A Troppo Christmas
We arrived in Darwin in 1996 and it was in November of that year that we shifted into our new house. We thought since we were only staying in Darwin for two years it did not really matter what the house was like so long as it fitted our budget and was reasonably ok. Well, that is pretty much what we got plus the bonus of a large block. I did not even bother looking at the house prior to purchase.
I was already thinking about Christmas. We knew we couldn’t afford to go back to South Australia which was very disappointing. Both my husband and I are from large families and that means a very noisy, busy and very merry Christmas. My husband is from Austria so, as with most Europeans, celebrates Christmas Eve and on Christmas day we spend the day with my family. I love Christmas and thought I had struck gold when I met Johann. Christmas was huge, Christmas Eve and Christmas day. The build up to Christmas with our friends; breakfast at the Rotunda at the festival theatre on the banks of the River Torrens, having dinners and lunches was always such fun. Every year Johann and I would have a Christmas party at our place for all our friends as well.
Now here we are in Darwin. No family and no close friends. My brother lived in Darwin but he always went home for Christmas. We felt like three pathetic orphans straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. What on earth are we going to do?
We shifted into our place somewhere near the end of November so we had to get busy with cleaning and unpacking. (That wasn’t too hard. When we came to Darwin all our necessities for two years fitted into a trailer; three cups, three glasses, three plates, clothes and so on, you get the picture) On arrival to our new ‘home’, a tree house on stilts we called it, I walked into the kitchen and gasped. “JOHANN!” I scream, “Where is the oven? Did you not notice there is no oven? It’s nearly Christmas, how can I cook without an oven? Well, really, how can I cook without an oven…period?
I bought a small ‘combie’ oven from a department store and painstakingly made my biscuits, slices and pastries cooking only about eight at a time. It did work but it took forever and I had to watch out for the million little ants who decided Christmas day was happening right then and there when I was cooking. I tell you, it was a challenge.
• It is about three and a half weeks until Christmas
• I am in Darwin surrounded by strangers
• It is the build up so just standing still I feel I am being choked to death. Who the hell can live in this town? The first build-up you ever experience is never forgotten. It does get easier to tolerate but you never forget your first one and no one can prepare you for it. Sweeping the floor leaves you soaked in sweat. You will keep looking up to see if the fan is on only to find it is on and you can’t see the blades because it is set to ‘flat out’.
• No air conditioner included with our ‘renovator’s delight’
• Oh yes, one last clincher, we have no fridge
When we first arrived in Darwin the rental company had no fridges. Darwin. The build-up. No fridges. WTF? My brother lent us an esky for butter, milk, beer, you know, the essentials.
The following Saturday we hit the lawn sales visiting the places advertising fridges. Mind you, we are not the only ones doing this, obviously, thanks to the rental people and missed out first time round. We decided to get our fridge sent up from down south. Our second Saturday, we hit the jack pot finding a large fridge for only $200.00. “Oh mate”, says the trustworthy looking gentleman, “this one’s a real pearler.” So we named her Pearl. Well, Pearl, was high maintenance. She leaked, needed a ‘de-clog’ of her tubing and on some days she just took to having a ‘lie down’. No news yet regarding our fridge from down south. In the meantime Christmas is looming.
Our son’s birthday is about a week before Christmas and we took him and some of his mates to Berry Springs for a picnic. On return home we would have ice-cream cake. I go to the fridge and there is the cake; a soft, defrosted sludge in cardboard. I make a mad dash to the shops for another cake.
There is still no fridge arriving any time soon, Christmas day is around the corner. Bugger, might need a table too Johann. So my marvellous industrious husband builds a trestle table from wooden elevator crates. It is fantastic and we still have said table. It fits ten people quite comfortably although he did the finishing touches many months later.
Christmas day arrives. We found about eight ‘ring-ins’ who had nowhere to go for Christmas. (This is one they won’t forget in a hurry) This type of Christmas is quite common in Darwin, no not the fridgeless, air-conditionless, odd assortment of plastic chair one, but the ‘Orphan’ Christmas. Every Darwin Christmas since has been an orphan Christmas and we have been lucky during some of those years having family visit.
Our first Christmas was tricky. Pearl decided to have another nap, so between eskies and hoping that Pearl would remain cool enough to ward off dysentery the food came out. I made the big announcement to our guests that they had to eat everything I cooked because the fridge is on the blink.
Our Christmas tradition since then is to invite guests on Christmas Eve. We cook up a storm, everyone has to suffer listening to my Christmas music, Father Christmas visits and we share laughs, lots of beer, wine and mango daiquiris and each year we have different faces around our table. It is fantastic.
Next week I will share our Christmas menu with chooroo. It was a challenge shifting from prawns, ham and chicken to ‘ethical food’ and making it ‘Christmassy’. I cannot find true ethical free range poultry or ham here. If I planned ahead I could get it shipped from Adelaide but what about carbon foot print?
It has been exciting and challenging creating a Christmas feast fitting within our ethical eating beliefs. Our first ethical Christmas was in Adelaide last year and we are repeating some of that menu this year.
So have a Merry, Ethical and Peaceful Christmas from all of us in the kitchen of chooroo.