Lost with Louie: Bosnia & Herzegovina in its raw beauty

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I found myself further east than I had ever been. The glamour of the last three months on the Mediterranean was now a distant memory. This felt different. This felt real.

Growing up, my mother gave me a book to read called Zlata’s Diary. This book chronicled the daily life of a young girl in the war-torn city of Sarajevo for the duration of the Bosnian war. I read of the years of pain and suffering as both sides fought ferociously as an innocent civilian population suffered. At the time, this war and the girl’s story seemed so far away from my reality that it hardly seemed real. And now, here I was.

The scars of war are till very visible in both the buildings and the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was in Mostar, a town only a scenic two-hour drive from the capital, Sarajevo. The town is surrounded by lush countryside with a picturesque river flowing through its heart. While otherwise idyllic, the natural beauty of this area is offset by the buildings riddles with bullet holes. On the outskirts of the city the graveyards lay silent, housing the thousands of who weren’t lucky enough to escape the fighting.

This scarred country left its mark on my psyche and my soul. I’ll never forget the uncountable crosses in the cemeteries marking individual tales of sadness. I’ll never forget the resilient nature of the old lady who opened her doors to me. I’ll never forget the natural beauty everywhere I looked. I’ll never forget the eerie feeling upon realising that there was a distinct absence of males who would have been of fighting age in the early 90’s. This was Bosnia and Herzegovina in all its raw beauty.

Bullet holes still riddle homes and buildings throughout the country.
Bullet holes still riddle homes and buildings throughout the country.
View from the Stari Most bridge.
View of Mostar from the Stari Most bridge.
Reminders of the war are everywhere.
Reminders of the war are everywhere.
For 60 Euros you can have the honour of jumping off the bridge.
For 60 Euros you can have the honour of jumping off the bridge.

Lost with Louie: Cambodian Reflections

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“Mister, mister. You eat one”, she screeched at me as the plastic bag she was holding squirmed and writhed around. In the other hand I could see a platter of what appeared to be cooked spiders, roughly the size of the palm of my hand. As I approached, she knew she had a sale and set down her wares for me to take a closer look. After squatting down next to her, she opened the plastic bag to reveal what must have been over 100 fury and very much alive spiders!

Being overly paranoid, I asked her for a fresh one as I handed over the few Riels it cost for my snack. She selected the victim an proceeded to flash-fry him in oil before pulling it out and promptly delivering it into my waiting hand. Looking at its rigid form for a second, I decided that this was one of those one-off experiences that I would likely never get again…

In the mouth and a few chews later, I was oddly satisfied with the taste, texture and experience overall.

When I began working on the Lost With Louie project, I had an overwhelming urge to share my reflections of the short period of time I spent in Cambodia in 2003. It has been some 12 years since I was in Cambodia and to this day, the people, the history and of course the food still sit at the forefront of my mind.

The smile on her face and her enthusiasm for me to try her food had warmed my heart before her delicious curry had the chance to warm my stomach. 

I arrived in Cambodia after having already spent three incredible months in South-east Asia. Life on the road was something to which I had grown accustomed and being so young, I thought I knew everything. For me, Cambodia was perhaps one of the first truly humbling experiences I ever had. The Khmer people are the most genuine and happy people I have ever come across. For a country and people who have suffered so much hardship, genocide and torture, to be as happy as they were is something that not only amazed me but made me understand the power of human nature to overcome absolute sadness.

Like most people who travel to Cambodia, I spent the majority of my time in Siem Reap exploring the numerous temples in the area. The history of the Khmer people was not one that I was too familiar with before traveling to the country but it is one that has amazed me ever since. The temples in the Siem Reap area were lost to the overgrown jungle that surrounded them up until not all that long ago, only to be uncovered by various French expeditions in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The obligatory tourist angle of Angkor Wat.
The obligatory tourist angle of Angkor Wat.

