The crime of bad holiday meals

by Forager on December 29, 2008

Why don’t good beaches and good food go hand in hand here in Australia? I have pondered this question for the past couple of days and I can see no reason.

I’m currently away relaxing at Blueys Beach in the mid-north coast of NSW. It’s beautiful here. Cool turquoise waters, clean white sand, lots of sun… Really – can’t fault the beaches. Australians truly are spoilt for choice in that department! But why is the food so poor here? There is not a great deal of choice other than fried beyond recognition fish and chips; burgers with patties so charred and carcinogenic that the Cancer Council uses pictures of it in their advertising campaigns to scare the kiddies; and “gourmet” pizzas made on the theory that slapping a deli product on a pizza instantly makes it “Gor-mey”… No excuse!

For the first few days of our holiday we cooked our own meals. We’d packed a picnic basket full of goodies and supplies and made delicious meals like tender rib eye steaks from Vics Meats (supplier to the top fine dining kitchens in Sydney) with the chimichurri sauce we discovered in Central America (consists of chopped parsely, garlic, jalapeno peppers, olive oil, salt & pepper) and Typhoon Shelter crab using the sauce I brought back from my recent HK trip.

Having cooked all our meals for a couple of days we decided to eat out last night. On the locals’ recommendations we decided to try the local recreation club, imaginatively called “The Recky”. Despite being insanely busy & popular with locals and tourists alike, the food looked terrible. The menu looked both boring and expensive. Beer battered fish & chips for $16; steaks for $25. Ok – I might be asking a bit much for outstanding fusion food here, but at least the portions would be generous right? WRONG! The meals that went by looked dry, unappetizing, and the portions were tiny (a crime worthy of being hanged in itself). I was so disappointed with my meal prospects that we ended up leaving. A good decision which was vindicated on reflection as I realised my meal choice was based on the dishes requiring the least skill to deliver (i.e. dishes I suspected the kitchen couldn’t ruin). We ended up getting a uninspiring dry pizza but both agreed it looked and probably tasted better than the expensive yet foodie-soul crushing fare offered at the recreation club.

Today we followed up that experience with lunch at a small cafe. Two burgers set us back $40, and quite possibly, sh*ttest burgers I’ve ever had. Lunch today put me in a bad mood. *shaking fists!*

Meal times are quite often holiday highlights for me. It is not unusual for me to plan holidays around the restaurants I’d like to eat at, the foods I’d like to try and the markets I’d like to see and experience. As meals easily become a focus – bad holiday meals are simply inexcusable.

But back to my original point – why isn’t the food any better here? I associate good beaches with good – no – fantastic food in Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Central America… Where’s that enterprising guy selling street stall snacks like grilled skewers of meat or little fish, som tum salads, iced pineapple on a stick… Where is that enterprising guy? The opportunistic citizens of developing worlds would have spotted the obvious niche market opportunity for it here. Why haven’t Aussies done something similar? Perhaps it’s due to the relaxed (read: lazy) nature of us Aussies. The spirit is willing, but it’s good beach weather today so I’ll do it tomorrow…

Perhaps that’s my true calling – leave my job and be a beach cart peddler, start a franchise and deliver good food to the beaches of Australia. Or someone else can do it. Any takers?

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