I met Germaine Greer last week. After all these years. After all these years of Germaine and Cinderella jostling for poll position in my psyche, my life choices and my prefered make of slipper that I wear to bust balls.

It was a pretty full day and the Birkenstocks had edged out the Blahnicks, once again. Quelle Surprise. There’d been negotiations — with both the big end of town (work) and the small end of my child (potty training); I’d scripted dramatic comedy for the screen, and created it, in my life. Written emails, clashed with she-males and ripped down to Woollies to get a brisket for a recipe for Vietnamese Pho I planned to prepare for my highly intellectual and multicultural brother and his wife who were joining us for dinner the next night.

I even googled “Brisket” to find out what it was. And it’s the breast of the cow. Of course it is.

Woollies didn’t stock brisket. So I called my chief meat man, recently crowned Regional Sausage King, whose shop is just a carbon skip and jump from my sandy suburban home.

“Of course, we have brisket”, Michael the Butcher chuffed.

“Come down and I’ll fix you up.”

He always fixes me up, does Michael the Butcher. That’s why he’s the ONE. We’re on first name terms — I only get called “dear” if I’m in trouble. But Michael and his offsider Doug weren’t too sure about using Brisket for this soup. Their eyes met across the sawdust in one of those ‘she doesn’t know what she’s doing and should we intervene glances’ that told me they really cared about the guts of my guests.

But I assured the guys I did have a recipe and, brisket firmly in hand, I ventured gamely into the dangerous world of virgin recipes for special guests, determined to cook the living daylights out of that damned breast of the cow it to get it nice and tender.

All that and meet Germaine Greer as well.

It’s handy when your colleagues work in television on shows you love watching. I had some DVDs to deliver for viewing, and it was easiest to rip them in to him after the show at night and have a quick meeting, given there was no time in the day between business, baby and brisket.

The baby was in bed, the baton passed to my partner, and Germaine was fascinating on Q&A. Not just articulate and brave but so entertaining as well — hooded eyes and delicious voice couching a human emotional open wound; her feelings shadowing her face as clouds do the sun to add a bit of threat to an otherwise sunny day.

And there she sat with her softly feathered saltnpeppered beautifully whitening hair and wearing one of those deliciously comforting grey knit jumpers that just begs for a cuddle, even when worn into a social war zone.

And I listened to the conversation on Rage and Barack Obama and how Hillary turned her cold even though she wore knits and I knew I shouldn’t but I wondered if Germaine was wearing a bra with that jumper, cos if it was wool and she wasn’t, someone would have very itchy nipples indeed. One has these thoughts in one’s forties.

Now quite frankly, in this new and foreign suburban life of mine, I normally couldn’t be fagged going anywhere at 10.30pm at night. But I pepped myself up. I was a groupie.

So with a slick of lipstick and the utter confidence that messy tousled hair is a good look nowadays, I got me there. I even wore my very own grey knit jumper. But definitely with a bra.

And there was Germaine. Feathered, fabulous, and holding forth.

There were a couple of gleaming young people nudging up to meet her, ahead of me, that night. She looked upon them delightedly, as tasty morsels with interesting vibrant opinions that could stimulate her own growth, deliciously sizing them up, all generation whatever they are of them with their floppy fringes and their lorakeet crowns. Sure they were impressed with her — they were meeting a legend, and they basked in in each others glow.

Me? Well, I watched from just outside the circle, for I was meeting my “mother”. The woman from whose intellectual loins I sprang, whose spirit I channelled , whose difficult nature I had appropriated as my own, with more than a few bruises to show for it.

The waters broke — I mean, parted. We faced each other, her attention dragged to me by the force of my own beaming countenance. LG going home, I thought, as I extended my hand within that crowded circle and introduced myself.

“Hello,” I said.

“My name is Libbi Gorr. I’m so Pleased to meet you, Germaine.”

Then Germaine said to me? Nothing. Actually, it was hello, and a kind of “Do I smell brisket?” dismissive glance and then nothing.

Now when this happens in a social situation, you may, like me, have the folowing paranoid thoughts.

  1. She knows me and doesn’t like me.
  2. She doesn’t know me and doesn’t want to like me.
  3. She has an aversion to brisket.

But I did not feel rage. Tho’ cut adrft, I also felt quite secure.

Because in my heart of hearts, I know that Brisket does not make me a bad person. Even if it is an old fashioned cut of meat that I sought to reinvent by using it in my Pho. Despite the Butcher’s concern, he was happy to support my reinterpretation, plus add a few helpful hints along the way. Make sure you take that breast of cow and you cook it good. It’s the only way you get it tender.

Maybe that’s the key to Germaine. Maybe she’s just been cooked, so cooked, that that she carries no artiface, and her thoughts just fall off the bone.

Is there any wonder that she’s wary? Particularly of women like me, of a certain age, the Cinderella Greer generation. You know, the ones who got brought up on fairy tales of cinderella and princes riding you off into the sunset, then went to school and got indoctrinated with Germaine Greer. Burn your bra, run hard against the boys, they said. So we burned out bras ran hard against the boys and a few of us came home with two black eyes.

We do need new social recipes for age old issues on that question, especially for those of ambitious creatures with children. One size does not fit all. And neither does Germaine. She is still delicious. And definitely tender, if not touchy. She has no qualms about trying new social recipes to feed public debate, knowing each time, there is always a caveat. She’s gunna get cooked. Which could explain her aversion to brisket.

The soup went beautifully, by the way. Everyone was very impressed that such a vintage cut of beef could get such a star turn on the gastonomic runway.

For some ridiculous primal reason, this gave me a great sense of satisfaction.

I reported back to the butcher, as promised. He was thrilled — so much so he asked me for the recipe.

“Can always learn something new, Lib, he nodded, so be open to new things, even if you wrote the book on it,” he shared .

And he meant it. Every day he’s there for the sisterhood, supporting and feeding their lives, as they balance their conflict between Cinderella and Greer. Hundreds of women go into that shop, so thats got to be a good control group. And he is the Sausage King, lets face it.

Brisket Pho

Big Brisket
Chicken frames
2 litres water
3 red sliced red onions
salt to taste
ginger to taste
3 cinnamon sticks
star anise
3 teasp coriander seeds
fish sauce to taste
½ tablesppon sugar ( 1 tablespoon palm sugar)
Rice noodles
Lemon

Make a stock with the chicken frames, the brisket, the dark green ends of the spring onions, the onions, and the ginger, star anise, coriander seeds and cinnamon.

Do this by bringing to the boil, skimming off the froth and simmering for hours and hours and hours, until the brisket is tender and soft.

Then take the brisket out and strain the broth, throwing out alll the accoutrements and keeping the liquid. Then season the broth with sugar and fish sauce. Pour broth over the cooked noodles, and scatter over sliced chilli, bean shoots, mint and coriander.

Wear Bra. It’s hot.

Peter Fray

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