Category Archives: Out and About

Things that batter

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Patatas-fritas

$2 chips spread out beyond the limits of most kitchen tables …

Today’s kids seem to be ignorant of the joys of pigging out on a decent feed of fish and chips. During school holidays they’re more likely to meet up at Maccas or Subway, or, if they’re anything like my daughter, the local Thai restaurant.

In my day we had two lunch choices; fish and chips, the purchase and consumption of which were a right of passage.

During school holidays me and my brother Anton would often end up at my cousins’ Mario and Phillip’s place where the morning madness, which included playing war (being the younger brothers, Phillip and I would have to be the Germans or Japanese) would give way to hunger hastened by the glorious aroma of the fish ‘n’ chip shop just a few hundred yards away.

As the youngest I’d have to make the trip to the fish n chip shop on Main Road East (now called The White Corner Fish and Chips), with my pockets full of 20 and 50 cent coins and an order list that included:

  • $2 chips
  • 8 potato cakes
  • 8 dim sims
  • 4 fish cakes
  • 4 sausages in batter
  • 1 Coke

The shop was run by a bloke named Jerry and was typically decorated by faded advertising posters, including a suggestive one of a girl on a motorbike holding a Chiko Roll. There were also flags of various nations painted around the top of the walls and I’d try guess what country they belonged to while waiting for my order.

After what seemed like ages Jerry’s wife would yell out: “hey boy, twodollarchip, aiyet potatocayke, aiyet dimzeem, four fishcayke, four sausage?”

Plurals weren’t her thing.

I’d grab the Coke from the fridge and hand over the princely sum of $6.50 ( I remember potato cakes being 5c and dim sims 8c). After counting all the coins Mrs Jerry would hand me a pillow sized package of steaming fat, salt and carbs which I’d try and carry back to my hungry brethren along with the heavy glass Coke bottle. The only way to do this without dropping the lot was to hold the Coke in one hand and tuck the package between my forearm and bicep of the other arm. It worked fine but resulted in second degree burns at the back of the elbow.

On my return the boys would peel the food package off my disfigured arms without so much of a thank you and carefully unwrap the bounty on the lounge room floor. In those days $2 chips spread out beyond the limits of most kitchen tables and we wanted to watch the Midday movie, which was usually a western or World War II classic. We’d momentarily stare at the food, mentally giving thanks while Mario, being the eldest, divided the potato cakes, dim sims, battered savs and fish cakes into four.

Once his hands were clear we attacked the lot like rabid dogs.  As John Wayne murdered people in black and white, we feasted over a sea of yellow stodge with a bowl of vinegar placed in the middle for us  to dip our chips – one time I stupidly tried drinking the vinegar which sparked a rather enlightened theological discussion between myself and Mario.

Mario: “Don’t drink the vinegar, it’s bad for you.”

Me: “Jesus drank vinegar.”

Mario: “And look what happened to him.”

Touche Mario. Touche.

The hectic sounds of culinary rapture and rustling paper soon slowed as we each hit a food wall, with battered savs and a not-insignificant 80c worth of chips still to go. But we’d persist, passing around the Coke bottle to wash the food down.

The drinking of the Coke was an event in itself. We’d take advantage of the burpy reaction of the Coke and a belly full of carbs with such gusto that were were able to belch out phrases like and “rum and raisin” and  “get fucked Phillip”. This gave us a second wind and we’d even be hungry enough for one final, violent feeding frenzy over the previously unwanted broken crispy chips that lurked till the very end.

In no time we’d be finished. The bowl of vinegar carefully taken to the kitchen sink, the paper scrunched up and thrown in the bin and last of the Coke poured down our throats.

Our kids don’t know what they’re missing.

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Boris the Morris

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It was quite an effort to fit the six of us into a little Morris 1100!

Going for a long drive was a ritual. The night before, Dad would get the Melways or an RACV map and plan the trip with all the careful precision of an RAF Lancaster navigator. Then he’d prepare sandwiches. Sometimes they’d be steak with mustard which keep incredibly well in transit; but more often than not it would be typically Maltese fare of tomato paste sandwiches, to which we’d add olives and tuna at the picnic table.