After Siem Reap, I passed through Phnom Penh on my way to Saigon by bus. The roads in Cambodia were amongst the worst in the world when I was there so this trip was not only uncomfortable but took a long, long time. Back then, Phnom Penh was a confronting place for a 19-year-old kid who was raised in the safety of Australia. There were a remarkable number of people begging for money and food, many of whom were missing limbs due to the land mines that were used in the war against the Khmer Rouge.

I remember eating Amok fish curry. Thinking back now, I can recall the vibrant mix of curry paste with lemongrass, ginger and other spices all set off by home-made coconut milk. I recall the restaurant in Siem Reap where I first enjoyed Amok curry. The old lady who ran the dirt-floored eatery served me the food on plastic plates. The smile on her face and her enthusiasm for me to try her food had warmed my heart before her delicious curry had the chance to warm my stomach.

Amok curry in all its glory!
Amok curry in all its glory!

 

I dream of returning to Cambodia one day. By all reports, it has changed a lot since I was there but the good news is that it has changed for the better as the people move on from their horrible recent history.

On a side note, apologies for the quality of the photos in this post. They are scanned copies of produced film photographs that have been sitting in my roof for over a decade.

One of the many temples around the Siem Reap area.
One of the many temples around the Siem Reap area.

 

The spider lady with her afternoon snacks.
The spider lady with her afternoon snacks.

 

A Khmer monk sitting and thinking. This shot is the first that comes to mind when I think of my time in Cambodia.
A Khmer monk sitting and thinking. This shot is the first that comes to mind when I think of my time in Cambodia.

 

Lost with Louie: Sri Lanka

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“Yes sir, do not worry one bit. My auto-rickshaw is the safest in all Colombo.” Who could argue with a claim like that I thought to myself as I climbed into the back of the smiling man’s three-wheeled death trap. As he started the rattling engine, smoke poured out of the back as the metal shell I was now enclosed in shook to life.

As he took off down the crowded street, weaving in and out of traffic without the use of an indicator or without even as much as a glance over his shoulder, I looked into the rear-vision mirror at the man who was still donning the same smiling expression. Holding on with one hand while trying to keep my long legs and knee caps in the confines of the rickshaw and out of harms way, I hollered for the man to slow down. The only response I received was another smile and an odd bobble of the head from side to side as he pulled the throttle back once more to blindly overtake a double-parked truck.

There are times in life when it is just best to sit back and accept that what will happen, will happen. This was one of those times.

Sri Lanka, a tear drop in the Indian ocean. The off-shoot in the shadow of the sub-continent.

2015-02-09_09-12-09The man whose smile haunts me to this day.

I visited Sri Lanka a few years ago on the way home to Sydney after a year and a half traveling through Asia, Europe, North America and glorious Mexico. The idea behind the stopover in Sri Lanka was to get a bit of sun en-route to an Australian winter and a 9-5 office job (I know right, why the hell would you swap traveling Europe for a life of sitting in an office chair!).

I had visited India some years earlier and had a pre-conceived notion in my head of Sri Lanka being similar to the madness of India, just with fewer people. To a point I was on the right track, but I was also a long way from imagining the reality and beauty of Sri Lanka. Arriving in Colombo after a 15 hour flight with a certain budget airline, with no food or entertainment to speak of, I was hungry! Once we dropped the bags off, the curry lover and chilli fanatic in me took over and saw me ordering the hottest curry on the menu from a busy roadside curry house. Note to anyone out there considering a scorching hot curry on an empty stomach: think twice before repeating my error… After recovering from the torture that followed, we ventured out into the streets to do a bit of sightseeing. This is where I met the smiling auto-rickshaw driver.

After a day or so in Colombo, the urge to see something new and get out of the city took over, so we made our way to the main train station and purchased two one-way tickets to Kandi, the in-land capital of Sri Lanka. The scenery while traveling into the mountains in Sri Lanka is second to none. The slow-moving train wound its way around mountains and through villages that would be missed if you closed your eyes for only a few seconds. Some parts of the journey see the old carriages clinging to the mountainside as tea plantations pass you by.

