Pamela’s Eating Tails

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Installments one , two, three, four and five.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I ran into Camel Man’s Wife and begged for a fillet of camel to play with in the kitchen but to date they have yet to deliver. The camp dogs have done better, with the Camel Man’s Boys dropping off enormous sections of back bone at various places around the community for them to chew on. We had one little dog drag a stinking piece of hump fat at least twice his weight into the arts centre last week in an effort to keep it for his own exclusive pleasure. He was most indignant when promptly chased back out.

I have nevertheless managed to get my paws on a little bit of dromedary on the sly. A friendly sparky called Richard had been staying with the Camel People while working on various jobs around the community, including fixing our hot water system (we had endured over two weeks of luke warm showers). Over coffee one morning before the sun had much of a chance to warm the day he offered me some freshly dried camel jerky. Marinated in sweet chilli sauce and coriander seeds, it was among the most tender, tasty jerky I’ve eaten – and having lived in Namibia for a couple of years where biltong from all kinds of bush meat is a fav snack, I’ve tasted quite a bit. Nice work, Camel Man. I almost forgive you for being so tight about providing meat for the rest of us.

windpipe

Ever wondered what a camel’s oesophagus looks like?

Despite the lack of camel there have been some other unusual menu items to get excited about. Roo tails are a favourite camping meat out here and can be purchased frozen at both the community store or road house for $7 a pop. Surprisingly there is considerable variety in the quality of tails – I am reliably informed by a long time connoisseur that the black ones sold at the road house are a little tough.

Roo tails are prepared in the manner described in my last post, by first singeing off most of the fur in the flame of a hot fire then wrapping them in silver foil and buried in hot coals. If silver foil is unavailable, they are just buried directly in the ashes. Silver foil is, I have come to appreciate, the single most important cooking aid for camp cooking other than matches. Almost everything cooked on the fire is wrapped in foil: roo tails, emu, damper, lamb chops, potatoes and bananas (that last one is my idea). The only exceptions are traditional bush meats such as tirnka and marku (witchetty grubs), that go straight into the ashes. (Forgetting the foil is an almost unforgivable act of negligence and results in grumpiness all round when a great meat meal is ruined by the presence of grit on the cooked flesh. Forgetting the salt is also a sin, and forgetting both will get you permanently labeled incompetent.)

On this particular trip I forgot the foil, but as the provider of both the tails and the salt was promptly forgiven. Lucky someone in the other car had some foil tucked away under a tarp in the back of his troupie. I turned up late, so most of the women had already taken off looking for tirnka. I was left with one of the older ladies and her ten year old grand daughter and promptly instructed to cook all the meat I had with me despite the fact the other women wouldn’t be back for hours. I was given responsibility for fur removal and handling the shovel but was under close supervision lest I create an unevenly cooked tail charcoaled one side and raw and hairy on the other.

wrap

Breaking out the foil …

shovel

Getting bossed around (note the crow bar – a multi-purpose tool that no bush woman can do without – in fact it was one of the first modern tools taken up by Aboriginal women out here – a welcome if some what less personal improvement to wooden digging sticks of old).

unwrap

The final product. Served with salt and eaten dexterously with a sharp knife. The meat is stringy but tasty, the flavour coming mainly from the lovely sticky fat between each of the tail bones (think ox tail stew, without the stew).

Given that few readers of this blog are likely to be able to find themselves a tail down at the local supermarket (unless, of course, you are in Alice Springs), I instead present below a recipe for roo and bean stir fry, courtesy of my mate Matt, the handsome tradie from earlier entry. Not only handy with a hammer, Matt has proved himself a bit of a gourmet in the kitchen and recently whipped up the following dish while out camping. Note the only implements he had with him at the time was a pocket knife, a fry pan and a (hopefully washed) lid from a can of dog food bent into the shape of a spoon.

