I'm always somewhat surprised by the fact that someone might be interested in something I have to say. I've been doing this for way too long now and every now and again some complete stranger will ask me for a recommendation for a book, or a restaurant, or an exhibition to visit. My friends, too, use me as a constant source of information, perhaps thinking that somehow I have my finger on the pulse of Canberra. I shouldn't be too harsh on myself - a woman once accosted me outside the butchers to tell me that I did what way too often, ease up on yourself, she said - I am blessed with a job that enables me to find stuff out, sometimes to try things out. Even if I have no idea about something, I am also blessed with an ability to bluff my way through any conversation. It's a fine skill to have.
I'm quite happy to pass on information - bluffed or not - because I understand we're all busy people and we don't have as much time as we'd like to source information, whether it be via this paper (subscribe here) or other avenues. Remember those relaxed catch-ups with girl friends where you'd have a cuppa and a slice of cake and talk about all the interesting things you'd been doing? "Great sponge, Meredith, I really think you'd love this book I'm reading" ... No? Me neither. I have some faint memory of mothers' groups being like this. Those days where you had to do anything to look like you were the fully functioning intelligent woman you once were before a newborn completely fogged your brain. Of course, I'm still reading (something more than Robin Barker's Baby Love), and watching subtitled foreign films (on SBS at 3am while I'm breastfeeding).
I miss those chats. This is why I've once again found myself tuning into Chats 10 Looks 3 with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales. Annabel knows I'm a big fan - she's a big fan of my spicy nuts too - we've been besties since she turned up at my house on tour for her 2016 book Special Delivery. Leigh seems like that super smart friend who actually does have her finger on the pulse but bursts into song every know and again to remind you that she's actually a big dag. Love them both.
But I don't particularly like podcasts. Or I'm yet to find the right one. Yet my occasional involvement with Talk of the Times, The Canberra Times' very own podcast has reignited my quest to find some good ones.
I like Chats 10 Looks 3, because it is kind of like catching up with a couple of girlfriends for a natter. Sure they'll occasionally get serious - like many women around Australia at the moment - to discuss serious things. But I like their recommendations.
The blurb on their website read "a peripatetic podcast in which Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb discuss what they're reading, watching, cooking, listening to or irrationally exhilarated by". Would you be interested, occasionally, in the same information from me? No? Turn the page. Here are a few things I'm having fun with this month.
Debra Oswald is the award-winning creator of Offspring and her latest novel, The Family Doctor (Allen & Unwin, 32.99), couldn't be more timely. In Australia each week one woman is murdered by her partner. In recent months our headlines have been full of stories about sexual assaults, from our schools to federal parliament. Yet there's a sense that despite all the rhetoric, nothing is really going to change. But what if there was a way you could stop one woman from being hurt? That's the question posed here in Oswald's excellent thriller.
It's always good to find a show you can watch with the teenage son. We're fans of Superman & Lois, on Foxtel's Fox 8, for completely different reasons. Sure, we're both fans of superhero movies, but this series looks at their personal lives as well. Superman and Lois are a couple of middle-aged parents of two teenage sons, juggling saving the world from evil, with Lois' journalism career and the problems of raising teenage boys. They do a seachange from Metropolis back to Smallville to try and find some semblance of work/life balance. But we all know it's not going to be easy. The boy likes the football scenes where burgeoning superpowers in the boys are put to good use.
At the moment I'm scouring every cookbook I have for zucchini recipes. I pulled the plants out last weekend because I couldn't stand the thought of having to deal with any more growth. Alice Zaslavsky's summer slice from her super book In Praise of Veg: A modern kitchen companion(Murdoch Books, $60) is the best zucchini slice I have ever made. It's light and fluffy, and while the batter looks ridiculously runny when you pop it in the pan, it is almost failproof.
And speaking of vegetables... I was lucky enough to get my hands on a dress from The Good Garment in their very fitting "harvest" fabric. It's covered in leeks and eggplants and avocados and radishes and artichokes. A veritable wearable feast. The Good Garment is a woman-owned and run company that makes the garments by hand. Check them out here thegoodgarment.com.au. I'm sure Annabel, she of the vintage wardrobe, would approve.