We welcomed Doug home from Italy with open hearts and the promise of one of Ted's home cooked meals. Despite having shared all manner of intimacy with TC over the years, none of us had ever sampled the fruits of his kitchen. Moreover, beyond watching him microwave a hot chicken roll in 7/11 at 3 in the morning, we had never actually seen physical evidence of him cooking anything at all. Yes, there were the dirty plates strewn around the floor of his living quarters, encrusted with the desiccated remnants of what appeared to be the leavings of the Piltdown Man's last meal, but these offered nothing in the way of proof beyond affirming that the fickle bird did, on occasion, actually eat. Now, years of speculation and scepticism were reaching a nexus; a singularity. Ted, a fully ordained minister of the High Church of the Carnivore was about to cook for my fragile, morally delicate, vegetarian soul.
Doctor, similarly inclined towards a sensitive brand of herbivorism, was obviously not prepared to risk martyrdom at the sacrificial altar of Terry's heretic faith. He and Monique had Harper and Zephyr in tow, claiming the late notice had left them bereft of baby-sitting options. I searched the inscrutable face for a sign, a tic of nervousness that would betray his excuse as a lie. Nothing. If the story was a ruse then he was playing his part like Olivier doing Hamlet to an opening night at the Old Vic. He greeted Doug and Jane expansively and quickly settled in to look at the developed results of those few rolls of film that Doug hadn't managed to leave in the hotel back in Europe. This amounted to roughly fifty percent of the bulk footage shot and still captured the essence of the holiday in fine style. I went to watch the 2 boys bash the shit out of Doug's electric drum kit - these days permanently installed in Ted's music room - and was upbraided by Jane for having allowed my attention to wander. The rebuke, though mild and offered in good humour, roused me like a bucket of cold water in the face and I quickly resumed my place at the dining room table, launching into a series of probing and interested questions as to the nature and circumstance of the visual documentation on display.
Suddenly, Doctor was gone. With minimal fanfare he took his leave and the gathering was left momentarily rudderless, in the doldrums like a Portuguese ship without a sail. I felt his absence particularly keenly, as it left me the only out-of-towner in this urbane inner city milieu. For a time I sat awkwardly, out of my depth as the conversation ranged across a series of topics I could not possibly hope to understand. The names of impossibly hip cafes rolled over me like waves swamping a weak swimmer. Latte, flat white, cappuccino - unfamiliar terms assailed my uncomprehending ears like alien messages from a distant galaxy. I cursed my simple country upbringing; a Spartan life of early mornings, hard work and fealty to a harsh overlord, and resolved to make the best of it.
Feeling the first pangs of genuine hunger, I realised that I'd yet to see Ted venture anywhere even remotely near the kitchen. Had it all been a cruel hoax, our giddy expectations set to be dashed by a knock on the front door, the smell of tepid pizza and the hurried scramble for loose change? Quietly taking leave of the celebrations, I stole unnoticed into the galley. The benches, a table and all cupboards remained unnervingly free of fresh produce. The refrigerator likewise betrayed no evidence of a recent visit to the supermarket, its shelves unencumbered by the burden of anything that could reasonably have been fashioned into a meal fit for human consumption. From where was Terry planning to conjure this much-anticipated repast? Feeling it rude to inquire too deeply, I kept my counsel and returned to the party, consoling myself with a few biscuit crumbs I managed to impress into the end of my finger from a plate long since cleared of its erstwhile bounty.
As each minute passed I grew weaker, my stomach now distended like a scale model of a Montgolfier balloon. The situation was becoming desperate for me. If I don't eat within half an hour either side of an appointed hour that is determined at my discretion, I become highly rude, obnoxious and, ultimately, homicidal. It would not do to have such a festive occasion ruined by Terry's lack of consideration. Time was running out.
And then, salvation! Just as I was dialling directory service to see if I couldn't get Bob Geldof on the line, I looked down to see a promising looking dish placed directly before me. Though severely debilitated with malnourishment, I somehow found the strength to offer a whispered thanks and set about investigating its steaming contents.
Ted had played his hand like a card sharp at the MGM Grand. Haute Cuisine at the layman's table is a deeply fraught enterprise. An image of Ted, wincing in his best novelty kitchen apron as he pulls a sunken twice-baked goat's cheese soufflé from the oven is not one that comes readily to mind. Nor are the salty rivulets searing his cheeks as he throws the whole ruined mess ruefully into the bin, all the while ignoring the sympathetic remonstrations of his guests, tears that Ted could ever cry. Ted is a man who plays to his strengths. When he picks up a guitar, he never reconfigures the tuning into some long lost Zoroastrian scale so as to compose a 70 minute concerto detailing the continuous struggle between Ormazd, the god of creation, light and goodness, and his arch enemy, Ahriman, the spirit of evil and darkness. No, he plays the same 80's lead break he's been playing since the 80's. That's his strength. So is pasta and that's what he cooked.
An exploratory fork found the bowl filled with perfectly al dente ribbons; dressed in a rich tomato sauce studded with olives, roast capsicum and a hint of chilli. With a mouth full of warm spaghetti strands, I endeavoured to convey my appreciation to Ted with an elaborate series of encouraging facial gestures and finger signals. Across the table Doug and Jane ate in a quiet rapture, momentarily lost to us. Temporal reality had become highly fluid and they were back in Italy, at that little place on the Amalfi coast where the waiters spoke no English and the Chianti was served in quaint little carafes. Adjacent to me Ted munched on, oblivious to the power that his meal was having on his fellow diners. He occasionally downed his cutlery to embark on some anecdote or other, the veracity each of which seemed dubious at best. Presently, Doug came back from Amalfi and announced himself full, a proclamation that I took as a cue to lean over and secure his half-finished bowl for my own edification. The wine flowed like the Arno through Florence. I offered wholehearted encouragement as Doug removed the cork from another bottle, offering up some woggy looking plonk he'd brought back from Iti-land and ignoring the cheap bottle I'd arrived with and hoped, with a little luck, to be able to steal back home with me. I decanted my portion directly into a small wine skin I carried with me to add a rustic authenticity to just this sort of occasion and scoured the table for more leftovers.
