Time spent in the bush with a group can be some of the most rewarding you’ll find. Hanging out, learning from each other, joking and talking about things you wouldn’t find time to chat about if you were around town. All good wholesome stuff, or so it would seem … but hidden among all the positives can be a nasty negative just waiting to present itself after the first mouthful of dinner.
You see, most of us are creatures of habit and routine and when we go bush with a group rarely do our habits and routines marry up. If there’s one thing that scares a human more than snakes, spiders, sharks, clowns or whatever it is that makes their skin crawl, it’s change, and just watch the pushback when you cook something different to how they usually have it.
I think the problem is that we don’t have national standards on meals; we have household standards and when you mix up half a dozen household standards around a campfire cook, that poor bugger is basically stuffed. One person will expect sultanas and pineapple in their curry, the next will find that about as appetising as choko soup.
When you tell the crew you’re cooking spag bol, they expect it to taste just like mum used to make. If their mumma didn’t put capsicum in the spag bol but you did, you just dished up an offence against their mother’s standard. In their mind, the crime you have just committed against spag bol and their mother’s culinary expertise is right up there with mass murder.
I’ve learned this over a couple of decades of cooking for people in the scrub, and please feel free to run with this, it will save you some pain at the first bite moment, I guarantee. When it’s your turn to cook, invariably you’ll cop the question “what’s for dinner?”, this is the time for you to set the expectation bar where you want it – low. Just say, “you’ll see, I’m just knockin’ up a bit of a concoction.” Instantly their brain generates the image of a meal akin to something they’ve seen in a movie set in an orphanage in medieval England.
The ability to impress is now firmly in your hands. You see, if you tell them they’re getting savoury mince and in their world that doesn’t contain corn or peas, their poor little brain will do a flip when it hits their lips. Tell them they’re about to feast on a concoction and they will get far in excess of what they’re expecting and give you a pat on the back for your culinary extravaganza proclaiming, “it tastes exactly like my mum’s savoury mince but with peas ‘n’ corn, you legend!”
Give it a run and own them.