2015-02-09_09-15-35Train travel offers an insight into a country like no other form of transport.

If I have to be honest, Kandi didn’t do much for me. It was busy, hot and a long, long way from the coast. My most vivid memory of Kandi was the son of the lady who ran the guesthouse in which we were staying. He had two thumbs on his right hand. A fact I was only made aware of upon shaking his hand and looking down at his grasp due to something feeling amiss!

After a couple of days visiting different sites and The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, we hired a driver to b-line us down to the coast in search of cooler weather and a swim.

The southern coast of Sri Lanka is the kind of place that you envision when you think of traveling to an island nation in the Indian Ocean. It is laden with palm trees, beach shacks and fishing villages that offer great photo opportunities and some amazing food. Like so many villages in Sri Lanka, the resort town of Unawatuna was destroyed in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and has been rebuilt from the ground up. In the rush to secure the best beach-front views, the authorities didn’t set out guidelines for the rebuilding and unfortunately numerous hotels have been constructed so close to the ocean that some are falling into it! I spent a very happy 27th birthday in this little town, swimming in the Indian Ocean and eating roti and curries until I could eat no more.

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Traditional fishing near Galle.

Before arriving in Sri Lanka, the goal was to reach the east coast of the country and spend a day or two in Arugum Bay but time got the better of us, for you see travel is a long and arduous process in Sri Lanka. The roads are rough and the rail network is primitive. What seems like a short distance in western terms can take a full day or even more to travel. But I think this adds to the charm of Sri Lanka. It is hard to travel from one place to another in a short period of time. This alone is enough to keep a lot of people away.

I only spent a week in Sri Lanka and feel that I have unfinished business there. I often find myself thinking back to the food and people I met while I was there. I give Sri Lanka “three thumbs” up and recommend a visit to anyone who is looking for a relaxing travel experience that also offers a lot in the ways of culture and food.

Fast Five
The one thing you should pack when going to Sr Lanka is…
Plenty of t-shirts. The humidity will have you going through a few shirts a day!

Top 3 things to do in Sri Lanka

  1. Visit one of the Sea turtle breeding programs to get up close to these majestic creatures
  2. Indulge in a fish curry and a beer or two on the beach
  3. Travel by train through the tea plantations

The one thing to eat in Sri Lanka is…
Curry! Curry! Curry!!

The 3 words that best summarise Sri Lanka
Slow, relaxing, cricket.

You know you’re in Sri Lanka when…
You are in an auto-rickshaw hanging on for dear life while the driver smiles and ignores everything you say.

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Slow and steady wins the race on the Sri Lankan railways.

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Sea turtle breeding program in southern Sri Lanka.

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Local fishermen in Unawatuna.

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All aboard the 5:20 to Colombo!

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Friendly local.

2015-02-09_09-28-58Living the simple life in a fishing village.

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Sri Lankan countryside.

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This little fella was heavier than he looks.

Lost with Louie: New York City

2015-02-07_15-33-47Whether hearing the name of this city conjures thoughts of Sinatra, invokes memories of your favourite mafia movie or simply makes you think of your last trip to the city that never sleeps, one thing is for certain: New York has something for everyone! For me, memories of New York are abound with great food, an artistic scene that rivals any in the world and a history that is as colourful as it is rich.

As an avid lover of food, my first visit to New York as a teenager focused on pizza, steak and burgers. While there is much more to the NYC gastro scene than this, my dream as a kid was to eat a giant slice of New York pizza (I was easy to please as a youngster). Once my pizza urges were satisfied, my mind turned to steak, booze and mafioso in some of NYC’s famous steak houses. But more on that later.

For any food lover, I recommend watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episode on New York. Not only will you be dribbling uncontrollably, you will be looking to book a plane ticket with your next pay cheque.

