I must admit I was quite taken back when I received a phone call requesting a set of Queensland wine styles to fit a far Outback lunch at Quilpie, fly-over of Lake Eyre (bubbles darling) followed by dinner at the Birdsville bakery.

This was the Hunter Gatherer Dinner Club (HGDC) having its convivial meeting in Queensland’s far-flung southwest. At the time eastern Australia was experiencing dual weather events which filled the Lake Eyre basin with its greatest volume of water since the 1991 floods.

So this amount of water swamps the parched centre about four times each century.

This group barely tolerates grains in anyone’s diet, and on a lunch/dinner meeting there is a blend of both feral (wild caught) and farmed protein in animal form. This is backed up by crustaceans (yabbies) and fish (yellowbelly); and the salads are wild harvest spinach and other varieties that foraging chefs know.

Founding HGDC chair Debra Newell had recruited star chefs Peter McMillin (Harveys – Brisbane), David Pugh (Restaurant Two – Brisbane and the Queensland food ambassador) and ACT-based James Kidman (of cattle baron fame) to cook the menus in temporary kitchen surroundings.

Last July 34 eager palates took off in a Skytrans jet out of Brisbane bound for Quilpie and a sunny winter’s lunch overlooking Lake Bulloo. On the menu was yellowbelly ceviche washed down with Robert Channon Pinot Gris 2009 (Granite Belt), goat kofta and Channel country beef paired with Barambah First Grid Shiraz 2008 (South Burnett).

The dessert was enriched with steamed local Eulo date and Stahmann pecan pie, and tarte au citron for freshness, washed down with a Granite Belt sticky, Witches Falls Botrytis Semillon 2008.

After lunch guests belted up for a three hour trip over Innamincka, a trip down a very wide Cooper Creek, and then runs over the northern reaches of Lake Eyre as the sun started setting.

To celebrate this spectacle from the air, the regeneration of this arid tract of land and another Club event, flutes of Jimbour Ludwig Leichhardt Reserve Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV were passed around. Leichhardt would have been on the ground below, 150 years ago.

Dinner at the Birdsville bakery continued the cause: tagine camel, curried head-shot rabbit, korma camel and quondong sponge.

During the past 30 years the movement of the human diet since cave occupation times has come under intense scrutiny. The major illnesses such diabetes, gluten intolerance and juvenile obesity point squarely at the influence of the grain-inputs that we eat.

Debra Newell defines it pointedly “most of us are omnivores; the shape of our teeth, our hand-eye co-ordination, our digestive juices and the dependence on animal-derived amino acids are symptoms of a human animal protein based diet. Grains and soy bean contain phytic acid which binds the minerals needed in our diet, and probably start the chain of symptoms attributed to irritable bowel syndrome”.

So the debate will continue: grain versus animal and where the balance lies.


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