BJ came and stayed awhile. Initially he was a salve to my loneliness as I had missed my lovely lady too much in recent times. We made it a habit to go out and about each day, sampling Hobartian fare and buying up a modicum of its wares. We watched the cricket on the tele, delighted in the adventures of Matthew Evans and his manly mates as they circumnavigated Tassie on DVD and we chatted. With both having had longish lives we had stories to tell – and possibly retell as BJ has camped in the blue room on previous occasions, soothed by the river just across the way. And then Leigh returned to double the joy.
BJ is a monk. Previously, before the knowing of this kindliest of men, I saw such an existence as his quite exotic, foreign and somewhat ascetic. With the knowing of BJ; the tales he tells of it – well, my notions have changed. He passes his years wrapped in adventure and happiness. He possesses a bounteous love of his God and the characters that also inhabit his rich and rewarding life. Like myself, he is also in love with the trams of Melbourne and possesses a copious knowledge of their routes and destinations. He is also friends with my gorgeous daughter. And our little Tessa is besotted with him.
In turn, BJ is besotted with Tasmania’s culinary delight – the curried scallop pie. So together we two, sometimes three, amigos set out to find the best of the delicacy that our city, as well as its environs, has to offer. The quest took us far and wide.
According to the good monk, the not so humble pie has to have:-
1. Good pastry, flaky and golden.
2. A curry gravy that is smooth and not glutinous.
3. Tender scallops – nothing worse than over-cooked ones.
We started our search at the little Frenchified patisserie in Claremont’s Village Shopping Centre and concluded it at Franklin’s Petty Sessions Café. In between were offerings from the Bakery in Salamanca Square, the Magnolia Café in Moonah as well as from purportedly the home of the scallop pie, if somewhat incongruously, the Ross Bakery. At the latter, the sky was foreboding over the village, the wind icily chill for late spring so it was perhaps this pie that was the most welcome of those that were sampled – but was it the best? For a time there BJ thought it had won the day, but he had yet to taste that offered by the eatery on the Huon River. At Petty Sessions the proud waitress, who was a great spruiker for her establishment, beamed as my friend pronounced it was the superior treat – the best to be had to date. According to our peruser of fine pies the pastry top was superb, the curry as smooth as could be and the accompanying relish the perfect adornment. Just quietly, my warm duck salad went down a treat as well.
BJ claims that, when he attempts to describe the joys of the Tassie creation to his big island associates, he receives reactions ranging from a shaking of the head in bemusement to outright open-mouthed aghastment akin to one’s first reaction on hearing of the existence of Adelaide’s pie floater. And he has even rung a radio station to defend our little pie’s honour after a shock jock had dared to diss it to the world; to decry that it was such a travesty it must be urban myth. Yet word is spreading. Droves of mainlanders are seeking these crusty temptations out in the alleyways of Hobs and the surrounding byways.
But BJ’s time with us was not just centred, food wise, on the pie. The crumbed variety of the shellfish at the Crown Inn, Pontville also received his accolades as did the generous scallop kebabs at the Island Markets. Outside of the molluscs, with the ploughman’s lunch at the Coal River Farm, Cambridge Road our roving gourmand rediscovered the seductive runny thrills of our local brie. Above Granton, at Stefano Lubiana’s new osteria, our man tried a rustic lunch of smokily home-cured deli meats and fruit loaf – it was as delicious as it was engagingly arranged on the plate. We celebrated that evening with a bubbly from the establishment purchased at the cellar door – it was divine. Oh! And yours truly would like to mention a pie too – of the delicious wallaby variety to be had at New Norfolk’s Patchwork Café.
‘Why does he have to go home, Mummy? Why?’ asked the little one with trembling chin. Indeed why? Now a day later it feels that part of the furniture is missing. There’s a hole there that will take a time to fill. Whether it’s the berating of the Kiwis in their callousness for aiming at an injured bowlers broken foot, the praise heaped on the more humble fare offered by our abode’s two chief cooks, the pleasure taken by the many ‘likes’ he receives on FB for a culinary snap or his delight at the overly inquisitive nature of MONA’s resident duck, BJ, we are missing you. Your visitation was thoroughly enjoyed by all. And the lasagne and paella BJ? Heavenly.
Come February the little family, accompanied by a grey ageing grandfatherly figure, will journey to the city across the water and we will meet up again with Brother James. Your scribe is hoping for a few extra days of travel on some of those tram routes, yet to be investigated, in the knowledgeable one’s company. Brother Jim is my Leigh’s cousin and my valued friend. We know it’ll be another year or so till he visits our shores to continue his search for the holy grail of scallop pies. He will again bring to us so much love. And he brings with him the goodness of a true man of his calling.