Country Style

Country Squire



SO, HERE WE ARE all giddy and overstimul­ated from a summer of cultural excesses. Theatre, dance, opera, art and music, plus all the familiar summer cultural festivals. We don’t actually have an opera house, an art gallery or a festival hall out here, but that doesn’t stop us getting in the festival mood. And we know what culture is. Culture is the cultural behaviour and norms found in human societies. I don’t know if I’m really all that cultural, but The Chosen One regards me as a bit of a Norm, so I guess I must be. There are cultural black spots in regional Australia, where the only culture they have is yoghurt. But we’re much more fortunate. Driving at only a bit over the limit, Wellington [NSW] is not much more than half an hour away. Wellington is our festival city in the same way as Adelaide used to be Australia’s. Sydney turf enthusiast­s may have the Golden Slipper, but Wellington has the Wellington Boot. There’s the Vintage Fair and Swap Meet, and the Lake Burrendong Fishing Classic. There’s the Duke of Burrendong Carp Competitio­n, and Carols In The Park. But now Wellington has hit the cultural big time. We’re still all trying to calm down after the excitement of the Cob Loaf Festival. I spent most of the Seventies living in the big smoke where social festivitie­s somehow managed to escape the allure of the cob loaf dip. As a reference point, this was the era of apricot chicken. But when we moved to the country, there — high among the unimagined pleasures of rural life — was the ubiquitous cob loaf dip. Birthdays, engagement­s, weddings, graduation­s and debutante balls were all celebrated with the presentati­on of the cob loaf. Almost certainly, the prize-giving ceremony at the Lake Burrendong Fishing Classic would also have featured a cob loaf or two. So, the top is cut off a round cob loaf to create a lid, and bite-sized pieces of the bready interior are removed to produce a hollow bread shell. Both the shell and the bite-sized chunks of bread are placed on a baking tray, and then things get creative. Not too creative, mind you. My tie tells me that a high proportion of the cob loaf dips I have spilled are of the classic variety — chopped spinach, creamed cheese, sour cream and a French onion soup mix combined in the cob loaf shell and baked until the four ingredient­s have become one. The crunchy bread chunks are then dipped into the molten lava and transferre­d, with varying success, to the mouth. Diversity was never really encouraged in the cob dip culture. Bacon and caramelise­d onion made occasional guest appearance­s, and Jatz crackers or carrot sticks would come in off the bench sometimes when the bread chunks had run out. Inevitably — and probably around the time that Heston Blumenthal brought his multi-sensory culinary alchemy to our screens — the cob loaf dip became a little more funky. The crab dip arrived on the scene at society events with two cans of flaked crab meat, garlic powder and paprika joining the creamed cheese and onion staples. Even ricotta instead of creamed cheese. Then, as a celebratio­n of multi-culturalis­m, the Mexican cob dip involving a fusion (perhaps confusion) of avocados, lemon juice, sour cream, mayonnaise, taco seasoning mix, hot salsa, pitted olives, red beans, grated cheese and chilli powder… eaten with corn chips, of course. Wellington accepted the challenge of taking the cob loaf dip into the realm of high culture. Elouise Hawkey, a journalist on the Wellington Times, was the paper’s cob correspond­ent covering the developmen­t of the event. She joined in the spirit of the occasion by entering... and came away a champion. The judging panel declared the ultimate evolution of the cob loaf dip was Elouise’s double-choc chip cob loaf loaded with Nutella, marshmallo­ws, raspberry lollies, caramel sauce and a Crunchie honeycomb chocolate bar. There’s a place in the UK that has a gravy wrestling festival, and Dorset hosts the world nettle-eating championsh­ips. That’s the great thing about culture. It’s so diverse.


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