Day4 in Adelaide – A story of two food experiences

Day 4 - 45

Here’s the thing about day four of my Adelaide road trip – both the highlight and the lowlight were food related (isn’t it always?). First the lowlight. Pie floaters, another South Australian culinary institution are gross! A pie drowning in pea sauce? WHAT IN HELL WAS I THINKING? Never again.

But the highlight was so unexpected and so unobtrusive it kind of blew my mind. But first I need to give you some background.

When I was a kid growing up in Sydney, we had a little corner shop at the end of our street. It’s gone through a handful of owners over the years, but there was a period where it was owned by an Asian family and they made the best damn hamburger I’ve ever eaten. I’m not talking about your gourmet burger. I’m talking about your local milk bar, Australian burger. The kind of burger that’s just a beef patty with lettuce, tomato, caramelised onions, BBQ sauce and beetroot (always beetroot). If I was feel a bit fancy I would put a potato scallop/potato cake on it, just because. The owners sold up that shop around the time that I finished up in high school, and I have never had a milk bar burger as good since then.

Until Adelaide.

Another friend told us to check out this little take away shop in North Adelaide called the Blue & White Café . It’s apparently been there since 1954. I normally never order burgers from these kinds of joints because they inevitably lead to disappointment, so I’m not sure why I did this day. Maybe it was fate? But I am so glad I did because that burger took me straight back to that time when that Asian family owned the corner shop and made the best burger I’ve ever eaten. This burger tasted the same as my memory.

The patty tasted the same – it wasn’t overly spiced, it had the right amount of char from the flat-top grill and it was succulent. The bun was the perfectly fine, regular hamburger bun that you buy from the supermarket, complete with sesame seeds. There was the right ratio of ingredients, especially the sauce.

It’s amazing when a food memory is so powerful that it destroys your experience of similar foods to the one in the memory. But it truly is mindblowing and emotional when you find a food that matches it. I’m glad this memory found it’s match.

Day 4 - 46

Why food?

Why food?

I find it fascinating that when you meet people and you start talking about your interests, people are quick to ask why you have that particular interest.

Well in almost everything. Because I’ve noticed I never get asked that when I say that food is an interest. It seems to be almost just accepted as, “OK, Sarah has an interest in food” or dismissed as me buying into “foodie culture”.

But, for me, it goes a lot deeper than “just food”, and when you get to know me in my entirety it starts to make sense.

I love learning. I always have. And the things that I am particularly interested in – history, sociology, art, eating – all lend themselves really well to studying food. Think about ramen, for example. It’s a food that is absolutely ubiquitous with Japan and Japanese culture. But delve deeper, and you start to see that it was a food developed post-WWII to cheaply and efficiently feed a starving population. Those flour-based noodles didn’t really exist in Japan until after the war when the US were importing massive amounts of flour into the country. Stories of history, politics and popular culture can all be told by one food.

It goes even further than that, back into my family history.

I’m approximately half Italian. It’s a bit of an over-simplification (which I will talk about in future posts) but it’s a good starting point for knowing about me and my family. My mum is a great cook – she learned from my Nonna (her mum) and her Nonna (my great-Nonna). My Nonna was a chef. The food from her tables is legendary. She learned from her mum (my Great-Nonna) and also her brother in law. Needless to say, my Great-Nonna was also a great cook. I think it’s genetic.

I learned a few things from mum, especially about baking and sweets, but a lot of my culinary knowledge came from hours spent watching my Nonna in the kitchen and my own self-education (again, that love of learning). I spent a lot of time with my Nonna and Nonno when I was a kid, so food was a common connection between all of us. My Nonna would prepare and feed us ridiculous amounts of food. Her lasagna was the things dreams are made of. The family table was a way for everyone to all be together.

Being in another state to my family, food is a way for me to connect with my family when we’re not together. It’s a way for me to connect with my Nonna who is no longer with us.

These are the lessons that food has taught me. It brings people together. It’s a common language that we can all speak. It is so full of emotional connection that is impossible to deny.

That’s why food.

Photo is me, circa 1985, demonstrating a love for charcuterie even back then.