Weather permitting I take my workday lunch on a bench. It’s a chance for some fresh air and sunlight but is devoid of ceremony and any broader meaning. It’s entirely functional and that’s fine. Across the calendar other meals are invested with ritual and expectation.
Lunch at the pub on the October long weekend is one of those. It’s among my favourite occasions of the year. It’s about tradition and nostalgia with people who knew you when you were young and ridiculous.
Mozz and Kath had organised a small bus and driven it from Pinnaroo. Named the ‘Okey Chokey’ payment takes the form of whisky. Rattling into the pub carpark at noon there were already eight or ten vehicles, almost all large, lumbering 4WD.
The pub is the oldest in the Riverland (est. 1858) and is close and low of ceiling which gives it an intimate, historical atmosphere, completely unlike modern, suburban taverns that possess less charisma than a K Mart. Whitewashed walls add to this ambience. None of our party had been to the pub previously and this was a rare first.
Our table was on the expansive front deck and this was also hosting a 50th party. Just as our meals arrived so did the guest of honour and the cheers and her reaction made it clear that it was all a surprise. I hope they enjoyed their celebration.
Mozz and I each assembled a personal betting portfolio for the day courtesy of the in-pub TAB and I must report that both of these were wildly, spectacularly unsuccessful. But even this, given the afternoon’s deeper magic, was a triumph. A horse I’d selected is called ‘The Astrologist’ and it ran fourth. Surely, if it was any type of fortune-teller, it would’ve seen this coming and scratched itself that morning, saving both equine animal and sad human some heartache.
Claire had a local red from Burk Salter and as a cabernet merlot it was acceptable if not spectacular. The beers were cold and fresh and that’s as simple and complicated as they should really be.
Our meals were mixed with the boys having meat-lovers’ pizza that was pretty good and my beef schnitzel was excellent and although I was initially disappointed with the portion of chips a quick phone call to my heart surgeon confirmed that this was not, indeed, a bad thing.
We had spoken around the kitchen table the night before of the cultural and social significance of pea and corn salad. At country cricket clubs across the country Thursday night, post-training barbeques would witness an oversupply of these, lovingly organised and presented in blue ice-cream containers by multiple late-order batting bachelors.
Imagine our shared joy when my lunch arrived with this green and gold nourishment. It was a culinary highlight. I doubt a salad has ever been received with such communal delight. I’m pleased I gave peas (and corn) a chance.
Claire and I popped back into the dining room to chat again with Kapunda folk R. Lewis and P and A. Schultz about their weekend at the shack and the forthcoming Kapunda High School celebration of one hundred years of Sir Sidney Kidman’s bequeathing of ‘Eringa’ to the education department.
Then it was time for ‘Okey Chokey’ to be steered back home via the agricultural, frequently pot-holed route through Morgan. We had a balcony and a riverbank and an obligation to commence some serious relaxing.
Just as ritual and happy history demanded.