Because of the simpel fact that a human have to eat every day, means that there are no days off for a cook working at a station. So, every day; 7 days a week; 14 hours a day.
But if you compare the kitchen duties with the outdoor workers, there’s is no reason to complain.
Outdoor work means a lot of times in the sun, physical work and -sometimes- no breaks. No toilets, no facilities and earlier mornings. Working in the kitchen means airconditioning, always time for break and no pressure (if your time managing is right). You can eat whenever you want and you start later in the mornings.
Strathmore Station is divided on two different locations on the whole property. To give you an idea of the size of this land: it took three days to drive from one side to the other.
Our location was divided in two camps; Camp A and Camp B.
The boss and his family, the long term workers and personal helpers where stationed in Camp A. Sleeping and eating.
Camp B was for the outdoor and short-term workers. This is also where I slept.
The kitchen where I cooked the meals was in Camp A. This ment that -every morning- I drove on a quat (during sunrise!) to Camp A.
There were moments that I felt like a cowgirl version of snowhite. Driving between a wallabie family, de flying birds in the sky and the cows around you on the fields.
Sometimes, the drive up to the other camp looked like a battlefield. It happened almost on a regular basis, that there were dead wallabies on the road. It’s not that the people who hit them did this on purpose..
It’s the dark.
Once, when I was driving at night between the camps, I had to stand on my brakes really fast because of a wallaby family who was about to cross the road. Off course you have a front light, but this is limited.
During the day you could see them upfront, so you already slow down before hand.
And every evening (when there is no light and you can see the milkyway), I drove back to Camp B.
A perfect start AND end of the day.
It depends on the time of the year how many cows are walking close to the camp. There was a time, that I had to wait for the cows to cross. They just stare at you with their dumb eyes (which they aren’t). Don’t do any harm, they just walk slowly, one followed by the other one, to move from place to place.
Back home you wait for the people to cross, here you wait for the cows and wallabies. Sometimes even the dogs made you wait.
It’s hard to describe a totally different world to someone who haven’t seen it for themselves. A daily routine for me as a cook in a kettle staton is a good beginning to give a sneak preview of a normal-kettle-station-day.
7:00 AM Morning coffee at Camp A
8:00 AM Start cooking smoko
9:30 AM Smoko
11:30 AM Clean kitchen
12:00 PM Feed the dogs
12:30 PM Start preparing dinner
13:00 PM Lunch
14:00 PM Finish preparation dinner/feed the pig
15:30 PM Bake cake/cookies/dessert
17:00 PM Start dinner cooking
20:30 PM Dinner
22:00 PM Clean kitchen
Smoko is what we call brunch. A meal after breakfast and before lunch. Only was this like a big breakfast. Eggs, beacon, potatoes, pancakes and more..
On Sundays (days off), means for the kitchen staff; starting at three o’clock. Again, a human still gotta eat.
Personally, in the beginning, I had a hard time to keep up with the people who were living at the station for a long time already. The long days, new information and slighlty stressed about the cooking, was exhausting. But as always, I told myself this was the start. I just had to find my way and get used to the long days.
This was true. It took me three weeks to completely adjust; physically and mentally.
In those three weeks I experienced the emotion loneliness. And apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Almost everyone who I asked felt the same way in the beginning. Because everyhting is so different then you are used to.
This was my experience at least. Even though I saw formilair faces and had nice and caring people around me.
Cycling alone on the road for months – nothing. And in this scene – I did.
This was a little process for myself.
It took some time to adjust in the kitchen. The main reason for this was because of insecurity.
‘What if I ruined this meal? Then nobody can eat?!’
Twice, I had a incident which I really thought I crewed it up.
But then there was the boss his wife.. also worked in the kitchen years ago. She always had a trick to make it good again. Do-able.
Or there was nothing and I stressed for nothing..
But the longer you cook, the more comfortable you get. At the end, it was even a little boring because of the lack of challenge.
Feeding the pig; disgusting choir but rewarding.
It feels so good to not throw left-over- food away. Separate the meat for the dogs and the rest for the pig. Circle of life.
The sweet eyes from that huge animal are so full over love when he looks at you after you gave him the bucket of food.
While he is eating (which is also a good decoy), you were able to fill up his water holes. And because the sun makes sure that the water doesn’t last the whole day because of the heat, it’s importent to fill them as much as possible.
It’s standing as a statue while you are waiting till the waterhole is filled up.
But eh, what else do you have to do?
‘Ok, preparing meals.. but for now.. This is what you have to do’.
‘So why rush?’
This sentence helped me a lot though this time. It gave me rest. I have nothing else to do anyway!
Every day, after smoko and cleaning the kitchen, I fed the dogs.
This made me so happy.
Walking towards the dogs who begin to bark and moving there tails because they see you. Off course, they know they get food. But I wanted to believe that they where happy to see mee to.
At the beginning there were also puppies. But after a while they got sold and there was only one left.
This one, I could let it ran outside and if followed me everywhere. Running, hiding, jumping.. amazing.
The meat was the killer for your hands. Pieces of meat from around 15 kilo’s.
Every day you have to cut and move these big pieces. Your hands have to get use to this.
Blisters, cuts and burns are also part of a daily routine.
I have a nice burn wound on my arm from the spagetti carbonara, which I was trying to move on a Sunday evening.
Everything was done, I only had to change the big (hot!) scale. But it was heavy and I let it slip a little through my hand..
My other arm was touching the scale. Immidiately there was a huge blister appearing. Now it’s a scar.
I will never forget Strathmore. Ad least my skin won’t.
Every Thursday was food-delivery-day
That ment that a truck parked before the kitchen, we opent the little fence, and everyone who was there at the moment helped with unpacking. We’re not talking about normal grocery bags from the supermarket. No.
Think about meat, vegetables, milk, potatoes and drinks for around 40 people for a week. A lot to unpack.
For us -kitchen staff- it was a good day, because we could decide what we were about to cooking that night. Everything was in storage again. Sometimes it happened that there wasn’t enough.. then you had to be creative.
Every Tuesday and Thursday there was personal delivery. So, if you needed smokes, shampoo or something extra, you had to order it in advance. You pay over the phone with your card and they deliver it.
It’s hard work, but you know that’s what you come there to do
At the other hand, you can save good money because you have nothing to spend it on!
And enjoy the simplicity of life. No extra’s from the outside world.
- One night I drove with someone on a quat, a couple of kilometers in land. Once ‘parked’, there was nothing around us. Everything was open, left-right-front and in the sky. You feel small and vonarable, but at the same time you feel grateful. I did.
- Just sitting and talking while staring at the milkyway and counting how many falling stars you have seen.