Archive for the ‘Show Food’ Category
Real Show Food: What the Exhibitors Eat
With 800 exhibitors staying each night, and with many more coming onto the site each day to work with their animals or compete in Show events, feeding the humans is as big a job as feeding the animals. If you are from the bush, chip on a stick, a turkey leg or a dagwood dog is just as tempting as for any city slicker. But after a 14 day Show, and add in a few days to bump in and pack up, the joy of eating Show food is replaced with a yearning for the tucker they cook back home.
The exhibitors and competitors on site form into little communities within the big Show community. The blokes who look after the woodchop competition, who spend all day wrestling with logs, and cleaning up the stumps afterwards, bring their own cook with them. So every morning, not long after dawn, the smell of fresh sizzling bacon and eggs wafts out of the woodchop pavilion.
Then there is one family of pig breeders, who bring down a side of home cured bacon, supplemented with fresh eggs from the poultry display at the Show. Instant, fresh, bacon and eggs for breakast.
The hearty and home cooked is a recurring theme. Where it is practical, people prepare their own food in communal kitchens in the pavilions, or put something together in the walkways between the animal stalls.
A popular place to chow down is the Cattleman’s Cafe in the Munro Pavilion. Its not open to the public, but it’s very popular among exhibitors. The cafe does 500 meals a day in a mess hall style. It’s traditional home style cooking. Roast of the day, lamb cutlets, shepherds pie, heaps of vegetables and salads. While it has its temptations of chips and hash browns, it is a healthy, wholesome place to eat. John Collins, the cafe’s manager (and part time Elvis impersonator) says the country kids are very polite.
“When they grab their meal they come past and tip their hat to the kitchen ladies,” he says. The cafe operates on a voucher system, so parents can make sure their teenagers on site are well fed, without the temptation to spend their meal money on something else.
The District Exhibits, the massive displays of fruit and vegetables in the Woolworths Fresh Food Dome, require the people who plan and put them together, to be on site for three weeks. Each district (SE Qld, Northern, Central, Western and Southern) brings in its own cooking gear and one of the team is nominated as chief cook. Most of the produce is brought in from the home district, giving the menu for each district team (or court as they are known) a unique flavour. Lesley Dabelstein from the South East Queensland district owns an avocado farm in the Glass House Mountains. For her crew, it’s wholesome porridge for breakfast every morning.
Lorette Walmsley, from Grenfell and the Western district exhibit, says it’s the men’s job to cook breakfast. And the breakfast menu includes tomatoes cooked in balsamic vinegar and sugar. Yum.
Margaret Crowell from Tamworth (Central District) says she never co0ks the same thing twice. She gives her stove a work out; if there is a main meal in the oven, there is a pudding on the stove. There are scones, pikelets, raisin bread, all home made. Margaret makes home made chocolate custard and meringue pie.
Marie Johns from Richmond Hill in the Northern District says she regularly cooks for 24 people, but this often swells to 40 people. Like all the district exhibit cooks, the focus is on traditional baked dinners and plenty of vegetables. Marie has a chest freezer at the back of the exhibit so she can keep plenty of produce from home on hand.
Marie Lindley from Gundagai says the cooking duties at the Southern exhibit are shared around. It’s always hot meals: “I feed these people to keep them working”.
When you talk to the people in the horse pavilions, the sheep and goat pavilions, the woodchop arena or anywhere around the grounds, it is the same story. The Show becomes a series of communities where people come together, cook a meal and enjoy each other’s company. And being able to cook on site, or use the cattleman’s cafe, helps keep the cost down for people travelling a long way from home to entertain and educate the rest of us.
If you want to see more about life around the Show, check out this video narrated by Goliath, the world’s smallest strong man. Goliath picks up some nutrition tips from Fonzy, Australia’s tallest steer. Got any food secrets from the Show ? Comment and lets us know.
Can you buy a decent cup of coffee at the Show ?
It’s the age old question of any public event. Where can I get a decent cup of coffee? At the Sydney Royal Easter Show, we have a very good answer to that question. Our video blog puts six cafes and their baristas to the test. Our special guest reviewer talks about location, taste and value, so click on the link and see for yourself.
