This week’s Road Food blog comes to you from the Mudgee Show.
The Mudgee Show happens this time each year. There’s a rodeo and livestock judging and competitions for scones and fruit cake and flowers and intriguing artistic use of vegetables.
I noticed that Fay Spargo was a big winner in the cake section. Fay ripped. She’ll need a trailer to carry home all her ribbons. I should find out where Fay lives and invite myself over for afternoon tea. I want Fay Spargo to be my aunt or grandma.
Fay probably now has a lot of enemies around Mudgee.
There’ll be a lot of bakers and cake decorators around town – let’s call them collectively “The Losers” – who’d want to take her out. I’d be worried if I were Fay Spargo. I’d check the underside of my car of a morning before I turned on the ignition. Walking down Church Street I’d keep an eye on the rooftops for snipers. I’ve heard there’s some roo shooters around town looking for extra work.
If Fay Spargo were to come to an untimely death in the next few months, I’d suggest the cops first question those little old ladies that came second or third in the Mudgee Show Cake competition. Damn sure they’d find their killer amongst that aggrieved lot.
It was raining during the show, which was great for the farmers and graziers because the Mudgee district has been drought affected – however for the show people who make their living following the carnival circuit, it was bad news. Attendances were well down.
The side show folk follow a circuit that takes them all over the country. It’s a hard nomadic life. Mr. Brown, from Brown’s Dagwood Dogs food stand, says he only spends six weeks at home each year. The rest of the time he and his family are on the road, from Darwin down to southern Victoria.
I love side-show alley, as it was called in my day. There’s something wonderfully dark and tacky about it. Very Ray Bradbury. Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of my favourite books – the story of a haunted carnival that comes to a small country town. That story still creeps me out. Very scary.
I walked through the side-show area and took photos of odd things that caught my interest.
If you want something to eat at the show – (and who doesn’t?) – the choice comes down to what particular sort of fast food do you want to ingest: Dagwood Dogs (hot dogs deep fried), Chiko Rolls (we know all about Chiko Rolls now, don’t we..) hamburgers and of course hot chips.
And for desert, there’s fairy floss. What’s a trip down side-show alley without a bag of fairy floss? A bag of fairy floss sets you back $4, however you can buy a bucket for $10.
A bucket of fairy floss – how good is that?
I wandered out of side-show alley and got chatting to Miss Mudgee Showgirl – Tanya Wiseby, aged 24. She’s an economic agronomist who’s hoping to represent Mudgee at the Sydney Show at Easter. Tanya’s folks run a property out of town, and Tanya is knowledgeable about issues to do with farming and agriculture.
I don’t know whether Tanya had to do a swimsuit parade to get the title – that would seem kind of obscene in a drought. But needless to say she was charming and beautiful and very knowledgeable about agronomy. If she goes on to win Miss Universe then you can tell your friends you discovered her first in Bill’s Road Food blog.
At the back of the show, beside the Animal Nursery, was a stall standing all by itself. A stall selling Nepalese food. It was called Nepali Khana. I walked over.
I’ve never been to Nepal, and I don’t even know that I’d ever had Nepalese food before, so I was intrigued. I was also very hungry because I couldn’t bring myself to eat a Dagwood Dog. And last week I’d had to eat a Chiko Roll for the Road Food blog and that ill-fated decision stayed in my intestines for several days. So the thought of having some “proper” food appealed to me – especially a cuisine I’d never tasted before.
Running the stall was a very pleasant and happy young lady named Dayna. She didn’t look Nepalese, and when I spoke to her, she didn’t sound Nepalese. She sounded Australian. But the two fellows toiling away in the kitchen behind her did have a distinct Nepalese appearance – although I have been known to confuse Vietnamese with Arabs.
I ordered the Nepalese Chicken with Rice, for $10. While Dayna was putting it in a takeaway container, she told me that she’d met her husband, Suren, on a trekking holiday in Nepal several years earlier. She worked in a bank, and it had been her first holiday out of the country.
She ended up living for a year in Nepal with Suren and his family – including his son Milan – before they came back to Australia, where they got married. They now have full time jobs, but they run the market on weekends, driving out of the city to do country gigs.
Dayna said the Sydney-siders seem a bit suspicious of Nepalese food, whereas the country folk are more prepared to give it a try.
My chicken was delicious. Not quite Indian, not quite Moroccan. A spicy flavour all its own. The meat so tender it melted in my mouth.
I then tried the flatbread, with spinach and pine nuts. Again, $10. I watched how Suren prepared the bread, then grilled it up like a Mexican quesadilla. Cut up into portions on a plate and served with yoghurt, it was scrumptious.
I noticed that the stall was lining up with customers. The fast food stalls were doing slow business, but the Nepali Khana was doing a brisk trade. It was the only food stall at the show selling food that wouldn’t kill you.
From a holiday in Nepal, falling in love with her Sherpa, living in a remote Himalayan village for a year, to now serving strange exotic foods at the Mudgee Show – what a great story Dayna told me.
I hope she and Suren and their son Milan make a real go of it. They deserve to.