obligatory grass skirts and coconut palms. Having attended to my bladder’s request, I proceeded to examine the evidence more closely – one of the girls’ skirts was painted on a wooden panel, clearly hinged. Carlsberg beer, bravado, and  14-year old curiosity said ‘no contest’ and I started to lift the panel. An alarm buzzer sounded so suddenly that I dropped the wooden flap like a hot potato and, flushed, walked out into the bar. Hoots of derisive laughter, shouts of Danish encouragement, and a ripple of applause accompanied me, scarlet and a little unsteady, as I walked back to my seat.

Languid Landau

Next day, much to my mother’s delight, we drove around one of Copenhagen’s beautiful parks in a horse-drawn carriage. Sentinel pines, manicured landscapes, rhododendron aflame, lakes – it was all very regal in our shiny black lacquered landau with its gold coach lining and brassware polished to a golden lustre. The chinking harness as our two-horsepower engine trotted along, the soft leather and soft suspension added their touches to a delightful journey. Then it was on to Hamlet’s castle at Elsinore – dreaming turrets reaching up into the vibrant northern air. I could see myself pacing the battlements, gazing wistfully out to see, wandering, pondering, about the grounds. I could see myself as the Daneophile (if that is the right word) that I was rapidly becoming – living in a Nyhavn attic studio, painting or writing, thinking about my pretty waitress who would rush in from work with leftover pastries and shower me with kisses and crumbs . . . My parents would understand my need to reluctantly leave England’s drab grey schools and study in Copenhagen’s more exotic quarter.

Elsinore, Hamlet’s Castle

Later that evening I went out for a stroll, ostensibly for fresh air but in reality I hoped for a chance meeting with my waitress, who I am sure would have been delighted to share a quiet café table with that rather dashing, albeit very young Englishman. It was not to be however, my romantic reveries were rudely interrupted by a huge lurching American car whose driver jerked the vehicle to a halt at about forty-five degrees to the kerbside, right beside me. He staggered out ashen faced, clutching his chest. Uttering no sound he fell foetally and, I think fatally, to the ground. I stood and stared as others rushed to his aid. I never learned of his fate for I am ashamed to say I walked on, chastened by life’s fragility. After one or two brushes with death myself in later years I often think back to that day, and wonder what became of the middle-aged Dane – he was probably about my age now. And so began my adulthood – in two days I had become, I thought, a man. I had known love, life, and death in Copenhagen.

© Derek Ellard 1992

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16May/120

Salad Daze

If you’re expecting endless stories about boats and the sea there’s more to come but I do have a non-boat life and one part of it is cooking.

My mother, a wise and patient woman, taught me the basic principles at the age of thirteen or fourteen when it was clear I wasn’t going to ‘grow out of’ any food phobias in a hurry. I had a pronounced aversion to nearly all forms of meat so rather than trying to force it on me she said something like ‘Right, my boy, you can learn to cook your own meals – I haven’t got the time to pander . . . . .’  So over the last half a century or more I have learnt a few things about food and cooking.

My father was a journalist who later founded a weekly magazine called Foodnews International which is still going today, so it’s in the blood, if you like. Both he and mum were exceptionally widely travelled and cosmopolitan for their times – most post-war people were flat out trying to recover from the madness of world conflagration to think of travelling to far flung places and returning with exotic recopies. So I was lucky indeed and my childhood was blessed not only in the culinary department, but in many other ways – we owned a series of sailing boats for starters.

One of the many memorable trips mum and dad did was to journey up the West Coast of Canada in a seaplane, ostensibly to report on the great salmon run but when they returned they were still glowing. Which brings me neatly to the current project – that of the ongoing restoration of a Daydream 28 for a local man who lived in Western Canada for many years and sailed those magnificent waters. But first some recipes . . .  . .

This recipe I call Supersalad because not only is it really tasty and satisfying, the ingredients constitute a remarkable medicine chest of natural remedies for all sorts of common ailments like the dreaded Singapore Ear and the Valparaiso Rot. Eat this and you’ll hear your body saying things like ‘Oh thank you, thank you, I’ve put up with all this crap – junk food, booze, drugs – for years, so it’s about bloody time.’ That’s your body talking. Not mine, of course – mine is merely quietly appreciative of my culinary efforts.

