Monuments, Meals & Memories

On a recent visit to the Motherland, I ate like a local and took photos like a tourist. Here are a few of my favourites:

Flight path


Intricate carvings on a Hindu temple


Crouching Lion, Not-so-Hidden Dragon protecting a Chinese temple


‘Nasi lemak’ – Malaysian Breakfast (or Lunch, or Dinner) of Champions. Authentic apart from the melamine banana leaf.


‘Teh tarik’ – savour the condensed-milk-sweetened, frothy deliciousness of ‘pulled tea’.


And then, the most beautiful thing I had seen in a while. A gift from my sister to our mother after my father’s passing. My parents in the 1970s. Captured and secured within a silver locket, so they may remain together although apart.


Visits to Malaysia are good for the soul.

©2018 Seetha Dodd



When I was a child, I remember asking my father what it meant when a hotel was ‘5 star’. He could have explained the concept of ratings, the different criteria used, the process a hotel would go through each year to gain or maintain their stars. Accurate information, but unnecessarily so, and incredibly dull to a 10 year old.

Instead he said:

It means that if you want apple pie with ice-cream at 3 in the morning, they will bring it to you.”

As my eyes widened, so did my mind. That answer, to a child who was regularly lost in imaginings, was just magical.

It gave me another opportunity to imagine, to conjure up vivid mental pictures, to dream about all the luscious 3am desserts that were out there in the world, and to wonder about the people who were ordering them.

It got me thinking about all the things a hotel would have to do to be able to meet such a request: make sure they had enough supplies, never run out of ice-cream, have someone on kitchen duty all night.

It also (more recently) made me consider what, then, would make a 4 star hotel. Apple pie available until it runs out, perhaps? And then an alternative offering. What about 3 stars? Dessert of the day is peach cobbler and there is a room service charge after midnight. 2 stars? From midnight we have a limited menu. Sadly it does not include apple pie. Or any pie. We do have ice-cream but only strawberry. Take it or leave it. And finally, 1 star. The kitchen closes at 11 pm. Fend for yourselves.

It was (and still is) sweet, delicious food for thought.

So that became my definition of luxury for the past 3 decades. Apple pie with ice-cream at 3am. I never asked my father if he had ever ordered it but I don’t believe he would have. Whiskey, perhaps, but not dessert.

The fact is, I don’t want apple pie with ice-cream at 3am either. I don’t really care about the number of stars a hotel possesses. Don’t get me wrong, I love the finer things just as much as the next person. But the stars in the sky have always held more appeal to me than those on a hotel’s resume. You can’t write poetry about the latter. (Well, I suppose you could. There’s a challenge...)

I love my father’s answer for the simple way it encouraged contemplation. The concept of ratings by 3am dessert options is just another way to invoke my father’s mind into this life without him. To connect. To remember and smile.

I know, especially today on his birthday, that he is having a single malt at 3am or whenever he wants one. And I hope the number of stars are infinite up there.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

To Brie or Not To Brie

I read a ‘Fun Fact’ the other day: There are 450 types of cheese in the world and 250 come from France. I wondered if the remaining 200 included that famous Aussie variety, the self-proclaimed yumminess that is Tasty Cheese. When I first saw this on the shelves of Australian supermarkets I almost tried to instigate a conversation: Oh, are you? Are you really?? Isn’t that for me to decide? The cheese was stunned into silence. But I was intrigued so I bought some. And then I discovered that it is just cheddar. Apparently cheddar is so popular over here that its real name is rarely used. Instead it is sold by strength: Mild, Sharp, Tasty, Extra Tasty (allegedly) or the delightfully named Strong & Bitey.

The thing is, I don’t need all those other cheeses from France. Just brie. Last weekend I found a way to make this exquisite cheese 10 times more indulgent than normal and I don’t mean by pairing it with a sweet Riesling. I didn’t think it was possible to feel guiltier about eating cheese, being ever so slightly lactose intolerant and almost completely in denial about it. The words of my doctor still ring in my ears: A little dairy is ok but you will probably not feel very good if you have a big piece of cheesecake.

So he never specifically mentioned cheese, per se. I proceed on a technicality.

I discovered that if you bake a round of brie in the oven, topped with some toasted honeyed nuts, it turns into heaven on a plate. Just look at this portrait of gooey perfection:


Please forgive the bite-shaped cavity which was caused not by an actual bite (I’m no savage) but by a merciless cracker attack. In my haste to enjoy the moment I forgot to photograph this beauty in its whole, unadulterated form before we got stuck in. It was worth the lack of Insta-shots. Each mouthful was a combination of warm, buttery cheese, caramelised, crunchy walnuts and a lingering kiss of honey. Now that’s what I call tasty.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Stop and smell the Rosé

I do like a good collective noun. Especially a surprising one. It creates an explosion of imagery and brings a group of otherwise nondescript nouns to life.  For example:

A parliament of owls. Owls being all wise, making decisions.  

A posse of policemen. Strutting about, like some kind of hip-hop crew.

A confusion of weasels. Weasels running around, dazed and disorderly.

A rhumba of rattlesnakes. Just imagine. Slinky snakes performing a hip-swaying Latin dance.

A flight of wine. Now we’re talking. A flight! This is wine that can transport you to a better place.

Technically (and Google-y) speaking, a flight of wine is “a selection of three to eight wines presented at a tasting. A ‘horizontal’ flight is one which compares the same wine produced by different wineries. A ‘vertical’ flight would be a selection of wine made by the same winery over a number of years.” OMG. Fascinating.

I stumbled upon this phenomenon in a beautiful winery in Tasmania. Not literally stumbled (I hadn’t had any yet). For those of us who have wine-commitment issues or get wine envy when someone else’s Pinot is better than ours, a flight of wine is the perfect option. Choose 4 different wines from a list and they magically turn up, presented in a specially designed contraption.


Can’t beat the view through rosé-tinted glasses.

I’m almost certain this is not a revolutionary idea. People have probably been sipping on flights of wine in stylish wine bars and wineries since time immemorial. My experience of wine tasting for the most part has involved perching at the counter, going through the entire wine menu from top to bottom and skipping only the Chardonnay.

Because in my house wine o’clock begins shortly after whine o’clock (approximately 7.30pm), there is no delicate measuring of sippy-portions of selected varietals. Pour me a nice big glass and no, I don’t need to taste it first. I’ll be horizontal on the sofa with the Netflix remote control. Like a bed of sloths.

©2018 Seetha Dodd