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ArticleLiving Well

Creative kitchens.

The kitchens of these Gippslandians are places of sanctuary, creativity and nourishment. Let's peer inside.

Oct 30, 2017

Words: Michelle Cann

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The kitchens of these four Gippslandians are places of sanctuary, creativity and nourishment. They are the spaces of individuals for whom food is more than mere fuel, for whom a kitchen is a place where they find deep satisfaction. The materials, furnishings and tools found in these kitchens express much of their inhabitant’s personalities and passions.

Hugh Anderson—Warragul

Retired anaesthetist, woodworker & ambitious home cook.

Who do you share your kitchen with?
My wife Karen and two West Highland White Terriers, Gus and Gracie, our children, grandchildren and lots of friends.

What does your kitchen mean to you?
When growing up, the family home always had guests around and the food was a big part of the entertainment at home. Guests and food led to lots of discussions and that’s really continued on throughout my life.

During my career, the kitchen was also a quiet space to retreat to and focus on food preparation, without needing a great deal of brainpower. I could come home and do something creative with my hands, even if that’s just chopping onions.

A professional interest in ethics led me to appreciate the Greek philosopher, Epicurus. Epicureans are seen as those who are concerned with fine food and wine, but Epicurus’ pleasure was in simple things; in sharing a table with his friends and conversation. That was his wealth, rather than material wealth. If you want to share a table with someone you have to be prepared to cook for them.

What are the special features of your kitchen or the materials used?
The cabinetry is American Oak and the work surfaces are quartzite - a natural stone said to be five times harder than granite. There is a designated space for everything. We make our own charcuterie, so we have a meat slicer, dehydrator, vacuum sealer, and a sous vide machine.

Is there an object or tool that is particularly precious or useful to you?
A chopping board that I made a few years ago out of some American Cherry. It’s an end-grain board, it’s self-healing and it’s just a lovely surface to cut on. My knives are the tools I use every day. The Japanese ones; the Damascus steel ones are particularly lovely. My belief is that if you buy well, you don’t need to replace things. I’ve invested in good equipment and a lot of it I’ve had for 30 or 40 years.

Where do you draw inspiration from in the kitchen?
When I left home I really couldn’t cook. I lived in a share house and I had to learn. At that stage I bought my first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle and Julia Child and I still bring it out today. It’s 45 years old now and it still comes out every week when Karen says; ‘Can we have a soufflé tonight?” I enjoy the book because it’s procedural, it gives you an endpoint in what you are trying to do.

Rachel Needoba—Guendulain Farm, Yarragon
Artisan butter maker, biological farmer & slow foodie.

Who do you share this kitchen with?
My husband, winemaker William Downie and our three children Martha (8), Emerson, (6) and Quentin (4), plus a rotating crop of friends and helpers throughout vintage.

Describe your kitchen, what does it mean to you?
We live in a 110-year-old farmhouse. The kitchen is small. It used to have an island bench, but we removed it to make more space. I was always walking around in circles!

I love our table by iconic Melbourne furniture maker Nicholas Dattner. Bill had always wanted one and picked it out at the closing sale. Designer, Suzie Stanford, made the cushions for our kitchen chairs from vintage tea towels featuring things I love: wine, cheese, botanica, draft horses, kelpies.

Where do you draw creative kitchen inspiration from?
The way we cook might be described as French food via California. I worked in Berkeley in 1999 for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, before being sent to their French office in Beaune, where I lived for nearly four years. Neither of us are really technical cooks. I draw a lot of inspiration from authors Alice Waters, Patience Gray & Richard Olney, so French, in particular, Provençal and Mediterranean-style cooking.

We do lots of slow cooking, like braises, roasts and barbecuing. It’s simple, but flavourful food using the meat, olives, charcuterie and fruit & veg from our farm. We mostly use what we have, including the excellent weekly veggie box from the Baw Baw Food Hub.

Do you have any kitchen traditions?
Bips and Cheer (chips and beer) on Thursday nights! Typically a weekly roast, stock and soup. We often do Sunday lunch with friends and aim to fit that into our lives more often.

Do you listen to music in the kitchen, is there something that you like to drink while cooking?
There is always wine here! I don’t really play music during the week; it’s a tiny house and sound overload happens frequently. But on Sunday’s there’s always music. We’ve been playing a lot of jazz lately. I love the soundtracks to Wes Anderson films, so with the kids, we’ve been listening to the music from the Moonrise Kingdom featuring ‘Peter and the Wolf’ and "The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra" among others.

Michelle Cann—Warragul South
Owner and cooking teacher at String + Salt & creative dabbler.

Who do you share this kitchen with?
My husband Dave, our two daughters Poppy (7) and April (5) and a small Wired Haired Dachshund called Crayon.

