Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Quelque chose s'approche...


Remember this photo from a few weeks ago?

So it turns out, going front-to-back in Schaum's French Grammar is the worst possible way to revise (or learn) a language.  This book is drier than a box of stale Saos.

Rather than give up, I have been doing a lot of reading about the best way to learn languages.  Kató Lomb was a Hungarian female polyglot (speaker of 4+ languages).  At her death in 2003, she spoke 16 languages, most of which she learned in her 30s and 40s.  She was completely monolingual (Hungarian) until about the age of 24.  She insists there is no special "innate ability" or "gene" for languages, and that what makes one good at languages is your degree of passion and amount of available time, combined with your level of inhibition (ie, low inhibition - prepared to make a lot of mistakes/sound silly = good).

One of her tips is to create for yourself a "linguistic microclimate".  If you sit down with a tutor once a week and think "that's that", you will learn excruciatingly slowly.  Instead, think of what you do in English and do it in your target language.  So now I watch French music videos while I cook.  On long drives, I listen to French audiobooks, not English.  I write my shopping lists in French.   I changed my phone language settings so it's all in French.

I am constantly scanning my day for more ways to include French, to create my own personal "linguistic microclimate".  Basically, the best thing that could happen to me right now is if a small French bar opened in the neighbourhood.






Footscray, meet Stefan Armentano.  He is a French chef who has taken up a lease of one of the little shops in the old Royal Hotel redevelopment and is in the process of turning it into a bar/deli, modelled on the French "bars du quartier" or "community bars" - the little place on the corner where you can drop in for a glass of wine and maybe a bit of interesting cheese and ham, freshly carved.

"I've got this passion for cheeses," he said.  "It's a bit selfish - I'm opening a deli just to provide cheese to my kids!"  The idea is to have a fully-stocked deli that is open from about 11am-11pm, so you can stop in in the day and pick up some pâté, or stop in at night and eat said pâté with some wine.  (Or stop in in the day, and eat said pâté with some wine - I'm not judging!)

Menu-wise, you'll be able to have something from inside the cabinet, or "little French rural things" - Stefan's thinking beef tartare or duck confit.  Or a nice French sandwich where Stefan tells me butter isn't merely a spread, but is so thick and of such quality, it's considered a filling!

(It's the place with the whitewashed windows!)

Stefan plans for maybe two or three beers on tap, a good selection of wine and "a couple of good French calvados" (apple brandy).  His previous business was a tapas restaurant in Perth called Gypsy Tapas House.  Regarding Small French Bar, Stefan is very humble, saying that he wants it to be a place for "a good old cheese and a good old red", and only wants it to seat about 20 people.

Stefan and Small French Bar are currently chugging through the maze of building permits and licences.  The aim is to open sometime this year.  You can keep up to date on his Facebook page.  All I can say is - "Vite!  Vite!"  (Hurry!  Hurry!)

If you are learning a language and can point me in the direction of more good resources, whether online, offline, traditional or non-traditional, I'd love to hear from you!  For example, I recently discovered italki and am blown away; can't wait to get started!  I'm sure there are more good sites or blogs out there that I just don't know about yet.  Or if you speak/are learning French or Arabic, I would deeply appreciate some good music, good podcast or good online radio station tips.  Send me an email :)  Also, if you are interested in or work in languages or linguistics, I would also love to chat with you, whether just generally or to pick your brain about particularly well-regarded courses or directions within the industry.  Email addy to the right.  Massive TIA!

A bit of French music for you - I love this song, the lyrics and the video:

And I have been enjoying Sexion d'Assaut - really like this song, but the video is a bit random - I think they got sponsored by Smart cars!

If you are interested in Kato Lomb's book "Polyglot: How I Learn Languages", you can read it for free here or buy from Lulu.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Melbourne Market tour winner revealed!

Hi everyone - thank you so much for your fantastic entries to my first-ever giveaway!  I put out a call for "your best westie story - the one that just sums Footscray, or the inner west, up".  The winner gets two tickets to an upcoming tour of the Melbourne Wholesale Fruit & Veg Market.  I said I'd publish the winner today, and I will - plus a few more, because so many were just too good!

