Meanwhile In Australia, from Gillian Polack

There comes a moment in crisis where we all fall into a place that is home. Australia is doing this and our view of home is… unique. The rest of the world has been telling us this, but now we can believe it. Let me introduce three things to your life.

First, old-fashioned Australia. The return of sport after an incredible few weeks where we survived without it. IN FOOTBALL SEASON. I know, we are brave and exceptional.

Second, our secret heart. There was a Facebook conversation when someone proposed a travel bubble within Australia. While most of the comments were people exclaiming that the comments have to be read, those that actually ought to be read are honestly funny.

The initial travel bubble comment came from a branch of the ABC. The people leading the barbed answers (I hesitate to call them mere comments) were mainly ABC regional offices. (That’s Australian Broadcasting Company, or Auntie, our main public broadcaster. )

Readers added fuel to the flames by poking their local ABC offices and asking “Do you feel OK about this?” More branches joined in. More readers commented to other readers that they had to read this, and like Topsy, it grew. Last I checked there were 55,000 comments. I was expecting newspaper headings saying “ABC readers break Facebook.”

Each ABC office (a mere dozen or two of the tens of thousands of readers and commenters) takes a stance on the stereotypes from that region and re-enacts it. Pithily. With barbs. Short, cutting comments that reflect the soul of our country. I’m not sure Australia will ever be the same. Such self-awareness and such humour and so very many readers and comments.

They also say an enormous amount about how we describe ourselves when put to the test. Drink appears, and so does poking fun at each other and so does… so much. It’s odd and Australian and full of words from many, many, many people. ABC Sydney’s “Hard not to take this personally, guys…” had 8,500 likes when I looked.

When a readers asks plaintively “Can’t we all just get along and focus on what unites us – like hating Queensland?” ABC Brisbane answers, “Oi.” Then ABC Hobart crosses ABC Darwin off their Christmas card list because ABC Darwin also excluded all of Tasmania off the map they made to exclude Queensland. A giant family having a public dinner party conversation with gifs and light and quite intentional stepping on toes.  Family, Australian-style.

Third, Masterchef. For those of you who don’t know this show, it’s a cooking reality TV standard, now in its twelfth year. One of the last crop of judges got into trouble before the law and all the judges demanded vast wages and so the show got rebooted. The reboot is much less standard reality TV and much more professional cooks enjoying cooking and the completion giving them very fine challenges to test their enjoyment and to cement their friendships. The contestants are from previous seasons and are mostly professional now, which means that the dishes are not simple home cooking. Mostly. Every night there’s at least one thing I can make, which reassures me.

In a pressure test, one contestant kept helping the others. In most of the various cook-offs the judges sneak food and make jokes. The judges eat all the food and comment when a contestant uses a technique they can use in their own cooking. Hugs abound and friendship is openly acknowledged (which is mostly a good thing, but not always).

One of the judges dances when the cooking smells good and when Katie Perry was a guest judge she danced when she liked flavours. Contestants genuinely like each other and cook for each other in the evenings and sometimes those dishes appear as competition entries. “Where did you learn this pastry?” “Brendan taught me last night. We ate it for dinner.”

The big thing is that this Masterchef is no longer mostly White Australia. It’s Australia as you see it in the street. My food hasn’t been seen yet, but there are many spices and much ice cream.

I had a second half to this post, which was all about bad things, but we’re all up to our eyeballs in bad things, so instead I’ll find one of the pretty dishes that was cooked by a contestant. Try it at home. Report back to me. No I won’t. I’ll give you the whole recipe page. Me, I particular want to eat the duck rendang. Rendang is one of my favourite recipes in the whole world. Also, I can make beef rendang. I have made it enough times so that duck rendag is not a theoretical dish for a perfect kitchen, but something I will be able to have just as soon as we get out of Crowtime and I can shop for ingredients. I already have the galangal.

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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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