To borrow, again, a quote from a cult film which has recently launched a less-successful sequel, I’m in a glass cage of emotion. Or a concrete and glass bunker of emotion to be exact. The compellingly unlovely part of the Southgate complex across the Yarra River from Flinders Street Station.
Yesterday evening from a restaurant table I marvelled at the rain embellished view of Melbourne’s CBD. A compelling patchwork of slate greys and blues underpinned by the orange lights of the station and the avenues of trees, all finished with a serene, soft pink sunset.
Twelve hours on and the rest of the gang are keen to get a preview of their venue for Christmas lunch with the Barmy Army in the very bowels of the Crown Casino. A behemoth of a dimly lit building lined with pokies, baccarat tables and asphyxiating false hope. I squirm. This is the reason I’ve never been to Vegas and part of me wishes I’d joined my roommates upcountry, down on the farm.
I shudder, reel and with the recce complete, we head for lunch. The rain means we don’t walk far and head instead for the adjoining food hall. Scores of Woolworth’s style breakfast counters jostle for the business of lunching Victorians. Curry counters with e-number sauces, burger bars with banality and mediocre meal deal touting sandwich shops are staffed by identikit people with processed pre-Christmas smiles.
Two days from the Christmas Day that I’m meant to be spending in the sun it’s raining. Hard. One of my boyhood heroes, David Coleman, has sadly died, Swann’s gone and after twenty five years of hard work and peerless involvement in the local church’s Carol Concert, the highlight of my home Christmas, news reaches me from back home that my father has hung up his cassock and won’t be there this year. Are the wheels of my life coming off?
It’s only Monday but there’s only one thing for it. I need a pie.
That glass cage of emotion. I look past the steak pie, even the chicken & mushroom. At least if I am to break with the PieDay Friday tradition, my faithful readers need to know why.
I go for tuna pie.
Yes, you read that correctly. Tuna.
And here’s why. One of my recent theories is that here in Melbourne, after days of several days of fantastic feeds and in one of the foodie capitals of the world, it is impossible to have a bad meal.
So with that safely established in my fragile psyche, how bad can it possibly be?
Halfway through the meal, it’s apparent to my fellow diner that it’s quite bad. Over the chews of my discomfort, Jackie casually asks if the Soon-To-Be-Michelin-Starred-Surely Green Man will be going in for this kind of thing anytime soon?
Greg thinks it only fair that in the wake of the recent opprobrium Tuna Pie is served at the England team’s Christmas Lunch as punishment. Meanwhile, Lucky Paul, a picture of Yorkie smugness, munches silently and contentedly on his steak pie. His smiley mouthfuls speak louder than words.
Where to begin. The brief microwaving prior to serving saps the pastry of the last vestiges of its character. A plasticky, flavourless top layer that adorns a mad professor’s out tray of muddled ingredients. The shredded tuna steak doesn’t begin to pretend it’s anything other than tinned. Did it swim the depths once, fleetingly, or was its unhappy life spent entirely in a laboratory? The onions, tomatoes and red peppers add a further unnecessary sweetness to the already lost cause, while the capers may as well be on hung on the Fed Square tree such is their superfluity.
This pie is not what an England cricket fan needs right now. Like the Ashes, this pie is un-saveable.
My head’s a muddled Monday mess. Then clarity. At last.
Because, this pie has shot down the unbreakable theory that you can’t have a bad meal in Melbourne. So if the impossible really can come true in Victoria’s fine capital, then, maybe, just maybe, there’s every chance England can win on Thursday.
Against all odds and all that.