Sweet & lowdown with the Delirious Bakery
The Rocks, now a tourist hub full of pricey restaurants and shops hawking Uggs and Ken Done postcards, was once a grimy, seedy, plague infested quarry where a colony of convicts and their descendants tried to establish a civilized port city. The neighbourhood has a fascinating history that residents, urban activists and municipal planners have tried to commemorate and preserve in various installations, plaques, and free historical museums.
This spring, young contemporary artists join the many voices grappling with different facets of The Rocks’ history. While its permanent home is under renovation, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Primavera festival is hosting emerging Aussie artists at offsite pop-up projects in heritage spaces around The Rocks. Artists Tessa Zettel and Karl Khoe have inhabited a cozy little space, underground and tucked away, hidden in plain sight from the crowds browsing The Rocks on a sunny spring day.
Zettel and Khoe’s Delirious Bakery describes itselfas a gossip society that “collects and dispenses dissent via recovered oral traditions” where local experts reveal lesser known histories of the neighbourhood and its inhabitants. They host Low Teas and meetings of the Sweet Damper and Gossip Society, the last of which is being convened tomorrow (Tuesday Oct. 25) at 6pm.
Walk downstairs into a sun dappled courtyard where Karl mans the hearth, rolling out fresh lavash that smells delicious as it bakes in the outdoor oven. Stools are scattered around and a diverse assembly of low-key artsy types mingle. I sit next to a woman who works at an 4A, Sydney’s museum of contemporary Asian art. She was one of the speakers at a previous meeting of the society, and she shares her story of a remarkable teacher who was seminal in Sydney’s cotemporary dance scene. She shows me this old pink, hard cover book full of pictures that, as a teacher and a dancer, totally blows my mind. This woman’s teacher returned from a Fullbright scholarship where she studied with all the greats (Martha Graham!!!!) only to find that her country simply didn’t have the facilities to let her talent shine. So she taught high school PE. The photo book is full of professional grade photographs of high school students gracefully pulling off uber-intense modern dance moves. Very cool.
I had a number of similarly stimulating conversations with people, got a bit of local colour. And this all transpired in an underground warehouse and former puppet theatre tricked out like some early Sydneysider’s granny’s kitchen. Best of all, there was food. Ricotta pie drizzled with artist-made honey (the bees live in another one of Zettel and Khoe’s installations) and herbs. Pidgeon pie in (and a veggie version with mushrooms) in phyllo pastry. Scones and pies and dampers, and of course, tea in lovely vintage porcelain. This was my introduction to the damper – a round, flattish loaf traditionally baked by Aussie colonial settlers in the ashes of a campfire. This one was flavoured with wattleseeds which gave it a subtle flavour.
Unfortunately, I’m moving on Tuesday and won’t make it to the last meeting of the Sweet Damper and Gossip Society. I could not have imagined a sweeter and less pretentious introduction to Sydney’s arts community.