Reading Between the Lines

It’s been super birthday week here on the Homestead. On Thursday, The Renovator clocked up a quarter of a century (gasp) and The Farmer began his last year as a teenager on Friday. Putting all the “oh, how the time flies” and “I remember when…” aside, at base it meant some hard-core dining out was in order.

To get ourselves into the mood, a sort of pre-birthday-run treat (Pah! we don’t need to make excuses with you all; let’s  just say: because we wanted to), the previous Saturday we had a Day in Town.  Work is moving along on the Homestead and the next big job to tackle, once The Farmer has his bedroom back, is the show-stopper: the kitchen.

kitchen oct2014
The current Homestead kitchen: it’s had a long and demanding life (judging by past residents graffiti etched into the bench)

We are true believers in old adage forewarned is forearmed, particularly when it comes to making big ticket item purchases, so a tyre-kicking expedition around the major appliance stores was planned with the added sweetener of a tram ride and lunch at a cafe for those not so enthralled by double ovens and dishwasher water usage.

We speak to you all now as folk very well informed when it comes to the different brands of dishwashers on the market, more than a little au fait with the specs and performance capabilities of kitchen extraction fans but, more importantly, as ones who have found their dream cooker.

Oh, ’tis a thing of beauty

So excited were we on making this wondrous discovery that we extolled it’s merits to anyone who would stand still long enough. Interestingly, we began to notice a uniformity in the responses which puzzled us somewhat. Wasn’t this a little out of our reach?! We thought you liked to live simply! Reading between the lines,  this culinary dream was not one people would expect us to have.

Information gathered, it was then time for a trip on the trams.  This is something Farm Girl has been dreaming of for a long time.
Farm Girl Riding in Style

For $10.00 we got an all day pass and made the most of it, getting on at the half way point, travelling to one end of the run, the art deco New Regent Street, then the entire run (which passed where we’d stabled the Homestead Mobile), through Cathedral Square which is now more Square than Cathedral, and as such does house a colourful flock of sheep:
The flock of sheep is negotiated by a bunch of New Brighton ruffians while the demure Novotel patrons stare on in horror (esp for my friends at Sailor’s Small Farm)

to the end of the run at the museum, where a group of three families joined us.  Our expectation of being able to hear the commentary provided by the effervescent Valerie, continue sporadically interacting with the little international band of fellow tram travellers we had become part of, and basically enjoy the trip at all were immediately re-evaluated.


Farm Girl (whispered): “I spy with my little eye something beginning with S.”  A great many guesses ranging from sky to Subaru to steeple (which we plainly couldn’t see as it no longer exists, but we were getting desperate) all were answered with a firm shake of the head.

A collective, ” we give up”.

“Stupid parents”.  Judgemental?  Yes indeed,  but at the same age we expected more of  Farm Girl when out in company. Reading between the lines, the phrase “family outing” means different things to different folk.

Time for lunch and the choice of destination was unanimous: The Swiss Bistro. We discovered this wonderful place on our previous Day in Town.   The food is sublime and the surroundings just so comfortably homey in a Kiwi-meets-Swiss kind of way (ie: heavy on the yodelling) but the big difference is that this place isn’t a one-size-fits-all, generic establishment. At this place George and Junko are intent on you having the best possible experience in their specialty restaurant.  In return they have expectations of you: their guests.

This is because The Swiss Cafe is run following the business strategy of Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter, which in a nutshell has the business identifying the customers it feels would best benefit from what they specialise in, and politely excluding those that don’t fit. George can appear a trifle stern on arrival as he demands you examine the menu before entering: does this appeal?  If not, maybe you should reconsider dining there because this, and only this, is what he cooks.  At The Swiss Cafe there is no  “fries with that”, swapping the salad for vege, or having the sauce of one dish on another meal.  And, just quietly, you’d be a fool to want to; George knows what he’s talking about, and the man can cook! He’s also pretty to-the-point when it comes to children in your party as well.  “Do you know how to behave?” he demanded of Farm Girl on our first visit.  If he wasn’t won over by her wide-eyed mute nod, her lapping up of the pasta sauce visibly melted his heart and he has now ruined hot chocolate for her forever.  How can anything compete once real Swiss chocolate has been experienced?

Can you tell we like it? It’s refreshing to know that you’re never going to be next to an obnoxious work party or have a couple of children running races between the tables and you won’t be edged towards the door the moment you’ve swilled your last mouthful of coffee.  It’s all about good food in congenial surroundings where you can dally for as long as you want while discussing everything and nothing.  

Expectations; we all have them.  Sometimes they’re fair, sometimes they’re unobtainable, sometimes they’re not going to fit. Life would be a lot simpler if everyone made their expectations as clear as George and Junko, totally prepared for you to opt out and forgo their service/company/friendship without any ill-feeling.

It sure beats reading between the lines. 

2014-01-17 16.41.57

6 thoughts on “Reading Between the Lines

  1. I LOVE the sheep! They weren’t there in March. There was boarding around the cathedral with big flowers all over it, very bright and cheery, but the sheep are much better. And the tram is running! I’m envious of Farm Girl getting to do the whole route. If the New Brighton crowd had been negotiating the sheep when we were being Novotel patrons (no one would describe any of us as demure – well maybe the eldest daughter – but she’s faking it), they probably would have been watching us in horror, leapfrogging the artwork.

    Your future cooker looks wonderful. When I saw the first picture, I was thinking, my that stove (that’s what they’re called here) is a bit small for that space, and how does she fit that big casserole dish in the oven? Is it gas? Is that THREE ovens? Wow. I’ve always wanted an Aga, but my house would probably cave in under the weight of one, plus we don’t have gas, plus they only cost about as much as a new car.

    I’m glad Farm Girl had the sense to have her birthday separately from those boys – you get more special treatment if it’s the only celebration in a long stretch, but happy birthday to the aging ones all the same!

    • Pah! The artwork is begging to be leapfrogged!! The casserole fits in with a lot of careful negotiating – like getting the Homestead Mobile out our gateposts! Yes, three ovens (although one is a grill – but still…) All electric (we don’t have gas either, and the fussing around with LPG bottles is way beyond my tolerance threshold). At the moment, it is very much a dream but a realistic one, if that makes sense.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I was in Christchurch between the terrible earthquakes so the picture of the sheep and the mention of the trams was particularly interesting. The cooker looks splendid.

  3. Well, congrats to the Birthday people. And what a great account of the outing! Fram Girl aselegnat as always and those sheep can crowed my garden at any time!
    The stove…oh that stove!!! What a dream!

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