Matt’s Roo and Bean Stir Fry

Stir fry a fillet of kangaroo, cut into fine strips, with chilli, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Add some mushrooms, bacon and a tin of smoky barbeque baked beans.

Best eaten directly from the fry pan while sitting on your swag under a clear winter desert sky.

Pamela’s journey continues here.

14 comments ↓

#1 Nabakov on 15.05.09 at 3:47 pm

“I have nevertheless managed to get my paws on a little bit of dromedary on the sly. ”

Front runner so far for 2009′s best blog sentence taken out of context.

Shame he couldn’t offer Bactarian as well. Then you could have written “I was asked one hump or two?”

#2 Dr Sister Outlaw on 15.05.09 at 9:20 pm

Pamela Faye, I jez love how you jez so casually sling around phrases like ‘having lived in Namibia for a couple of years’. NAMIBIA? And what are you doing out there in the outback anyway? My goodness, you are so cool.

And, btw, just what is the status of your relationship with your handsome trady, who has gone from having handsome wrists to an actual name?

#3 Pamela Faye on 18.05.09 at 12:31 pm

Love a good hump joke. Thanks Nab.

Dr Sista, I am most chuffed that you think my life cool. I suspect I am not nearly interesting enough to deserve it. I was in Namibia ten years ago working on a community-based conservation project in a remote wildlife area. I lived in a small village with no running water or electricity and where my only tools to assist with ablutions were a metal bucket and a small red trowel. I fostered a deep understanding amoung the local population about just how useless a monolingual girl from the suburbs of Canberra can be in helping achieve your social development objectives. In the end we all had a lot of fun and I taught one woman how to drive, but not before falling down a disused well shaft during a lunar eclipse and breaking a few bones.

Now I call myself an anthropologist and I’m out in the Lands doing PhD fieldwork on the social values of historical films and photographs, which involves little more than siting around drinking cups of tea and looking at family pics – lovely, joyful work.

Matt the handsome tradie has an equally handsome and lovely wife in Alice, so I’ve been transfering my affections on to his dogs instead. Unfortunately he and his pooches leave for home tomorrow, and we are all a bit sad.

#4 Nabakov on 18.05.09 at 8:16 pm

“Silver foil is, I have come to appreciate, the single most important cooking aid for camp cooking other than matches.”

Well speaking as an old South Pacific hand who has enjoyed quite a few lovos, umus and hangis, I can tell you the locals completely get this point too. Bugger wrapping the stuff in banana or pandanus leaves, silver foil is easier to use, keeps the sand and dirt out much better and cooks its contents faster.

Sometimes a judicious blend of ancient traditions and western technology does make things taste better.

Although why no decent seafood restaurant in Australia offers kokoda is beyond me.

It’s very simple and incredibly tasty dish that’s wide open for some intelligent experimentation.

#5 Nabakov on 18.05.09 at 8:24 pm

I can also throughly recommend the book from which the above linked recipe was drawn. The author was the then wife of our family doctor in Suva and was locally renowned for her culinary expertise – to the point where people would ring up to ask her advice and then remember they originally called to make an appointment with her husband.

#6 Nabakov on 18.05.09 at 8:47 pm

Also, while I’m knocking a 12 year old Macallan and jus’ reminiscin’, the ‘Islands Business’ website mentioned in the link above is an evolutionary offshoot from the first South Pacific business magazine ever – started by my mum.

She wasn’t much of a cook herself but still has her first editions of several Elizabeth David books, which were eventually returned by top Fijian chefs, much thumbed and stained.

She still reckons her best contribution to the local high life though was creating the first Fijian freebie ad-driven newspaper for tourists which invented and then co-sponsored the South Pacific Bartenders Awards. With her as head of the judging panel.

“Um kids, Mum may be rather late home tonight.”
“Oh right it’s those cocktail drinking awards again. Why can’t we go Dad?”
“Not yet. Maybe wait another six years. Now who wants to watch ‘All That Jazz’ again while we wait for your mother to finally turn up and park the car sideways in the drive?”

