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


Picnic in a heatwave.

One very hot day in January. The main street of Daylesford was like Sorrento. Audis backing out of angle parking spots, BMWs indicating one way then turning another, people with phones glued to their ears jumping out onto the road in front of traffic, jam-packed cafes called 'Bocconcini', that kind of thing. I had wanted to stop and go into the double-storey bookshop next to the bank, but decided to come back another time when half of Melbourne wasn't visiting.

I drove straight through and down the hill, past the right turnoff to the top lake (unsignposted despite being Daylesford's best attraction) and turned left to the lower lake. Two kilometres and another turnoff. Past a gate was a caravan park office and several old caravans, including one painted bright green. Over the caravans, gum trees held thick pale limbs in the air. I camped here under one once and worried it was going to drop a branch on me. In the near distance, glimpses of cool water - Jubilee Lake - could be seen shimmering between European trees and stretches of lawn. Picnickers on blankets. A playground.

From Daylesford's main street to here was a world away. Picnickers and people who frequent cafés are two different species. The latter talk endlessly on devices, or power-laugh with each other, or shout order, or guzzle café lattes, or get impatient when the waiter has other customers to fetch panini and biscotti for.

On the other hand, picnickers never shout. They just sit quietly on their tartan rugs ignoring time and eating sandwiches they have made themselves. I have never seen a picnicker talking on a phone while slicing a piece of home-made fruit cake. It might have happened, but I have never seen it. They might swing into action when a child falls in the lake, or cry out when they spill hot water from the thermos on their leg; but aside from emergencies, serenity defines picnickers.

We changed all that. The blanket part ran to formula, with sandwiches and cake and thermos tea, but then the children played cricket, jumped in the lake, ran wild. There were eight of them, three families.

Later, I fell asleep on the blanket. I woke up, wondered what time it was and stared at pixillated sunshine through the giant canopy of leaves. I thought I could hear someone power-laughing in a distant cafe, but it was just some kookaburras in a tree across the lake. I fell asleep again. Peace.

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