It was the size of an adult human head.
This, of course, is neither alarming or humorous if you’re expecting a fully-grown person in which case it warrants no observation.
Plonked down on our table and despite its silence, inactive state and general amicability it was instantly startling. I was in for the fight of my culinary life. I was about to die in an episode of Man v Food. It was a hamburger.
A megalodon hamburger.
6pm on a Friday is the textbook time to gust into a country pub, and this is true for the Macclesfield Hotel in the Adelaide Hills. It’s the sanctified end of the working week, the festive start of the weekend, and a chance to see a community skipping and jabbering, busy and recalibrating.
A full, spectral moon floodlit the countryside, and a toasty glow encased the front bar. There was cheery commotion for the (possibly over-capitalised) Friday Night Weekly ‘Pick-a-Pint’ Jackpot Draw was on. Chocolate-smeared kids dashed about, and leather and patch jackets, and work shirts, and bushy beards coloured our canvas.
We secured a stretch of timber and towel and coasters. I opted for a Coopers Pale Ale while Claire had a house white, and both were atomically accurate. To our left with a clattering plastic bucket, Bic biro and little paper books was that most principal of pub peoples, the meat tray ticket seller.
Despite there being no visible meat tray, we fished out our coin, and prayed to the patron saint of Free Sausages, but as it was later revealed, all those canonised in the name of chops had enjoyed a rostered day off. Even local saint, Mary MacKillop was working on subsidiary projects.
An enlivening din swirled throughout and I wondered at the chat: recent rainfall; tomorrow’s home footy fixture in which the local Blood ‘n’ Tars would take on the Gumeracha Magpies; Sunday’s celebrity cricket match at Davenport Square starring former Australian cricketer Wayne Phillips (whose wife has a Kapunda connection); houses and farms bought and sold; kids’ sport, kids’ achieving, kids’ causing concern.
The dining room was also ministered by a wood fire. Large tables crafted from tree trunks had been coaxed in and like the bar, the tone was both industrious and intimate.
Claire ordered sliders, and next morning two of these remained so we evoked Pulp Fiction:
Jules: It looks like me and Vincent caught you boys at breakfast. Sorry about that. What ‘cha having?
Jules: Hamburgers! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.
Meanwhile my meal was intimidating, and I felt like the skinny teenager who learns that tomorrow he’ll be on Plugger Lockett. It loomed on the plate like an aircraft carrier (surely the USS Ronald Reagan) and the chips clung to the cliff all cowering and awed. If the hamburger had eyes it would’ve stared me down like Ali at the weigh-in.
Anxious for a food coach my challenge was how to accost the behemoth. Right, I’ll pick it up and tackle it whole. I blinked. Nup, maybe if I had a gob like a hippo, then just maybe. OK, I’ll cut it in half. Peering now at the knife, my cutlery seemed impossibly tiny, like a toy you’d get from a kids’ lucky dip at a particularly dismal country show.
With gallows acceptance I murmured to Claire, “I have no choice.” She whispered, “God’s speed,” before nodding, “and please, take care.”
And so, my colossal hamburger became a creaking plate of two beef patties, bacon, eggs (yes, two bum nuts), cheese, lettuce, onions, tomato, relish and bread rolls: a medically-necessary mixed grill.
Like a (considerably) less menacing version of a middle-career Robert De Niro I tightened my teeth, and worked methodically through it while eventually the Friday night footy match wound up; the pub cleaner later dragged her mop and bucket about me wheezing, “You’re alright darlin’, take your time”; and the last of the front bar faithful wobbled off into the moonlit midnight.
My hamburger was magnificent.
The subsequent surgery a success I drove into town Saturday morning to buy the paper and accidently found myself in the Maccy cup-house administering a punt. At the bar was a solitary woman, and as I fed my betting slips to the machine, she asked in her throaty way, “Gotta tip, love?” Such is the agreeable nature of this boozer that she and Yorky laughed at my reply, “Yep, keep your cash in your pocket.”
Minutes later the car radio crackled my horse saluting (Sandown, race 2, number 8, Shrouded in Mist, 6/1) and with this happy coda I thought, gee, I really like this pub.