#7 Nabakov on 18.05.09 at 9:01 pm

However despite my urbane and worldy comments above about South Pacific food and drink, I still have no idea how you make cassava taste interesting.

Although it apparently can inflame passions.

But after reading that report, you’re left quite confused by the end about what actually happened.

Welcome to the South Pacific.

#8 Nabakov on 18.05.09 at 9:19 pm

What else?

Oh yes… I have a big essay building up inside me about onomastic trends in Brit aviation but I suspect this is neither the place or time for such a dissertation.

OK then, I’ll hie m’self over to Brett’s Airmindedwhich like ProgDin is a local blog that’s also world class in its chosen field.

#9 Pamela Faye on 19.05.09 at 4:40 pm

Not only do I love a good hump joke, I also love a bit of Macallan-inspired verbosity.

Your mother sounds like a hoot. Did she survive Fiji with her liver intact?

Would love to try some kokoda. Australian restaurants perhaps reluctant to serve it for fear of attracting thousands of patriotic hikers in khaki who will insist on pronouncing it incorrectly?

#10 dogpossum on 20.05.09 at 12:49 pm

Cassava chips = Aok, Nabakov.
I spent some time in Suva in the late 70s; lovos (and watching pigs being butchered) are stand-out memories.

#11 Nabakov on 25.05.09 at 12:59 am

Yes cassava chips. I’d forgotten about them. But now I remember they had to be cooked very deftly so they wouldn’t get too soggy or burnt. Much smaller tolerances there than potatoes, dalo or kumara.

The most interesting dish I ever ate in the South Pacific was fruit bat (flying fox). Cooked in a Tongan lovo, it tasted delicious, not least because their diet is fruit. Sorta like mango-flavoured rabbit.

But only ate it once. I like the species too much as a cheerfully gregarious and cute bunch of airborne hoons to treat them as mere fodder.

In fact we took a baby one in once after he/she had somehow fell out of the tree in our yard where a colony roosted.

‘Turbo’ spent about two months with us, eating every bit of fruit offered, hanging off a coathanger dangling from the indoor stairs in the lounge room above layers of frequently changed newspaper and chittering away to us and the utterly intrigued cats. Very vocal creatures. And then one day just flew away.

I have never eaten a fruit bat since then.

#12 FCJ on 25.05.09 at 9:22 pm

hello pamela, this is FCJ (faye, Ces and John) all sitting together on the couch at home (your parents’ home, that is, not our humble home in Kaleen).

We’d like to offer a roo tail, or two, indeed our 4-legged companions currently slumbering at our feet (Tess and Sam) will gladly provide the said produce while chasing macropods around the fields tonight.

We had spag and meatballs for dinner. Faye and John off to Sydney to catch to show tomorrow, Ces left to muck up – sorry I mean take good care of – the farm :)

Cheerio and much love for now.
xxx

#13 Pamela Faye on 26.05.09 at 7:38 pm

There is a French restaurant overlooking Port Vila in Vanuatu that serves flying fox as its house specialty. My dining pal and I ordered it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat it. There had been no attempt to disguise the fact that it was actually flying fox. There it was, in its entirity, sitting on the plate looking as if it had been roasted insitu in the last tree from which it hung. I’m with you, Nabs – there are just some things in this world that are too charming to eat. Mind you, had I known it tasted like mango-flavoured rabbit I might have reconsidered.

FJC – Tess catch me a kangaroo?!? I’ll believe it when I see it. Nice to know you are all thinking of me By the way, Cecilia, Dad will know if you’ve let those naughty puppy dogs sleep on the bed – don’t ask me how, he just will. xxx

#14 http://www.myvanandi.co.uk on 10.04.14 at 5:04 pm

Why not help local businesses by utilising a nearby ‘man and a van’ to transport any bulky boxes.

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