Consent: It’s not that hard.

I wrote about Hollaback’s campaign against sexual harrasment and assault in clubs, pubs, bars and venues for Daily Life, published 15 August 2014.

One of my favourite memories of a youth spent at music festivals is of the sense of groupthink and oneness, brought on by a combination of alcohol, youthful exuberance and the tactile nature of the experience: crowds squashed together in space, jumping and swaying in time, hugs and dance-offs with friendly strangers. Being part of an audience is more than just bearing witness to a performance; it’s sharing that moment with others. 

Unfortunately, when you get large groups of people together in close physical proximity, some of those people are going to be douchebags. I’m told my rage when people clap along to songs out of time is just something I have to deal with. Sexual assault, on the other hand, I shouldn’t have to develop a tolerance for… 

Read the rest of the article on Daily Life, titled ‘Groping at gigs needs to stop’.

Community Comes Together for Candy Royalle

This article appeared on Gay News Network on 9 August 2014. Get along to support Candy Royale on August 24, or donate via the youcaring.com fundraiser page.

My name is Maeve Marsden and I hate the word ‘inspirational’. I am so desensitised to the Videos That Will Change Your Life shared daily on the book of face that I actively avoid any clips about people who might be construed as an ‘everyday hero’.

And so it was that I almost didn’t click on a video produced by local queer poet and artist Candy Royalle (pictured, above) when it sailed past my eyes as I scrolled down that familiar blur of blue. It was titled ‘Love’ and, with a screencap of a sunset as its holding image, it had all the markers of the kind of thing I regularly dismiss – the memes of misquoted dead heroes and clichéd proverbs pasted over pictures of trees. It was only what I knew of Candy’s reputation as a politically engaged, clever, well-respected poet that led me to click. And I am so glad I did.

Read the rest of the post and watch the video on gaynewsnetwork.com.au

Lemon & Smoked Chilli Potato & Beetroot Winter Salad

My friend Sally came over for dinner last night so we could eat the lemon we grew when she was my housemate. In the time I have owned a lemon tree, it has bore exactly 2 fruits, one we ate last year named Lenny and last night’s delicacy, Lemmy. Sally and I better not have any real children lest we give them such boring names.

I decided to make a wintry salad based on a flavour combo I stole from one of my favourite cafés, Fleetwood Macchiato. Their seasonal menu always has delicious vegetarian options, but lately I haven’t been able to resist the mountain of avocado, lemon, smoked chilli, black sesame, nori, chilli oil and toasty happiness they’re serving up (I add a side of their miso mushrooms for good measure!). I made a version of it at home for brunch one morning, with added haloumi, and last night’s salad was a very successful adaptation. It’s also super easy to make. As always, measurements aren’t exact, because I forget I am a food blogger now so I just make stuff then think ‘oh I should put this on that website I made’…

Ingredients (serves 3 as a main, or more as a side):

  • 4-6 kipfler potatoes, washed
  • 1 large beetroot
  • 2 leaves of purple kale
  • A handful or two of mixed greens (I used spinach, rocket, baby chard)
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes or baby romas
  • Half a yellow pepper / capsicum
  • Half a white onion
  • 1 avocado
  • 6 garlic cloves (less is fine too…)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • Handful black sesame seeds
  • 1-2 smoked, dried chipotle chillis
  • 1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Peel the beetroot and cut into small 1cm cubes. Scatter on an oven tray coated liberally with olive oil and sprinkle over salt & pepper. Get your hands dirty and rub the oil & seasoning into the beetroot cubes. Pop the unpeeled garlic cloves on the tray too. Chuck the lot in an oven preheated to 180 degrees. Keep an eye on the beetroot because I don’t remember how long I cooked it for, but I am guessing 20-30 minutes.
  2. Wash the kipfler potatoes and trim any bits of skin that aren’t smooth. Slice into rounds, thinner than 1cm, but not wafer thin. Steam the potatoes in a steamer til cooked but not mushy. You could also roast the potato slices but I love the texture of steamed kipfler potatoes. Don’t boil them. They’ll get mushy. After you’ve steamed them, run them under cold water for a while and let them cool before you add them to the salad bowl you’re about to prep.
  3. Meanwhile, get rid of the spines in the kale and rip it into little pieces. Splash on a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and massage the kale. Yes. Massage the kale. Pop it in your bowl. I had time to kill so I arrange the salad in nice circles of colour but it’s inessential. The kale and greens and other fresh bits were my outer ring.
  4. Add the mixed greens, thinly sliced pepper / capsicum and cherry tomatoes to the kale.
  5. Meanwhile, soak your dried smoked chipotle(s) in a little hot water to soften them. I removed most of the seeds before doing this because I didn’t want the salad to be overpoweringly spicy. Once softened, pull them out and chop them into little pieces.
  6. Finely slice your white onion and scatter it over the beetroot when you think there’s about 10 minutes left of cooking. Also, sprinkle over your teaspoon of sugar for that extra caramelisation on the beetroot. This bit is inessential, I just like sweet beetroot.
  7. Once your potatoes are cool, add them to the bowl (they were my middle ring) and sprinkle them with half the smoked paprika.
  8. Chop your avocado into little cubes and squeeze some lemon onto it.
  9. When your beetroots are cooked, let them cool a bit and then pop the roasted garlic cloves out of their peel. At this stage, I got a bit excited and smushed the cloves into the beetroot with my hands. You could also do this using utensils…
  10. Pop your garlicky beetroot mountain into the middle of the bowl, so you now have a beetroot mountain, ringed by paprika potato slices, ringed by salady goodness.
  11. Pop the avocado cubes on top and sprinkle the pieces of smoked chipotle chillis over the lot.
  12. Squeeze the lemon juice over the entire lot, shake over the rest of the paprika, sprinkle the black sesame seeds over it and finally, sprinkle the coriander over. Crack some black pepper and a little sea salt. 
  13. EAT

