Thursday, April 10, 2008

Busy in Brissie

Well, I'm obviously back from Brisbane. It was a great trip--full on, but lots of fun. I spent four days in the state archives, then 3 days in the Fryer Library at UQ, in both places flipping through folder after folder of letters, forms, pamphlets and newspaper clippings. My eyes were tired and my brain was full, but it was really interesting stuff! Plus, I had a bit of extra time for vegan meet-ups, relaxing, and lots of vegan food. Rather than relating my trip chronologically, I'm going to go suburb by suburb.

This is the suburb I called home for my trip. I stayed with a former JCU post-grad, and her energetic cattle dog Pat.
Most of my meals were in Fairfield, but were nothing special. Meusli for breakfast, pasta or soup for dinner. My host was incredibly accommodating of my veganism and even ate vegan with me on most nights.

This suburb is the farthest I got away from Brisbane city. A ten minute walk to the train station, a 20 minute train ride, and then a 40 minute walk from the train to the archives meant I was a tired researcher before I even started! But I found tons of interesting stuff in the state archives, and most of it was stamped 'Restricted' in big, red block letters, so I felt pretty special looking at it. In addition to the restricted material, there were tons of newspaper clippings (the government really wanted to keep up to date with public opinion, I guess). This cartoon was printed before the 1988 Bicentennial of white australian settlement.There was a kitchen at the archives, so my lunches consisted of veggie burgers and nut&raisin mix. And lots of black tea to keep me warm and energised.

This was perhaps the most exciting suburb I went to, not so much because of the place but because of the company. I met up with Amy and Cam from Iron Chef Vegan, and their friend 'Larry' to gorge ourselves on Chinese-style mock meat dishes. The restaurant was Magic Wok. For an entree, we got 6 BBQ 'pork' dumplings, .3 turnip cakes, and 6 dim sim. My main meal was 'Chicken and Cashew' which was covered in that yummy generic clear sauce. Amy and 'Larry' got 'Bean sauced crispy chicken' which was also really yummy in that way that only fried food is good. Cam got 'Mongolian Beef', which was good... but something about the texture of mock beef puts me off. We all shared 'Gai Larn with oyster flavoured sauce'. The food was really very good. The restaurant itself was a bit stark, and squeaky clean (which I guess is a good thing). It just lacked ambience, in my opinion. Luckily, it was more than made up for by the excellent company. We talked about cookbooks, blondies, cats, and life. Amy and Cam are lovely people, as I had guessed from their blog.

Here's me, eating a dumpling.
St Lucia
This is the suburb the university is located in, so I spent three days here while I worked in the Fryer Library. The library itself was interesting, because it had heaps of documents from activist groups themselves--an entirely different perspective from the government papers I'd seen in the state archives. Housing a university also means cool cafes, including My Heart Garden, a veg*n cafe. I went midmorning, dreaming about coffee and cake. But when I got there, the display case only had 1 cake which wasn't vegan. No worries... I got a chocolate cookie instead, along with a 'Tropical Paradise' smoothie.
The cookie was SO hard. Which I know some people are into. But I prefer chewy cookies, so I wasn't totally impressed. But the smoothie was delicious. And the feel of the place was fantastic, with old homey furniture on the sidewalk and plenty of vegan propaganda for perusal while eating.

Since I was flying out that night, I decided to get a sandwich to eat in the airport. But at 4 pm I was starving so I ate it early! It was a 'Neatwich', or turkish bread with Neatloaf, salad and veggie mayo. It was very good, but so messy! I'm glad I didn't try to eat it in the airport like I'd planned, because it went everywhere. I had to eat it in non-sandwich form, so it was lucky that all the individual components were tasty.
West End
This was probably my favourite suburb. I took a day off from archiving on Wednesday to meet up with a Brisbane activist for lunch and an interview. We ate at Indian Kitchen at the corner of Boundary and Vulture Streets (directly across from Krishna's Cafe). For $5.50 I got a plate of rice with three veggie curries--garlic dhal, chickpea and zucchini. The place was hopping, the food was great and the staff were lovely. I highly recommend this place.

The suburb of West End was a bit strange--I think it used to be quite a hippy place, but it's turned hip instead. But there are still a lot of cool little places, like the Green Grocer health food shop. I went in and got some rainbow chai and some organic silverbeet seeds.And there are still vestiges of hippy-ness, like this poster on a telephone pole inviting people to Converge on Canberra in February.West End also features a completely vegan eatery, The Forest Cafe. I stopped in during the afternoon and got a mango smoothie (that didn't taste very mango-y) and a chocolate peanut butter cookie. There were huge, gorgeous looking vegan cakes, but at $6 a slice I really couldn't convince myself to buy one. I sort of liked the feel of this place, with the old furniture and the bold colour choices, but it felt a bit too cool for me.