My memories of New York are of walking the streets of Harlem in search of the diner used in the filming of Seinfeld. They are rich with the smell of steak in my nose, the calm of walking through Strawberry Fields and the awe of looking across the East River to Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge. For me, New York inspires me to eat, explore, write and follow my dreams, like so many before me who have visited this great city.

Getting around
New York is perhaps the major travel hub in and out of the United States. At the beginning of New York’s relatively short but rich history, New York harbour was the landing point for immigrants who ventured to the U.S in search of a better lifestyle, the promised American dream.

Once there, getting around is easy. There are the famous yellow cabs and the underground railway network, but my favourite mode of transport in the city that never sleeps is by foot! I’ve walked almost the length of Manhattan, from the Financial District in the south, through Harlem and into Washington Heights. The surprises and sights that you see while on foot are easily missed in cabs and on the underground. My number one recommendation for a walking tour of New York is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It is my favourite bridge in the world and offers amazing views of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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Brooklyn Bridge looking back to southern Manhattan (photo courtesy of Phillip Klinger).

Food
The culinary options come at you in abundance in NYC. Whether you are after a New York Sirloin, dim sum in Chinatown, world-class Italian or modern cuisine, this city has it all. The food in Chinatown is good, but being from the Asia region, I’d prefer to visit Hong Kong or Singapore for my dim sum fix. For me, once I satisfied my craving for giant pizza, New York is all about steak houses. I am an out-and-out carnivore and NYC ticks all of my boxes when it came to getting my protein fix! Take your pick from any of the famous steak joints, but be sure to book ahead if you can. New York also offers a number of street delicacies, in the form of New York hotdogs and my morning favourite, the bagel.

When it comes to drinks, I have trouble locating decent espresso coffee at times, as the Americans tend to prefer filtered coffee. In saying that though, there are a number of good places worth visiting, you might just have to do your research beforehand. New York is full of bars. There are sports bars that show live sports round the clock, there are quieter wine bars and then there are the swanky clubs of the Meat-Packing District and other trendy suburbs. Be prepared to part ways with your hard-earned pennies if you plan on visiting someplace fancy. No matter where you decide to drink, always remember to leave a tip or you will have trouble getting served that second beer!

The locals
New Yorkers are very proud of their city. They are used to the hustle and bustle and they are also used to tourists. NYC is the city that never sleeps and its inhabitants are the people who never rest. There are all kinds of people who live in the city. There are bankers who probably use $100 bills as toilet paper, there are celebrities, there are artists and writers and there are the everyday folk just like you and I. While the dark days of New York being one of the mugging capitals of the world are behind us, it is still best to take care of yourself and your possessions when moving around the city. Enjoy what NYC has to offer, but do it sensibly.

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The Meatpacking District.

Culture
It seems that each borough has its own culture and rhythm. Like its food scene, New York’s cultural highlights are numerous and vary from musicals on Broadway to viewing the city skyline from atop of the famous Rockefeller Centre. For me, Ellis Island is worth a visit to get an idea of the mass-immigration into the city over time. As I mentioned before, traveling on foot is my preferred method of transport and a day long walking tour of the different boroughs and suburbs will have you seeing the sights and places of cultural significance. On my last visit to New York, it was the middle of winter and we went ice-skating in Central Park. Being from Australia, ice-skating in the outdoors is a novelty not to be missed!

Tips to save a penny or two
New York has the ability to drain your bank account and have you searching for that hole in your pocket that was responsible for you losing your cash. There are however a few tips for saving a dollar or two. I like to use Air BnB for my accommodation. You can find small apartments for a fraction of the price of the big hotels in the city. This allows you to cook your own meals and eat breakfast at home also which is a great saving. Walking instead of using cabs to get around will save you some money and eating at small, local restaurants and eateries is cheaper than the flamboyant fine dining restaurants that are in abundance in NYC.

Fast Five
The one thing you should pack when going to New York is…
A comfortable pair of walking shoes. You will earn the right to splurge on giant pizza after a day of exploring Manhattan on foot.

