Meanwhile in Australia

I’m still thinking about food. For you, it’s a fortnight later than when I last thought about food. For me, it’s the same day. My chicken porridge is in the fridge and my soup is quietly cooking and I’m nearly ready for bed. If I don’t stop thinking about food then I might end up dreaming about food. I’m the sort of person who puts on weight dreaming about food, so this is not a good thing. Let me tell you about the curious relationship between international science fiction fandom and the very Australian Tim Tam, then, to exorcise all those food dreams.

The Tim Tam is a biscuit. Here, biscuits range from tasteless through savoury to sweet. Tim Tams are basically two chocolate-flavoured biscuits with a chocolate cream filling and with the whole thing double-dipped in… more chocolate. They are an Australian icon and none of the international copies of them have turned out as well as the original. The original recipe makes a lot of people happy.

While original recipe Tim Tams are common as mud here, we also have new flavours. Every other month, it seems, there’s a new flavour. A lot of fans travelling from Australia to science fiction conventions overseas carry Tim Tams.  If you go to a fan fund auction in Ireland or the UK (where money is raised to send fans across the world to meet other fans – it’s brilliant community-making) you can buy Tim Tams. If there were no Tim Tams there, then there would be a concerning level of fuss.

I honestly don’t know if there are many fans who eat the Tim Tams, or if it’s two or three people who argue over them so much each year that those of us visiting from the Antipodes all make sure our luggage contains a pack or two (or six). One of my friends is a Swedish fan who will outbids all comers until he has his annual supply, so if there are just two or three fans, I know one of them.

When a food becomes this iconic, customs develop around its eating.

The fuss to make sure science fiction fans get their annual Tim Tam fix is one of them. Half the fun is the daft amount of work involved when the World Science Fiction Convention is in Europe, as it was in 2017 and as it is again this month.

I keep an eye on the supermarket, and if there’s an interesting flavour and they’re on sale, I’ll buy some. I (and a couple of other fiends) buy more packets than we logically should, given how much space we have in our luggage. At the last moment, we see if we have enough space or weight to pack them all and if we don’t they get put to the side, on pack at a time. Last time I did this, someone else was willing to take so many packets that I didn’t have to leave any behind. This time I’m only going to try to fit three packets in because I know others have already bought … so many.

Once the packets get to the country, they have to reach the convention safely. I already have one packet of a new flavour as a thank-you gift for a friend I’m staying with, because we need to try the Tim Tam slam with this new flavour.

The Tim Tam slam is when you bite off each end of the biscuit and drink coffee through it. It is perhaps the most decadent thing I have done with my life, so of course it’s part of the food sharing. Food sharing is so very Australian, and also so very much part of science fiction fandom.

One packet will be gone before I get the suitcase to the convention. No worries. This is planned. After that, we all make sure our Tim Tam packets reach the auction people, with the number carefully counted and labelled as to which fund they support.

Then there’s the auction. Even when everything else fails to sell, these biscuits go. Last time I was overseas and at an auction, people who had to leave early asked one of the organisers, “If we pay you enough money, can we buy a packet each now, please? We have to go and we don’t want to miss out.”

The bidders are mostly European fans. The English began it all, by making Tim Tams an expected part of their Eastercon, but other fans cottoned onto them and now… it really is more than a few fans and if there are only two or three packets then the final winner has undertaken some serious bidding to take those packets home.

There are always stories with the Tim Tams brought to Europe by science fiction fans. Once I had a whole shopping bag of Tim Tams I had to get from London to Dublin. I did this. Everyone wanted them but wasn’t sure if they were entitled. Those Tim Tams were rejected by a wall of politeness, and behind the wall people were crying for them.

I may have been amused, but I wasn’t going to take those biscuits back to Australia. “Leave them behind this desk,” said the convention chair. “Someone will sort it out for you.”

I suspect that Australia’s favourite Tim Tam advertisement would appeal to science fiction fans more than somewhat. Let me find it for you. Here…

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About Gillian Polack

Gillian Polack is a historian as well as a fiction writer, which means that history is likely to creep into her blogposts. She is also Australian, a foodie, and has a strong love of things ranging from chocolate to folk dance. All her jokes are good jokes, even the ones that aren't funny at all.

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