Food Fight Across the Ditch

As my 100th Twitter follower, @PatrickPentony was able to nominate six items for his yarn:

Cricket Net + Australian Finger Lime + Territory Election + Holden VL Calais + Brumbies Rugby + Pink Lamingtons

ACT Legislative Assemblybrumbiespink-lamingtonholdenfinger limecricket-1024x1024

‘And…welcome back to Sports Daily, I’m your host, Bob Daley.’

‘I’m here with inspirational Brumbies captain, Patrick Pentony, who played his last game for the club in Saturday night’s epic Super 18 Final, which resulted in the Brumbies prevailing over the Crusaders.’

A rapturous applause, mixed with sounds of whistling and ‘hooting’ rose from the seated audience, that Patrick sensed was somewhere to this left. He looked towards the sound, trying desperately hard not to squint into the house lights as Julie, the club’s PR officer, had instructed. He made out a few faces amongst the horrific glare, but knowing he was already failing Julie’s instructions, and afraid how stupid he might look squinting into the cameras, he turned his attention back to Bob.

‘So Patrick, we were chatting before the break about some of your favourite Brumbies Rugby memories. I was wondering if you’d share some more of those with us.’

‘Sure,’ Patrick replied. He knew he’d never been the club’s best media performer, that title undoubtedly belonged to ‘Chipper’ Reid. But Chipper had received his fair share of reprimands for crossing the line on air, something Patrick was proud to say he had avoided his entire career. Still, his career was technically over now, although that was something he was still getting used to. Sally, his wife, had suggested he start talking more seriously with those media outlets about some of the offers they were making. She’d also suggested those offers might go up if he was more flamboyant on air.

He turned towards the crowd once more, struggling to see her face in the crowd. Bob had warned him about some of the questions he might get, and Patrick had a few answers up his sleeve. As he made out her face amongst the sea of lights, he smiled at her. He hoped Sally liked them too.

‘Okay,’ continued Bob. ‘Let’s start with the best thing you ever won for playing rugby?’

Patrick paused for effect. He knew this one was coming and had an answer ready.

‘Well, I think I only managed to get a date when I first met Sally, my wife, because I play rugby. Does she count as a prize?’

A mixture of claps, laughter and “awws” rang out from the crowd.

‘Unless she was awarded to you at the end of a game, I’m not sure she does,’ Bob said, smiling.

‘Okay, well in that case, probably my Holden VL Calais, I love that car. I won it last year on the Wallabies spring tour. It’s an old model, but it had been fully restored by a company back here and donated for the competition.’

‘That’s right, when you were best on ground in that demolition of the Poms?’

Patrick nodded, trying not to look too cocky.

‘You dominated the line-out that night.’

Patrick nodded.

‘We did.’

Bob smiled.

‘No, I mean you dominated the line out that night. It was incredible. They knew the ball was going to you, but you kept catching it, and you caught a fair heap of their ball too.’

Patrick smiled.

‘Well, they kept throwing it to the same guy in our line-out too.’

Bob laughed, and then leaned forward intently in his chair to meet Patrick’s eyes. It was only the two of them on the set, seated in racing-style bucket car chairs. Despite the relative comfort of the seats, Patrick had never really learned to relax on television, particularly with Bob, who had a history of throwing unexpected and curly questions at his guests.

‘Another question for you: the sport you were worst at growing up?’

Patrick didn’t know this one was coming, but the answer was an easy one.

‘Cricket. I was rubbish at cricket. I’m sorry, does that make me less of an Australian?’

A few giggles were audible in the crowd.

‘Not at all, but I don’t believe it. You look like a natural sportsman.’

Patrick shook his head.

‘Nah, it was always rugby for me. I used to try and get down to the cricket nets with my friends, but it would just end up being embarrassing. I’d bowl the ball into the wrong net, or hit the ball straight up in the air.’

‘And how old were you, perhaps you just needed to learn?’ Bob asked.

‘Oh, probably around 17 years old,’ Patrick smiled.

Bob laughed for a moment, before again intently leaning forward in his seat.

‘Best pre-match address you ever received – from a coach, guest speaker, fellow player, captain?’