Top 3 things to do in New York

  1. Walk across the Brooklyn bridge and explore the borough of Brooklyn
  2. Eat a New York hotdog at a baseball game
  3. Eat steak and drink whiskey at Keen’s

The one thing to eat in New York is…
For me a New York Sirloin cooked to perfection at Sparks Steakhouse or any other ex-mafia hangout!

The 3 words that best summarise New York
Fast, Loud, Addictive.

You know you’re in New York when…
You know you’re in New York when at the end of the day your feet are sore, you need two hands to hold a piece of pizza and you couldn’t be happier than just sitting on a street corner watching the world pass you by.

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Empire State standing tall.

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Bow Bridge in a frozen Central Park.

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View from atop the Empire State Building.

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Radio City.

Project: Lost with Louie

2015-02-07_15-10-50In the pursuit of fulfillment and happiness, and in a hope to preserve my memories, I began working recently on the Lost with Louie project. Lost with Louie will consist of a number of destination reflections, focusing on those cities and town that I’ve traveled to over the years that left an impression on who I am as a person.

This project was conceived through my pure love of travel and the freedom that is only obtained through a life on the road. Living one day to the next, not knowing what the immediate future holds. Some people are more suited to living out of a bag than others. To those of you out there, I salute you and dedicate this project to your decision to live a life of wandering. There is nothing like being lost in the right direction….

…Stayed tuned.

:: Louie ::

To those who inspire

This post is dedicated to those who give me my inspiration. As the working week begins, my mind turns (as it always does) to bigger and better things. I dream of my next trip, of traveling to far-flung places in search of quiet. I allow my heart to yearn for the things that I don’t have but have always wanted. My morning bus ride is usually consumed between scrolling through Instagram and reading the latest on my favourite blog sites. My ultimate dream is to write from the comfort of the road less traveled. To immerse myself in the food and the people of the world. To earn enough to live a happy life doing something I love. These are my top 5 sources of inspiration.

  1. Legal Nomads
    http://www.legalnomads.com

Legal Nomads is a blog written and created by former lawyer turned travel writer, Jodi Ettenburg. In 2008, Jodi quit her high paying, high pressure job to take a year-long sabbatical. Somewhere along the way, she realised that the corporate world was no longer for her and her year-long vacation turned into a life of living on the road. Her writing covers everything food and travel. She focuses most of her attention on Asia due to the cost of living and for her love of the Vietnamese culture and noodle soup!

For me, Jodi represents the realisation that sitting at a desk in front of a computer is not the be all and end all. Her writing and her story inspire me to achieve more. To keep working hard and to make my dream a reality.
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Jodi’s oh-so healthy obsession with noodle soup!

  1. Garypepper Girl
    http://garypeppergirl.com

Ok, so fashion is not something that I hold close to my heart, however the there is something about the work of Nicole Warne that has me coming back for more. Garypepper girl offers an insight into the glitz and glamour of a world I have never and will never be a part of. It seems that not a week goes by that Nicole and her photographer partner Luke Shadbolt are not traveling the world doing what they love. Whether it be New York for a fashion show or to the island of Kauai for an aerial shoot of the prehistoric coastline, these two are on the go and keeping the fire inside of me burning. I will admit that I have a soft spot for these two as they grew up, and still live in my hometown but it just goes to show that if your dreams are big enough, and you work hard, the life of your dreams is possible.

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Gary pepper Girl living on the edge in Norway.

  1. Clarke Little
    http://www.clarklittlephotography.com

There isn’t much Clarke Little hasn’t done. As one of the most successful and interesting surf/ ocean photographers of our time, anyone who has anything to do with surfing or the ocean knows the quality of work that this man has produced over the years. Clarke Little lives in Hawaii and specialises in capturing intimate moments with some the oceans most majestic creatures. He also has a knack for putting himself into some heavy situations in order to provide us with some unique views of the ocean. It is obvious that this man loves doing what he does. He spends his days in the blue waters of Hawaii and tinkering around with his cameras and photos. Looking at Clarke’s work inspires me to travel, work hard and focus my attention on combining my writing with my other passions.

