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

8.4.10

Across the mountains.

It was a hot Easter and we were in the same small country town in the same green hills of Gippsland. There is almost no flat ground in this town. All the houses are on slopes and the slope down which the boys rolled their boiled eggs for the annual egg roll was steeper than you'd like; and the eggs tumbled out of sight, gathering speed, and the boys laughed and ran and fell on their faces on the soft green grass chasing them down the hill.

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Sunday lunch was a picnic at Tarago overlooking the river where it is dammed. It was a hot day and we got there early and we won the double: a table under cover of trees, close to an electric barbecue. Grandmother and aunts and uncles hauled in shiploads of fare in old-fashioned tartan coldboxes and someone threw a large cloth over the table, obscuring the timber slat table, so that the wine and beer glasses were falling over all afternoon until you learned to find a flat spot underneath the cloth. I drove the barbecue. You had to press the button every ten minutes or it switched off. There was enough Scotch sausage to feed Aberdeen for a week and I grilled it to just a slight char and the aroma of coriander and pepper drifted across the picnic ground on faint white smoke and heads in other parties reclined on blankets turned and wondered what they were missing out on. Later there were tins of cakes and biscuits and coffee from an old steel thermos that has probably seen fifty Easters.

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Late afternoon. I left alone, leaving the boys and their mother to stay with my mother-in-law for a week at her little house in the beautiful rolling green hills. I usually take the freeway south, down out of the hills, and then west across the vast flatland that stretches past Pakenham and bores onwards to Melbourne. But this time I turned north where there was no freeway. You start at Neerim South and you pass Neerim, Neerim Junction, the sign to Neerim East, and then Neerim North. No sign of Neerim West or Neerim Heights or Neerim Springs. Along this road you stare at the mountain range rising in front and getting closer; a wall of green shadow with a jagged line at the top and even more jagged in places where the fires burned last year. Then you hit the green wall at a T-junction and the way to the right rises further into the mountains and you end up at Mt Baw Baw. I turned left, where the road falls, and headed west into a chasm. The road dropped down to the forest floor and was flanked by giant eucalypts rising up out of tree ferns. When the road straightened out of its curves, far-off ridges and peaks showed ahead in the opened gap. I felt like a beetle crawling along the nave of a mediaeval cathedral. It was late in the day and the sky, when you could see it, was late autumn gold. The day was still warm and I had the window down in the old orange Volvo 244 and the air smelled of eucalypt and pine.

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The last time I had driven this road was a long time ago. I had my two older children with me in the car. It was 1985 and they were seven and four years old. Amazingly, we were riding in a car that was newer then than the one I was driving now. This Volvo was manufactured in 1975; the car I drove back then was another Volvo, a '76 GLE model. The things you remember.

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Down through Powelltown, once a logging village on the side of the mountain, where narrow gauge rail and tramways used to cart timber from the sawmills down to the trucks below. Then I was out of the mountains and the road met the larger highway before Launching Place. After that, Seville and Lilydale, and stoplights, and vast intersections, and then the furniture stores and takeaway places near Ringwood where you smell the drift from KFC and Hungry Jacks. It was almost dark now; daylight saving ended the night before.

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Then the freeway and home. I made a late dinner; just ordinary spaghetti with red capsicum and slices of avocado and a few anchovies and some parmesan cheese and parsley, and ate it alone. Where's all the noise? I had to switch on some music. Miles Davis in Spain. Another Easter over.

4 comments:

White Dove said...

This is more my style KH...a simple pasta and Miles Davis....

kitchen hand said...

I can listen to Miles Davis only in complete silence, WD. Background noise destroys some kinds of music.

neil said...

Sometimes eating alone is a very good thing but in relation to this, the saddest thing I saw this week was a cookbook titled Microwave Cooking For One.

kitchen hand said...

Neil, I can just hear that 'ding' in the unbroken silence.