There was a real theme of history among many of your entries.  Roslin writes that:

"1995, 5 year old Roslin would get her hair cut at Forges by Marina, then navigate through the hustle and bustle of Footscray Market with her mum. Fast forward to now and 23 year old Roslin is eating her way through Footscray: Cannoli. Pho. Ethiopian. 8bit and more."


And from Lan:

"My mum used to work at the Asian grocers that's still on the corner of Hopkins and Moore St. As a little girl, dad would bring me with him when he went to pick her up from work. I remember waiting by the register with her whilst she finished her shift and watching people from all walks of life come in, have a little chat with Mum before taking their goodies home. Mum seemed to know everyone and many conversations revolved around what they were going to make with their ingredients. It was fascinating to hear the variety whilst I sat perched up on a stool having a durian or red bean ice cream! The things you learn growing up in the west!"


I loved Kate's Saturday morning Footscray ritual:

"My Saturday morning in Footscray - a sense of adventure in the air. I battle the masses at Nhu Lan for my beloved Tofu roll. A jump to Vy’s for my Vietnamese Iced-Coffee. A cheery ‘hello’ to the elderly street side vendors. A myriad of curious stores and restaurants longing to be explored. The vibe is unique and incomparable. I am energised and inspired!"


And I really feel Footscray's capacity to subvert your expectations in Georgia's entry:

"One of my most memorable moments in Footscray was with my Somali friend, her dressed in her colourful hijab and me in my traditional melbourne winter outfit of BLACK! We entered an Arabic store which looked like a shop which sold various foods and kitchenware of odds and ends. My friend suggested we enter and I was wondering what we would possibly buy here...  as we walked towards the back of the shop the heat and gorgeous cooking smells hit us and there was a man making fresh injera on a supersize pancake maker with his wife sorting and packing it for customers. We left with beautiful bread and me with the experience of a lifetime having met wonderful people and entered a world I would never have known existed."


Wendy got a peek into an "inner world" too, at Gold Leaf, Sunshine:

"Treating a visiting Nimbin hippy fresh off the plane, we eschewed Melbourne's CBD, instead heading for Sunshine (how could you not love a place with a name like that!) As the last diners sharing a very relaxed late lunch with wait staff, laughing as they all dived on the best trolley baskets for their own meal break... Only in the West!"


Kathryn apologised for offering four entries and told me clearly that if this was "overkill or cheating", to just consider her first entry.  Oh, but I love all of these little vignettes so much.  I love their honesty and the way they make me pause.

"Two African guys argue (something about rabbits) at Sunny Nguyen’s counter, while the Vietnamese lady serving looks nonplussed. Finally, one says to the other, ‘No, last year was Year of the Rabbit, this year it’s Year of the Snake, and after that, it’ll be something else.’ He looks at me and we exchange grins."

"A grizzled white man wheels a stunt bike along Footscray station, stopping to admire a pit bull (‘Fucken beautiful dog, pardon my French’) and tell me this joke. ‘You know the government’s changing the family subsidy - what do you call a white person with six kids? An entrepreneur!’ He grins. ‘It’s a good one, isn’t it?!’"


"Further up the Maribyrnong they sit in family groups, their fishing rods wedged into upright tubing, but this angler sits alone, holding his rod in gloved hands. Once he’d plunge carp into ice to banish the mud flavour from their flesh; now he throws them back, and his faded red bucket holds no ice, just river water."

"Overheard. Two men (one begging), Footscray station.
A: (Calmly, but becoming belligerent) No, no, no. I won’t. I won’t give you money so you can smoke. I won’t do it. What do you think you’re doing? It’s not right. I’m not gonna do it. I’m not. So don’t ask me.
B: (Quietly) Alright, mate."


But in the end, I am going to award the tickets to May, whose entry I felt was as bright and crisp as the snow peas she describes.

"As I inspected the snow peas at Little Saigon, a friendly member of staff approached holding a box above his head carefully, as if presenting Simba to the Sahara. Slowly, it tipped and rained crisp, glorious, snow peas into my waiting hands. I put on my war mask and went into battle as the vultures descended..."

