Entering the showgrounds Alex (A1) and his friend from up the road, Alexander (A2) commenced an eating marathon, or in truth, sustained the one started in the car.
First up were snow cones, a marketing triumph of crushed ice drenched with hallucinogenic Cottee’s (I hope so) cordial. Using eleven cents of ingredients it retails for $5. But, as they say in Brixton, the boys were well pleased.
It was an Adelaide Hills spring day with crisp air and clouds rushing. We kept our eyes skyward and there was a tree-climbing competition on a massive gum, whose sturdy girth meant it had a fair grip o’ the earth.
Our home town of Kapunda recently hosted an international climbing event at the duck pond sponsored by the Crimson Bovine energy drink which I imagine exactly zero of the competitors enjoyed before, during and after competition. However, Claire and I agreed it was excellent to see the difficult work of arborists codified and celebrated.
Setting the boys adrift Claire and I took in the stalls run by passionate backyarders. With foodstuffs, handicrafts and all manner of rustic enticements The Onion Factor caught our eye (and nose) and its vendor loved her onions and encouraged these into relish, sauces and pickles. Recommended.
While Claire went to the toilet/restroom/bathroom/bogga (strike out those not applicable to your cultural context) I along with many others in a loose church of haybales listened to a woman giving a talk/quiz on vegetables.
It was disconcertingly compelling and displayed the conditions necessary for a cult. The leader stood on a stage clasping assorted produce as we gazed dead ahead, unblinking and transfixed, drool appearing on some.
“Who can tell me the difference between squash and zucchini?” Narelle’s hand shot up, like she’s four and a people-pleaser.
And then, “What’s the name for this odd-looking vegetable?” Immediately, Doreen, late fifties, eager, bleats out, “Pimply pumpkin.”
It was like an old science-fiction film, but without the primitive laser beams.
Mercifully, Claire returned before I renounced my former life and surrendered my shoes and bank details.
With A1 and A2 back we made a slow lap of the oval, admiring the marquees, footy and netball club stands, book counters, and local church volunteers giving away cakes and biscuits.
By the cricket pitch (hard not turf) was a gazebo and under it a business was selling a dozen queen-size mattresses. Claire asked, “Who comes to a show to buy a bed?” I hoped at least a couple couples, but thought it unlikely. “Righto kids, let’s go to the show. You can have a toffee apple and go on some rides while mum and dad head to short mid-wicket on the town oval, and buy an ensemble. Later tonight, we’ll try to make you a sister.”
The cult of the Adelaide Hills wineries now draped its inescapable charisma over us, and we discovered ourselves on some stools sipping CRFT winery droplets. Situated in Carey Gully, I was taken by the Grüner Veltiner, an Austrian varietal that was snappish and elevating, suggestive of apple and autumnal breezes, perfect for hot afternoons down on the plains.
Detecting a yiros van on the half-forward flank fence we became fixated. But, taking a break from their eating Olympiad A1 and A2 later told us the yiros was gone. They scarpered off on their quest to leave penniless.
Not wishing to queue with the BBQ van crowd we opted for the pasta truck. Reading the menu board Claire (a polymath) said, “Do you know what puttanesca means?”
I did not.
“It comes from the Italian for prostitute. It’s an appropriately frugal dish,” she continued.
Contemplating the Venetian vamp diet, we both ordered the carbonara. Claire had a kid’s serve ($7) while I went the adult ($12) although as near as we could tell for my extra coin I’d received three additional tubes of penne.
With local red wine in our stemless glasses (still unsure about this) we claimed our chairs by a wooden crate as on the back of a truck The Finns sang Irish songs. In a massive iron bucket, a fire was blazing, a nearby infant and his chin and his cheeks relished his spaghetti (sketti), close to us a dog slept, and off to the side a toddler was stumbling about with her dad in outstretched pursuit.
It was an idyllic location and reminiscent of a Zeffirelli mise en scene.
Accompanying our merlot and pasta were stirring renditions of “Dirty Old Town” and “Black Velvet Band”. One of the backup singers rarely even used a tambourine and was more interested in his Coopers Pale Ale than harmonising, which I could partly understand. Doubtless, he’ll be asked to leave the band by Christmas, due to musical differences. However, the girls on the double bass and banjo were excellent.
The Finns comprise nine folk and vocals are shared although one male chased but couldn’t catch the correct key. Claire noted he wasn’t quite Meatloaf at the grand final, but if he parachuted onto a cannibal island and started warbling, by the first chorus of, “We’re Bound for South Australia” they’d have the pot boiling.
But it was a splendid afternoon of food, wine, music and mattresses. It’s how they love it in Ireland, Italy and Uraidla.