Friday, May 10, 2013

A Tale of Two Pies

I went to Agfest last weekend (yes still doing the happy dance for that and only about 359 sleep til it comes around again) and I broke the tradition of a lifetime and I had a pie - well two actually.

On the way I stopped in at Andy's Bakery in Westbury for one of their "famous" Tassie Devil pies. Now I say famous because I am very new to the area but the sign told me so, and it also added that no Tassie Devils were actually in the pie - it was beef and pepper. Now the pastry was pretty standard pie pastry, there was real meat (grass fed beef according to another sign which is a big thumbs up from me) and quite a bit of it and lots of pepper. Now I mean LOTS of pepper. I can't actually tell you what the pie tasted like, apart from peppery. And the gravy oozed. I don't like oozy gravy in a pie - it makes a mess, makes it hard to eat and well, distracts from the eating process to the "how am I going to get this in my mouth before it goes everywhere" process. Overall, it wasn't bad, less pepper and it would have been good, but I won't buy another. Cost: $6.50

Then at Agfest I got a wallaby pie from the Railton Town of Topiary tea Room (no website but this one is a start) which I confess was one of my goals of the day. Well more accurately, I had a choice of a rabbit or wallaby pie but had to choose one (the rabbit will wait for another day). This one was perfect! Crisp flaky pastry (home made maybe), full of meat and veg perfectly cooked with a minimum of gravy but nowhere near dry. Served with a homestyle relish which was full of bounce. Full of taste. Highly recommended. Cost $8.00.

And just as a small addendum, I also bought a sausage roll from Andy's (don't say it, I know but I was on a food exploration day). Now sausage rolls, for me, have a scale from Mrs Macs (which I am not sure can actually be described as a "sausage roll" through to the sausage rolls at the BP Williams Roadhouse (WA) which has the ultimate product (unless I cook it myself of course lol). Anyway, this one was definitely at the Mrs Macs end. I am quite confident in recommending it to my vegetarian friends because I am quite sure that no animal died in making of that roll. I was trying to work out the filling because it had a certain taste an texture to it - I was thinking of under-cooked rolled oats for a while but then it came to me - it tasted like paper. Yes I am serious. I even checked to verify that I wasn't accidentally eating some of the paper bag it came in (and no I wasn't). Now I am not suggesting it had paper in it (there are food laws after all) but I can't describe the taste any other way. Cost $3.50.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Nearly There

The Spirit of Tasmania has much to recommend it from various eateries, gift shops, a cinema, casino, and various other services and forms of entertainment. Honestly couldn't tell you about any of them. I drove my car on- board, found my seat and effectively went to sleep. I did stir when be left Melbourne and again somewhere in the middle of the night when I thought about how very dark it was (with the exception of the ship's lights) and then didn't stir again until the lights came on about 5.30 am as we weren't far off docking.

From there I waited my turn, drove off the ship, followed the big green signs and was off.

Functional - yes. Comfortable - yes. Anything else - couldn't possibly say.

Maybe when I go on it next time I will get to appreciate a bit more of on-board life.

Food and Eating When Not Lcoal

For all of my soapboxing about food when I am at home, I fully concede that the rules don't apply when on the road.

When I was in Western Australia a cheese sausage was a usual option. Nutritional value: zero. Ability to be called food:  well doubtful at best. Would I ever eat one in any other circumstances - hell no!

And then there was the sausage rolls from the Williams Roadhouse (southern roadhouse not the one oat the northern end of town). Homemade, huge, filled with real meat and flavor. Nutritional value: zero. Caloric value: calories don't count when you are on the road.

In New South Wales I discovered the joys of "Service Centres" which are a collection of fast food outlets, a fuel station, toilets and sometimes even a shower randomly placed down the highways (being that most towns are by-passed these days).  And it is in these havens of celebrations to all things wrong with the world that I have discovered my lastest road food - Subway. Nothing organic, nothing local or free-range, just a multi-national doing its job.

