Bliddy hot…

Barry Edge has another Mount Magnet anecdote – this one concerns tucker…

Barry Edge writes…

He was a quiet man who kept to himself whilst working on the mine site. All attempts to chat with him were usually met with nods of head and half smiles.

You would be pushing it to fill the back of a postcard what was known about him before he arrived in Mount Magnet because other than at work we rarely saw him in town. In a nutshell he was born in the UK, had lived and worked in India and that his wife was from India too. Like many of his generation he had served and fought in WWII, and like many who had done so steadfastly chose not to talk about it.

They lived on their own out of town, and like the rest of us what food and other supplies not available in Mount Magnet were purchased from Perth and delivered by train once a week. I can’t remember how he travelled to and from the Hill 50 Gold Mine, but I do know it wasn’t on the chartered bus from town.

Those of us doing general duties in and around Hill 50 were rostered 8am to 4pm which included morning/afternoon tea breaks and one hour for lunch. A hut served as our canteen with room for ten men. There were benches on three sides and hooks to hang our coats and tucker bags plus a small refrigerator for perishables and water.

Lunchtime banter sometimes got a little heated, but not once did I see it threaten the quintessential Australian mateship of loyalty and friendship – two precious commodities they were careful not be compromised – especially in the ‘Outback.

Our tucker bags were a smorgasbord from sandwiches to tasty cold meat and poultry dishes. Sometimes we’d swap or share our meals except, that is, with our UK born man from India. It seemed no one had the stomach for curries that blew your ‘alls off.

It would be fifteen years before I was introduced to the finest of Indian curry dishes – all lovingly prepared by the girl I married. But Mount Magnet was the first time I tasted Indian cuisine. It was, to say the least, an unforgettable experience.

As I would later learn curry sauces are personal statements i.e. special blends determined by using a combination of herbs and spices including turmeric, cumin, ginger, fresh or dried hot chillies and/or whole curry leaves.

I remember the first time I saw him eating a curry dish. Occasionally he used a small mustard spoon to scoop a green looking substance into his mouth. So obvious was my gaze he nodded for me to taste the contents in his little container. With the others looking on I leaned forward and took a spoonful. Oh my goodness! My mouth was on fire and my eyes in tears. I can still hear the laughter of my workmates as I went rushing to get some cold water from the refrigerator.

When returning to the hut my Indian cuisine host just nodded and smiled. It seemed I wasn’t the first to taste the delights of curiosity in his curry dishes.

What’s that!? Oh, what was the green looking substance in the container?

Well, dear reader, not only did his wife make her own ‘special blend curry sauces’ for his meals, but also a container mix of extra spicy curry powder.

See you later…

Barry Edge
Western Australia
September 2, 2018