On the morning of the trip, the car boot would be skilfully loaded, puzzle-like, with folding chairs, baby stuff for the twins, an Esky (that my parents called a car fridge) some soft drinks (Leed Lemonade), beach towels etc. It was quite an effort to fit all this stuff and the six of us into a little Morris 1100!

The seating configuration was my big brother and little sisters in the back, made all the more cramped by the twins’ medieval car seats that allowed them to look out the window, but provided as much safety as the electric chair. I always had to sit between my parents on the bench seat seeing as though I was most likely to get always got car sick. It sucked being the family sickie. My memories of long drives include getting knee capped by truck-like gear stick and watching a capful of Dettol swirling about in the bottom of a bucket held between my bruised knees. It could be worse for Mum, who’d often find herself playing the role of the bucket.

My susceptibility to car-sickness wasn’t helped by the acrid vinyl smell that cars had in those days, which made me feel sick before Dad even turned the key. For a time Mum gave me motion sickness tablets, only for me to throw up and see two little pills swishing around in the bucket in a cocktail of bile and disinfenctant.

After ensuring that everyone had been to the toilet, the gas stove was off and the sandwiches were on board, “Boris the Morris” – shit yeah, it had a name – would burst into life. We’d only get as far as the corner of our street where Dad would come to a stop and Mum would make us “do de sign of de cross”. In hindsight it’s kinda disturbing, though not at all surprising that they would feel the need for us to pray before every journey. Extra divine protection came with the little St Christopher medallion on the dashboard.

In-car entertainment was basic to say the least. We never had iPods, Nintendo DS or DVD players to pass the time. Boris didn’t even have a radio. So we’d spend the trip playing I-spy and Hey Charger, or doing the Row, Row, Row Your Boat medley, which would suddenly stop with a loud, albeit unexplained, “shhhh police” whenever Mum saw a cop car. Sometimes my brother Anton would attempt to entertain us by being the voice of Boris the Morris with a lame-arse characterisation that amused the twins, but had me suddenly appreciating the whirlpool patterns made by the Dettol.

The Morris 1100 was a fuel efficient vehicle; however it seemed to chew up a hell of a lot of fan belts. This meant the engine would get hot. Dad would stop, open the bonnet, grumble and yell out “fan belt”. Mum would save the day by taking her pantyhose off to use as a makeshift belt. I’m amazed more accidents weren’t caused by drivers being distracted by mum’s impromptu roadside strip teases.

Mum wasn’t always so helpful. One time Dad was looking under the bonnet before we left home. Mum, in a playful mood, beeped the horn causing him to hit his head on the hood. The peaceful Sunday morning was shattered by the sound of:

BEEP

THUD

“YOU STUPID BASTARD!”

Oh yes he did say that.

I reckon that was the only time I ever saw Dad really upset at mum; apart from years later when the doctor said he had high cholesterol and Mum became a bread, salt and meat Nazi – “huq Allah fuckin’ fish again?”

The trip home would always end with a enthusiastic welcome home by our dog Butch who’d hear Boris from at least a kilometre away and run up the road and wait before running alongside the car as we approached home.

In 1976 constant mechanical problems saw Dad reluctantly trade Boris in for used but gleaming Holden HQ Kingswood. Holly the Holden, (a name which didn’t stick and thankfully presented no opportunity for Anton to provide a voice) had a radio which Dad would switch between 3KZ and 3MP. Compared to Boris it was cavernous inside. From the middle front seat and would have to stretch to reach the new St Christopher medallion on the dash – with my foot! The three-on-the-tree auto meant there was no gear stick in the way and I could spread by elbows out while holding the bucket.

This was luxury!

I got less sick in the Kingswood too. My dad says it’s because he had a rubber strap hanging down off the rear bumper which eliminated static. How this stopped car sickness I’ll never know, but it seemed to work.