|Mary Street Gympie Circa 1956|
|Gympie-Widgee Memorial Gates|
I am not and never have been a disciple of fast food; other than toast, of course. Toast is a fast food. It doesn’t take long to prepare. It’s the deciding what to put on toast that takes time; particularly when I can’t find the Vegemite jar. I’m very quick on the draw with a can opener at high noon.
Baked beans are fast food; taking no time at all to heat up when time is of the essence; or when I’m in “I-can’t-be-bothered” mood, which happens often. Baked beans are just as tasty served cold, making them a very quick snack or meal, depending on which way you look at it; or eat it.
Nowadays baked beans, as well as many other canned foods, are an even faster fast food with ring-tops pulling the strings.
However, baked beans are not always fast food; they can be slow food. Sometimes it’s not simply a case of grabbing a can from the pantry. If making baked beans from scratch, they take a while; then they’re a very slow food; slow can be good! Depending on the situation, and/or how hungry I am, I can be a fast eater of food, whether it’s fast or sluggish food.
I love a good feed of fish and chips. I don’t class fish in crisp, golden batter, surrounded by crisp and golden potato chips as being “fast food”. Writing about fish and chips has awoken my taste buds! I’ll have to make a quick dash into the kitchen. Our locally-owned/operated purveyors of fish and chips or burgers beat the synthetic-tasting fast foods of some broadly-advertised fast food franchises.
I’ve wonderful childhood memories of visiting Nick’s Café, alongside the Memorial Gates in Mary Street, the main street of Gympie, for a piece of battered fish and sixpence worth of chips wrapped in newspaper. Every town back in those days of the distant, but not-so-dim past had a Nick’s Café, didn’t they?
The fun had in the search to find an elusive chip or two, along with the very crispy ones and the crunchy remnants of the batter in the folds of the paper was the thrill of the feast! Battered potato scallops cooked to perfection were often added to the order. The crisp batter snapped, crackled and popped as we bit into them; more than matching the much-lauded sounds of a bowl of breakfast Rice Bubbles.
Food pumped out by the huge conglomerates doesn’t compare with; compete with, or even come close to the taste and quality offered by individually-owned/operated take-away outlets.
Oh! Dear! I’m telling porkies when I declare I’m not an eater of fast foods.
The truth is I devour lots of fast foods - every day! The older I get the faster my meal preparation becomes. Salads containing a broad variety of healthy, fresh ingredients that need no cooking are my daily preferences. If my main meal isn’t a mixed salad with canned salmon/tuna, often accompanied by boiled eggs, it will be a salad joined by a delicious, quickly-grilled salmon fillet.
There are times, of course, when a thick juicy steak or a piece of chicken magically lands on my plate beside the salad. When the urge nudges, succulent lamb chops are known to appear and, other times, a thick pork loin chop. There’s nothing lethargic about the above; they’re fast foods. Of course they don’t all land on my plate at the same time!
Soup may be a slow cooker; but it becomes a fast finisher if it’s decanted into individual serves to be frozen for future ingestion. Soup is a rapid starter; but it can also be a slow starter if starting from scratch!
Whoever invented grilled cheese sandwiches deserves a medal. The toasted cheese sanga is a godsend.
Whilst I’m chugging along on this train of thought, I won’t overlook stir-fries; fast food at its best.
I’m rapidly running out of time and space so I’ll end this discourse and make a quick exit; but before I dash, one more thing - the best fast food of all is fresh fruit; raw nuts are also fleet-footed food. There you have it…fast foods to beat a fast!
Boston Baked Beans: Soak 425g white navy beans in cold water overnight. Start cooking early next day; the longer the cooking, the better. Preheat oven, 150C. Drain and rinse beans; put in large casserole dish; cover with water; add 1/2 onion studded with 3 cloves, 1/2c brown sugar, packed, 3tbs molasses, 3tsp Worcestershire, 1/2c tomato sauce, 2tbs dry mustard mixed with a little water, 3tbs tomato paste, 4tbs red wine vinegar, 700g fresh pork belly, rind removed, cut into bite-sized cubes, black pepper and salt. Cover; bake about 4-6 hours until beans are tender, dark and rich in colour. Check while cooking; add a little water if necessary; taste and add more sugar, sauces, molasses etc. if needed. Remove lid for the last 30mins to reduce some of the liquid, if necessary.
Salade a la Vigneronne (who said I couldn’t speak French?): Remove rind from 8 lean bacon rashers; cut bacon into 2cm-wide strips; cook strips over medium-heat; adding a little walnut oil, if needed, until lightly browned; add 3 chopped garlic cloves and 1c walnut halves; stir until just browned; remove from pan. Add 1/2c verjuice to pan; deglaze. Reduce heat; whisk in 1/2c walnut oil; stir until warmed; add 2c halved, seedless green (or red) grapes; warm through. Combine bacon with 200g baby spinach leaves in salad bowl; spoon over the warm grapes and dressing; serve immediately with crusty bread.
Salmon with Mustard Sauce: Sauce can be made day ahead; whisk together 1/4c Dijon mustard, 2tbs wholegrain mustard, 3tbs honey and 2tbs prepared horseradish, drained; season. Bring to room temp; just before using, add 2tbs finely-chopped mint leaves. Heat grill to high; brush salmon fillets with oil; season; cook accordingly; place watercress/rocket and thinly-sliced red onion ring salad on plate; top with salmon; moisten fillets with sauce.