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Clarke Little has the knack of being in the right spot and getting the shot!

  1. Grease and Glamour (Jinna Yang)
    http://greaseandglamour.com

I first came across Jinna’s Instagram account “GreaseandGlamour”, and then blog when I was working through a few personal issues in my life. Jinna’s photos and inspirational writing seemed to speak to me and give me the strength to keep going at a time when it felt easier to just give up. Jinna’s story is inspirational and one that I encourage you to look into in your own time. She made the decision to quit her day job, follow her heart and chase her dream of living the life she had always wanted: writing and traveling on a full-time basis.

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Grease and Glamour (Jinna) in Iceland!

  1. The Drifter blog
    http://thedrifter.me

The Drifter blog is written and photographed by Byron Bay local Ming Nomchong. Her blog is centred on the ocean while paying particular attention to travel and fashion. I first came across this blog when Ming and a couple of her friends went to Tonga on a shoot. This trip was heavily focused on free diving with Humpback whales – a life-long dream of mine! The style of the blog, her writing and her photographic work is simplistic and speaks to the heart of a fellow ocean and nature lover.

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Yep, she certainly nailed this shot.

If you are like me, and have an urge to travel and see all of the beauty that this earth has to offer, I recommend checking these sites out. Here’s a few more for inspiration. Enjoy!
:: Louie ::

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Jinna in France

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Clarke Little capturing a pair of turtle lovers in Hawaii.

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Gary pepper Girl checking out the view from her office in Kauai.

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Tell me you don’t have an urge to do this!!

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Saigon in full swing through the eyes of the Legal Nomad.

Positive Intentions and the Year Ahead

2015-01-12_10-57-26Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you had the courage to truly follow your heart and explore your deepest desires? How many time have you found yourself sitting at work with the thought of picking up your belongings and walking out those doors, never to return to that well-worn office chair? I remember sitting in a meeting once, staring blankly at the serial time-waster who was speaking in acronym packed riddles, wondering what it was that I was actually doing there. Aside from the fact that I wanted to yell in his face and tell him to shut up, that experience, and others life it, have left me with a yearning for something more burning inside of me.

I grew up being told that I could be anything I wanted. I was told that hard work would give me a good life, one that would make me happy. I worked hard. I graduated high school with marks that allowed me to go to university. I graduated university with marks that would allow me to secure a decent job. I found that respectable, well-paying job. Here I sit, in my well-worn office chair wondering if all that hard work has paid off…

Am I the type of person who can spend the rest of my life in the sitting position for five days a week? Do I have it in me to sit here and count down the days until my allocated few weeks off every year? Will my life become nothing more than shifting between first and second gears for the rest of my days?

More often than not, I find myself staring out of the bus window or at the open document on my computer screen, thinking of what I’d rather be doing. Recently, I made a conscious decision to not settle for mediocrity in my life. Spending my hard-earned cash on beer to drown away the reality of working long hours in order to make someone else rich is no longer good enough. Buying new clothes in an attempt to fit in with the crowd in the office is no longer a priority. Spending time with people who don’t contribute to me growing as a person is something I have realised is a waste of my precious energy and time.

I have never been one that is big on making new years resolutions, however this year I decided to give it a go. My intention for 2015 can be broken down into one sentence.

To grow as a person through travel and slowing life down.

After what has felt like endless reflection, I have realised that these two elements are things that I used to have in my life but, for one reason or another, have not been front and centre of my thinking for a long period of time. A big part of this is the fact that I was trying to keep up with what everyone else was doing. Buying a house, eating at expensive restaurants, staying in expensive hotels and drinking at swanky bars was what I thought would bring me happiness. I was wrong.

