The first Christmas I spent as an agency nurse on Badu island I was befriended by the local lady who managed the motel. Two single women rattling around an otherwise empty motel for six weeks led to a close friendship. She invited me to her cousins for Christmas lunch. A beautifully prepared feast of rolled stuffed pork, grilled locally caught fish, salads and vegetables, turtle eggs, coconut damper and dugong. Her cousin and I also became fast friends, she told me about her years working as a chef in Darwin and Rockhampton and most days after that Christmas she called me to stop by her house after work to collect a takeaway container full of tasty food. Both these wonderful women have since passed away but along with my memories of them they left me with many of their favourite handwritten recipes. This one for Namass, is popular in the Torres Straits for preparing raw fish, no doubt other women have their favourite way of preparing it, but this one was Margie’s favourite.

Make a sugar syrup with quarter cup of each, white sugar and lemon or lime juice, put on a low heat until sugar melted add chopped chillies and sliced Spanish onion. Slice fish (Queen or Trevally are good) thinly and lay on a platter. When syrup cool pour over fish slices and marinade for 1 hour, drain discard syrup and lay onions and chilli over fish.

This picture was taken in Margies kitchen.

Odd Friends

When you find yourself in a remote place you welcome any overtures of friendship. loneliness, culture shock and generally figuring out how you’re going to fill in the hours after work can be quite a challenge.

A sulphur-crested cockatoo befriended Fasi and I one afternoon. It was sitting on the guttering of the clinic building just above our heads, leaning over peering at us as we talked. When we walked the hundred or so metres home along the red dirt track, it flew through the gum trees, over our heads and landed on the metal railing outside the kitchen, loudly calling “hello”. It must have once been someone’s pet, although we never found out whose, and it never ventured far from the back verandah and it’s water and sunflower seed tray, from the day it arrived till the day we left.

I loved that bird, it brought another dimension to the harsh life I was experiencing in Aurukun. Just watching it waddle about on the railing or wandering into the house made me smile.