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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

THE SEAFOOD BALLAD

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

THE SEAFOOD BALLAD

Andrew Ryan

My brother won a seafood platter on the weekend. Seafood platter from a pub in the area we live in, a coastal place, pub is a Fish Pub, there was a raffle on while he was there, Lions Club or something, 5 bucks for 3 tickets, and my brother won sooooo much seafood.

He invited me over for dinner, and picked me up from my house because a 15 minute walk is too far in this cold wet weather when you’re as skinny and skittish as I am, and on the drive I asked him if he knew where the two crabs in the prize came from, he said nah, but they were fresh, not any more though! In the freezer! Frozen crabs are better than no crabs. Too right.

Our meal for that night was not the crabs, but the mussels that were also part of this prize. 2 kilograms of mussels, his first time makin’ Chilli Mussels, go for it bro, and it was delicious, a touch more watery than he expected, I think, but I put that down to the amount of ice attached to the mussels that were thrown in to the pot straight from the packet. I didn’t get a look at the packet to see where the mussels came from. I was too distracted.

Distracted by talking about our recent acquisition of family history knowledge, while he and his mate were preparing the food. We talked about it a bit over dinner too. We’ve recently gone on hunts to find family, you see, cousins we haven’t known since we were little, which I was keen to do because there are heaps of them, and some times I’ve felt a little lost in the world knowing that there is plenty of family out there that I don’t know much about. Through the searches, I found out that an uncle and a great uncle had each written a book- the uncle on his military career, the great uncle on his theatre career. We found where our Aboriginal heritage is, found out that me and my brother are the first generation on our dad’s side that wasn’t born in Queensland, right back to QLD’s first people, I shit you not. I’m not sure how much seafood our Mandandanji ancestors would have eaten. I look forward to learning about that history. Also, mine is the first generation of our Palmer name that wasn’t involved in the military, all the way back to 1700’s England. How’s that? Straya.

We chatted about all these things a bit, over mussels of unknown origin, relishing in a food-treat neither of us would think to purchase for ourselves. Talked about how our great-grand mother was an aboriginal woman who’s aboriginality (and, subsequently, ours) was repressed thanks to shitty governmental policies. The decade we were born, the Queensland government was still projecting to the world that Aboriginal people didn’t know how to use money, didn’t understand land ownership, young people taken away from their families and raised in missions, beaten for speaking their language, the Australian people ignored the realities of the sub-standard living conditions that the government had created and maintained over multiple generations… despite countless political actions throughout the country to fight for Indigenous Rights.

I held my tongue at the time about this next thing, but I was also thinking about how Bibbulmun people, Southern Western Australian natives, left the coast this time of year. They would leave the coast upon the arrival of Makuru, the cold wet season, and head inland, up to the hills, the place where my brother and I spent our teenage years. This time of year, traditionally, according to the seasons, people of this land weren’t eating seafood, they were doing the inland diet of kangaroo and tubers.

Storms, dude, they’re pretty heavy this time of year. That’s why people with brains/money don’t hang out here when they’re around. I don’t do well in the cold, I’m pretty skinny and pretty broke all-the-time too, so luxuries like leaving during Makuru, or like, living in a properly sealed house and using a good quality heater are not things I have known well for the last few years. I also have a strong set of environmental and socio-political values that make me feel soooooo not good about using those sorts of things that even in other peoples houses, even in my old therapist’s office, I would prefer to have heating/cooling systems left off. Suck it up. It’s where we are. Should just build better buildings instead of contributing to the economy of digging up more sacred places and exploiting other humans in order to feel more comfortable in the environments we were born in to. Only we can make the change.

I ate those Chilli Mussels, and I relished the first meal I’ve eaten with my brother since moving back to Perth. It was a bit weird when his mate’s brother + basketball team members rocked up after their sport victory and were all testosterone fuelled talking about dicks and sex and feinding for beers and calling me darling in That Weird Masculine Way right after our lovely respectful meal but like, you know, I held my own and dealt with it the best I could.

My thoughts about that particular interaction are a story for another time.

The End.