My walk to university each morning takes me through Lambton Quay, Willis street, Manners Street and Cuba Street, the trunk line of Wellington. Lambton Quay at 8am is full of dark suits and high heels clipping on the brick paving. Men and women wrap their hands around take-away coffee cups, heads down, off to work. But on Cuba Street everything looks different. The sun is beginning to hit the top of the buildings at this time of the morning and the street is a patchwork of sun and shadow. On Cuba Street people drink their coffee indoors, some might even call this brunch.
I notice the people first of all. I smiled to myself when I saw the man who looked like he had stepped off the set of a Beatles video; he was bearded and had a certain swagger about him. He was eating a cupcake with mint blue coloured frosting which was falling through his beard. There was a man twirling and waxing his dreadlocks on a park bench. There is the sad looking woman who I imagined was beautiful at a point in her life, before whatever demons she now has took hold. The colourful hippies set up shop on a blanket selling their crochet hats and knotted bracelets. There are buskers – people are literally singing and dancing in the street. You might see men drinking flat whites from beer handles, or the American card trick guy, his black top hat visible above the heads of school girls gathered around him, or the woman who is dressed every day from head to toe in army camouflage.
I pass by the bucket fountain with its splish-splosh inelegance and clunky lack of grace. I walk past Matterhorn; the black sandwich board outside with a chalk drawing of a steaming coffee and an open packet of cigarettes appears a false representation of the top notch food served inside. Further up is Olive and Midnight Espresso. Then Logan Brown with its bright red door and Floriditas with their drooping lights and swirly wall paper: beacons of the Wellington culinary scene.
I look at the buildings now too. They took a while to notice, not because they aren’t beautiful – I think these buildings are some of the most beautiful in Wellington – but because we never seem to look up while we walk. So, look up, I tell you. I see a vast array of colours, the intricate details and a mix of past and present.
Near the top of Cuba street I look for the changing spaces. The new grafitti art, the new posters and footpath stickers. I watch every day as one shop begins to close down and a new gallery is built. Day by day I have seen this gallery space become whole – last week the floor tiles were unveiled and the walls are now a clean white.
As Cuba Street ends there is the Kreuzberg summer café. Their menu is titled Good Things and they sometimes have $5 Pimm’s cup during happy hour. I like that. The road here, for a long time, was artfully decorated in white paint splatters. Shooting drops radiated from a large splodge of paint. A paint can or bucket must have dropped from the construction site above. I would have like to have seen that.
Around the corner on Hopper street is the Supreme Coffee Factory. This is where my walk gets really good, for the air is filled with the most incredible scent. If the wind is right and its suitably early, the smell of roasting coffee beans drifts around you. It smells of melting chocolate, bitter coffee, burnt toast, baking biscuits and maybe a little bit of burning rubber. It smells hot and bittersweet and slightly acrid. I love it, it’s the high point of my walk, this smell.
During these autumn days, in the morning when the sun is low, I want to sit on the concrete wall by the Supreme Factory, near the electrician’s shop, the council flats and the abandoned bathroom showroom. I would sit there, not worrying about being late for class, because in this part of town, punctuality doesn’t matter. I would unwrap those biscuits you see up there. They have the air of an ANZAC biscuit, but with the heat of ginger and the sticky sweetness of dates and sultanas. They match the smell in the air, although, they would be equally well matched with a proper coffee, in a proper cup. But, hey we are near Cuba street, things are different here.
I’ve never been much of a biscuit person. My father makes a darn tasty chocolate oat cookie. Two batches are never the same but that is part of their charm. I like the idea of a biscuit – a single entity, everything you need, and everything that is good, in one spoonful of dough. And yet, I prefer cake, something which can be eaten with a fork and yoghurt or cream. Cake feels like more of an event.
But here are those biscuits. They have a bit of chew, a bit of crisp. It may seem like a lot is going on in these biscuits. But then, like Cuba Street, they just seem to work and to win your over with their slight eccentricities. They may very well become my biscuit of choice.
Date and Ginger ANZAC Biscuits
150 grams butter, softened
200 grams soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 1/4 cups flour
25 grams sultanas
1 tablespoon golden syrup
4 tablespoons warm water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
sunflower seeds/pumpkin seeds/slivered almonds (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 180°. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Add ground ginger and beat for 2 minutes more. Add oats, coconut and flour. Mix through – it may be easier to use your hands at this point. Roughly chop the dried fruit. Place in a small saucepan with the warm water and golden syrup. Heat, stirring occasionally until just bubbling. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. Stir. Pour the hot fluffy mixture into the biscuit dough and mix well.
Spoon dough into walnut sized balls and place a suitable distance apart. Flatten ever so slightly with a wet fork. In the grooves from the fork sprinkle a pinch of sunflower seeds/slivered almonds/pumpkin seeds or a mixture of them all. Place in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes or until nicely golden. Remove from ovena dn allow the biscuits to cool for 5 minutes on the baking tray before moving to a cooling rack. They will feel quite soft but they crisp up as they cool.
Enjoy with coffee, in whatever form you take it, or tea. Or any other beverage!