Patrick knew this one was coming and he had a story ready to go.

‘Over my career, I’ve heard some great speeches from captains, fellow players, and of course coaches. Hoiley’s on the weekend at half-time was a ripper. That speech might have won us the title. And over the years, some of my teammates have given great speeches. Mo, captain before me, used to give cracking talks, particularly after we’d conceded a try. But I think the best was from former ACT Chief Minister Kevin Griggs.’

‘Interesting answer,’ Bob replied. ‘Please elaborate.’

‘He was Chief Minister at the time, Kevin. He’d been invited into the rooms one night before we played the Hurricanes. I’ll never forget it. He huddled all the players together a long time before the game, around thirty minutes early. Most of our guest speakers like to give the players a quick five minute spiel, but Kevin came to see me before the game to check if a longer speech might be alright. It was fine by me, as I figured it would ensure I had the final word with the boys.’

‘So he sits us down in a circle, and stands in the middle of us, meeting each of our eyes as he speaks, really softly at first. He’s a big man, Kev, and he likes a beer. But there is a real presence about him, and the boys responded to it:

Lads, this game reminds me of two things, the last Territory election and why we hate losing to New Zealanders: because even when we beat ‘em, they still find a way to win.

I’ll tell you first about why this game reminds me of why we hate losing to our Kiwi friends. This story was told by a former Prime Minister to his successor, and it has been passed on from successive Prime Ministers ever since. I’ve been told that there is a ceremonial handing over when they first meet following an election of a new PM. The current PM told it to me. It is a reminder of our need to remain vigilant and protectful of all that is Australian, even from those we see as our closest friends.”

It all started with the Australian finger lime….and finished with an abomination that is abhorrent to our culture – the pink lamington.’

‘A few gasps had gone up from the boys at that one. We all hated pink lamingtons. Kevin continued:

I know. I hate them too. Let me tell you why.

The Australian Prime Minister – don’t ask me which one, I’m not sure, long time back…maybe even Barton – was showing his Kiwi counterpart around an Australian finger lime plantation. And he says to his colleague, might have been Seddon:

“And here we have an excellent example of the Australian Finger Lime.”

And the Kiwi PM, might have been Seddon, says:

“Ahh, Edmund, I think you’ll find that’s a New Zealand Finger Lime.”

Well, Barton is all confused about this, and he asks the Kiwi PM (might have been Seddon) what he’s on about, and again the PM (might have been Seddon) says:

“That, my learned colleague” (that’s how they talked back then) “is a New Zealand Finger Lime.”

And Barton can’t take this. He looks at the lime, and looks back at the PM (might have been Seddon) and then back at the lime. At last he speaks:

“Get your hand, or one might say, you’re proverbial finger, off it; the Australian finger lime, is known throughout the world as a fruit of Australia. It is, by definition and name, Australian. Next, my good man, you’ll be claiming the Lamington.”

Well, this gets the Kiwi PM’s back right up (might have been Seddon’s back), and he says:

“Firstly, good fellow, that is a New Zealand finger lime, native to the great nation of New Zealand and imported across to this country and this plantation. And secondly, the Lamington was most certainly invented in New Zealand.”

The Aussie couldn’t take this. He stands up, and meets the eye of the Kiwi (might have been Seddon):

“Good sir, are you suggesting that the dessert consisting of sponge cake, chocolate sauce and coconut…”

“With the occasional jam in the middle variety,” the Kiwi (might have been Seddon) chimes in.

“….Yes yes, with the occasion layer of jam filling in the middle,’ Barton continues. “Is a New Zealand invention.”

“I am.”

“That’s patently ridiculous. An Australian finger lime is one thing. But I won’t have you come into my country and willy nilly start claiming our desserts. We’re a young country, we don’t have that many national foods yet, but give us time. I bet in one hundred years we’ll have hundreds of national dishes. But we can’t have the likes of you stealing them.”

“You wouldn’t want to be left with just peach melbas and vegemite sandwiches,” says the Kiwi (might have been Seddon). I think he was really trying to piss Barton off.

“Quite,” says Barton.

But he was a shrewd man Edmund, and he didn’t want this to spiral into a diplomatic incident.

