I am not yet into yearning much for things of the past. For me, "the good old days" are here, right now, doing what I am doing. Occasionally however, it is still possible to find little reminders of times past which fill me with nostalgic warmth.
GOF, being the romantic old coot that he is, takes Mrs GOF out to dine a couple of times a month…..he takes her to breakfast!
Cairns is a thriving tourist city in tropical Australia, with lots of steel, concrete and glass highrise, and ample signage in Japanese to direct any stray Oriental tourist back to the Japanese owned business strip, and away from anything remotely Australiana. It also has the usual proliferation of multinational takeaway food franchises.
Nestled amongst all this modernism is a nondescript small brick building with its function being displayed in peeling paint.
It is more easily identified by the assemblage of taxi cabs parked outside…..no finer accolade can be given to an eating establishment, than the endorsement of a taxi driver. It has been thus for the 20 years I have known both it, and its proprietor, who operates the breakfast kitchen as a family business.
He is a simple man. I wish to imply the highest compliment with that statement. Simple country folk the world over, display characteristics that I often wish I could fully emulate. They find happiness in simplicity, are honest, hardworking and have a huge generosity of spirit. They rarely find the need to do any poncy navel-gazing, and they certainly would not bother to become involved in time wasting arty-farty nonsense like blogging.
"Breakfast" is, by design, a one roomed establishment, which enables him to conduct conversations with customers whilst he is cooking. There is frequent use of colourful descriptive adjectives which add an element of Australian bush tradition to the ambience, although at times it probably warrants a language warning outside the shop.
The menu, primarily fried foods, is definitely not good for my arteries or my general homeostasis, but I figure that my body will probably forgive me if I eat plenty of fruit and vegetables during the following couple of weeks.
"Breakfast" does not include foreign corruptive influences. There are no plastic plates or cutlery. Its all real. The cups have long ago lost their saucers, or indeed maybe never had them in the first place, and the patterns don't match those of the plates…….but who cares?
An eclectic assortment of used jars contain sugar. No nonsensical teaspoon size saches which clog up with tropical humidity.
There is no "would you like fries with that", or "hash browns" or "ketchup," nor the requirement when ordering to give your first name to put into the computer. Your order is handwritten in his patented shorthand, on a small scrap of paper torn off a larger sheet, and neatly tucked behind an egg on the sideboard. He knows who you are, where you go and sit, regular customer or newcomer, because he cares. He cares about providing good food, excellent value for money, and a thoroughly pleasant atmosphere in which to enjoy it.
And when you pay him, he rings it up on an old fashioned 1950's style cash register with a hand crank on the side of it.
He smiles. You smile, and you thank him,….. because you have just spent a pleasant half-hour of your life savouring delicious food and an increasingly rare Australian cultural experience.
You have come to an understanding that this man uses the finest ingredients in the world…..and some of them have absolutely nothing to do with the cooking.
Which reminds me, whilst we are on a little nostalgic tour of fine dining, I find myself transported back 50 years to the Log Cabin Restaurant situated near Mount Macedon in Victoria. It was run by a large and jovial Dutchman, and was sadly burned down in bushfires.
As children we were intrigued by the small card present on each table. It read; (very approximately, for this is from a diminishing memory)
Hesesto pands pen daf rien dl yho urinh arml essmir than dfu nle
tfri ends hipr eign bej ustand kin dan devils peak of no ne.