And, of course, West End is a very important place to local Murris (Aboriginal people). The location of the Water Rat Dreaming, it is sacred ground. And, after Brisbane was settled by white people, Musgrave Park was an important camping and gathering place for Murris from around Queensland. It became a political space, with tent embassies and rallies regularly held there. For 20 years, there have been plans for a cultural centre at Musgrave Park, but the government is still stuck in red tape.
And Saturday mornings, West End hosts a big market.It was insanely crowded, most likely because it was set up in a very narrow place. But it was full of variety, with veggies, nuts, breads, meat and fish (ew), clothing, second-hand stuff, and food vendors. One of the vendors, called Why Kill a Moo Cow, sell vegetarian and vegan junk food like dagwood dogs (after 10 am) and 'No Bull Pies'. This was my first proper Aussie pie experience, and the crust was beautifully flaky but the filling was a bit sparse. It was yummy, but there was a big space between the top of the filling and the top crust.
South Bank and the City
Since the river runs straight through the middle of Brisbane, the two most urban suburbs are connected by bridges and ferries. Wednesday morning saw me in the city to look through an old exhibition on protest by The Museum of Brisbane. Then I walked across the river to the Brisbane Cultural Centre (library, theatre, etc)... where I luckily found an art exhibit on protest posters from the 1970s to the 1990s. South Bank also had some cool artwork on a bridge...For a while one afternoon, I simply sat by the river, wrote up notes from my full-on day, and watched people walk by. It was lovely.
Then I wandered along the South Bank park area, and found this cool little pagoda.
Then it was back across to the city to have dinner at Govinda's, a hare krishna restaurant. For $10, it was all-you-can eat vegetarian. They change their menu each night of the week, so I feasted on rice, dhal, chickpea curry, pakoras and chutney, and green salad. And with the buffet comes free ginger-mint juice or tea or something, which was SO GOOD. The food was pretty good, and it left me feeling satisfied and healthy. The atmosphere wasn't what I expected--it was less yoga-studio and more uni-dining-hall.

Not a suburb, but the end of this post. I learned (or was reminded of) many things during my trip. For one thing, I am not a city girl. The masses of suited men and women talking on mobiles and running to catch buses and trains really didn't make me feel at home. I prefer my slow life in the tropics. Another thing I realised is that, compared to the tropics, Brisbane is FREEZING. I had to buy an extra sweater from an op-shop because I was so chilly. I was reminded of the fact that I'm a bad food photo taker--I usually didn't think to, or didn't feel comfortable taking out my camera in restaurants. I learned that I'm glad I don't have vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafes near me, because otherwise I would spend way too much money! And mostly, although I really had a fun time, I was so glad to come back home to my man and my kitteh.


VeggieGirl said...

wow, such a gorgeous location!! looks like you had a wonderful time, ate delicious food; oh and Pat is too cute :0)

Amy said...

I'm glad you had fun - it was good to meet you too! Mmmmm fake BBQ Pork Buns.......

textual bulldog said...

I'd love to go to Australia, so I loved reading this post... virtual turist! And I know what you mean about Hari Krishna places... I have had really good luck with them being lovely and restaurant-like (Peru), or bad luck with them being more cafeteria-like (every one I've been to in the States is like this). For a while in high school, my friend had a crush on a Hari Krishna monk so we would go to the temple on Friday nights for veg dinner and dancing/worship. This was in San Diego, and you sat on the floor and they served you out of big white buckets. That was pretty fun :)

Bianca said...

What's Neatloaf? Sounds interesting. The sammich definitely looks tasty!

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Thank you SOO much for letting me know the link didn't work! I fixed it :o)

I was *going to* comment that the cookie looked delicious... until I read that it was rock-hard. I'm with you-- I love chewy cookies, or soft cookies. My dad likes 'em crispy and a bit burnt, which I can never understand.

Alec said...

Looks like a great trip! (Mostly) great food and sounds like you got some good research in as well. It is interesting that Brisbane is so much colder than Queensland. I guess I'm just ignorant and think of all of Australia as really hot! I have to comment that I noticed you spelled color as colour. Are you taking on Aussie spellings now that you are a tropical vegan and not a NY vegan? ;)

Sam said...

Wow. It's so cool that you go to experience all that knowledge, food, and culture. I'm jealous!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely trip! I'll have to agree with you on the cookie thing - cookies were meant to be chewy.

Vegan_Noodle said...

Sounds like a fun trip, though lots of work! I totally agree about not liking crunchy cookies. And mock beef, too weird. Oh someday I must make it out there to Australia...

Liz² said...

I loved reading your account of the trip, especially for some reason that part where you mentioned eating trail mix and drinking black teas in the archives. I guess I know what that's like. And I agree with you on the vegan restaurant/shop thing - I'd just be tempted if they were around!

pleasantly plump vegan said...

sounds like a busy and fun little trip! that sandwich looks pretty darn good (it does look good and messy).

the little one said...

You were a busy woman! Glad to hear about all the food. Hope the work went as well! ;)

Veggie said...

What a great trip! It was fun reading about Brisbane.