Love in Three Courses

Left to right: Tess Rapa-Davey, Josephine Rapa, Chloe Hobbs. Photo: Sophie Rapa-Hobbs

BY SOPHIE RAPA-HOBBS

I explore my heritage through three generations of women in my family, sharing an entrée with granny, main with mum, and dessert with my big sister.

Entree of Pastizzi, cooked by Josephine Rapa

Married at seventeen, Josephine Rapa and her husband John had made it through the Second World War and were beginning their life together. “I didn’t fall for him,” she says. “He fell for me. In Malta the men go first.”

Every village in Malta has its own annual festival resulting in a festival just about every week. Competition is widespread between them, from the fireworks displays to the best street water fights. “I used to go to every one,” says Josephine as she lays the pastizzi out on a baking tray ready for the oven.

Hot favourites in Malta, a pastizzi is a pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese or a green pea mixture. Stalls of pastizzi are found on every corner in Malta. A warning: if served to precede a meal, it is a good idea to limit yourself to one. They are addictive.

Facing an economic down-turn, John left Josephine, his son Lorry, and the home they had built together for Australia’s shores. He left in search of money and security for his family. What he found was a multitude of jobs, but none of them paid much. He struggled to even pay for his return to Malta. “He left Lorry at 9 months old and then he stayed about three years,” Josephine says. “Then he came back, and we had Mary.” He left again for Australia when Mary was 11 months old.

“He said he is coming, he is coming, but he never came so I had to come here,” she says. Seven years after John first left for Australia Josephine packed up and said goodbye to everyone and everything she knew to join her husband. Thirty years old and with two children, Josephine travelled over a month on a boat to bring her family together, with no plans to go back.

She puts the pastizzi in the oven and sets the timer for 40 minutes. Josephine says she struggled with life in Australia at the beginning. “I said to John that the eggs don’t taste like eggs.” But John found no problem eating Australian food. “He likes everything. Even horse meat.” Minestrone, ravioli, pastizzi, rabbit stew. “We used to cook together many times. I think that’s the only thing I miss about him,” she jokes. “No, I miss him too, but I miss his cooking. The smells. He was always around the kitchen.”

“I was so busy with six kids I never had the time to socialise. I’ll tell you the truth I never went anywhere ever.” Josephine’s experience of the Australian people’s reaction to her and her family was not a positive one in the 60s. “When I first arrived people did not like us, or our food,” she says. “You might not think about it much anymore, but you’ll never forget it.”

Once a week a bus picks Josephine up to go to Lavalet, a Maltese community centre where she and her friends go to church and share lunch and a chat. “I go every Thursday,” she says. At 80 she now has time to socialise. First is a chat with the ladies, then a church mass. “After the mass we have a cup of coffee and cake,” she says. Then lunch. “There is grilled fish and some small pastizzi.”

“I came out here 51 years ago. Sometimes I used to joke that John forced me, but I’m not angry. I am always happy with him.”

Main of Boula Bave Pie, cooked by Tess Rapa-Davey

First generation Australian, third-born amongst her six siblings but the first of them born in Australia, Tess Rapa-Davey grew up speaking “Malt-English.” “I didn’t know I didn’t know the language,” she says. Tess thought English was just ‘extra words’. “I didn’t know I was speaking a different language at home, and maybe I wasn’t.”

School started and Tess was off with a ‘Hobz Biz-zejt’ packed lunch “Bloody tomato paste sandwiches!” she says. “Nearly got run out of the school for that because everyone thought they were blood sandwiches. But they were really nice though. Just olive oil and tomato paste and I still eat them today.”

She pulls out the ingredients she needs for the pie with a practised hand: four Nicola potatoes, a cup of peas, and a tin of corned beef along with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. Observation is key in the art of cookery. “I used to watch mum and dad,” she says. Her mother did all the cooking until Tess was 16, and then her father stopped working and started cooking. “I think he got quite good at it, and I don’t think mum minded either that he just took over.” But the pie they always did together. “Mum did the pastry and dad did the filling.”

There is one ingredient Tess is hesitant to reveal. “Oh it’s a secret,” she says, as she thinly slices the potatoes. “It took me two or three goes at it and I accidentally found it.” Her father’s secret ingredient was only found by chance one day. “Well it was just so cool because then I realised that dad probably never told mum,” she says. Tess knew once she had smelt it that it had been missing all the time. “That’s the real test. The taste. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, that’s just chefy crap.”

In his seven years in Australia without his wife and children, Tess’s father worked as a cane cutter in Queensland. He hitched his way from the fields down to Sydney to live with his brother. “My uncle lived in a packing crate on five acres with no running water,” Tess says while she caramelises the onion in sesame oil. “This is poor people’s food,” she says, adding the corn beef to the frying pan.

