Wednesday 14 March 2012

Ukes, Labour Day and Pumpkin facon soup

Monday was the Labour Day long weekend in Melbourne.  It started at the Melbourne Ukelele Festival on Saturday morning.  We saw a few interesting performances - loved the washboard accompaniment to one band and hearing Creep accompanied by ukelele - and I loved the ukelele artwork.  The star of the show for me though was being in the Trades Hall Building, an apt place to reflect on exactly why we were celebrating Labour Day.

When Kari recently posted about International Women's Day and asked what would be our wish for future generations, I piped up with "remember our history".  I have written about this before.  I would also say the same for the union movement.  Too often I see people taking what we have for granted.  Yet I fear that Edmund Burke was right when he said "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." 

Not only do I love history, but I love the way it is reflected by our built environment.  Trades Hall is a great example.  It is one of Melbourne's grand old Victorian buildings.  In the top two pictures of the ukeleles in the Ballroom, you can see that the decor is a bit shabby, despite the red velvet curtains and the ceiling packed with .colourful flags  The place is very much alive though with conservation work being done in other parts.   it seems that there is work being done to preserve the building.  The grand staircase and list of the pioneers of the 8 Hour Movement are more newly painted than the Ballroom.

We need to conserve this building as a reminder of the Trade Union heritage, because it seems that unions' reputations have suffered in recent years.  They have been portrayed too often as aggressive and corrupt.  Last year, however, when I went through the process of developing an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, I was very glad to have our union's support and very sad to see how few staff were members and yet happy to take the benefits of their advice and support.

Much as I would love better working conditions, we have much to thank our forefathers in the unions for the conditions we enjoy today.  WorkChoices showed that we shouldn't take them for granted.  I am glad we have Trades Hall where we can remember these giants of the trade union movement in such a tangible way.  We can see their names on honour rolls, the hollows in the stairs where they have trod, and a giant picture of Gough Whitlam covered in lipstick kisses.

After the uke festival, we went to my friend Heather's birthday party.  Here is her cake.  It was a delicious flourless orange cake.  Sylvia had a tantrum over tomato sauce upon arriving but finally calmed down - if "calm" is the way to describe running non-stop around the tables.  E and I were very pleased to find lots of delicious food - spinach and ricotta pastries, rice paper rolls, chocolate tarts and a gorgeous fruit platter.  We had expected to find food at the uke festival but nothing was on offer and we had existed on some packets of roasted chickpeas.

During the rest of the weekend we did a lot of craft.  We were inspired by the festival to decorate Sylvia's purple ukelele with some stickers and sparkles.  I worked on some cards while Sylvia did her own gluing, drawing, sparkles and stickers.  We managed to see two movies on DVD.  I loved the Descendants which was so amazing that the second film - Another Year seemed ho-hum in comparison.  We also visited my sister Fran and her husband John who have moved back to Melbourne.

At the Ukelele Festival, E bought me a cookbook called What do Ukelele Players Eat? by Rose Turtle Ertler.  It includes recipes and reflections by ukelele players from around the world.  It even comes with a CD of their songs.  How's that for a quirky cookbook?  I liked one recipe for a pumpkin soup with white miso.  I also had lots of vegies to use as well as silken tofu just past the best-by date, a corn cob that Sylvia had rejected the night before and the last of my latest batch of tofu bacon.

Those who have read my previous post about tofu bacon will be aware that this is my latest culinary love.  One problem I have with it is the lovely marinade that is leftover after I cook the facon (fake bacon).  I hate to throw out food, especially one with maple syrup that is quite pricey.  I struck upon the idea of adding it to the pumpkin soup.  After all it contains ingredients that I would happily use to flavour any soup.  The white miso complemented the flavours nicely.  It was a delicious creamy soup with a crispy topping.  Perfect for a relaxed long weekend.

I am sending this soup to Souper Sundays hosted by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: CC Dried fruit and coconut balls
This time two years ago: Awards, happiness, quicklinks and a conference
This time three years ago: Broccoli Burgers are Winners
This time four years ago: WHB: In Search of the Nectarine

Pumpkin facon soup
serves 4-6

2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
800 to 1kg wedge of pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
250g silken tofu
2 1/2 cups water
*1/4 cup leftover tofu bacon marinade, or thereabouts
1 1/2 tsp flaked salt
20-25 min
turn off heat
1 tbsp white miso

Tofu and corn topping:
1 tsp oil, or thereabouts
*about 10 slices of uncooked tofu bacon (or as much or as little as you have or desire), chopped
kernels of 1 cooked corn cob

*If you don't have leftover tofu marinade, you could add 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp maple syrup and 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika to get a similar taste.  You could also omit the tofu bacon and just use corn fried with a bit of soy sauce, maple syrup and smoked paprika.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Fry onion, celery, carrot and parsnip for 5-10 minutes until soft.  Add garlic and stir into mixture about a minute.  Add pumpkin, tofu, water, bacon marinade and salt.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until vegies are soft.

