Second-Tier Citizen

I’ve known Beatrice (she likes it pronounced ‘Bear-trice’, not ‘Bee-trice’) since we met at Brownies.  I was very envious of

Roasted Pumpkin

Beatrice because her mother was a very willing and enthusiastic ‘Brown Owl’.  I wanted my mother to be a Brown Owl but she didn’t have time.  ‘I don’t have time’, she’d say, ‘I’ve got Jazzercise’.  If you didn’t go to the local church hall two nights a week for Jazzercise you missed out on a heady and incredibly satisfying overdose of gossip.

Beatrice is depressed about being unemployed.  She popped in last night and over several glasses of Sauvignon Blanc told me tales of torrid experiences with recruitment agencies.

‘They advertised the position.  I contacted them.  A shirty young girl with a snide tone in her voice answered the phone and heaved and sighed like she had been very inconvenienced by my phone call.  She asked me to email in my headshot and resume.  I agreed.  But I asked if she could tell me the name of the company my resume was going to.  She said that was privileged information and at this stage of the application process she would not divulge the details of her client.  Why is her client allowed to remain nameless and faceless while I have to hand over a photo and a complete dossier of who I am?’

This story might take a while.  Better pour myself another glass of wine while Beatrice continues.

‘So I asked, ‘well geographically speaking, where is the business situated?’  And I thought that was a fair question because anyone applying for the position would want to know how far they were going to have to travel each day to work.  But she said, ‘I can tell you they are located between Manly and Palm Beach’.’

‘That’s hardly helpful,’ I said, ‘the distance between Manly and Palm Beach is about 30kms.’

‘I know.  So I asked, ‘so the Palm Beach end or down the Manly end?’  And she just said, ‘my client at this stage would like to remain anonymous, but yes, they are somewhere in between’.  ‘Oh just f… off is what I wanted to say.’

Beatrice is worked up.  Better get her another glass of wine.

‘I’ve wasted so much time doing their stupid tests – typing tests, spelling tests, psychological tests, multiple choice tests and

Crispy Pancetta

those really annoying hypothetical scenario tests like, ‘what would your first response be if you found out someone in the company was taking drugs?’  Ridiculous.  ‘Ask them if they’ve got any to share’, is the only answer to such a stupid question.’

Beatrice isn’t moving.  She’s sitting on a bar stool in my kitchen venting.  It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks.   Last Friday she was turned down from another position.  This time she did actually get to the interview stage.  A few days later when the phone rang and it was the agency on the phone she was so excited.  But they were just ringing to tell her she didn’t get the job.  ‘They’ve finished interviewing and they’ve divided all the applicants into tiers.  You only made it to their second tier’, said the recruitment person in quite an indifferent tone and like poor Beatrice wasn’t going to take that personally.

‘I peaked at 11’, cried Beatrice.  ‘At Brownies I had the top badge.  I passed Pathway, Roadway and Highway.  Now I’m just a second-tier citizen.’

I remembered Beatrice being so excited when she passed all 12 challenges to get her Highway badge.  Better get Beatrice something to go with all that wine.  It’s time for some comfort food.

Pumpkin Risotto with Taleggio Cheese and Crisp Pancetta

Degree of difficulty:  3/5

Cost:  Average

Serves:  4

1/2 butternut pumpkin + some olive oil for drizzling

Pumpkin Risotto with Taleggio Cheese and Crispy Pancetta

1 bunch oregano leaves

1 tblspn olive oil

100g unsalted butter

1 red onion finely chopped

2 cloves of finely chopped garlic

275gms Arborio rice

100mls dry white wine

1ltr chicken stock

100g taleggio cheese

2/3 cup parmesan cheese

12 slices pancetta

Preheat oven to 200°.  Chop pumpkin and place on an ovenproof tray.  Drizzle with olive oil and scatter with oregano leaves.  Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

Heat chicken stock in a saucepan until boiling.  Place a saucepan on the stove over medium heat.  Melt 50g of the butter and add the olive oil.  Saute the onion and garlic until translucent, (about 5-7 minutes).  Add rice and coat with oil and butter mixture (about 1 minute).  Add wine and stir until almost evaporated.

Ladle in hot stock stirring constantly between each addition.

Meanwhile place pancetta slices on an ovenproof tray covered in baking paper.  Cook in oven at 200°C until crispy (about 10 minutes).

When all stock has been absorbed (about 20 minutes) add taleggio, parmesan and remaining butter.  Stir risotto until combined then carefully stir in pumpkin.

Serve on heated plates.  Top with a few slices of pancetta, some parmesan cheese and a few fresh oregano leaves.

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