Tess uses a marble mortar and pestle to pummel the pepper, salt, and garlic into submission and adds her father’s secret ingredient to the mix. “Now come and have a smell. It’s all about the smell. That’s how I knew.” She adds all the ingredients to the pan.

“So with pies you’ve got to make sure that the filling is cold when it goes into the pastry, otherwise it will make the pastry go soggy when you go to put it in the oven.” She makes room among the leftovers that already live in her fridge and slots the pie mix in. “I really should do a YouTube shouldn’t I?”

When cooled the mixture fills the pie. Another layer of pastry is blanketed over the top and fixed down with fork prints. Suddenly, Tess registers the time. “Oh my God! Half past seven! Gourmet Farmer is on. Time to call the kitchen hand,” she says as she calls her tall English husband to take over.

(What’s the secret ingredient? All spice.)

Lemon Meringue Pie, cooked by Chloe Hobbs

Young, blonde haired, blue eyed, fair skinned Chloe Hobbs grew up watching her mother cook. “She would like to think that she taught me how to cook,” she says, “but I actually taught myself too.” Especially baking, which was trial and error. “Pretty much error because I wouldn’t follow a recipe,” she says. Creating a cake can be a precise science, so Chloe’s reluctance to recipes caused a lot of flops. “You can get a cake really wrong. And I did,” she admits.

Chloe lays out her pastry ingredients: plain flour, icing sugar, butter and cold water. As a massage therapist she is used to using her hands, so while rubbing the butter into the sugar and flour she is on familiar territory. “I like being the cure that can relieve people of their pain,” she says. She adds the water and turns the pastry out onto the table to be rolled flat.

“I want to learn how to speak Maltese first and foremost,” she says after spending six weeks in Malta in 2010. Although most Maltese speak English, Chloe says, “I feel a bit left out when I’m over there for a long time. I would feel more accepted.” She lines the pie tin with the short crust pastry and places it in the fridge to chill.

“I always alter my recipes even if it’s the first time I do it,” she says while she juices two lemons. Today she will be adding lemon zest. “The zest is where it’s at,” she says. “It’s got those essential oils in the skin.”

Into a pot go cornflour, water, lemon juice and one cup of sugar. On a medium heat, this mix requires constant stirring. “Picking a pip out of lemon juice is like plucking a fly out of the air with toothpicks,” she says as she skilfully removes a rogue pip from the thickening pot.

Four minutes later the thick mixture gains butter and egg yolks and replaces the pastry in the fridge to cool. “For me not looking Maltese is really annoying,” she says as she blind bakes the pastry. “I get stared at when I even mention I’m Maltese.” She likes the way she looks but “when you want to be included and you’re neither this nor that It’s hard. I look in the mirror and I’m English but I feel more Maltese.”

She begins on the meringue by beating the egg whites until peaks form and then gradually adding sugar. “I just feel loud,” she says, “and quite passionate.” For as long as she can remember people have told her that her voice “carries”. She is proud of her heritage and she says she is “quite defensive over family when anyone tries to hurt them.”

In the beginning Chloe thought that dating a Maltese man would be cliché. Not wanting it to seem as though she was trying to hold onto the Maltese part of herself, she was reluctant to date her boyfriend of four years in the beginning. “I don’t feel like I need to prove myself to anybody which is what I thought I would be doing.”

She fills the pastry with the lemon curd and tops it with the meringue adding swirls and peaks wherever she sees fit. Back into the oven for another ten minutes and then it is ready to eat. “Everybody loves food, and good food is very social.”

Interview: Reliving Jurassic Park

Ariana Richards with Sam Neill and Joseph Mazzello in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Jurassic Park.

 

BY KATE DAWSON

 

In a move that will thrill movie lovers everywhere, Universal Studios have released all three Jurassic Park blockbusters to Blu-ray, and to celebrate we caught up with one of the original cast members, Ariana Richards, who was all of 13 years of age when she acted in the film as Lex Murphy.

“It was pretty extraordinary,” remembers Richards, now 32 years of age. “I was able to just be free to experience the excitement, the surprises of being a young person on that film set with these incredible dinosaurs.” 

Jurassic Park was a game-changer, delivering stunning special effects and ground-breaking technological advances with the realistically-rendered dinosaurs that roam the picturesque Isla Nublar as multimillionaire John Hammond’s theme park attractions. It’s the awesome visuals, instantly recognisable musical score by John Williams and frightening sound effects (T-Rex breathing just outside the car window anyone?) that will make the remastered edition on Blu-ray a must-own for movie buffs and Spielberg nuts. “I’m really happy to say that I’ve been able to keep in touch with Steven and that friendship means a lot to me,” beams Richards. “When someone is in a place of power like that, they don’t need to treat people as well as he does, but I always remember him being so good with me and Joey (Mazzello), and warm and there with us and enthusiastic. Boy was he enthusiastic! When we would finish a scene, he’d be so excited about our performance that he’d leap up out of his chair and run over and give the two of us a hug. 