At length the party declared themselves sated and we retired to Ted's salon - in this case doubling as his couch in front of the TV - for port and cigars. Finding ourselves somewhat short on the particulars required for this undertaking, we settled for a top up and a view of Terry smoking a Special Filter out on the balcony. We quickly fell into an animated discussion on the politics of globalisation and Third World debt, just as quickly exiting upon realising that no one in attendance had a fucking clue what they were talking about. Thereafter we contented ourselves with watching Terry and Leah play DJ, adding and removing discs like kids flipping burgers in McDonalds, on a stereo that frankly, seemed alarmingly underpowered for a noted audiophile like Ted.
At around 1 am I took my leave, citing irreconcilable boredom and a general indifference to the future progress of the evening. Whilst I'd enjoyed my night I knew that this kind of bourgeoisie indulgence threatened to leave me soft and out of touch with the common man. Thankfully I'd brought my Homeless Bum and Itinerant Beggar kit, a motley collection of bedraggled clothes, worn out shoes and false beards. I recovered the kit from the boot of my car and changed quickly, spending the rest of the night walking the streets affecting an exaggerated form of manic psychosis and unhinged dementia in a determined effort to keep it real.
A week or so later the scientific world was shocked to discover that we had a gig. Having declared that all future Fauves shows would coincide the passage past Earth of Halley's comet, several major world bodies were left red-faced to find us travelling to San Remo - last stop on the mainland before Philip Island - to renew our warm association with the quaint seaside village and its taciturn but warm-hearted denizens. Across 5 or 6 visits to the Westernport Hotel, we have somehow always managed to attract a crowd. One particularly recondite area of relativity theory posits that a strange quirk in the laws of electromagnetic radiation has left San Remo at least 7 years behind the rest of the country in discovering how out of favour we have become. The resultant audiences, though hardly overflowing with enthusiasm, have always been of a surprisingly substantial nature.
This night, however, did not bode well. After first consulting the Oracle at Delphi and being told in no uncertain terms to expect a small crowd, an early afternoon phone call found me clashing heads with the day manager over the issue of soundcheck. The fact that he seemed to have 2 of them - heads that is - left me at a distinct disadvantage, and we terminated the conversation agreeing to disagree, except on the question of whether or not the other was a fuckwit, a matter on which we were both in complete accord.
At some point during the day it emerged that Doug had lent his drum kit out while overseas and had returned to find it still resolutely on loan. With the beneficiary of Doug's unfailingly generous nature uncontactable, we were left with no option but to pack the electric kit, a lightweight and flexible alternative hitherto only ever used in a live situation one snowy night in a small pension on top of Mt. Hotham. For the rest of us this unforseen change of plans would not pose many problems. Through a second rate PA the electric kit would operate as a perfectly passable imitation of live drums. Doug, however, would look like a dickhead.
After setting up we made the 15 minute journey over to Cowes on Philip Island and Café Terrazzo, our restaurant of choice when dining in the Greater Sth West Gippsland region. In return for an occasional mention on these pages and the promise of a chapter in my memoirs, Terrazzo serves us meals at retail prices with no personal touches beyond the reasonable standard of service that any other patron has a right to expect. Ted treated himself to a large steak while Doctor and myself had pizza. Doug turned a few heads by ordering a chicken parmagiana, a dish more often favoured by Ted and his liking for pub-style cuisine. It was not until Doug patiently explained to us that his choice was a deeply ironic statement on Western dietary trends in the age of post-consumerism that we were able to relax and enjoy his piece of spontaneous street theatre
I have found over the course of contributing to this online diary that the segments detailing our mealtime escapades have quickly become some of the most popular reading on the site. With this in mind I recently published Hungry Like The Wolf: The Unexpurgated Compendium Of Fauves Meals 1988-2003, a 530 page catalogue documenting the contents of every meal we have ever eaten together, including snacks. Chapters dealing with such diverse topics as in-flight food, pre-show nibbles from the rider and complimentary meals at the expense of the record company, approach this unique topic with wit, candour and an unstinting adherence to rigorous historical method. An appendix sets out the details of each meal in chronological order, along with many wry observations on our fellow diners, the quality of the silverware and the size of our tip. Priced at a meagre $79.95, this must-own anthology makes the perfect gift for anyone who is at all interested in life itself. The book is a powerfully human document, wrought with a passionate sensitivity and displaying all the compassion, understanding and empathy that I have brought to my 15 year role as Australia's unofficial poet laureate. My publishers have decided on a limited run of 250,000 copies - this will quickly become a collector's item. Remember, once the initial printing has sold there can only be 4 or 5 reprints so please, buy now to avoid disappointment.
After such a rewarding dining experience, the show was like a bad case of reflux to which no amount of applause could play antacid. A few disinterested patrons milled around the front bar while, beyond the cash register, the patrons were even fewer and the interest similarly diminished. We struggled on gamely, labouring with the twin handicaps of an interrupted preparation and a chronic lack of talent. Half way through the performance I came to realise that there was nothing we could do to swing the night our way. I loosened the reins on the band, cutting the boys some slack, giving them some room to move - a few bars of free time here and there to showcase their solo abilities - and then finally, in the ultimate act of paternal sacrifice, sacking them. Only after several impassioned entreaties made as we loaded our gear out did I allow them to rejoin the band and accompany me forward into the bright yet unknowable future that lay somewhere, just out of sight, along the road out of San Remo.