Monday, 12 November 2012

Carramelle - Power of the Now

There are different kinds of dumpling journeys and the best ones can be the kind where the travellers don't know they're on a journey.

Sometimes, I like other dumpling questers specifically decide to go out for a dumpling I've had many times before in a restaurant I know as well as my own lounge room. Say, the scientifically-precise and wonderfully-named shrimp and pork jiao zen at Din Tai Fung in World Square in Sydney (or any of their other Macca-like shops around the world).

That's about going back to something from the past that's deliciously delivered - all 21.4 grams of goodness steamed for precisely 180 seconds, that is. It's reassuring and comforting. Dumplings as convenient and useful as the TV's remote control in my lounge room.

Sometimes, it's about setting out to experience something totally new. That usually involves research and GPS journeys to distant points and family-based joints around Sydney's sprawling 'burbs.

I like to think of it as using a dumpling to "move one from one's fixed position", as Australian author Tim Winton talks about his art and other things. It's enlivening. Dumplings as renewal.

But like journeys on airplanes, journeys to past dumplings and journeys to new dumplings are not without their mild mid-air turbulence.

In the case of the former, the cook may have changed someplace and, on sampling the fare, one of my fellow diners will inevitably seek some solace: "Well, it's not quite as good as last time, but it's still really good." We know it's not really, but it's what we say as our small part of the social contract.

In the case of the latter, expectations of new and great dumplings can be premeditated resentments. An unhappy companion: "Well, that was a long way to go for a pirogi." We know it was, but we don't respond as our small part of the marital contract.

So, it's wonderful every once and a while to come upon the unexpected ones, the dumplings that just happen to be on the menu and then in the mouth without either memories or wilfulness about how good something's meant to be. Dumplings that are just meant to be - dumplings of the moment.

Such was the great treat that were the snapper and tomato carramelle cacio e peppe, leek and marjoram at 42 Bannerman Tratorria in Glenhaven yesterday. A special family lunch to celebrate great endings and great beginnings - the end of HSC exams for Pixie, the beginning of Appalachian Trail and other American adventures for Tim.

Delightfully delectable fish inside a tender pastry - named after its candy wrapper shape. Joyful and juicy and genuine - and made by the Italian family owners' Nona from good stuff grown and gathered from local farms in this market garden district of Sydney. It's a tratorria - not a restaurant - which the owners attest is "more akin to an eating club".

A club we were happy to be members of. A club where I don't ask how fish can be so beautifully but improbably cooked inside a boiled dough pasta wrapper, as I fear disassembling will but diminish. Or, as one author says: "Grace examined - he suspected - was grace denied."

A club of laughter and love and carefully breaking the home-baked cheesy cristini into even portions for all four of us.  A club of kitchen glimpses of the chefs at work, smart insights from 'are they really mine?' adult children, and silly 'selfies' in the car park.

A carramelle club where what came before and what may come next kind matters much less than what we have right now for at least this little while.

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