Lady Sings it Better Review (Hayes Theatre, Sydney)

This review appeared on DailyReview on 4 August 2014, for Lady Sings it Better’s Hayes Theatre Co Opening Night.

Australian all-girl cabaret/comedy group Lady Sings it Better has been around for nearly five years now, travelling across Australia and around the world, picking up legions of fans at comedy festivals and fringe festivals as they go. Those fans were out in full force at the group’s first night at Sydney’s Hayes Theatre — familiar with the old material and lapping up the new.

The concept for their act is quite simple — the four ladies (down from their past line-up of six) perform songs originally performed by men as a feminist statement. Through their renditions, they expose the disturbing and hilarious lyrics which have been sitting right under our nose for years. They’re usually delivering the lyrics with a subtle wink and a nod, or just a straight-forward reading, but it’s all about where they lay the emphasis.

Despite such a simple concept, they seem spoiled for choice in terms of material; everything from Tom Jones’ murderous Delilah to Usher’s hilariously explicit Dive.

It doesn’t hurt that all four have fine voices and are backed by a superb three-piece band. It’s not just about the laughs — the musical elements are all first class — quite often, the ladies actually do sing it better.

The performers on stage — Maeve Marsden, Chandra Franken, Libby Wood and Anna Martin — each have their moments in the spotlight, but it’s when they’re bouncing off each other that they’re at their riotous best. They’ve all carved out their own places within the group, and the dynamic is endlessly smooth and fascinating.

Of course, some songs are more successful than others, but this is a group that apparently regularly switches up their set list. Among the comedic highlights are a re-imagined Stacy’s Mom and Shaggy’s It Wasn’t MeBut there are plenty of musical highlights too, including an a capella rendition of Britney Spears’ Womanizer entirely in close harmonies and a George Michael medley. But then songs like Robin Thicke’s undeniably “rapey” Blurred Lines end up being quite unsettling when we’re forced to really listen to the lyrics. They’re definitely getting their point across.

When they deliver a set as hilarious and musically satisfying as they did at the Hayes, it’s easy to see why these ladies have been going strong for five years.

BOOK NOW FOR OUR FIFTH BIRTHDAY CONCERT

Lady Sings it on FBI Radio

We had a great chat with Stephen Ferris and Terry Serio for FBI Radio’s Stagefright on Wednesday. You can listen to the lot or skip head to 59:40 to hear our ranting and singing. If you like what you hear you can come to one of our shows.

Listen to Lady Sings it Better on FBI Radio here

And here are our faces expressing how we feel about singing in the morning:Maeve_Anna_Libby_FBIRadio

‘Insomnia Lottery’, or ‘I’m ridiculous’

I am an insomniac. At about 10pm each night, any careful planning I have done around “getting to bed early” flies out the window and I turn into some procrastinating, self-sabotaging hellbeast who needs to watch an episode from season 3 Masterchef that she found on TenPlay. THEY’RE PUTTING THEMSELVES ON A PLATE, YOU GUYS. 

So, lately I’ve been trying to sabotage the self-sabotager by using a repeated pattern of thought to fall asleep. I’ve been imagining that Jane and I have won 6-12 million dollars (I vary the amount to keep it interesting) and then I set about imagining how we might spend / save / invest / donate it. The beauty of the “lotto meditation” as I’ve been calling it, is that it is so unrealistic that it doesn’t allow me to fret or get anxious about the real world (what I normally do, leading to insomnia). I’ve never bought a lotto ticket so it’s a fantasy divorced from my day to day life. It also involves doing maths in my head which, like counting sheep, I find calming.

Over the last week or so, though, I’ve started to really believe that we might win lotto (I repeat: I have not bought a ticket. InsomniacMaeve is ridiculous). And, with that belief, I’ve managed to allow my usual anxious late night self to filter into my imaginings. No longer do I drift off to sleep joyfully imagining that I am handing over a cheque to the Asylum Seeker Centre, paying off a parent’s mortgage or a friend’s debt, getting amazing clothes tailored in me-size or designing the house of my dreams (it has a slippery dip from the second floor, a massive kitchen and one of these for Jane’s cat).