Describe your kitchen, what does it mean to you?
In 2012 we renovated and extended our 1950s soldier settlement farmhouse. We added an open plan kitchen, dining and living space that could accommodate our love of cooking and entertaining. I’d describe myself as a ‘maximalist’. Our kitchen houses a slightly too substantial collection of ceramics, chopping boards, rolling pins, vases, coffee pots, art feathers, bottles, etc. A lot of it is housed on a shelf high above our kitchen window. A few of my friends swear by organising guru Marie Kondo’s philosophy that decluttering will, ‘spark joy in your heart’, but while I admit a lot of these little objects are dust collectors, I’m a bit defiant, I just can’t part with them.

What are the special features of your kitchen or the materials used?
At the time we renovated I was really inspired by vintage industrial design, so the space was created with high ceilings and lots of reclaimed materials; second-hand bricks, recycled hardwood floors, old factory pendant lights and reclaimed timber surfaces. Our oversized dining table and island bench were both built by my father-in-law from a slab of reclaimed bowling lane - they’re probably the greatest talking piece.

Is there an object, tool or feature that is particularly precious or useful to you?
Our life revolves around the kitchen table - it’s my pride and joy. It’s a space for projects; puzzles, book-keeping, painting, building Lego, sewing, etc. We’re not too precious about it and it’s consequently acquiring an increasing level of patina. It’s surrounded by a hotch-potch of chairs found from op shops and hard rubbish collection, and can comfortably seat 14, but we’ve crammed a lot more around it.

Handmade Australian ceramics are also definitely my weakness, they’re dotted everywhere around our home. I find appeal in their idiosyncrasy. There is so much individuality in their curves and glazes and textures. I have vintage pieces from Remued and Tasmanian potter John Campbell, as well as lots of contemporary ceramicists including; Bridget Bodenham, Wingnut Co., Sam Robinson, Kaz Morton and Gippsland ceramic artists Sue Acheson, Zac Chalmers, Clay by Tina, and Gooseneck Pottery by Robert Barron.

Do you have any kitchen traditions?
We push aside the clutter most evenings to eat together as a family; put down the phones and toys and talk about our day. It’s probably the one family ritual both Dave and I insist on. We’ve also held a lot of great dinner parties. The most memorable meals have featured, lamb that we have raised ourselves, fruit from our orchard, herbs from our garden and the table crammed with loved ones and a lot of mismatched wine glasses. At our worst, we eat a lot of pasta.

Gippslandia #4 - Food - Home Cooking

Georgina Greenland—Crossover
Micro Baker, Champagne lover, Mama to babies of fur, feather and fleece.

Who do you share this kitchen with?
My husband James, daughter Maggie, (2), and a Ragdoll cat, Luka AKA Phat Boi.

Describe your kitchen, what does it mean to you?
Our Crossover farmhouse is 102 years old. We’ve been renovating the kitchen slowly. It will never be big enough, but I doubt any kitchen would be... at least it’s no longer orange! James had the Blackwood island bench made for my 30th birthday by local furniture maker Christopher Scott. It’s where I prep the sourdough for my business, Real Bread by George, and it adds an immense amenity to the space.

I feel a deep connection to my kitchen. I suppose of all the rooms in the house, the kitchen is the room that I feel most symbolises my ideal self and the things that are important to me: hospitality, eclectic beauty, comfort and practicality. Of course, it’s often a mess too – that’s when it’s more real than ideal.

Is there an object, tool or feature that is particularly precious or useful to you?
I have a rather damaged vintage Michael Lax Copco cast iron saucepan which has egg yolk yellow enamel and a timber handle. I adore it! I love the way it sings atop the austere black cooker, contrasting defiantly against the green tiles. It happens to be very good at making porridge.

Where do you draw creative kitchen inspiration from?
I don’t aspire to be pristine (sourdough and sterile don’t mix); I prefer to bring the natural world inside. I’m happiest when my kitchen is filled with little jars of flowers and herbs, when there are cake and eggs, fresh vegetables and citrus and hopefully some bench space to spare (oh so bucolic!). Molly Weasley comes to mind.

Do you listen to music while cooking, is there something you like to drink while cooking?
To be honest, I’m usually trying to keep my toddler happy and her current favourite music is an unlikely mix of traditional Irish pub jigs and AC/DC. I always drink something while cooking; warm water with apple cider vinegar when I bake early in the morning, fresh peppermint tea throughout the day and wine from whatever hour it seems acceptable to do so.

As well as being talented behind the lens and with prose, Michelle Cann, and her husband Dave, are responsible for Warragul's stylish stores; String + Salt and The Colours Are Brighter.

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