Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


A shorter history of the Melbourne Cup.

1963. Early childhood memories are stills, later ones are moving images. This is a still: my father's workshop, dim and dark; wood shavings everywhere; a timber project in progress on the sawbench; His Master's Voice radio, fake red leather encased, sits on a shelf, covered in wood dust. Bert Bryant calls the race on 3UZ and Gatum Gatum wins. I liked the name. It sounded like galloping hooves.

1965. Family picnic in the backyard. Father runs a sweep and everyone gets a horse. Mother's wins: Light Fingers, ridden by Roy Higgins.

1968. My father's on-and-off freelance photography career sees us on the rail at Flemington. We stare at the bizarre sight of a single horse rounding the turn and entering the straight. It is Rain Lover, winning the Cup by the greatest margin ever.

1973. I am back in the workshop at home, going through an early oil painting phase. I am trying to paint a mountain and wondering what colour they are as Gala Supreme crosses the line. The mountain ends up being purple.

1976. I am driving home from a wet Cup day picnic in the Dandenongs with my girlfriend. A heavy rainstorm causes us to pull off the road and take cover, somewhere around Ferntree Gully. We sit in the car reading The Age waiting for the Cup broadcast. I'm reading Peter Smark's weekly restaurant review. They weren't food writers in those days, they were just reporters, so they often brought a sense of perspective and humour lacking in today's over-earnest 'food writing'. The things you remember. Oh, the Cup: Van Der Hum on the wettest track ever. He could swim.

1980. Now I'm at a Cup barbecue in Fairfield, the home of one my Media Studies lecturers, a heavily bearded ex-journalist with a mind full of conspiracy theories. He'd invited the whole faculty in a fit of largesse and we ate burnt sausages and drank red Brown Brothers cask wine and talked Roland Barthes and Marxism and then the Cup came on the radio and everyone shut the hell up and Belldale Ball won and we went home.

1985. Somewhere on the Grand Ridge Road in Gippsland, touring. My five-year-old daughter - William and Thomas' much older sister - fancies What A Nuisance because it is an expression we use frequently. It wins to her great delight as we descend into the weird yellow half-light of the La Trobe Valley.

1993. I'm walking with my very new girlfriend through Royal Park, behind the Children's Hospital; at the crown of the park where you get the best view of the city lights in the whole of Melbourne. The Irish horse Vintage Crop has just won the Cup. After our walk we drive to Brunswick Street and have coffee and cake at the old Rhumbarella's. It was carrot cake. The things you remember. I married her.

2004. Makybe Diva wins her second consecutive Melbourne Cup. We attempt another Cup day picnic, but Tracy is not well, so we go home. She is pregnant.

2005. Makybe Diva makes it a hat trick. Picnic at Coburg Lake, on the hill. William, four months old, sits in his pram in the shade of a tree.


Lucy said...

1980's: My memories of Melbourne Cup are of sitting on the high school bus, end of the day, waiting, waiting, waiting for the race to be called and the driver who won every, single year. Amazing luck.

Or did he know something...

Should I admit that I forgot to tune in this year?

kitchen hand said...

I think the driver knew something, Lucy. Maybe he had the broadcast on delay. I missed a few Cups in the '80s and '90s.