No, no. Now, the following conundrums are keeping me up:

  • What will I do if Jane and I want to invest the money really differently? Will she be troubled by how much I am choosing to invest in an all-expenses paid international tour for Lady Sings it Better? Will our good fortune spell the end of our relationship?
  • Will my siblings resent me if I don’t give them enough money? 
  • What actually happens when you win lotto? Who do you call? Are you expected to do media? What if I don’t want to tell anyone I’ve won? Will people find out who I am, come to my house and rob me?

Despite being anxious and overthinking things, I still want to win lotto (I repeat: still haven’t bought a ticket). Last night, I climbed into bed and attempted to sleep. After much consideration of the above questions, at around 1am, I reached for my phone and googled “Australian lotto with best odds of winning.” After a further 15 minutes of reading a wikipedia entry on Australian lotteries (Powerball offers better odds of winning any prize, OzLotto offers better odds of winning the top prize), I put my phone down and admitted that my “lotto meditation” was no longer an effective means of falling sleep.

Anyone got a better suggestion?

Hearty Mushrooms with Provolone Polenta

To put it bluntly, this was bloody delicious. I couldn’t decide which mushroom dish from Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty‘  to make so I combined two and the result was perfect for a wintry Sunday evening. It should be noted that I made some mistakes and didn’t have some of the ingredients I was meant to have, so it’s possible – indeed probably – that an even more delicious version of this dish could be made, if you had, for example, more than two kinds of mushrooms or the patience to let the cheese fully brown on the polenta.

The two dishes I adapted were ‘Mushroom ragout with poached duck egg’ and ‘Mushroom and herb polenta’ from ‘Plenty’.

Ingredients 
Serves 2

  • Butter and olive oil
  • 4 large portobello mushrooms
  • A handful of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Half a teaspoon crushed dried chillis
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of truffle oil
  • A handful of rocket / baby spinach / other fresh leafy greens to serve, with a small squeeze of lemon on it

For the polenta

  • 1 cup instant polenta
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • a few shavings of parmesan
  • pinch salt and black pepper

Steps:

  1. If your polenta isn’t instant, you made need to get it on first. Most polenta packets will have instructions on the back. Follow them!
  2. Soak the porcini mushrooms in enough boiling water to well cover them and stand aside (about a cup).
  3. Meanwhile, fry your mushrooms in batches in a hot pan – I’d use a heavy based deep fry pan. You only want to cook one layer of mushrooms at a time so they they get browned. For reasons unclear to us all (I think I was distracted by the tv), I did one batch in butter then the second in olive oil. Ottolenghi says to fry the mushrooms in oil, for what it’s worth. Put the mushrooms to the side while you…
  4. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan and fry your onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes on a medium heat – you don’t want them to brown. Add the chilli and chopped garlic at the last minute and give it a stir before you add the wine, but don’t let the garlic brown or burn.
  5. Add your white wine to the pan and heat it up. Take the soaking porcini mushrooms out of their liquid and squeeze out any excess. Pop the porcini in the waiting bowl with your other mushrooms and pour the soaking liquid into your pan with the wine and vegetables.
  6. Add another cup of water, all of the herbs except the parsley, the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, pepper and salt (I used rosemary salt but any good sea salt will do).
  7. Boil your sauce / stock til the sauce reduces to about a cup. Taste it and make sure it’s tasty :-)
  8. Meanwhile make your polenta – if it’s instant. Follow the instructions on the packet, adding pepper and salt.
  9. Strain out your vegetables leaving only your sauce. It’s up to you how thorough you want to be with the straining. The recipe suggested fully straining the sauce, but I just scopped out the carrot, celery and the woody herbs (bay, rosemary) with a slotted spoon so there were still bits of garlic, onion, thyme etc.
  10. When your sauce has reduced down, re-add your mushrooms (both the fried portobello and the porcini) and cook away, letting the sauce reduce further.
  11. Add your parmesan shavings to the polenta and taste it to test the seasoning. It’s up to you how you want to incorporate the provolone. I put my polenta into the serving bowl, topped it with grated provolone, then grilled it. You could also stir it through.
  12. At the last minute (when most of your sauce is reduced and your cheesy polenta is good to go), stir through your truffle oil and chopped parsley. Pop the mushrooms on the plate with the polenta and a handful of leafy greens with a squeeze of lemon.

I can already think of loads of variations on this dish I could make in the future: add different mushroom varieties, turn the polenta into chips, add cream to the sauce (if I wanted a heart attack), add a few handfuls of puy lentils for a nuttier, heartier version, serve the ragout on mashed potatoes or use it as the base for a risotto… The options are endless. Enjoy!