Gone, but not forgotten: remembering home through cult foods

Food can be the best time machine in the world. Excitement tastes like dagwood dogs and fairy floss at the Royal Show. One bite of the deep-fried mystery meat and I can feel face paint thick on my skin, the thronging of thousands of people around me as they line up for sideshows and Dodgem Cars. Churlish resentment tastes like thick marzipan on fruitcake from my flower girl debut at my aunt’s wedding, which I attended instead of my reception school concert. Being popular tastes like chocolate crackles at my birthday party – sweet for a time, then sickening.

But home? What does that taste like?

Every now and then I visit the place I still call home: Murray Bridge, South Australia. It’s a riverside town of about 22,000 people. If I still lived there, I’d probably be thrilled at the shopping centre developments, sanitised parks and playgrounds, and new smorgasbord service stations that eclipse old stalwarts. Instead, it leaves my heart a little cold and sad – like the starchy paste of day-old mashed potato.

The 24-hour Shell servo, with its $3.65 hot dogs and microwavable Hero sandwiches at 4 am on a Sunday, was a crucial ingredient in my teenage search for identity and belonging. Does anyone else miss it like I do?

A slice of heaven for many South Australians.

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