When I arrived at the Perth straw bale workshop site in Calingiri, Western Australia last week, I was amazed. Before me stood our workshop home, a beautifully built, roughly 5,000 sqft structure, surrounded fully by 10’ verandas, and capped by perhaps the largest residential roof I’ve ever seen.
What the hosts had been able to accomplish before the workshop, with some help, was extraordinary. And as though getting the structure ready for the workshop, organizing all of the materials, and preparing their land to host 35 people hadn’t been enough, Geoff and Sarah, the hosts, had decided to ad a couple extra items to their To-Do list:
1. Hand brew copious amounts of beer in several different flavors for the workshop.
2. Hunt and butcher several kangaroos for the menu.
Food is a beautiful thing. There is nothing better than being presented with a banquet of wonderful flavors at the end of a long workshop day. The intrepid souls that cook at each workshop are often treated as demigods by participants and are showered with appreciation. For example, during one workshop, years ago, a good friend of ours did all of the cooking, and received three marriage proposals from single, male participants. Good fortune was smiling upon us at the Perth workshop, once again, and we were gifted by the wondrous cooking talents of Derek and Anja.
Derek and Anja are wwoofers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms: WWOOF; people that travel around the world and work on organic farms) living and working on Sarah and Geoff’s land. Unbeknownst to the hosts until just before the workshop, Derek comes with a background as a French trained professional chef.
To top off the team was Anja, an accomplished baker. Together they created one of the sweetest spots on this planet, Derek and Anja’s Diner. Though the diner was rustic and roofed by the carport, the creations that came out of its walls were rival to those in some of the most sophisticated restaurants on the planet.
I had never seen a wild kangaroo until this March and I certainly had never eaten one. Derek, also, had never eaten or cooked kangaroo meat before, nor received any instruction in his French culinary classes on the fine art of preparing roo meat. However, as a professional knows, sometimes one must jump in with both feet and dare to enter new territory.
That night we had a sumptuous feast comprised of grilled Moroccan spiced kangaroo kabobs accompanied by an equally divine vegetable side dish. As the week progressed, the meals continued to amaze me: individual meat pies (5 different gourmet options), kangaroo burgers, fresh garden salads, vegetables and mash, fresh bread, handmade cakes and snacks. And of course, all this topped off with a delicious home brewed beer garden that seemed to have no end.
When I called Gabriella from the airport in LA, I warned her that she may not recognize me as I had likely gained 30 pounds. Mind you, every single pound would have been worth it but, fortunately, our scale would later tell me that I hadn’t gained a single one.
Every straw bale workshop is different and I never know quite what to expect beforehand. This Perth workshop was truly amazing; standout participants, generously working hard to get as much done on Sarah and Geoff’s place as possible in a stunning landscape dotted with tropical birds, a full moon and the sweet sounds of guitar playing, singing, and laughter each evening. These are the days…