There aren’t too many downfalls to living in the outback. Sure, the nearest Thai food is 297km away, sometimes when I travel to smaller towns there isn’t TV OR internet reception (lucky I am still here today to tell the story; it was tough), and at the moment my phone is telling me it will be over 40C for the next week.
To add to this, I have just come back to the outback after spending Christmas in Melbourne, so my pantry is as bare as Old Mother Hubberd’s. Unfortunately, I most likely will melt if I turn the oven, stove, or hot water tap on, which makes planning this weeks meals slightly challenging.
Hence, this weekend it’s all about the salads. Pop culture may lead you to believe that you can’t make friends with salad, but sometimes, pop culture can be wrong (hello nylon tracksuit sets). Let me introduce two of the tastiest salads you may ever meet.
Firstly, we have Cheeseslaw. Cheeseslaw is like your grandmother: slightly overweight, loved to bits yet best in small doses. It is also a Broken Hill icon, and any Broken Hillian will put their hand to their heart and swear it was invented here (despite what Wiki says). In short, it is coleslaw with the cabbage replaced by tasty cheese, ie. grated carrot, grated cheese, mayo or coleslaw dressing, and spring onion. Sometimes, spring onion is replaced with parsley, pineapple is added, or the greens are omitted. But you will always find a version in Broken Hill’s cafe’s chicken sandwiches, its footy club’s salad bar, the hospital kiosk, and at any good BBQ, where locals will debate where the best cheeseslaw in town is found, and the correct ratio of carrot to cheese.
Second is Cypriot Grain Salad. Cypriot Grain Salad is more like your cosmopolitan, city-living cousin, who eats acai berries and quinoa for breakfast and does bikram yoga for fun. I was introduced to the dish in Melbourne, at George Calmbaris’ Hellenic Republic, and whilst the internet gives no indication that this is actually a dish eaten in Cyprus, it was far too tasty to keep to myself. So for argument's sake, let’s say that this blog is comparing the Aussie outback to the Mediterranean.
You may remember me describing that the Mediterranean diet has been extensively research and proven to be (one of) the best in improving life expectancy and reducing cardiovascular disease. This salad is a perfect example of why; it is a salad that will get any dietitian all hot under the collar. The combination of slowly released carbohydrates from the wheat and lentils, protein from the lentils, seeds and nuts, and fibre and antioxidants from the herbs, currents and pomegranate are just the beginning. The Greek yoghurt adds a little more protein and calcium; the capers add flavour without salt; the olive oil provides healthy fats which keep our blood (among many things) running smoothly. Why, I could go on forever.
Cheeseslaw could be one piece of the puzzle if a gigantic puzzle that reads “Causes why Broken Hill is ranked as one of the most overweight towns in Australia” was made. The combination of cheese (22% saturated fat) and dressing (5% saturated fat) doesn’t elicit the same response under my collar as the Cypriot Grain Salad does. To put it into context, full cream milk is about 2% saturated fat, whilst cream is similar to cheese at 23%. Which makes cheese more similar nutritionally to cream, rather than milk. Don’t get me wrong, I do love cheese more than the next guy, but this high fat content means that a serve of cheese is about the size of a matchbox- definitely more than you’d get in a scoop of cheeseslaw to go along with your schnitzel.
My sister recently shared some advice with me, some advice which I will be handing down to my own children, and which you will probably do the same. Do this, and you will most definitely make friends with salad. “A good salad requires 1 fruit, 1 vegetable, 1 cheese and 1 nut”. Cypriot Greek Salad comes close (yoghurt is almost like cheese, right?). Cheeseslaw is lagging a little behind (though let’s not tell the Broken Hillians that). My advice? Both are amazingly tasty testaments to their sources of origin, and there is room for both- though one slightly less frequently than the other.