Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

The Great Australian Diet

I work in the library. I am a sucker for books with unusual names or titles. When doing a weekend shift at Balwyn library recently, I came across a book called The Great Aussie Diet. It wasn’t the title that grabbed me this time, however, it was the author’s name. Dr John Tickell. Now I don’t know about you, but I do enjoy a good name. It must be a lag over from my maiden name which was, Dicks.

Seth has an allergy specialist called Dr Weiner, which the Doctor’s receptionist pronounces as Dr Winer. Well, I think Tickell is the same. The good Doctor pronounces it with the emphasis on the ell but in my mind he is Dr Tickle. On that basis, I thought the book warranted a closer look. That is what we do at the library: sample the products. It is lucky I do not work in a chocolate shop for then even Dr Tickle would not be able to help me.

Now I must also confess that, apart from the name, I have had my eye on the diet books for some weeks. Through a process of piggery and inactivity (let’s call it what it is) I have become a little over weight (ok a lot). I still jog, of course, but I also spend a lot of time typing and reading. I knew I had to turn the tables somehow and Dr Tickle’s book was tempting me. As I flicked through its pages at afternoon teatime I was attracted by its down-to-earthiness. It was so Australian. Its motivational page had gems like: Don’t eat crap, or: If you feel lousy the first few days, its your own fault for eating so much muck, and: My Dad dropped dead at 60 you will too … I thought this is the book for me!

I am not going to bore you with the details of the diet. It is all in the book. Just do a keyword search and include the words: Tickell and diet and you will find it. Priya tells me Dr Tickle has even been on TV so it must be good! Needless to say it involves starvation and deprivation, all diets do, no matter how they are couched. But I am sticking to it and so far have lost 3 kilos. Tickle has become the buzzword in our house. I have tickle snacks, tickle soups and when tempted to indulge in a non-tickle lick or sneaky eat, I have my children behind me saying: ‘Mum! Would Dr Tickle allow that!

The Great Australian Diet experience has already been life changing so I thought I would follow one other piece of Tickle advice. This one involved kangaroo. Dr Tickle advocates the consumption of kangaroo as a low cholesterol red meat alternative. Now I have eaten kangaroo in my youth. I have also noticed it becoming a more common sight in the Safeway meat cabinet but … I had no desire to revisit my youthful flirtation with roo steaks and had so far avoided making a purchase. One week, however, while sauntering round the supermarket feeling smug in my now loose jeans; and inwardly congratulating Dr Tickle on his wonderful diet; and avoiding the chocolate aisle; and the chips; and the biscuits; and patting myself on the back for being so strong, I thought, why not …

The marinaded kangaroo mini roasts sat in our home freezer for two weeks, no one seemed to have any enthusiasm for them. So, on my cooking night, Monday, I thought I had better bite the bullet.

‘What are we having for dinner?’ It is a common enough question in our house but, tonight, when the word kangaroo bounced off my tongue, I did not get the usual response. That’s ok, I thought. People need to break out of their comfort zones, be willing to try new things. I was a pioneer really.

Now the kangaroo was a funny colour. I am not sure if it was the natural juices or the marinade, but as turned on the oven and unwrapped the Safeway polythene, I knew I would not be able to touch it. Ours is an open-plan house and, as you can imagine, it took a degree of ingenuity to remove the mini roasts with the tongs while maintaining a chirpy I’m-looking-forward-to it smile. It wasn’t a great success. There was an unofficial moratorium on all normal pre-dinner activities, this night. Everyone was sitting round with glum faces, watching. Nevertheless, I popped the kangaroo in the oven and began to prepare the vegies.

The trouble is, I have heard stories about kangaroo … Comments like: ‘It’s ok … but it’s a bit gamey … the cooking smell is the problem … it’s a bit strong, really. As I sliced the carrots and spliced the broccoli, as I cut the ends off the asparagus, I found myself breathing through my nose (well it works for vomit!). It’ll be alright, I thought, as long as I don’t smell it. It’ll be fine. I’m a mature adult, I repeated, even as my cheeks began to swim. Chop, chop my knife was busy. Gulp, gulp my mouth was watering.

‘I’m not going to be able to do this,’ I said, at last.

The silence was deafening.

‘It’ll be alright Mum,’ (what would we do without Phoebe). ‘Just make a nice gravy.’

A gravy! Of course, a gravy, and sauce and mustard and pickles …

‘No it won’t,’ Seth said. ‘We shouldn’t be eating our national symbol.’

‘Doctor Tickle says it’s healthy,’ I offered, half heartedly.

I won’t tell you Seth’s response. It doesn’t bear repeating.

When Andrew got home, I asked him to carve. Actually, I asked Seth first (only because I was making the gravy), but he couldn’t do it. Not because it was kangaroo by the way but because of the funny elastic netting it was wrapped in (yeah right!).

‘Andrew I said, please carve. ‘It’s kangaroo and we’re fall feeling a bit sensitive.’

‘No worries,’ he said (what a guy!). I just kept my eyes down stirring.

I am not sure what sort of emotional intelligence rating Andrew has. Perhaps his mother locked him in cupboards when he was young … maybe it was one of those unlooked for mind associations … I might even have misheard him, but … as he carved those mini roasts with a smug smile on his face, I swear he was humming the theme song to Skippy.

So, we ate our kangaroo. It was a strained silent meal. The only one enjoying it was Alice (and of course Andrew). She had eaten kangaroo before, she said. We all smiled thinly and kept chewing. The carrots were nice: still crisp not soggy. The asparagus wasn’t overcooked and I enjoyed each broccoli florettes, immensely. The gravy was a highlight, of course, and the potatoes were roasted to perfection. I’m not sure what the kangaroo tasted like. I ate mine covered in mustard.

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1 Comment

  1. This is a wonderful story. You are indeed a writer.

    Here in the American South where I live Leg of Lamb is considered an exotic and foreign food so whenever I fixed it I told my children it was Kangaroo and they were delighted. But I don’t think I could have handled the real thing. My congratulations to you on your brave and loyal family.

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