It was just after 8 a.m. on a very cold, grey Sunday morning. I was standing in front of a large grill in a tent outside the Bunnings Hardware store. Four of us were in the tent to raise funds for the kindergarten by cooking and selling sausages in bread. One to prepare, one to cook, one to sell and one to take the money. I cooked. I had the easy job.
Despite the day, the time and the weather, vehicles - many of which were utes - were pulling into the vast carpark in front of Bunnings. Must be a lot of renovating going on, I thought as I turned sausages.
We did shifts. In three hours I cooked 793 sausages. I knew it was 793 because we went through seven short of eight 100-packs of serviettes.
I also cooked six buckets of onions. There must have been a hundred onions to a bucket. Onions are important. What really gets people is the onions. The smoke from the sausages cooking on the grill is one thing, but the aroma of cooking onions is a showstopper. People are busy these days. They don't eat breakfast. Then they catch the smell of grilled onions and sausages on the cold morning air - on an empty stomach and a Sunday morning hangover - and then they realise they are hungry. I watched them through the tent window while I cooked the sausages and swirled the onions. Smoke was drifting across the carpark and they were getting out of their cars and their noses were hitting the air and they were stopping like gundogs in mid-point. The ones who were already walking before they caught the scent changed direction without breaking their pace, like racewalkers turning a corner. Look out, here they come!
$2 for a plain sausage on bread; $2.50 with onions. I cooked half the onions well on one section of the grill, and half of them lightly on another section, and mixed them for a contrast of caramelisation and texture on the sausage. Peak hour was around 10 a.m. Some of them took their sausage and bread into the store and came out later for another one. Shopping for flanges and pipes and power tools and paint and garden water features is hard work. Makes you hungry. Our best customer bought five. Two for the wife! he said, walking away with the sausages a pyramid in his mitt and a length of galvanised downpipe under the other arm. I watched him climb into a plumber's ute, laying the sausages on the seat like new babies. I bet he scoffed the lot in the car.
You also had a choice of tomato sauce, barbecue sauce or mustard sauce. No extra charge. All three if you want. About half the customers chose plain sausage; the other half had onions. 70% took tomato sauce, about 15% each - guessing - mustard or barbecue. Telling you this in case you're planning a sausage sizzle to raise funds for your school or kindergarten or scout group or bowls club or whatever.
But get in quick. The talk around town is that bureaucrats don't like sausage sizzles. Or chocolate drives or lamington drives. They think these items don't 'send healthy messages'.
Guess what they want us to sell to raise money instead? Toothbrushes. They think selling toothbrushes 'sends a healthy message'.
Might send a healthy message but won't raise a lot of money.