Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Any peas with that?

Today, December 28th …

The most important anniversary on this day, is that of the Old Foodie’s birth. In South Australia they think that Proclamation Day is also important. This is the day, in 1836, that SA was declared a colony, the most important result of which is that the day is a public holiday.

It is apt for both that the theme for today is the meat pie. Firstly, it is the OF’s culinary specialty. Secondly, the SA’s are famous for their meat pie floaters. They didn’t invent the combination of meat pie with mushy peas of course, they merely act like they did: meat pies have been around for ever, mushy peas even longer, and the combination for “a long time”. We will never know who had the brilliant inspiration for the specific SA format of a pie “floating” in a sea of mushy peas, but the first pie cart was licenced in Adelaide in 1871. By 2003, so significant had it become that the “pie floater” was recognised as a South Australian Heritage Icon by the National Trust of Australia.

The idea of the pie floater inspires many things: fear and loathing or ecstasy and longing, for example – often simultaneously in the same person. To the brilliantly funny Terry Pratchett, a hero is “someone who will eat a Meat Pie Floater when he is sober”. To the outrageously funny Billy Connolly, it has a particularly masculine nationalism: “You can tell a lot about a nation by its food. Here in Adelaide I discovered a real southern Australian speciality - the pie floater. We're talking proper food here - man's food, none of your Continental rubbish.” Considering that some of the affectionate names for this culinary icon are fly cemetery, rat coffin, maggot bag, I am not sure what this says about proper men.

The very first Australian cookbook contains a recipe for mushy peas, which are just a lumpy version of pease pudding after all.

Pease Pudding.
Soak the peas for ten or twelve hours; tie them loosely in a cloth, leaving room for them to swell, and simmer for a couple of hours*. When tender, drain them; rub them through a colander with a wooden spoon; add an ounce of butter, one egg, beat up, and pepper and salt to taste. Beat them well together, tie lightly in a cloth, and boil for half an hour.

Tomorrow: The Battle for Food.

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