Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Logistics I: Food

Tom Mackay's truck — he delivers the food orders from Adelaide via the Birdsville Track.

The thing that most worried me about coming to Birdsville was where I was going to buy food. The service station here has limited essentials which are very useful, but tend to be expensive. The nearest supermarket is 700 kms away in Mt Isa — a three day trip, and about $300 worth of fuel, so not a practical option. After some fairly frantic emails and a phone call or two, I established that what happens is you fax your order down to Woolies in Mawson Lakes, Adelaide, they do the shop and deliver your order to the truck depot, and it's delivered to Birdsville — every second week, and even less often in summer when everyone leaves town because its too darn hot. Orders must be in by Monday 9 am, the truck heads up the Birdsville Track from Adelaide on Wednesday and you pick up your groceries from the truck at the vacant lot opposite the servo where it pulls up on Friday morning.

Jackie, who ran the Big Red Cafe when we visited last year was really helpful — she and her partner Karsten decided not to open this year (they live on the NSW south coast during the summer) and not only did she give me all the information I needed to ease my worried mind, she sold me a freezer, a piece of kitchen equipment that I have not had a need for previously.

In Sydney, I just nipped out to the shops anytime I needed anything, and routinely went to the supermarket several times a week. I had at my fingertips the Asian supermarkets and Greek bakeries in Marrickville, not to mention Paesanella, a fresh Italian-style cheese factory, the Italian coffeeshops and delis of Leichhardt and Newtown, the french patisserie around the corner, fresh produce from Flemington markets via our local fruit and veggie co-op (hi Fruitloopers!) and a group of friends who are all enthusiastic and very good cooks (you know who you are), and have dinner parties on a regular basis. I think I reached an all-time low the other week while I was watching Maeve O'Meara interview Tetsuya Wakuda (with appropriate fabulous Japanese food demonstrations) on the TV while I was cooking curried sausages for dinner. I was very depressed for a bit.

Probably the thing I miss most is the ability to be spontaneous with cooking. I need to think well in advance what I will cook over the next two weeks, and most meat comes frozen and at the mercy of whoever in Woolies gets to do my shopping. Mince features on the menu fairly regularly these days, I really need some recipes in my repertoire beyond spag bol, meatballs in tomato sauce, chilli con carne — all suggestions gratefully received, keep them simple. Fresh fruit and veg are in short supply too, although Dusty has a very good garden which features silverbeet, pumpkin, rocket, basil and coriander, which I raid as often as I can. Our own fledgling garden is coming along quite well too (thank you Jamie for the seeds) the rocket is ready to pick already (ideas for things to do with rocket also gratefully received) and the womboks are getting bigger daily. I think I just need to treat it as a challenge to see how creative I can be with limited means.

Evan watering the garden — the rocket is ready to pick. The big blue-green plants at the back are broccoli, which Dusty gave us when he was thinning his crop out. Evan's since planted poppies and more herbs in the front garden, but they haven't made an appearance yet.