Thursday, July 17, 2008

"I've been everywhere man"

A call came in yesterday from Marcia, about to depart to remote outback Western Australia as a cook for a mining camp. "A friend tells me you have a copy of Standard Recipes for Fifty. I need one asap" Her friend Andra cooks at the remote Auski Roadhouse and is also after a metric copy of this Australian classic. First published in 1942 by the Department of Labour & National Service for use in government hostels, camps, hospitals and so on, it gives a somewhat sobering picture of institutional eating sixty years ago. The 1952 third edition introduces some Continental Dishes to "meet a little the tastes of migrants from Europe living in camps..." and it has been regularly updated over the years, but still retains many of the 'cafeteria' type dishes of the original. I can't imagine Marcia will be needing the 1970 edition's recipe for fruit punch, but am sure the ones for scones (ingredients start with '5lbs SR flour'), apple slices, curries, stews and breakfast dishes will be of great assistance.

The minerals and resources boom in Australia means I often get orders like the above from some really remote places - the Bugle Ranges & Adelaide River in SA for example. Some customers have no street address but books instead are sent to a station via the nearest post office. One customer works on oil rigs for weeks at a time and buys old Australian cookery books during his leave. Another is on secondment in Yemen. I might be sitting in my little shop on the outskirts of a major metropolis, but with the help of Google Maps I can have a look at these remote locations and imagine one of my books making its way there and being used and appreciated out in the middle of nowhere. It also brings out the travel bug in me - watch this space.

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