Federal election day, 10,000 steps and the Halal Snack Pack
Life can be full of symbolism. Some of it is molded by the beliefs of others. Social media allows groups of youth roaming the streets during their semester break to embark on one journey and through the power of social media have their destination changed through a series of interchanges on social media. How a Scienceworks visit transformed into Laser Tag at Melbourne Central (because there was an unlimited games offer for 12 dollars) with a large group of mates from Melbourne High School was made possible by social media.
In the “old days”, we (the parents) would have rung around on mobiles to make connections with our friends… although sadly they post-dated not only my school and university years, but a portion of my working life as well. The internet started almost two decades after I had started working. As a result we have an inbuilt inflexibility to changing plans. I am conscious of that and I think there are two elements at play – doing what you want to do while considering the peer pressures of the group – being able to change mid journey is a flexibility brought on by our communication means of the 21st century, but the factors that influence the change in group situations has been the same for centuries, maybe longer.
One such influencing phenomena that has occurred for us this year has been the popularity among schoolboys in Melbourne of the HSP (Halal Snack Pack). On King St in Melbourne there is even the HSPAS (Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society). Joe would go and study at the State Library and afterwards buy a HSP from Melbourne Central with his mates. He spoke very highly of these snack packs to a point where we wanted to find out more.
I asked if there were any Muslim boys in his study group, thinking that the boys were specifically buying the packs because some of his mates needed to eat Halal. Joe replied no… Most of the boys are of Chinese or Indian descent and don’t identify as Muslim. Yet every single one of these boys rave about the Halal Snack Pack. There has been some rather heated discussions in the press about describing foods as Halal – quite a bit by folks who think that any word with a Muslim connotation equates to ISIS, terrorism or the like. The irony and Aussie-ness of the Halal Snack Pack makes for an interesting discussion.
Normally I wouldn’t include religion in any of my posts and to combine it with politics by talking about it on election day is also typically a no-no… as for the other traditional taboo topic “in polite company” – I certainly won’t be covering that! But when something like the HSP serves to unite in friendship, that is worth talking about.
I have eaten many things around the world, including years of Halal food in Indonesia (burgers, steak and chips – I could go on) Of course Pempe Palembang, Es Alpukat, Rendang and many other local dishes we love are Halal – Nasi Goreng (fried rice) was cooked by my very English backgrounded Mother from the time I was a child.
Now, just quickly before you all fall asleep, Helen, Joe and I decided to walk into Melbourne last weekend to try a HSP at one of the identified (according to the schoolboys) best HSP locations in Melbourne. Basically a hole in the wall on Flinders St, we had to queue because there were…yes… schoolboys lining up to order their HSP. Looking into the small shop which resembled a sauna, three men were feverishly preparing the packs. Two slowly rotating pillars of meat were being slowly grilled and shaved for the packs. Against the back wall was a row of school ties hung on a rack – a sign of that school’s allegiance to the Halal Snack Pack (or at least the student who had donated their tie). Chips, sauces were crafted together in an area smaller than a laundry.
Smiles and jokes on both sides of the counter and an acceptance that the real Australia is what the Halal Snack Pack is all about, bonding brothers (or Bruvvas) and sisters together. Now for a couple of interesting facts… Apparently the Halal Snack Pack does not originate in the Middle East… it was born (created) in Australia. Sydney to be precise. It appears to be a combination of food types best consumed by young boys who are burning so much energy through sport the calories don’t matter or those emerging from clubs after a big night out looking for recovery food.
So what is it made of? A polystyrene food container ( I have seen cardboard ) with hot chips on the bottom, layers and layers of freshly shaved meat (go the mixed lamb and chicken), shredded cheese on top of the meat which melts into the meat and then a choice of three sauces (have them all!) – Barbeque, Garlic Aoli and Chilli. It is a dish that shouts out friendship and sharing. Sometimes it is even served on a pizza base in a pizza box – genius. There always seems to be so much food in the box it is impossible to shut the lid.
It reminds me in a way of another late night food cousin – the Pie Floater. Vans outside clubs dispense a bowl with thick green pea soup, a hot pie upended in the sea of green and depending on whether you are Southerner or from Queensland tomato sauce or Worcestershire sauce is liberally squirted onto the top of the pie. I am pretty sure the HPF (Halal Pie Floater) exists somewhere in Australia.