While the soup is simmering, gently fry the tofu bacon in the oil and when it is starting to brown, add the corn.

When soup is cooked, turn off the heat and put a few spoonfuls of the liquid in a small cup.  Gently mix in the white miso until combined and return to the saucepan of soup.  Blend until smooth.  Serve warm with the tofu and corn topping scattered over the soup.

On the Stereo:
What do Ukelele Players Eat? - Various Artists


  1. Oh heavens, yes yes yes. I will never forget the girl in my college who was dancing around in mini shorts in front of boys crowing about how she "like, totally, like, hated feminism". GAH! School? Shorts? Freedom to speak her mind? DUE TO FEMINISM AAAAAH.

    *calms down*

    Love the crispy topping here!

    1. Thanks Hannah - there are too many of these girls bout these days who just don't understand how different it could be - maybe Margaret Atwood's the Handmaiden's Tale should be compulsory reading at school

  2. This is such a thoughtful post and I loved reading it and following your thoughts alongside the pictures (and thank you, very much, for my mention!).

    History is something I think I grasp the importance of more and more with age - aided, in part, by my mother being a librarian / archivist who has grown into her role in such a way that I'm surprised our family history isn't already written up and published! Who we are is shaped so much by our pasts, but it is so easy to forget that. These days particularly I think it is easy to take things for granted, because so much of the 'fighting' has happened for us, even before our lifetimes. I also share your love of buildings that capture history and do miss that in Australia, and here in Perth relative to elsewhere in Australia; the centuries old buildings in Europe send shivers down my spine sometimes, thinking about all they have seen and held.

    Moving on from that essay - thank you for the thought provokation and well set out ideas. I also liked the ukelele images and the sound of that cookbook! Very quirky indeed!

    1. Thanks Kari - I think our perspective on history changes with age but having those around us who love it helps. We have people in my family who are passionate about family history and I feel lucky to have learnt a bit about my family from them.

      I have always loved history and loved studying it at uni. It is only more recently that I began to appreciate early history periods such as medieval history or roman history - but I have read a lot about 20th century history - it is a century of such intense change that is still amazes me even how much change I have seen in my lifetime. So maybe that is why I am so enamoured of our wonderful 19th and 20th century buildings in Australia.

  3. Love the photos of the ukeleles from the festival and also Sylvia's decorated one.

    The pumpkin soup sounds great, the addition of tofu bacon marinade sounds like a great idea. If I am cooking up tofu bacon for brunch, I throw some mushrooms into the left over marinade and fry them up but the rest of the time my marinade is wasted. You have inspired me to think of other uses for it in the future! :)

    1. Thanks Mel - I actually had kept some bacon marinade for a couple of weeks from an old batch of bacon and used that as well for frying the bacon - which made it soft though E reminded me that bacon isn't always crispy - but I was pleased it kept well and I had some ideas for using up the marinade - like the sound of marinated mushrooms - I wonder if it could be incorporated into Matthew's Delicious Tofu or a gravy?

  4. I love that Melbourne has a ukelele festival. And I love that Sylvia has her own ukelele (and so fetchingly decorated, now!). :) Great idea to add the marinade to soup--I am going to do that next time. Because I am definitely making that facon!

    1. Thanks Ricki - you really should make the facon - it is fantastic - and I think the marinade would go well to flavour lots of soups - and the decorated ukes were amazing - don't know how long the festival has been going but it had a nice vibe to it

  5. Sylvia's purple ukulele is absolutely gorgeous! :D ANd thank you for sending those lovely pictures of her, she has grown up so much! Every time you mention facon I think to myself that I really should try to make it! :D

    1. Thanks Lorraine - glad you enjoyed the photos - and highly recommend the facon - even was wondering if I could be ambitious and use it to try a veg version of your bacon jam

  6. Your friend's cake looks gorgeous, but this pumpkin soup is what really takes my breath away! What a great use of that leftover marinade!

    1. Thanks Joanne - the orange cake was really lovely - and so is the marinade in soup :-)

  7. Great idea for the leftover marinade! I never know what to do with mine. That sauteed bacon and corn looks so delicious I can't wait to try out that tofu bacon! And I love that penguin ukelele. :)

    1. Thanks Ashley - and don't you hate throwing out marinade - I don't normally know what to do with mine but this one just was too good to throw out!

  8. The ukelele festival looks like it was fun! Never heard of it. Your soup looks devine - perfect for the colder weather that is looming.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I liked the relaxed vibe of the festival - and there was lots of room for sylvia to run around

  9. A lovely post and the soup looks delicious. I am tagging the facon to try too--I have been looking for a good bacon substitute. Thanks so much for sharing it with Souper Sundays (it's in this week's roundup). I hope to have you back again soon. ;-)

    1. Thanks Deb - this is really an excellent facon - hope you enjoy

  10. Enjoyed your post. Your soup looks delicious!

  11. Some real fancy Ukulele over here.
    Like that fifth picture.


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