Nonfiction

THE BUSHFOODIE’S GUIDE TO THRIFTY CAMPUS DINING

21 March 2016

Are you strapped for cash? Are you sick of, or literally from, dumpster diving? Or are you just a tight-arsed skinflint?

Then you’re in luck, for your friendly neighbourhood grumpy scientist is here to tell you how to eat dirt cheap while at uni. Emphasis on the dirt.

Be it traditional bush tucker or introduced plants, food can be found almost anywhere if you know where to look. I will be showing you how to make a feast from whatever can be found on campus, starting with a first course of:

Fried whitebait fritters with dill, lemon and saltbush mayo

– served on a bed of wilted baby sorrel

You will need:

  • Whitebait
  • Sorrel
  • Oil
  • Saltbush
  • Flour
  • Dill
  • Eggs
  • Chives
  • Lemons
  • Parsley

 

Whitebait:

In all seriousness, if you are desperate enough to need to trawl decorative water features for your daily sustenance, then I would recommend you instead hit up Lentil as Anything in Abbotsford. Having said that, you can find these tiny fish in the ponds in System Gardens and just north of Redmond Barry. Hypothetically, they could be eaten bones and all, providing a good source of calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Eating a higher ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s will help ward off heart disease.

 

Oil:

You’ll need some omega-6s from vegetable fats too, though unless you want heart disease be sure to eat a higher ratio of those omega-3s. Pick a plant like palm and get refining, safe in the knowledge that for once an orangutang’s home is not being destroyed in the process.

 

Eggs

Ducks eggs can have a somewhat fishy taste to them — which may not be so much of an issue here — but we’re going with the more plentiful pigeon eggs for the batter and mayonnaise. Eggs, no matter what species they come from, are a great feed as they contain all the nutritional requirements to form an entire organism. However, unlike many birds we cannot produce our own Vitamin C, which brings us to…

 

Lemons

Ok, I’ll admit I haven’t actually seen a lemon tree on campus, but the front yard fruit trees in Carlton and Brunswick are close enough. Lemons and limes, cumquats and apples abound. Conscript a tall friend and you’ll get a far better haul.

                                                   

Flour

A long-time staple for the Indigenous of arid areas, wattle seeds are dried and crushed into a type of flour, though the seed pods can also be steamed or boiled while still green. The taste is akin to snow peas, which is not surprising given the similarity in the cooking process. It’s been known to make housemates complain about acacia branches in the kitchen, even though they were the ones who said you needed to cook more vegetarian meals in the first place. Iron — of which red meat is a rich source — is crucial to higher cognitive functions such as memory.

Care must be taken not to overcook the seed pods and to refrain from goading the anti-beast-flesh crusaders with the phrase ‘plants have feelings too — have a heart, eat a rock’.*

But I digest (though not cellulose, which requires a specialised caecum that is only found in herbivores, as opposed to our remnant baby-dick of an intestine we call the appendix). Point being, we are omnivores and a balanced diet is key. One source of iron other than delicious meat is leafy green vegetables.

*If you are a vegan and wish to know more about the more nutritious stones and gravels on campus, consult your nearest geology student. Just don’t ask them whether or not geology does in fact rock. Over and over again like it’s the funniest thing in the world (which it clearly is). They tend to get pissy.

 

Salad greens (Sorrel) and Herbs

If you’ve grown up in Victoria then you probably know sorrel better as ‘sourgrass’. It looks similar to clover but grows taller, and as the moniker suggests, it has a tangy crunch to it.

Saltbush is a native succulent that can be used as a cooking spice. You can find it in the arid section of the System Gardens next to the reputedly hallucinogenic cacti, which you should just keep on walking past. The botany department has had to put a ‘please don’t trip balls on our cacti’ sign up, which you should obey. The nearby herb garden and the like are there for everyone to share, so don’t go overboard — claiming an entire mint shrubbery or the top five feet of a cactus for yourself is frowned upon. Grab some chives, dill and parsley from next to the greenhouses, and you’re all set!

 

Method:

Chuck all of the ingredients together, cook, then nom. Hey, I’m a zoologist, not a chef.

 

Bon Ape Tit!

 

Next on the menu:

Duck, Moreton Bay fig and mixed leaf salad, paired with a ’16 palm and dandelion wine.

 

Head to farragomagazine.com/column/bushfoodie to read more recipes by our resident zoologist.


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