Food News

Judith Lucy: how I eat

The comedian on a turbulent relationship with tofu and why restaurants are her idea of heaven.

By Maggie Scardifield
Judith Lucy

We hear you're a terrible cook. True or false?
I used to have a best friend who was an amazing cook. It was the ideal relationship because we lived together for a long time. She sprung me one day holding an egg in one hand and a cookbook in the other, looking up how to boil an egg. She never let me forget that moment.

So you dine out a lot, then?
It's one of the things I love about being alive. I've often fantasised that when you die, heaven is just an endless fantastic meal in a restaurant surrounded by all the people you love. That would suit me down to the ground.

How's your appetite?
I really love eating. And I really, really enjoy having other people cook for me.

What makes a great restaurant?
I'm obsessed with service and how it can make or break a meal. I'm biased, but the service in Melbourne is fantastic (I grew up in Perth but moved to Melbourne when I was 20). They've somehow perfected that balance between being friendly, incredibly knowledgeable and leaving you alone to enjoy your night.

Where are you a regular?
I'm stumbling distance to Ilona Staller in Balaclava, and I've spent many a New Year's Eve there for that exact reason.

What do you usually eat pre-show?
I don't eat for many hours before I go onstage because I'm too nervous, but it means that when I come offstage I'm ravenous. At the moment I'm touring with Denise Scott, so we'll go out and have a nice meal, and then I'll go back to my hotel and eat every piece of shit in the minibar. I often wake up in the morning and think "why did I have the chips and the peanuts?"

Do you entertain much?
I'm very happy to have people over but we inevitably reach for the Foodora, UberEats and EatNows.

What was a meal like around your family table growing up?
A nightmare. My mum was perpetually on a diet and I grew up thinking mashed potato was made out of powder - and my parents were Irish. What I loved is that she would essentially serve the same stew six out of seven nights, but she'd call it a different name each time.

When did your interest in food take off?
With dinner at the Hovane household. The father of my best friend in high school, Michelle Hovane, was Czechoslovakian and they played a very important part in my culinary journey. It was the first time I ever tasted things like bratwurst sausages and sauerkraut. They had real coffee, too, as opposed to instant. Michelle and I would go off to little French restaurants around Perth with my brother. He was 12 years older than me and would let us buy half a bottle of wine. We thought we were incredibly sophisticated (even though we were probably only 14). Then in our last year of school we'd sneak into bars to have Brandy Alexanders. We thought we were amazing because we weren't drinking cask wine.

What won't you eat?
I worked in a vegetarian restaurant for some time and there was a tofu casserole that was not something you ever needed to see in a vulnerable state. There was a particular day in my early twenties when I turned up to work hungover. Every time I had to serve up that casserole to someone I would inevitably have to go and throw up. Since then I've been very unfair to tofu.

What about your most memorable meal?
This is going to sound so wanky and, look, if I read this I'd just want to shoot the person, but I went to Italy earlier in the year with my then partner and a couple of friends. We stayed in a villa in Tuscany and it was three nights of beautiful summer evenings eating ridiculously rustic Italian food, really simple pasta and Caprese salads. I was with three people who I loved. None of us wanted to leave.

What's your soft spot?
I still have a soft spot for really simple meat and three veg.  And I'm obsessed with potatoes.

What can we expect from Disappointments, the show you're doing with Denise Scott?
Scotty and I do a lot of complaining about our lives and about how disappointed we are, so I can guarantee you'll leave feeling a lot better about your own lives. And we spend a lot of it in bed.

What's been your greatest project to date?
I've been performing for nearly 30 years and stand-up has meant that I've had some amazing experiences. One of the best was making Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey for the ABC. I got to go into the centre and hang out with some female Aboriginal elders, and I got to go to India and The Ganges.

Food and comedy - same-same or different?
Hopefully they both leave you wanting more.

Disappointments, with Judith Lucy and Denise Scott, runs from 30 January to 11 February at the Sydney Opera House with dates in Hobart and Melbourne to follow. For tickets visit comedy.com.au

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  • Author: Maggie Scardifield