“But at the same time, looking back, it’s been interesting for me to note his directing style. Things I didn’t think about as a young person…like his decisiveness. He knew what he wanted, we rarely did more than three takes for any angle in the scenes which was quite refreshing because I’d worked with directors before and after him and for some, it took as many as seventy! That was a bit challenging. Sometimes they didn’t know exactly what they wanted. Plus he gathers a group of people around him that he works with over and over and so being on the set of Jurassic, it felt so smooth, the way everything ran.” 

Ariana Richards – who up until her role in Jurassic, had also featured in the likes of Tremors, Spaced Invaders and Timescape, and afterwards in the Jurassic sequel The Lost World, Angus and Tremors 3 – was surrounded by a top notch cast on the blockbuster, but remembers working with Richard Attenborough best. “I think that Jurassic was so well cast. The characters really fit the roles well and for young actors like Joey and me, to get to be on the set with those people was excellent. I would say who really sticks out in my mind is Richard Attenborough. What a delightful person. An absolute delight and I remember him being very grandfatherly towards Joey and me and spending time with me and sharing stories about his experiences directing and performing and everything that he had done.” 

Although Richards, now 32, has pursued fine art as an alternate career, she says she hasn’t “closed any doors to the world of acting and if some really interesting role comes and finds me, I might be thinking about playing it!” On the rumours that Spielberg is exploring the possibility of rebooting the franchise, Richards’ main concern is that the story be as rich as the first Jurassic Park, which was based on the Michael Crichton bestseller. 

Given the opportunity to reprise her role as Lex, she “might possibly be interested.” 

Lastly, we ask whether Ariana Richards has rewatched the film much, and she responds in the negative, “but I have to say, now that it’s coming out in high definition, it’s going to be a good reason to get it out and enjoy it again!”

The Jurassic Park Trilogy is out on Blu-ray from October 26.

Story reproduced with permission from FilmInk Magazine.

Why Occupy Australia?

Protesters join the Occupy Sydney movement in Martin Place. Photo by Kate Ausburn/flickr

 

BY AMANDA PARKINSON

 

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is a leaderless global movement protesting social inequality. The first protests broke out a little more than a month ago as the US and Europe faced further financial chaos.

With a currency derailed by economic debt and crippled by the cost of a lengthy war, the US government was facing default until it ‘lifted the ceiling’ and raised its national debt to $14.8 trillion. Global Economist Simon Johnson told the online journal Business Insiders that there was no company in the US that would be unaffected by a government default, and no bank or other financial institution that could provide a secure haven for savings. “There would be a massive run into cash, on an order not seen since the Great Depression, with long lines of people at ATMs and teller windows withdrawing as much as possible,” Johnson said. With US interest rates at 0.25 per cent and chaos looming, Barack Obama swiftly passed a bill through congress to inflate the economy. The result was a stronger currency, but middle- to lower-income wages slumped and the cost of living skyrocketed. The gap between rich and poor widened and wealth became concentrated in the top 1 per cent. Faced by socio economic inequality the movement embraced a Robin Hood mentality, claiming fervently “we are the 99%”.

The protesters’ slogan became a worldwide statement as they mobilised internationally. On the OWS website, organisers say: “We are the 99 per cent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 per cent is getting everything. We are the 99 per cent.”

‘Citizen journalism’ exploded onto Twitter, YouTube and blogs as global action mobilised. Wall Street protester Mark Gerrad tweeted: “Rise up and take the power back, it’s time the fat cats had a heart attack.”

People took to the streets enraged as economic instability loomed for some the globe’s strongest currencies. Occupy Wall Street became a global movement as hundreds of thousands of protestors in 1500 cities united to take a stand against “democratic injustice”. Americans, Europeans, and Australians showed support for the cause but there are fundamental differences in economic situations. For Hugo O’Connor, from Occupy Sydney Media a democratic injustice is a matter of corrupt self-governance. “Companies shouldn’t rely so heavily on unethical principals to drive their business,” he said. “We are creating an international dialogue which will create honesty in our democracy.”

The diverse economies in countries such as Britain, Greece and Italy face similar economic instability as the US, making people empathetic in their pursuit to ‘occupy’ their own cities. Protesters at Australia’s Occupy Sydney and Melbourne lacked direction and understanding of the US movement. Protesters in Martin Place blamed the international media for lack of coverage and analysis, but the essence of disillusionment is found in the fundamental differences between the US economic turbulence and Australia’s battling but steady dollar. With interest rates steady at 4.75 per cent, a booming resources industry, and 68 per cent of our $1.23 trillion GDP derived from a steady services industry, Australia’s economy is healthily positioned for growth.