Admitting to myself that I had got it wrong and that there was no one else to blame but me, was a big moment. I have never really failed at anything in life before. I learned that through failure comes growth and lessons that I will use time and again for the rest of my life. While being wrong is fine, what’s not OK is repeating your mistakes or doing nothing to change your situation. It only feels like yesterday that I was in my early 20’s and here I am now, with a few greys showing through in my beard, wondering where all that time went.

As the party season draws to an end and the reality of 2015 begins to sink in, I hope you have set some positive intentions for the year ahead. Whether these intentions are to travel, to buy a house or to simply spend more meaningful time with loved ones, I hope you find that balance and I hope it brings happiness and meaning to your life.

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Is there nothing finer than the smell of barbecued meat in the summer?

porkThat time of year is upon us. The days are long, the nights are hot and sticky, and the beaches are jam-packed full of people. Writing about these observations of summer brings back childhood memories of family barbecues. I fondly remember the smells of smoke and grilled meat filling my nostrils as I run around the backyard chasing my younger cousins, with my Jack Russell dog not far behind. These were happy times.

Moving to Sydney some years ago, I have had the privilege of watching many people, from many nationalities cook meat. I have seen the Brazilians down at Bondi grilling meat over an open grill to the beat of samba music. I have witnessed the Japanese flash-grilling delicately sliced cuts of marinated beef one by one, only to be consumed within the three seconds or so it is taken from the hot plate. And of course, I have seen the middle-aged Australian male cremate his family’s lunch in front of their very eyes, all the while shaking his head in disgust at the various other cooking methods taking place around him.

While barbecuing meat does not make me want to beat my chest in a primal display of manhood, there is something oddly satisfying about being able to cook a steak or a rack of ribs to perfection. I began barbecuing at an early age. My father taught me the order by which the different meats should be added to the grill, how long each would take to cook and how to best cook a steak so it remained tender. Thankfully, my father wasn’t one of those who cooked our meat until it was black and blood-free.

Barbecuing for me is not just a way to cook red meat, it is a way to infuse my favourite vegetables with a smoky aroma, a way to get a crispy, caramelised coating on my marinated pork ribs and a way to turn the cheap chicken thigh into a marinated masterpiece. Your ability to barbecue correctly can be the difference between you looking like a chump or resembling somewhat of a god to your friends and family. For me, it is also about paying the ultimate respect to the animal that died in order for us to enjoy such a wonderful experience. Cooking every last ounce of moisture from a cut of meat, only for your family to sit there and chew for hours on end just to get it down is an insult to the animal and, to a lesser extent, a waste of money.

For me there are a number of tips or laws that I live by when barbecuing different types of food. These help to bring the best out the food.

Beef/ Lamb

  1. When cooking beef or lamb and especially steak, make sure the surface is hot before adding the meat!
  2. Patience is a virtue. Let your steak rest for 5 minutes after you remove it from the grill. This will allow the cut to retain the moisture
  3. Never cut off all the fat before barbecuing. It is simple. Fat = Flavour.
  4. Always, always oil the cut and not the grill. Once removed from the grill, add rock salt to taste and to enhance the natural beauty of the meat.

Chicken

  1. Use a cut of chicken that won’t dry out (avoid breast). For me, chicken thigh is the way to go. It retains the moisture and is cheaper than other cuts
  2. Don’t undercook it! Sounds simple but you’d be surprised how often underdone chicken is served.

Pork

  1. Be careful not to overcook pork as it becomes dry and hard to eat
  2. Marinated pork on an open grill is one of life’s true gifts. Try a simple marinade of lemongrass, chili, garlic and light soy on grilled pork skewers (remember to soak the skewers for a few hours to avoid burning).

Vegetables

  1. Become familiar with how different vegetables react under extreme heat. Sliced eggplant is likely to shrivel up into a crispy mess if you leave it on the grill for too long
  2. Add flavour by including garlic or small amounts of rock salt to your grilled vegetables.