I write this because some parents may think the Halal Snack Pack is part of some radicalisation program to convert young students from the schools of Melbourne and Sydney. Rest assured, the only hole in these boys lives it will fill is the one in their stomach – all for between 8 – 15 dollars – with or without drink.
There are websites dedicated to this food… and the fact that it is a sharing experience for everyone
There are some people, including one re-elected politician who does not believe in the Halal Snack Pack for reasons best described as xenophobic – hilarious given it was in fact invented in Australia.
So what was my personal verdict on the Halal Snack Pack? It is a meat lover’s dish that should be attempted once in your life. There is an art to consuming it without dropping sauce on yourself. Without a hard night out to precede or the metabolism of a 14 year old, I suggest that one might be enough.
We discovered the local seagulls down by the Yarra are absolutely fans of the HSP and when I could eat no more, I unkindly lobbed a chip towards an unsuspecting Joe who was suddenly surrounded by a flock of fifty seagulls, all screaming “Mine, Mine”.
I think the distant cousin of the HSP, the humble souvlaki (which too is halal) is still my favourite – and the way they are prepared in Oakleigh (Little Athens)
This brings me to another phenomena – today is the federal election day and in The Age there is a coverage of the best schools (voting locations) to go to for your traditional sausage sizzle which is generally used to raise funds for the school. Although we had already voted via post as both of us were out of Darwin, we ambled down to the Kensington Primary School which was offering bacon and egg sandwiches (definitely not Halal). What was impressive in the roundup of the best places to get your election sausage sizzle was that a large percentage were offering Halal sausage sizzles.
So no matter where you are voting today, I am sure there will be a stomach pleasing way to support your local school and their projects – which in Kensington Primary’s case was re-greening their small sports field with my favourite bit of garden bling – fake grass.
My phone was recently upgraded to the latest version of its operating system which includes a health dashboard. This among other things has a pedometer built into it. Although it gets the calculation of climbing flights of stairs wrong when you take the lift, the other day when we climbed the Kokoda Memorial Walk (1000 Steps) at Dandenong, it registered the equivalent of 81 flights of stairs, which my nieces and Joe climbed with me last weekend. Click on any of the pictures for a larger view.
For the younger ones, it was a chance to reflect with them on the hardships and sacrifices associated with war in general and in particular the hardships of the Kokoda Trail.
It is said that walking 10,000 steps a day is good for you… Like many good things, its origin lays in Japan. You can’t improve what you can’t measure which is another time-worn phrase so armed with the phone quietly calculating the number of steps I have been walking, I realised that I was following a famous comedian’s idea of exercise which was to “take a brisk sit”. Calculating the distance from our house to the ESA and NSIP offices in Collins Street, I decided to walk in and home. I enjoyed it so much the first day, I returned the next day, and the next.
I have only had the app for one month, and my first two weeks of that month had me at a sloth like 3000 steps a day. Since I started paying attention to the little orange dashboard, my average over this last month has risen to just over 7,000 and my average for the week just past was 13000 steps which has pushed me from sloth to active. I haven’t weighed myself nor gone on a diet because I am simply doing something that is enjoyable. Living less than 5 kilometres from the office in Melbourne means that a walk in and home, although consuming 2 hours, is also used to check emails, make calls and generally conduct business as normal – although I do sound a little puffed out on occasions when on the phone. An immediate result, partially due to the briskness of winter, is the increase in mental acuity and speed of dispatching tasks. At the other end of the day, a sound night’s sleep is an additional reward for the effort put in.
I tend to vary my path to and from work, not to confuse potential kidnappers, but to discover what wonderful plants and flowers that exist in front yards or in the case of commercial properties what wares they offer in their front shop windows.
Working alongside federal colleagues in the education arena provides me, as an employee of one of our national education jurisdictions, many opportunities to develop closer ties with them that can only come from direct contact. I could work from my home office in Melbourne and sometimes that definitely makes sense, but to have the opportunity to work in an office with other education professionals sharing ideas around a common goal of providing the best outcomes for our students regardless of whether they are in Borroloola, Brisbane or Bathurst is very stimulating and productive.
Being able to wander down and sample hot white chocolate with cinnamon sprinkled on top or a pulled pork sandwich from the Mason Dixon burger shop is a reward for those 10,000 steps and an added bonus for walking into town.
So today the people will decide on our government via a democratic process where every Australian over the age of 18 has the opportunity to vote.