And I make no excuses for my indulgence - my choice of sandwich has been the pizza (hold the marinara sauce) fresh with swiss cheese, all the salads including jalepenos, salt and pepper and chipotle sauce. I know salami and chipotle make no sense but that is one of the joys of road food.

I am A Lousy Tourist

I am surrounded by beautiful villages and towns, wineries, eccentric architecture (yes the house pictured is in Warburton) and hundreds of otehr things to see and do but what do I choose? People watching :-)

Yes I am taking great pleasure in just people watching. There are no "extremes" (like Bellingen's bath-mat man) that I have seen today but I have certainly seen a wide range of ages, stages and cultures and that always pleases me when I am in the country.

Ironically, before I moved to Bellingen I would have described a few that I have seen today as having "alternate dress" but now they don't even rate a mention.

And just for the record, I did see a massie 'fro but no dreads.

Image: "Eccentric Artists Home" by DarrenClarke

The Yarra Valley, Warburton and Fire

2009 was a bad year for bushfires in Victoria, specifically around the Yarra Valley. I didn't live there but did work at the time for Centrelink, Australia's social services agency, and was a part of the team that had, as its job, to contact everyone in the area.

Now some people contacted us - there were specific hotlines set up - the rest we did our best to call. As well as the $2000 emergency payment that most were eligible for, we also checked if they had other needs that we could assist with.

 For some it was assistance with food or clothes (millions of dollars (and tons) of items were being donated from across Australia and trucked into the area) , others wanted to find out if such-and-such was okay, or to find somewhere to say. We did our best to put them in contact with relevant NGOs and other agencies. We (Centrelink) also offered counsellors but mostly people just wanted to talk and talk they did.  I blogged some of them at the time.

It was hard, it was gruelling, at times I shed many a tear as the person on the other end of the line did the same. I went home and dreamed of their stories. This went on for weeks. The first anniversary commemorations on the radio and tv bought it all back and the nightmares started over again. I avoided all of the following years' commentaries.

I was thinking of none of this when coming down the highway last Friday. That was until I spied a big green sign that had an arrow to Flowerdale, one  of the affected towns. I hadn't realised I was so close, or that I was staying "in the zone".

Even now four years later there is evidence in the area of the destruction brought on by those fires. Yes there is a lot of regrowth in the forests, the towns appear to have been rebuilt and, on Good Friday, were particularly vibrant and active but I could see the scars of blackened tree trucks. My anxiety levels were up and I was on alert for the whole drive to where I was staying.

Warburton was one of the towns on the edge of the disaster. Relatively it was untouched but only becuase of a late change of wind,.

Warburton is an amazing community - full of art and life and color. Looking out of the window of where I am staying, or at any of the many many trees growing throughout the townships brings me the sense of delight that trees invariably do.

But if I look up at the mountain, heavily forested with trees, I can only "see" flames consuming it, my hands sweat, my breath quickens, my blood pressure rises, tears well up and I feel very unsafe.I can hear the stories as loudly as I could on the day of the calls

I have lived at the foot of the tree covered mountains around Bellingen for 7 years and never had this reaction. I sit and imagine now the Bello mountains and I feel happy thoughts, the same reaction as they always. It isn't "mountains" that distress me, it is these mountains.

I know this is the first time I have been to the area - either before or after the fires. What I wonder is that if I am having this reaction from my peripheral contact, how is the healing process going for everyone else who was directly affected.

Give me floods over fire any day.

PS I write this up from the safety of Tassie - I handwrote bits as I was traveling but now I have my first solid computer time. Even as I type my anxiety levels are up and I am weeping.

Image: "Bushfire near Kinglake" from Science In Public

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Too much of a good thing is wonderful.

