"Normally, the Melbourne Cup can be a bit of the make-or-break moment for our financial year. But unless we see some really strong activity in the last 24 hours there will be nothing in the Cup that can hurt us like a Trump re-election”. Ladbrokes
It's the first Tuesday in November and therefore here in Melbourne it's Melbourne Cup Day and over there in America it's Election Day. Which says it all really doesn't it?
And apparently our big betting firms here are set to lose more on the election, if Trump wins than on the Melbourne Cup. To put that in perspective, last year's Melbourne Cup was their biggest betting event ever but this year it is overshadowed by Trump, because we Australians are betting very large amounts on Trump winning - also around 60% of those betting are betting on Trump. So if he wins, Ladbrokes for one, might go bust. They will lose millions anyway. A far worse result than the favourite, Tiger Moth, winning the Cup.
I wasn't really going to talk about politics or betting, this is a food blog after all. It's just that in the course of trying to find suitable pictures of people celebrating the Cup I came across that fact. Which to me said that we Australians fear a Trump win, although to the betting companies it just means the punters are betting on a win. Does it mean that Australians are hoping for a Trump win, or are they just pessimists? Well the latter I think because the polls were so very wrong for both the last American and the Australian elections, so we expect the same this time. I'm sure we all fear it anyway. I hope we do anyway.
Meanwhile over here people are inventing ingenious ways of celebrating the race that stops a nation and over there in America everyone is bracing for civil unrest that might range from people shouting at each other to civil war. The contrast could not be more extreme really.
Here in Melbourne people party on Cup Day - at the races if they are fortunate or stupid enough to actually go, although the classy lunch from the boot of your car in the car park is sort of a tradition, Now how weird is that? I wonder if anyone is continuing that one this year? It's a public holiday but some places stay open - some have to - like hospitals and police stations, but some like the libraries and private schools that I worked in case to continue to work so that they could have Easter Tuesday off. And so some sort of television would be rigged up so that we could watch the race, and chicken would be brought in from the chicken shop and a glass of champagne drunk with it. And of course we would all dress up. I doubt there are many workplace parties today though.
This year, Melburnians are more restricted but nevertheless they are out and about celebrating. Cafés and restaurants are open and are doubtless putting on special treats, making the most of the occasion within the rules. So the ladies especially as you can see below, are gathering in their fascinators and pretty dresses having fun. The picture of the beach is today - sort of social distancing, and certainly masks, There are not supposed to be bigger groups than ten and the police will be checking, but you can still have a lot of fun with ten. At home you can have up to ten people but from two households only. So I'm betting that a few families will be getting together with their best gear and their glasses of bubbly to wash down the chicken.
You can buy in that party food for your picnic or your home party of course. All the caterers and restaurants and cafés, well possibly not all, but many - are selling hampers and home delivered meals. Me, alas I'm fasting, which was poor planning on my part.
Actually what started me on all this was chicken sandwiches from Peter Rowland, the Melbourne catering king. He normally will make some 20,000 chicken sandwiches for the Melbourne Cup. If they were put end to end they would go round the race track two and a half times. They are an institution, having been made for the Cup since 1969, although he first started making them in 1962. Said to be the best chicken sandwiches in Melbourne what is the secret?
"They're sloppy. That's the word I've instilled into the chefs. The stuff inside the sandwich must be sloppy. I want it to be sloppy. ...The big secret was, and my tongue's not in my cheek, put double the amount of mayonnaise that you think you should. That was the big secret of the chicken sandwiches." Peter Rowland
And you can find the recipe here. I think the other secret is to poach the chicken not roast it. But isn't it sort of amazing that such a simple, even ordinary recipe has lasted long enough to become a cult thing?
Over there in America though it's not a party. Well I guess whoever wins will be partying - for a while at least - but the main aim at the moment is to actually get people to vote. As an aside I think it is undemocratic to force people to vote. I have always voted, but if people don't want to why should they? If they don't vote they get the government they deserve really, and if they are forced to vote they might vote stupidly, like the donkey vote here - just go 1,2,3 down the list presented to you. So various organisations over there are trying to encourage people to vote using food.
One of these is Pizza to the polls, one of whose food trucks is shown at the top of the page. It's a voluntary, non partisan organisation which gathers information about which polling booth lines are the longest, and then delivers slices of pizza or packets of popcorn to the people waiting in line. For, because of COVID and the larger than normal turnout the queues are long. I have no doubt that they are not alone, that others are doing similar things - the parties themselves as well I imagine. I do not think that there is any. particular traditional dish - like our chicken and bubbly - but I imagine there will be all sorts of election themed food - most of it unhealthy.
As I write the race is about to begin. So by the time I have finished editing I will be able to tell you whether the bookies won or lost. I fear it will be a while before we know who will rule America for the next four years.
Tiger Moth came second - the winner was Twilight Payment, so I guess Ladbrokes et al. can breathe a small sigh of relief - for now. And anyway I certainly don't care about them. Gambling is an evil thing - unless you can do it on a very small scale once or twice a year just for fun. Lime at a Melbourne Cup party. Our two children have gathered their families for their own Cup party. It's a beautiful day for one. Almost makes you feel optimistic about America.