“My Kiwi friend, our nations are new and our locations and interests close. It will not have us squabbling over such important matters. We need a way to resolve this.”

“What do you propose?” answered the New Zealand PM (might have been Seddon).

Barton paused for a moment and then took a punt that many Australian PMs have taken since.

“The rugby is on next week and we’re both due to attend. How about winner takes all wager?”

“Are you proposing that the country that wins the Bledisloe Cup next week will claim the finger lime and lamington from this point onwards?”

Barton took a deep breath.

“I am.”

The Kiwi Prime Minister held out his hand.

“You have a deal.”

Barton looked down at his hand.

“And you’re word, as leader of your nation.”

“And my word.”

And with that they shook.

‘The boys were staring at Kevin intently now, dying to know what happened. He paused for a moment, and then continued:’

Well, as you boys might know, that game was an epic. It was before they had set periods of extra time. As I understood it, they just kept playing after the siren sounded until someone scored. Well, some say the game lasted three hours. Some say six. But at the end of it, the Aussies prevailed with a field goal from a long way out. And the Kiwi PM (might have been Seddon) was sitting right next to Barton throughout the game. He turns to him and says:

“You won fair and square, old chap. The finger lime and lamington are yours.”

And Barton at last felt relieved. He had barely slept in the nights leading up to the game. Many PMs since have lost bets like that. Have you ever wondered why we wear green and gold now instead of our traditional black, or why we can only adopt progressive laws exactly eleven years after New Zealand?

But the victory turned out to be hollow.

A month later, the Aussie PM receives a parcel in the post. It’s from the Kiwi PM (might have been Seddon) and it says:

‘Thought you might like to try our new national dish.’

And to his horror, the PM opens the box and finds a bizarre and hitherto unseen food, which through its mere existence undermines so much of the Australian way of life:

A Pink Lamington

Which proves, even when you beat them, you can’t keep a Kiwi down. They still find a way to win. The kiwis have claimed that florescent bastard of a dessert ever since. And every time I hear some naive foreigner, like a yank here on vacation, tell me they ‘prefer the pink ones’ it just makes my blood boil.’

‘And with that, Kevin leaned back and let out a big sigh. The boys were amazed, but a few of them wanted to know more. Foggy in particular put him on the spot a bit, like when this all happened:

“‘You said it was Barton showing around Seddon, yeah?’” says Moggers. And Kevin says:

“Might have been, I think probably was.”’

There was silence in the audience, and Patrick realised they had remained hushed for some time. He continued nonetheless.

‘And Foggers says:

“But they played for the Bledisloe Cup. That didn’t start until 1931. And isn’t our green and gold strip based on the golden wattle?”‘

‘And Kev sorta straightens his back up a bit, uncomfortable like, and says:’

“Well I’m not sure that matters.”’

‘But Foggy continued:

“And if Australia was only federated in 1901, I’m not sure the Australian Finger Lime would have been called the Australian Finger Lime…”’

‘At this point, Kevin cut him off:

“Foggers, you’re a bloody good Rugby player, but you leave the story telling and politics to me, alright.”’

‘And I sensed a bit of tension in the room, so I thought I better chime in:

“You mentioned that this game reminds you of the last Territory election?”’

‘I was thinking that would break the tension a bit, but I’m not sure it did. Kevin looks at me and says a bit absentmindedly:

“Did I?”’

‘And the boys all nodded. And after pausing for a while at least he says, real passionate like:

“Well, we won in a landslide, I reckon you boys will tonight too. Go get ‘em Brumbies!”’

‘And he abruptly stood up and left the room. Most amazing pre-game address I’ve ever seen.’

The audience was still noticeably quiet. Patrick hoped that was a good thing. He glanced over at Bob, who was leaning over more intently now than earlier, apparently transfixed by every work Patrick had been saying.

‘And did you?’ Bob asked quietly.

‘Did we what?’ Patrick replied.

‘Beat them in a landslide.’

‘Nah, we lost by a point when we gave away a dumb penalty in the last minute of the game.’

‘Still, great speech…and I haven’t eaten a pink lamington since.’



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