Congratulations, May!  I hope you have an awesome time!  Thank you also to everyone who entered.  I loved reading your wonderfully diverse submissions.  Keep living and loving the west!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

GIVEAWAY - win two tickets to a tour of the Melbourne Wholesale Market!

Disclaimer:  I have two tickets to give away to a Food and Wine Festival event (more details in body of post).  I am not being paid or otherwise compensated to run this giveaway.  See below for full disclaimer.

African Taste and market 013
Image c/- Lauren Wambach

So sometime this year, a big part of the western suburbs is going to disappear.  It's the Melbourne Wholesale Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Market, which has been trading on the northern side of Footscray Road since 1969.  The market has been continuously trading, whether at Footscray Road or on other sites in the Melbourne CBD, since 1841.

Image c/- Melbourne Market Authority

The market is moving to Epping to a new purpose-built facility later this year.  I have two tickets to give away for a tour of the market, which is pretty much your last chance to check it out before it hitches a ride north!

African Taste and market 047
Image c/- Lauren Wambach

I did a tour of the wholesale market back in 2010 and loved it.  It's the point in Melbourne where produce changes hands from growers to retailers, and it is normally closed up tight to the general public.

African Taste and market 033
Image c/- Lauren Wambach

Says Karen Vella of the Melbourne Market Authority:  "Many of the local products are picked and placed on the shelves within 24-36 hours...  Market-sourced fruit and veg is the best way to get the freshest as the growers and retailers meet in one place, exchange goods and it’s then on the shelf all within one day."

Image c/- Melbourne Market Authority

The market is not only populated by growers, but by wholesalers too.  When I went on my tour, I remember a fascinating peek behind the scenes of a family-run, sixth-generation ginger wholesaler.  The great-great-great x 6 grandson had some wonderful stories and tall tales to tell about his family's life and work in the market over the years and down the generations.

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Image c/- Melbourne Market Authority

The two tickets I have to give away are for the tour on Friday 13 March, 6am-8am.  Karen Vella reports that "our tour operator Jan will be taking visitors around the market on a little train.  Visitors will have the opportunity to meet growers and wholesalers and see a wide range of produce.  Jan will talk about the trends of produce and show visitors different varieties including heirloom vegetables, newer Asian vegetables etc…

Image c/- Melbourne Market Authority

"Each tour will be different as it depends on the growers and wholesalers available on the morning. We will be providing a light breakfast and a take-home pack."  (PS:  You don't normally get this pack if you go on a regular tour - this is a Melbourne Food and Wine Festival special!)  See more details on the MFWF website here.

And how do I win these amazing tickets, you say?  Inspired by Ros's beautiful postcard from Footscray, I want to hear in 50 words or less, your best westie story - the one that just sums Footscray, or the inner west, up.

Here's an example:  I remember being at Rina's Coffee and Nuts in Footscray Market having a coffee with Annie, the owner.  There were two old guys there - one Southern European, one Asian - and we got chatting.  One was the acupuncturist to the other - he'd been treating him at his Footscray clinic for, like, 30 years - and they always went for a coffee and a chat at Rina's after.  Footscray in a nutshell.

To enter, email your story to by midnight, this Friday, 6 March.  I'll announce the winner on Monday, 9 March.  The winning story will be published on Footscray Food Blog (if you want to remain anonymous, that is absolutely fine - I'll check with you how you'd like to be credited before publishing).

PS:  I'm not going to count the words, so don't have a fit if you're a few words over!  You can also write about elsewhere in the west, eg, Sunshine, St Albans...  And if you miss out, I believe there are still tickets to the tour available - get 'em here.

Disclaimer:  The Melbourne Market Authority contacted me asking me to help promote their Food and Wine Festival event.  I suggested a giveaway of tickets.  I was motivated to do this because I genuinely believe the Melb. Wholesale Market is an important part of the west and soon it will be gone forever.  I attended one of their tours in 2010, paid completely out of my own pocket, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I am not receiving any financial or other compensation for running this giveaway.
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