Chinderah you blow past when you are in a hurry coming south from the border. They have a food and petrol stop there; a set of golden arches and twenty-five gas pumps – and sometimes a man has to stop for sugar and grease after an overnight without sleep in an airplane to Brisbane. So he stops at Chinderah and parks the car.
Roadside cuisine the way we do it.
Golden Arches. Sometimes even the worst hamburger in the world can be helped by a sliver of pickle on the lid.
This after a week eating out of spice stalls in deepest chinatown.
There are four builders leaning against the wall this morning, it’s 10.15 am. They are just by the counter, close enough to hear, and they are here for the show. The show being you – the idle traveller with foreign dust on his shoes and foreign spices in his stomach. A passport made even more ragged by the dozens of grasping hands who have had official play at it over the past few weeks. A thin money-clip of five dollar notes in his hand and travel notes in all his pockets.
Joyce is on the counter. Joyce decides who eats, she’s the wife of the franchisee and both her glass-hard eyeballs have your reflection in them as you approach.
‘You can’t do a cheeseburger?’
‘ Chips then.’
This is where the builders spark up, you can hear a murmur of amusement over there.
Joyce has this half-mouthed fluttering twitch that betrays a throttled mirth and now everybody is silent as you wrestle with this free-marketering concept, so you ask howcome no burger, and why no fries.
– and she says
‘Because it’s not 10.30am’ – and she looks over your shoulder at the boys over there.
Later a double-bogie buffets past with an uncovered load of caged and wind-blasted chickens; thousands of white birds, raw-necked and bloodied, laying birds done with their egg-laying and now headed to the up-country pig farms. Here they will be turned loose into pens that hold thousands of pigs, all hungry after being denied food for five days. The flesh, they say, becomes consolidated and cooks sweeter after a prolonged abstinence.
They starve the pork before this last banquet, and now cage after cage is up-ended and the live chicken waste is poured down into the feeding hullabaloo. Some of the bigger sows can snarf a couple of crippled chooks in one big chomping snatch. Hundreds of birds are run down into the mud and gobbled up in a snuffling rout.
Eat and run.
A man cannot swear in front of a woman, so he turns and looks at the builders – it’s 10.18 am and they are all having cheeseburgers and fries for lunch in 12 minutes. So you are last in that queue if you care to join it, so it’s fuck you all round.
This is how Chinderah does you.
Eat and run.