The proud family tradition that is the Melbourne Good Food Show came around again yesterday. Mena, Amy and I meet every year to spend a full day grazing at the food and wine stalls, and it is one of the highlights of the year.
We were in and getting our bearings by nine-thirty as usual. We had tickets to see Gordon Ramsay in the celebrity theatre at noon, and this year we were not going to miss it. We didn’t mind too much as the Australian Good Taste kitchen did not seem to be there this year – maybe because their food editor Michelle Southam is still on maternity leave.
I started the day as we meant to go on, getting a rum tasting in before ten o’clock. We had the outfits right (layers, nothing bulky, brave the chilly morning so you don’t have to carry your coat, comfy shoes). We had the bags right – capacious shopping trolleys that folded up into a tiny bag less than a piece of A4 paper. We had the rules right:
- Don’t buy anything bulky too early or you will have to carry it all day
- Don’t buy the first thing you see – there will be plenty of opportunity to empty your purse
- Don’t spend all day in the first three rows of stalls
- No pamphlets, show bags full of tins and 50 cent pasta, or magazines
- Try everything you are offered.
The food part, we have to say, turned out to be a little disappointing. Whether it was the result of the global economic crisis or something else, there seemed to be less exhibitors than usual. Many of our favourites were not there – no Aussie Good Taste kitchen, no Yumi dips, no Flinders Bread. In fact, there was little chance of coming out of there with something you could actually make into a square meal, unless you are happy eating chips and dips.
It seemed more than half the stalls were hawking jars of something: chutneys, jams, dessert sauces, marinades. Dukkas and spices also loomed large. Frankly, it got a bit same-ish by a couple of hours in. There was one central cheese stand with four suppliers on there, and nothing else dairy as far as we could see. There was a huge section in the middle of the floor given over to the Lindemans restaurant, charging inflated prices for dishes designed by the famous chefs in the celebrity theatre. Gordon Ramsay actually came out to the restaurant before he went on stage, and talked to the people eating his dishes. I was impressed by that – he didn’t have to – but what a disappointment to see how short he was, however perfectly formed.
Gordon was a hit on stage too, with more than a thousand people filling the auditorium to see him cook. He could have filled the time waiting for things to cook a bit better though. His often lame attempts at humour, and sarcastic remarks about fellow chefs and other celebrities, got old quite quickly. We were there to hear about food – could he not have filled those gaps with more cooking tips and food talk? Ramsay repeated a few times that nobody had booked for Matt Moran who was coming up next, and asked if we could stay in our seats. But we – and most others it seemed – assumed it was just more sarcasm and attempts at humour, and left. Turned out there were less than forty people outside queuing for the next session. Matt Moran was going to be cooking for the first two rows of an enormous auditorium.
We ended up heading into the wine section much earlier than our rules allow, simply because we had run out of things to see in the food section. The wine tasting was hilarious and enjoyable as usual, as we ambled around tasting everything in sight and trying to keep to the Wine Section rules:
- Less talking, more drinking.
- Do not try to taste all the wines at each stall – try only one or two then move on.
- Do not try to sound knowledgeable or even interested – the stall people can see you are drunk.
- Do not try to make friends with the other people tasting wine – this is wasting time.
- No purchasing of any wine – by the bottle or for later delivery – after the first half hour as you are already drunk by then.
We bought nothing, tasted everything and, at one stage, blocked an aisle while the three of us wept inconsolably with laughter about something that we cannot now remember.
By five o’clock we were exhausted but happily unencumbered by very much at all except a few tins of cat food and one free magazine.
Next year we will be there as usual, but it will not be the full day we have enjoyed for the past four years. The Good Food Show is slowly turning into the Sort of OK Food Show, and we shall trim our day accordingly. Perhaps we shall meet for brunch and just spend the afternoon there. It will still be a highlight of our calendar, but more for the company than for the show itself. Pity.