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Celebrate with lunch

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

"Lunch is for wimps" Gordon Gecko - Wall Street

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'What about lunch?'" A. A. Milne

Two opposing quotes, two very different long lunches - and I'm not talking about time here, although Douglas Adams had something to say about that too:

"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."

Melbourne has just had its annual World's longest lunch event - on the right above - and you can watch the video here. Well the first video - from the previous link is more informative, than the one below which is full of product placements but has a slightly different view.

Anyway it is now an annual event and in spite of the hefty price tag of $185.00 a person it was sold out within a couple of weeks. 1700 people. So this is obviously not an event for the poor but I suppose it's within the reach of anyone who likes to celebrate occasionally with a splurge. Not to mention those, to whom that kind of money is peanuts. We did not go. Not that we actually could not afford it, but because I think David is of the Gordon Gecko school. Well worse than that really. I don't really think that eating out is his thing at all, even though he seems to enjoy it when there. Maybe one year. And I'm sure there are many who mock such occasions as blatant consumerism and indulgence - and I confess that if you watch that second video you could be forgiven for thinking that that is what is all about. But:

"If you can’t be happy at the prospect of lunch, you are unlikely to be happy about anything." Robert Johnson

Perhaps I should get together a group of ladies and go for it next year.

"There will always be ladies who lunch. Always. And apparently they live a long time."

Elaine Stritch

Anyway - a little bit of history.

That other picture at the top of the page is from a Chinese city called Lichun which has a tradition at harvest time:

"to celebrate the harvest by gathering together for a meal. The length of the meal determines our luck for the next harvest, like the length of a dragon in a dragon dance."

There were 10,000 people at the one in the picture. There is not much on the net about this - just one particular year - but one imagines it has been going on for a long time. And this one is for everyone, as you can see - it might even be a BYO affair for all I know. No information, but a nice idea.

I also checked to see if the longest lunch thing is a world-wide phenomenon. I did find a longest picnic lunch in Toronto which was attempting to break a Guinness record, but I couldn't find the record and I couldn't find any reference to such an event anywhere else in the world. Which is somewhat amazing to me. No - it seems to be a Melbourne affair. I don't think even Sydney does it. Why ever not?

The first one was held back in 1993 at the MCG. It's actually quite an inspiring story. In 1990 Melbourne lost its bid for the Olympics to Atlanta. It was hugely demoralising, not least because of the massive corruption surrounding the choice. Peter Clemenger - a Melbourne ad man - had been on the bid committee and felt that the city needed a boost after such a disappointment. He conceived the idea of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, and along with that, the longest lunch. He set about finding sponsors, but nobody was interested. And so he decided to finance it himself, In 1993 the festival was born and it included the World's Longest Lunch event - which that year was held in the MCG. Very appropriate considering this all came about because of the failed Olympic bid. There were just 12 events. This year there will be well over 50, plus two other iterations of the festival - one in July/August celebrating Melbourne and one in Spring to highlight Regional Victoria - which, by the way also has several Longest Lunches. 2020's festival was of course cancelled, although there were a few online events I think. But this year it was back with a bang and with a new event - the World's Longest Brunch - which when you think about it is even more Melbourne. I mean - coffee, avocado toast ... And yes there was indeed avocado toast.

Venues? Well the brunch was originally slated for the Treasury Gardens like the lunch but wouldn't you know, Melbourne's weather intervened and so it was held in the Exhibition Building instead. Now how about that for organisation? I'm guessing the building had been booked and set up ready for such emergencies well before the actual day, but still full marks for implementation. Below is a selection of some previous venues both in Melbourne and regional Victoria - another park - Melbourne is blessed with the most beautiful parks, the beach somewhere on a trestle bridge - I have seen others on piers out over the water, Lygon Street, an old hotel verandah somewhere and alongside the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne. There would be countless others - I remember they had one just up river from here in Warrandyte one year.

I have always hankered to go to one of these events I think, they look so ridiculously and extravagantly glorious somehow - a touch of decadence in an ordinary life, never does any harm I think.

The Melbourne event, as I said, had 1700 attendees. This year they dined on three dishes from Melbourne's chef aristocracy - Philipe Mouchel who did the entrée - Beetroot‐cured king salmon with fennel salad, champignons à la Grecque, baby beetroot and spiced‐almond crumble, Jacques Reymond, who did the main dish - Duck à l’orange with black rice, choy sum and pea tendrils and Stephanie Alexander's dessert of a Pear and brown‐butter tart with sapore and ice‐cream. No pictures of the last two I'm afraid, but if you watch the first video you will see them.

They were there, those three Melbourne restaurant icons but they certainly weren't cooking. That was all done by the prestigious catering firm Peter Rowland. Toast has an interesting article that explains how it's all organised - how the chefs 'design' the dish which is discussed and tested with the caterers many times, - all the equipment that's required, the marquees that have to be set up and the staff recruited. When you read the article, which is talking about the 2018 event you can appreciate how the cost gets up to $185.00 - which I should say, does include wine and other drinks.

This year's event - the whole festival - would be an enormous boost for tourism and for the hospitality industry. I did a very quick look at the events - almost all completely sold out whatever the cost. I have also just booked a week in Port Douglas in September for the family to celebrate David's 80th - and that too was almost booked out. Well it was really as far as the school holidays go anyway for something nice. We had to go for the last week of term, and now we are scrambling to get flights and cars.

On Friday at midnight life will almost return to normal in Melbourne. No more masks in shops - just public transport, taxis and other such transport. Medical places too I should think. You can have 100 people in your home - and on it goes. So as in 1993 when Melbourne was recovering from a huge blow to its burgeoning pride, so now, we are recovering with over the top lunch in the park. That's what you do when you celebrate.

"People who say they're too busy to have lunch have a false impression of their own importance." John Howard



How could I possibly have forgotten soup? Like cake it's really the dish that treats carrots as the hero. There are literally hundreds, possibly thousands of recipes out there so I won't even look for any. Just enjoy a pretty Donna Hay picture.

I think Potage Crécy - the classic French carrot soup - may well have been the very first recipe I tried from Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking and it's still one of my very favourite soups. So fresh tasting. Almost every cuisine in the world seems to have a version though - even the Chinese, who one doesn't associate with carrots somehow - even though they apparently produce almost 1/3 of the world's carrots.

Yes soup, beautiful soup. One should never forget soup. You can even eat it cold, and it's a wonderful excuse to eat more bread, or scones ...


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