A Picnic of Promise

Kieran Finnane

It is as though a mouth in the rockface has been prised open and stomach contents disgorged, teeth too. This is the deepest of the scars left by the quarrying of stone from the range rising along the southern side of Ilparpa Valley. The disgorgement settles on a flattened turnaround for trucks and machinery, high above the valley; a second smaller turnaround has been carved out below. The road leading up to it has eroded into a deep gully; just a goat track at the side holds on, buttressed by buffel grass and rock. Up this track we go, for a picnic of promise.

There is food yes, tables laden with crusty brown loaves, oil for dipping, olives, black and green, luscious yogurt, Mediterranean vegetables and fruits. No wine. Our town has an uneasy relationship with wine. It is banned in public places (in many private places too). Despite unlikely detection, we abstain.

Before we eat we hear the first part of a story of origins, an ancestral creation story for this food culture we so love. ‘We’, what ‘we’ is this? In a place like Alice Springs this is never a simple category. Looking around, at the crowd of loosely connected people, gathered by word of mouth, I can say it is a multi-cultural ‘we’ of recent arrivals whose  history here might go back decades, even a generation or two, not longer and for some much shorter. Our ‘we’ also includes a few visitors, family and friends who have come especially and soon will go again.

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