Mae West

Image: "Queen of Hearts" by Melia Dawn Newman

Bye Bye Bellofoodbox

My beloved bellofoodbox has been a huge part of my life for the last year or two. Just a little background - it was started by a devoted band of volunteers to help promote the quality, affordable produce (with a preference for spray free or organic) that was grown locally (within 100 miles of Bellingen) for economic, social and environmental reasons. Since it started off, the success of buying local has been pretty incredible - instead of two and a half local outlets there are now six or seven and it was decided by the committee that bellofoodbox would best be operated by the Bellingen Green Grocer.

All in all this a great decision - BGG operates with similar ethics to bellofoodbox, has agreed to keep the markups the same (to ensure that the fruit and veg is really affordable), and being an actual shop front it will allow clients to either top up the produce in their boxes or to buy other local, sustainable products like milk or to just get a yummy juice. The down side (and the only one) is that they super little band of volunteers and our team leader Leigh, are going our separate ways so far as Wednesday afternoons are concerned.

So today was our last day all together. Which corresponded with my last day in town so it was bittersweet. Having said that, there was much laughter to be had. There was the usual pick of one or two strangely shaped items of produce - this one was an emoticon apple - turned up one way it had a huge smile, up the other was a sad face (no photo of that one, there are lots of weird fruit and vegetable shots out there), there was the inventive use of a damaged apple to  create an incense holder and open particular conversation the contents of which can't be posted here. There was also a couple of birthdays to celebrate. And that doesn't even include our incredible customers that come bouncing in to collect their bounty with a happy face, an interesting story or a quick joke.

On the downside, it was our last day together. While we work incredibly well together, in all circumstances, we are a disparate little group that don't usually see each other anywhere else - except random moments when driving around town followed by wild waves out a window which the other person may or may not see.

I know I am going to Tasmania so this would have been my last day anyway. I know that the changes are really, really good for the project. But, as I said, it was a bittersweet day.

When I announced I would be travelling south it was mentioned, as a throw away comment, that I need to start my own foodbox program in Tasmania. If it could be half as good as the experience I have had with our local one, I would be made not to.

So thank you, best of luck and farewell bellofoodbox and all who have sailed with here xx

The Car Shrunk

Bellingen is an amazing little town when it comes to weather - it gets more than its fair share of floods, the moisture of the floods and the inevitable sub-tropical sunshine afterwards can produce a wide range of molds and fungi, there are heavy mists that rest in the gullies and lift in finger-live tendrils as then day warms up. And most magic of all happened last night when I parked my car on the road instead of under
the carport and it shrunk. Well that is my story and I am sticking to it!

You can see by the photos that there should be plenty of room for my little piles in the back of a Hyundai Accent - or there would have been if it hadn't shrunk! Oh, and there is the desktop computer and associated hardware as well lol.

Okay, so maybe my spacial awareness is a little wanting, or a little optimistic. Either way it was time for cull number 4 of what I am defining as important to take with me. Which I did technically have a whole morning to do but decided to avail myself of the local hospitality and to have the opportunity of a drinkie after bellofoodbox and stay one more night and take off on Thursday so I have even more time :-)

Adventure now starts tomorrow instead of tonight.

PS: Please forgive my screwy use of tense in this post, I have been drafting it all day in my head and plans have changed but the mental editing didn't always lol

Monday, March 25, 2013

Going for a Little Drive

Life sometimes throws you a curve ball and I am going to smack this latest one out of the park .... all the way down south to Tasmania.

I leave on Wednesday. The cleaner has been, the carpets have been cleaned, the car has been cleaned and checked, the books have been rehomed, the going away party has been held ....  and my living room still has waaaaay to much stuff in it.

My mantra for the past few weeks has been: if it doesn't fit in the car it isn't coming. Then, when I realised I would be back this way in October I have made some concessions and have taken up an offer by a wonderful woman to store a few things with her.

I thought I had pretty much done my cull but there is still to much for my little car, now I shall be doing my secondary cull. Okay so maybe I don't need 12 sarongs but .... sigh ....