The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, as part of its Fine Food Shows, runs the Sydney Royal Coffee Competition each year. Click through to the results of the 2010 and 2011 competitions to see the coffees that have won gold, silver or bronze medals.
During the coffee judging (held in February) a panel of 21 coffee experts sipped their way through 245 entries over three days across six different types of coffee. Entries come in from most Australian states. And if you go the Sydney Royal Deli in the Woolworths Fresh Food Dome, you can buy a bag of fresh medal winning coffee as well as taste the real thing.
Do you have a favourite coffee haunt at the Sydney Royal Easter Show ?
As the Show Insider, I’ve been watching with anticipation over the past weeks as the many food vendor stores are set up around the Show grounds.
My old favourites are back once again. Dagwood dogs, fairy floss, snow cones. And I’ve added some new intriguing show treats to my list. How could I not try ‘Chip on a stick’? Of course there’s a tonne of gourmet and healthy options at the Show too, but it seems we all head for anything on a stick, sweet or salty…after all, it’s only for a day or two of the year.
It got me thinking about the tradition and spectacle of tucking into Show food. I stumbled across this recent article about dagwood dogs in RAS Times, by food author John Newtown, which summed up this perfectly. It’s not just about the taste; it’s about the sights, smells and memories that Show food evokes.
I can’t write this food memory without writing about my father. It’s not that I ever remember my father eating a Dagwood Dog, or that I can even remember eating one while I was with him, although I must have because there is only one place I have ever eaten or ever eat a Dagwood Dog, and that is the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
Every year, I would make a pilgrimage with my father, a bushman exiled to the city, to the Show. For Dad, it was his one chance a year to inspect the cattle and sheep, see the camp-drafting and review the state of the agricultural nation. For me, it was sideshows. And a delicious Dagwood Dog, delicious in the way food with not a single redeeming feature except memory often is.
You buy it from a tall cart on wheels parked inside the showground, from a woman called, most likely, Mavis, who would swear blind that her batter recipe was the best in the whole country.
You reach up to grasp the dog as it is handed down to you, by Mavis, a paper napkin wrapped around the surprisingly sturdy thick wooden stick on which the saveloy is impaled.
For one unaccustomed to eating a Dagwood Dog, the first bite could be an alarming experience. The cold, viscous, salty sweet tomato sauce, the hopefully thin crunchy outer layer of hot golden batter which gives way to a doughy, inner consistency and is followed by the teeth resistant rubbery texture of the red dyed casing of the saveloy. All this texture gives way to taste: salty, sweet, spicy, and, above all, fatty. Now the memories come flooding back.
There is more mystery to this food than speculation as to what the saveloy contains. Firstly, it has two names. Sometimes Dagwood Dog, and at others, Pluto Pup. The origin of the name Dagwood is relatively straightforward. Cartoon character Dagwood Bumstead, the archetypical 1950s American buffoon husband, lauded over and tricked by Blondie, his beautiful, conniving wife. He raided the refrigerator in the middle of the night to make gigantic sandwiches, symbols of American post war excessive consumption, which came to be known as – Dagwoods.
Pluto is not so obvious, although also a cartoon character, Mickey Mouse’s dog. But why did Disney name a cute puppy character after a dark and distant planet, or the king of the underworld – Pluto, from Plutus, ‘wealthy’ a pseudonym for Hades?
And try as I may, I can find no sure reason for the two names. From an ABC Radio National essay on the Dagwood Dog, we learn, from food retailer Bob Cooper that the Pluto Pup was first introduced into Sydney by one Russell Kennedy. He gives no date, but we have to assume it was in that post war period when all things American were enthusiastically adopted.
Once, in Melbourne, I happened on a fair on the banks of the Yarra where I found, within spitting distance of one another, one stall selling Pluto Pups, another Dagwood Dogs. Why the two names I asked? “Dunno mate” were the answers. I didn’t eat either one. Well, it wasn’t the Sydney Royal Easter Show, was it?
What’s your favourite Show food? You can check out the carnival of cuisines on offer at this year’s Show at www.eastershow.com.au/food.
John Newton eats, writes about where his food came from, why it came, how it was made or grown and how it tasted. The above excerpt is taken from his latest book Grazing: the ramblings and recipes of a man who gets paid to eat.