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First day of winter - sun and lockdown

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

"Even in winter it shall be green in my heart." Frederic Chopin

It's the first of June today which in Australia means the first official day of winter. Ironically today it is sunny and actually mild I suppose - 18 degrees was forecast. But this is Marvellous Melbourne with its time-honoured four seasons in a day. Incidentally - quick aside - I once read somewhere that Melbourne actually has six seasons. I guess the four that we traditionally cling to are based on England and the first settlers harking to what they knew, not to what Melbourne weather actually is like. They only have three seasons in India for example, and most tropical countries just have one. Boring.

Anyway, today I set off on my walk and was struck by the pattern of the sun casting shadows across the moss - yes that's moss not grass - in our 'front garden'. Though I wouldn't really call it a garden. More like a patch of cleared bush.

And note the other non English thing in this scene. The trees have leaves - because they are mostly eucalypts and wattles/acacia with a few other native evergreens thrown in. Not that our trees have vibrant green leaves. They are more bluey/grey or dull bottle green. But it's almost wattle time and soon we shall see their yellow blossoms everywhere. Some are out already. Which weirdly makes everything springlike even though spring doesn't come until September.

"What fire could ever equal the sunshine of a winter's day?" Henry David Thoreau

The first Australian barbecue that I ever attended was in winter. Well we arrived here in June - on June 12th - the Queen's Birthday - as it happens. In Australia there is a Queen's Birthday holiday in June - no such thing in England. Well she does have two birthdays - an 'offical' one and a real one, but no holiday for the populace as here. But the Australians are into weird public holidays - horse races, footy finals, the Royal show ... But back to that barbecue. There we were with our new friends from David's workplace - mostly English ex-pats - out in the bush somewhere, standing around a fire, cooking sausages and drinking beer probably. This was before the wine renaissance. And we were cold. All rugged up and thinking this was stupid - but it was fun. I have no memory of how we cooked those sausages - over a camp fire, or more likely on somebody's portable barbecue. I'm pretty sure it wasn't on a gas fired one in a park.

When I think about it, a barbecue is probably a better idea in winter here in Melbourne. In summer it is dangerous, although we are allowed the gas and electric barbecues I think. But they're not barbecues really are they?

I thought about winter and food the other day as I skimmed through the latest Woolworths magazine. They always, Coles too, have a section on seasonal food, and this time they were featuring potatoes, citrus and broccolini. A day or so later I was sent to the supermarket to get some oranges but (a) they were expensive and (b) some of them were imported from California! In season should mean cheap but this did not really seem to be the case for citrus. Mind you I pass lots of gardens on my walks with lemon trees laden with fruit. Only some potatoes were cheap-ish too. But other winter things like cabbage and carrots and pumpkin were - and that broccolini. On the fruit side of things, a few kinds of apples were cheapish, but pears were the bargain really.

The other thing about winter food is the stress on casseroles, soups and comfort food. Fair enough I suppose. I guess if you're cold you are not really going to be tempted by salads and ice-cream, but you could be tempted by all those other lovely summery dishes like fruit salad, kebabs, grilled fish. And watermelon. Coles has a special on watermelon. Surely that's a summer thing? But then I guess Australia gets a bit confused over seasonal produce because of the far north. I see that avocados are relatively cheap and I think they mostly come from the far north.

In the past we were indeed limited to all of those wintry comfort food dishes, because of what was available in our greengrocer shops, but of course, today you can get just about anything all year round - either from overseas or a greenhouse somewhere or from the frozen food section in the supermarket. And here in Australia we can get stuff from the tropics anyway. You might just have to pay for it. I mean have you noticed the price of bananas? It is interesting though isn't it that the foods that are winter seasonal, are also the kind of foods that lend themselves to those wintry comfort foods rather than the summery salads and suchlike. A godlike coincidence.

I like winter here in Melbourne. I went for a walk this morning and took a few photographs. This one shows how blue the sky was - still is. And it was that colour. The air is crisp but that's just a question of wearing the right clothes isn't it? And if you go for a walk on a day like today, you are down to the T-shirt before you are even halfway. And tonight we shall be cosying up beside a fire - although I always feel guilty about this in the times of climate change.

But we will be having something wintry for dinner - a meat pie made from my leftovers from my beef and carrot stew of the other day. I might have to boost it with something though. Maybe some red cabbage. Also very wintry.

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home." Edith Sitwell


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