Rachel Griffiths: how I eat

The actor on pricey tequila, hospital food and directing her first film.
Rachel Griffiths

Rachel Griffiths

Who Do You Think You Are available on SBS On Demand

What’s something memorable you ate growing up in Melbourne?

My mother left the outer shell of the broad bean on. I grew up eating them hard and hairy. Only very recently have I discovered that if you double-shell them, they’re the most magnificent food in the world.

You recently landed a role in an upcoming American show. What did you drink to celebrate?

My favourite tequila, Clase Azul Reposado, which Russell Crowe got me hooked on. I had everyone do tequila my style: on a very large rock, double shot with a big squeeze of lime and no mixer.

What’s a budget meal that’s gotten you through lean times?

I was vegetarian at my poorest. There were years of beans, rice and lentils – years where I could never imagine buying a $200 bottle of tequila.

Tell us about the Melbourne Cup barbecue where you first had the idea to direct Ride Like A Girl, your film about jockey Michelle Payne.

It wasn’t a very serious racing crowd. It wasn’t until the 300-metre mark that the race caller could tell by the pace of how Michelle was riding that she was making a really serious move. By the time she crossed the line, his voice was at fever pitch: “Michelle Payne, the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup!” We all fell in love with her.

What were some challenges for you as a first-time director?

We couldn’t be on a track three weeks before a major race. Then it would rain and the track manager would say you can’t film, it’s too soft.

In Ride Like A Girl, Payne (played by Teresa Palmer) has to lose three kilos in three days to compete in a race. Was it hard to film that?

I think what that exemplifies is what young jockeys are prepared to do – the kinds of things we’ll do early in our career. We will push ourselves further than is comfortable.

Sam Neill (who plays Payne’s father Paddy) says Australia has the best on-set catering. Do you agree?

My jockeys, I think they all put on weight on the film. It’s always a challenge not to put on weight, because we do look after our crews.

Tell us about the home kitchen you designed.

I’m obsessed with my kitchen. I made a to-scale model and took it to my architect. My husband, Andrew, cooks in a very particular way – no one can come near what he calls his “hot zone”. I had to design a kitchen where four or five people could be in different zones, but no one crosses his. It’s also very joyful, full of art; it really is the heart of the home. We spend most of our lives in there.

What did you ask Andrew to bring to the hospital after the birth of your daughter Clementine?

My favourite dish: osso buco in sage and white wine. I sent Andrew off to get it from Locanda Veneta in LA. Then I saw the machines going funny. I said, “I’m bleeding again, aren’t I?” and the doctor said, “Yep, we’re going to have to take you in.” I called Andrew, and he dropped the veal and came running back.

What happened next?

When I say “osso buco” Andrew tears up, because it was almost my last meal. If he sees it on a menu he gets upset, but I still order it. It was 48 hours before I came out of the operation. It was bad, but not even dying could put me off veal in white wine.

Rachel Griffiths appears in Dead Lucky and Untold Australia’s The Secret Life of Death, both now streaming on SBS on Demand.

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