Tuesday 20 March 2018

BM = Bitter Memory

I was writing about the Ghan the other day for a travel company's blog - incidentally, SO much better paid than writing for the newspapers these days, which is kind of a sadly vicious circle - and though it didn't get into the story, Bircher muesli was at the forefront of my mind.
The Ghan is the train that runs between Adelaide and Darwin, 2979km from one side of Australia to the other. When I first rode it back in 1975, it was still using the original route following the Overhead Telegraph line, on narrow-gauge tracks. Wash-outs were common and the train often had to crawl along the dodgy track so slowly that, standing outside at the back of a carriage, I once saw a trail of ants on a parallel rail moving more quickly - literally. Travelling with an Austrail pass, I had a room to myself which was fairly snug - the fold-up basin was a novelty - but it was luxury compared with the people in the seated carriages down the back. I remember being busy with my needle, taking IN the waistband of a pair of denim shorts (1975, remember) when the carriage attendant popped in to offer me a cup of tea, saw what I was doing, and asked if I would sew a button back on his jacket. Which I did, feeling only slightly used (he was an older guy).
Mainly, though, apart from initiating a life-long addiction to train journeys, that trip was notable for introducing me to Bircher muesli, which I'd never encountered before. It was a revelation, and ever since I've eaten it wherever it's been offered on the breakfast menu, all around the world, in hotels and restaurants and on cruise ships. I soon learned that it is a mutable beast, different in its every incarnation - drier, wetter, with fresh fruit or not, sweeter or not, nuts or not - so it's become a theme, an enjoyable private thread of experimentation running throughout my travels, and always recorded in my notebook, from BM - yuk! to BEST EVER BM! (On which topic, I'm deeply disappointed to report that the Bircher muesli on Silversea's Silver Explorer on my recent Antarctica cruise was at the Yuk! end of the scale: hopelessly too wet and flavourless.)
That was nothing though compared with the ghastly discovery, when I rode the Ghan again in 2009, that there was NO BIRCHER MUESLI on the menu any longer! Honestly, despite my travelling Platinum class, with a big double suite all to myself and lots of fancy extras, I was so let down. It was going to be a satisfying come-full-circle kind of thing, and it just didn't happen. I still feel thwarted. 
The other thing that journey was notable for was the crazy adventure of an Alaskan backpacker who just missed rejoining the train at Port Augusta, ran after it along the tracks, and climbed into a stairwell where he clung on for over 2 hours till he was discovered, hypothermic and perilously close to dropping off to his undoubted death in the dark, chilly and remote Outback. I'm guessing he didn't even notice the Bircher muesli scandal.


the queen said...

And it's strange how much variation there is, since the original recipe is spelled out. Oats, apple juice, etc., and the ratios thereof. I made it from the original recipe after reading one of your posts and it was awful - not like I remembered it at all. Damp oatmeal and raisins.

TravelSkite said...

Yes, that's true. However, in a Pollyanna revelation, I saw that it could be a good thing, in that when I make it at home I have no constraints on what I put in it - with the result that I like my own best of all now. Heavy on the coconut milk and slivered almonds. Fortunately too, I've finally gained some self-control and can restrict myself to eating it just for breakfast instead of snacking off it all day.
PS I've nearly finished uploading the Antarctica photos if you want to go back for a look...

the queen said...

Lovely - I was just bragging (skiting?) about you the other day, my Kiwi blog friend who had been to the Antarctic courtesy of Silversea.


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