Side note: In a previous post, I was asked how to best go about lighting a charcoal grill. This was a question I had a frustrating time trying to figure out myself when I got my first charcoal grill. I was told to use fire starters, which worked quite well, however I found that they leave a chemical taste in the food. I believe that there are a number of ways to successfully light a charcoal barbecue. These include:

  1. Use a butane burner to apply flame to charcoal until it catches
  2. Use small kindling under charcoal or heat beads
  3. Use a small amount of newspaper.

I find these methods not only allow you to light the charcoal but also make for a cleaner grill in terms of taste and health benefits. The key to grilling on an open charcoal grill is patience. If you are after a quick mid-week meal, then stick to the gas burner. If you have time, and want to bring the very best out of your meat then an open flame, charcoal grill is for you!

dream bbq
My barbecue dream!

Man Food – Top 5 Kitchen Essentials for the Modern Man

I recently posted my top 5 dude foods for the modern-day, health conscious man. By all accounts there was a lot of positive feedback so I decided to keep the theme rolling in this post.

I remember when I moved out of the Louie household at the age of 19 and spread my wings by moving into a house near the beach, a mere two streets away from the family home. I’ll be honest, at this time in my life cooking was not my highest priority but as I learned to fend for myself, it became clear that there were a few stock items I needed in the kitchen.

Below are my top 5 kitchen essentials that I could not live without, both back then and now. It was a hard task, having to pick my top 5. These items were chosen because they suit the way I like to cook. I use them for cooking the food that makes me happy. To be successful at cooking, you have to enjoy what you are doing and what you are creating.

1. Cast-iron casserole pot: I use my casserole pot to cook almost everything. I use it to roast, for cooking warming casseroles in winter and for making pulled pork for my pulled pork tacos. This item gained the number one spot because of the versatility and the fact that I can throw in my meat and herbs, put it in the oven and enjoy a few beers while I wait for it to cook!

pot

Old red gets me through any tough situation in the kitchen!

2. Griddle pan (cast-iron of course): Cast-iron cooking has become a theme for me. My mum bought me my griddle pan some years ago and I haven’t looked back since! It is the perfect item for cooking a steak. I can sear the steak to seal in the juices and then transfer it from the stove-top straight into the oven to finish cooking. I don’t know many men who don’t enjoy a perfectly cooked steak with a glass of Shiraz or a cold beer. My cast-iron griddle pan almost made the top spot but I think a close second still does it justice.

pan

There is something manly about cast-iron cooking.

3. Open coal grill: This new addition is quickly becoming my favourite kitchen essential. For obvious reasons, I only use it outdoors, but with the hot Australian summers, outdoor dining and cooking is something I really look forward to. The coal grill dominates a gas hot plate in every way, except for the time it takes to heat up. As the meat cooks, the fat drips onto the coals creating a delicious smoke that adds a punchy smoky flavour. I enjoy grilling marinated pork skewers (Vietnamese style), or spicy chorizo. It is also quick, easy and minimal fuss when it comes to cleaning up.

coal grill

My new toy. Open grill cooking at its very best!

4. Chef’s knife: Years ago, I was given a Global chef’s knife and it has remained by my side as my faithful slicing companion ever since. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to thinly slice meat or vegetables with a blunt knife. I have used knives in the past where I have sworn that chopping with a spoon would have been more effective. The common expression of there being a great woman behind every great man can be adapted to the kitchen – behind every great cook is a great knife!

knife

A good knife = a good life.

5. Food processor: My food processor is never far from reach when I’m in the kitchen. I use it to create stir-fry marinades (chili, garlic, lemongrass, ginger), a biscuit base for a cheesecake or a basil pesto when cooking pasta. A food processor will have you cooking like a pro with minimal effort, resulting in impressive meals for loved ones, for the kids or when entertaining the ladies.

food processor

Create a masterpiece in seconds with a food processor.

So there you have it, my top 5 kitchen essentials. Whether you are a young 18-year-old with the aim of impressing the ladies, a 20-something man with a new girlfriend or a stay-at-home dad who is tasked with cooking for the kids, these essentials will see you on the way to creating impressive and delicious meals.

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Taco time!