Another difference between the US and Australia is legislative. Australia’s ‘big four’ banks (Commonwealth, NAB, ANZ, and Westpac) are regulated by federal government. This regulation allows the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to create monetary policy, which reduces the banks’ ability to be influenced by corporations. The situation in the US is very different: there, the Federal Reserve is governed by a board of 12 State Governors and is responsible for US debt. All profits are owned by treasury minus 6% for board trustees. In 2010 Federal Reserve made $82 billion in profits and transferred $76 billion to state treasury. But by the following year they needed to be rescued, receiving a massive government bailout in August 2011. This added to peoples’ frustration, and caused civil unrest. Many US protestors believe it is one rule for corporations, with no remuneration for them.

KPMG economist Benita McKay says: “The Australian market is in a strong position as interest rates remain steady and our service sector continues to boom.” With the 9th-strongest GDP in the world and the only national economy to remain steady through a Global Financial Crisis, Australians appear to be weathering the economic storm. So why the protests? Protester Hugo O’Connor says it’s about dialogue, creating communities of people who talk about grievances. “I’m pissed off the mining tax didn’t go through, I’m pissed off governments give handouts to corporations that run their business into the ground, I’m pissed off banks lie about customers incomes just to provide a loan that their customer can’t service,” he said.

In Australia, each of the two major protest cities – Sydney and Melbourne – saw approximately 1,000 protesters gather to make their point. But a common misunderstanding of economic wealth, US economy and direction saw their protests lose momentum within 48 hours. Ask the protestors to explain a free market and most stare blankly back. Ask them if they know our banks are strictly regulated and most stare blankly back. While protests continue to grow in Europe and US, Australia’s movement remains fractured by lack of direction and understanding.

Restoring peace in Libya

Tyranny has fallen at the hands of young freedom fighters and Libyans rejoice the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. After eight months of civil war, the National Transitional Council (NTC) now faces the task of restoring peace to the country and organising its first democratic election. But the task is not easy. With oil production down and the cost of war threatening to disarm its economy, Libya’s future is uncertain. Story by AMANDA PARKINSON.

When protests broke out in Benghazi between February and April this year the world saw oil prices reach a four-year high, rising 35 per cent. Libya was only producing 2 per cent of the world’s oil, but as civil unrest escalated prices increased internationally. Producing rare crude that can be refined as either petroleum or diesel gives Libya’s oil a higher market value. During the war Libyan oil production dropped from 1.6 million barrels per day to 390,000 barrels per day. In a knee-jerk reaction a group of oil importing nations announced the release of 60 million barrels of oil from emergency stocks to float the industry.

As rebel forces closed in on Gaddafi’s home city of Sirte, oil dropped 81 cents per barrel and returned to pre-protest prices. But with an infant government, and no parliament or constitution, instability will hinder Libya’s return to the world market. Oil-field workers were expected to return to work in the week after Gaddafi’s death, but an analysis from The Economist said: ‘oil production in Libya won’t return to capacity till mid 2012.’

As the country regains a steady income, the NTC must begin to restore stability. Under the laws drawn up by the revolutionary forces, the fall of Sirte will result in Libya officially declaring liberation. Following liberation the NTC will form a transitional government within 30 days, 200 members of the national conference will be elected within 240 days of which a Prime Minister will be appointed and their government nominated.

 A coalition of Western countries has offered support as Libya hopes for a democratic future. Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd said, “it will be complex, but we will stand ready to help our friends in Libya to ensure they reach their democratic needs.”

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton announced in a press conference after Gaddafi’s death that the Obama administration would pledge US$40 million to destroy left over weapons caches. “Washington will work with Libya to destroy chemical weapon stocks, as the two administrations are committed to stay focused on the oil-rich country’s security,” she said.

NATO announced plans to withdraw from Libya by the October 31. The news came as fights broke out in Tripoli between Gaddafi loyalists and rebels. Locals in Tripoli were angered over looting and corruption. In the capital multiple checkpoints were set up but their deregulation meant guards were forcing locals to pay bribes in order to pass. In areas with a high number of rapes and abductions, those manning the check points were former prisoners of the Gaddafi regime.

The NTC will soon begin the road to building a democratic future for Libya. Libyan rebels said on Twitter: “We have no political structure, we waited 42 years and now we can all rebuild Libya together.” A Libyan father, @BentBenghazi, tweeted his family were relieved the struggle was over: “So many stressful days and nights wondering if our son would come home alive, so grateful to know he will be here soon.”