Supersalad for Four

A Lettuce

Ingredients (organic where possible)

  • Assorted green stuff equivalent to about half an iceberg lettuce, mostly crisp inner leaves
  • A big handful of fresh mint leaves
  • A good handful of fresh basil roughly chopped
  • 1 red capsicum cut into chunks
  • 1 crisp apple (Pink Ladies are perfect) chopped into cubes
  • 1 small or half a large continental cucumber, sliced (delicately please!)
  • 2 or 3 celery stalks coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 quartered ripe tomatoes, preferably ones you can taste
  • 1 big handful of fresh been sprouts or any sprouts except alfalfa which I don’t like even though Annette does. Actually I don’t care for snow pea sprouts either, I suppose it’s those long stringy bits but anyway . . .
  • A few slim slices of white or red cabbage finely chopped
  • Fresh ginger – about as much as you fancy – I’d be slicing a couple of walnut-sized pieces into very fine strips.
  • 1 good clove of ‘Russian’ garlic or any non-Chinese garlic for that matter – in fact let’s declare the whole meal a Chinese-free one (unless you are in China) – support your local (in our case Australian) garlic growers – just don’t try kissing them, that’s all . . . . anyway chop it into tiny bits and make sure it’s dissipated throughout the salad.
  • 1-2 limes, halved and juiced
  • A good pinch of sea salt – do you expect anything else from a boatbuilder!
  • A table spoon or 2 of local non-heat-treated dark honey – ironbark is nice but for extra medicinal value go for NSW Jellybush or New Zealand Manuka 5+
  • A slurp of extra virgin olive oil – now there’s a lot of controversy about what actually qualifies for extra virgin – some of the big oilies are ruthless bastards and not above calling any old sump  oil ‘virgin.’ And while we’re on the subject, what’s this ‘extra virgin’ anyway? I mean you only get one shot at it and the sooner lost the better I  say – extra just doesn’t equate. And then there’s the one about the ex-virgin who’s lost it but still got the box it came in  . . . . . better stop there . . . .

Now for the fun bit – toss it around without splashing anything or getting it all over the floor – some one’s bound to notice you pulling bits of lettuce out from under the fridge and putting it back in the bowl – not a good look.

Serve with ripe avocados – they grow well here on Tamborine Mountain, very good and cheap.

Now sit down and relax for a bit – it’s been tough so far. Now for what I modestly call:

The Best Potato Salad in the World

A Dutch Cream Potato

  • Cook a kilo or so of good potatoes – Dutch Cream, King Edward or Nicola are good, scrubbed, not peeled. Cook until they are just firm but properly cooked. Cool off – the potatoes, not you, then dice but not too small
  • Add a small jar of Dutch or German whole egg mayonnaise and about 250 ml of cream
  • 4 or 5 hard-boiled free-range eggs (shells removed) well diced
  • One good sized bunch of chives finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of dill seeds
  • A good grind with the black pepper mill – a bit more than that, go on – let’s taste the stuff
  • About a teaspoon of sea salt

Now fold the lot carefully over and over until it’s all mixed together and looks the part. Of course you can vary the ingredients – I never measure anything, I just chuck it all in the bowl but use some common sense – if it doesn’t taste right, don’t come moaning to me.

Note: if you are running short of time and the guest are already on their way you can dice the potatoes first and put them in a large saucepan with the eggs. When cooked (only about 10-15 minutes) you can strain and rapidly cool them, eggs and all, by repeatedly rinsing in cold water.

Red Bean and Sesame

A Selection of Red Kidney Beans

  • Drain and rinse about one and a half cans of red kidney beans and put them into a bowl
  • Cover a big hot cast iron frying pan with sesame seeds and a pinch of sea salt (don’t use any oil) then stir them with a wooden spoon until they are golden brown, verging on burnt then quickly remove from pan, let them cool off a bit and empty them on to the beans
  • Drizzle with sesame oil and a few shakes of soy sauce
  • Spoon it all around a bit – the seeds should cover the beans

Serve with hot jacket potatoes – I mean straight out to the oven when everything – I mean everything! else is on the table. Open ‘em up and add lots of butter and don’t give me any of that cholesterol crap, either. Add salt and serve with some good quality cheeses. Here on Tamborine we are lucky to have a master cheesemaker who runs Witches Falls Cheese Company but choose cheese carefully – there’s an awful lot of over processed rubbery stuff masquerading as cheese out there. Anyway, their triple cream brie or washed rind cheddar tastes just like it should. They also brew their own beer too and very good it is. Over the years I’ve been compelled to taste the brews on a number of occasions to make sure the drinks are of a consistent quality. The situation will, of course, have to be closely monitored will into the future. So what more could you want – here’s a link http://www.witcheschasecheese.com.au/

Lastly this free plug could well have a positive effect on my remuneration or at least ensure products at staff discount – cheers!

Now back to boats and the one at the brewery is a Daydream 28, a rather nice 1950s designed double-ender with a bermudan sloop rig. Some pretty serious restoration is involved – here’s some photos of work in progress. We’re building a whole new cockpit which will be pre-sprayed and inserted in the big hole aft of the cabin.

Daydream Cockpit Under Construction

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