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East of Eden

September 18, 2010

I have once again, and for the last time, changed the name of this collection of culinary and cultural adventures. At some unrecognised point over the past nine months, I went from being a visitor in my parents’ house to being an official third wheel, inhabiting one of the guest rooms in their dream house (not constructed with wayward adult children in mind) with my extensive collection of books, snow domes and 1970s gewgaws.

The new guise of my blog reflects not only the dearth of continental cheese counters in the Clarence Valley, my home, but pays tribute to the abundance of picturesque pre-processed sugar and beef products in the region. It is also a homage to great artists who wrote of the country before me, remembering and telling its stories (it should be noted however, that while these artists originated in Queensland, I most certainly did not).

There are worse places that one could call home. Byron Bay for example. For the casual visitor, the idea of Byron Bay (pristine beaches and a hippy atmosphere complemented by luxury resorts, an urbane culinary and consumer culture, and the promise of spiritual healing) is far more attractive than the reality (a cross between Newtown and the Gold Coast circa 2002).

Such a comparison is bound to polarise readers, and I do not mean to offend, but Byron Bay has long enjoyed a mythological reputation among travelers as a kind of earthly paradise. I simply emphasise the word ‘mythological’.

Having said that, it is the easternmost point of a region which could be described as God’s own country. Turn left off the Pacific Highway instead of Byronwards, and you will find yourself among lush rolling green hills with glimpses of the sea; fertile land which produces a cornucopia of tropical fruit, artisan dairy products, eggs from happy chickens occupying some of Australia’s finest real estate; famous sweet pork; and fine pasture-fed beef. The small hamlet of Bangalow was described to me recently as the Melbourne of the north, alluding to its sophisticated restaurants and quirky boutiques, but this is to negate the attraction of its country charms; the small town which has flourished without becoming overpopulated and overdeveloped.

This week however, it was an appointment in Byron Bay which drew me north. I tried to look past the grotty streetscapes which have seen better days and found traces of the mythological Byron Bay at the weekly farmers’ market, by the seaside, and amongst the cheap chain stores. I visited Byron Bay so you don’t have to. Unless you want to. In which case, by all means go.

Point break

Afternoon snooze

Haiti huggers

Byron Bay Farmers' Market

Sugarcane country

Juicy

Sweet treat

Local organics

Banana benders

Exotic

Stud muffin

Heavenly

Self-portrait with ubiquitous Combi

Utility vehicle

Grow in a circle

Byrontainment

Red Ginger

Counter culture

Offering

Fishy

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Stefano Manfredi permalink
    September 18, 2010 22:02

    Right on Felix!
    I have no yearning to ever visit Byron Bay again in my lifetime. Let me explain.
    Having first visited in 1972 as a surfer and musician, living there in 1976/77 and often going back until 1980, it was some of the best surf and music and people that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
    After that time I gradually saw it suffocate under the weight of people pursuing their own private nirvana. I haven’t been back fro 25 years. I don’t want to.
    It’s too sad.
    I’ve found somewhere else and I’m not telling anyone.

  2. sue webber permalink
    September 20, 2010 08:28

    Sugar cane juice – now that’s what we need at the Grafton farmer’s market!

  3. September 20, 2010 09:12

    Ahh Byron. Best memory is cane toad tadpole stomping while playing golf at the resort. Mcuh prefer Ballina which is quieter(for now anyway). Perhaps that is because Mum and Dad lived there for 10 years and it became our regular get away from Sydney.
    That red turmeric sounds most intriguing. Would love to see the colour during cooking. Wonder if there is any flavour difference too. Must try hunt some down in Sydney.
    Wont be rushing back to Byron for a long time.

  4. October 4, 2010 23:20

    have you ever been to Lismore? its just inland from byron 🙂 we have a new art and craft market 1st sat of the month The Con Artists market i have a link on my blog.

    • felixexplody permalink*
      October 5, 2010 07:46

      Thanks for the heads up on the new market! Have been to Lismore a couple of times recently, love it.

  5. Nicki Holmes (eklektika) permalink
    January 13, 2011 11:09

    Did you know there’s a branch of ‘Red Ginger’ in Bangalow too. I buy frozen goodies there and ‘Portuguese’ custard tarts – great.

  6. felixexplody permalink*
    January 13, 2011 11:36

    Thanks for your comments Nicki! I happen to be travelling there next week, so I will pop in and stock up on frozen treats. Their steamed pork buns are the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve tried a lot! 🙂

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