AN­NIE SMITHERS

The Saturday Paper - - Front Page -

Some­times I feel we look for the new at the ex­pense of the old. Noth­ing brings this into sharper fo­cus than the Melbourne Cup car­ni­val. A week-long ex­trav­a­ganza of the lat­est fash­ion, the new­est hats, the most beau­ti­fully tailored suits, and a va­ri­ety of shoes that even Imelda could only dream of. Se­questered away in the fancy mar­quees, the cho­sen few are be­ing en­ticed with the lat­est fash­ion in food. They have Melbourne’s top chefs cook­ing a dizzy­ing ar­ray of the finest dishes for them. While I am sure it is all de­li­cious, I lament the move away from what I might po­litely call the clas­sics. And the most clas­sic of them all for the rac­ing car­ni­val – the hum­ble chicken sand­wich.

Sand­wiches aren’t ter­ri­bly cur­rent in my life. If I think hard about them, they were some­thing that never came up too well in my lunch box. Ev­ery so of­ten I am forced to re­mem­ber them be­cause of a spe­cial oc­ca­sion that deems them ap­pro­pri­ate. It is then I re­mem­ber, if made and stored nicely, how bloody de­li­cious a good sanga can be.

So why should we eat chicken sand­wiches on Melbourne Cup Day? Be­cause they are de­li­cious, they are rea­son­ably healthy, easy to trans­port and, let’s face it, they tend to soak up al­co­hol. For me, the per­fect chicken sand­wich starts with a gently poached chicken. The flesh is re­moved, care­fully shred­ded and put to the side. Then, it’s time to make a tasty may­on­naise. Choose your greens – I pre­fer the sharp pep­pery na­ture of wa­ter­cress – and, for me, a lovely loaf of white sliced bread. Not the chain­store va­ri­ety, but the sort you can still find from small in­de­pen­dent sub­ur­ban or coun­try bak­eries. Some good but­ter and off you go.

But then there is the won­der­ful byprod­uct – the stock that the chicken was poached in. You may won­der why this is such a spe­cial treat. Well, no mat­ter how many chicken sand­wiches you ate on Melbourne Cup Day, they may not have soaked up all the al­co­hol you con­sumed. So imag­ine, if you will, you’ve come home on the train, fallen pre­car­i­ously onto your bed and had the sleep of the wretched. Some­how you don’t make it to work the next day but fall back into bed and then, when you wake again midafter­noon, you re­mem­ber.

That lovely pot of home­made chicken noo­dle soup you forced your­self to make with the chicken poach­ing stock. Cradling the soup in a bowl in your hands, as you slump on the couch with the telly on, it nur­tures you back to some­thing hu­man. Af­ter all, there are few things as restora­tive as chicken soup.

Pho­tog­ra­phy: Earl Carter

AN­NIE SMITHERS is the owner and chef of du Fer­mier in Tren­tham, Vic­to­ria.

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