For us Aussies who love the bush, life is an adventure. Travelling the bush often means starting out with a rough idea of where you’d like to end up and chucking everything at it to get there. Bush cooking’s an adventure too, but like all adventures, if you don’t make a start you’ll never get anywhere!
When I was a kid, Australia had the world’s most boring food this side of a bowl of cardboard. Living on a sheep station meant mutton, or if you were lucky, lamb and ‘three veg’ meant potatoes, carrots and peas, seven days a week.
Then, during the shearer’s wide comb dispute in the late ‘80’s I was contracting a team when the cook shot through – slid out on his backside is closer to the truth – so suddenly I was churning out five meals a day from a slow combustion stove mounted on a Holden front end. Taught me heaps, especially in the early days when I discovered how fast I could run…
Mostly it taught me about the heat properties of burning wood and I guess to some degree understanding heat is the key to bush cooking. None of that’s hard but you do have to be prepared to take a few losses along the way. Usually the smell of burning is a dead giveaway.
On the other side of the pot you’ve got to understand a bit about what’s raw and what’s not. Once again, not hard, but practice makes perfect before long. Stick a knife in and what comes out? Is it sticky or clean? Actually these days you can buy a thermometer that’ll give dead accurate readings on roasts and things like that and yes, despite having done this for most of my life, I’m not worried about using one if it’s there.
And I’m not worried about experimenting with different flavours either. Once you’ve sorted a few basics – usually dipping a finger in and tasting it’s enough to know whether it’s totally wrong – the rule is ‘have a go and chuck it in’. Be bold, be brave and experiment. Don’t let anyone tell you not to use something until you’ve proven it yourself.
Yep, if you can mix concrete, you can cook. And cooking in the bush means a bit of mess won’t worry anyone which is kind of why the Handbrake says I’m not allowed to cook at home…
Who cares. Nothing tastes better than a meal cooked and enjoyed under an open sky. Add a fire and some mates and you’ve just built a memory you’ll have forever.