It was very nice to meet you," said my father-in-law to a young lady as he was leaving a party. "Goodbye and I'll see you ... I'll see you at Coles". And he is right. You see everyone at the supermarket. It is one of the great levelling features of life in the country. Regardless of age, profession, race and class, you all get your toilet paper from the same place.
In one quick trip for milk, bread and bananas you will hurry past pregnant teenagers chatting and smoking in the carpark, touch trolleys at the dairy section with well groomed lady who asks "now what are you again, a ...," waiting for you to tell her your surname and then get a kiss from a kind but rather manic shelf stacker who has just recovered from a three week methamphetamine blowout in Thailand as someone's nanny waves hello from the other end of the aisle. This is life in the village and I love it.
Not everything is perfect. At times that Argie saying of pueblo pequeno, inferno grande (small town, big hell) feels claustrophobically true, but small town living really has a lot going for it. There is none of that background stress of worrying if someone is about to be publicly decapitated in the main square, or ebola, or even where on earth does all the power and water come from and if it were to stop how many minutes would it take before I loot the servo downstairs.
Strangers here often know who you are and they care (the support I have had for starting this blog has been unbelievable). And there is a huge variety of people you spend time with because, quite simply, you and they are often in the same place at the same time and there aren't too many places to be.
So to celebrate Village Life in all it's melting pot glory, here is a very good pavlova. Fittingly, it was enjoyed today with a motley crew of amazing friends, including Toby who affectionately calls Moree Paris, and who can out-talk his city friends fresh from amazing trips to New York and Venice with highlights from this little town.
Whisk eight egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in about 500g of sugar, beating until the mixture stiffens. Stir in a pinch of corn flour, vanilla and a couple of handfuls of chopped nuts. I used macadamias and almonds because that's what was in the pantry. Shape into two discs about 20cm in diameter on baking paper and then put in a 180C oven. Immediately turn down to 150C and cook for about an hour. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven to cool completely.
Whip 400ml of cream with a couple of tablespoons of honey. Slather cream over the upturned side of one of the meringue discs. Hull and slice two punnets of strawberries and place ontop of the creamed base before sandwiching with the remaining meringue disc.