About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006
My Mate Frank
A few posts ago, I mentioned something about two Swiss guys that I met in a place called Woods Point. Both were called Francois, but in a pragmatic Australian fashion, we called one Frank and the other Francois. Frank was an ever smiling, bushy bearded itinerant, that had lodged for the moment in this gold mining town, before the last remaining mine, the A1, was closed. Woods Point was a once thriving town, born from the discovery of the Morning Star reef, one of the richest ever discovered in Victoria. At its height it boasted a post office, a police court, a hospital, a school, three churches, three banks, two newspapers, three breweries and numerous shops and hotels, servicing a population of some two thousand people, that lived in three suburbs that somehow fitted into the narrow valley where Woods Point was located.

Frank lived in a large, old, rambling weatherboard, in what was probably one of the original suburbs, a short walk down a dirt track, overlooking the headwaters of the Upper Goulburn River. The house was like a rabbit warren with rooms on several levels. At one point part of the house was converted into a restaurant that Frank and Francois ran together, an amazing achievement in a town that had a permanent population of about 45 at the time, but was augmented by tourists, mostly four wheel drive enthusiasts and trail bike riders. I had friends who owned a holiday house there, and we enjoyed many a meal at the restaurant Diggers Delight, where we became firm friends of the two Swiss.

Francois despite no formal training, fancied himself as a chef and was in charge of the kitchen, which really meant he was in charge of himself. Very often he would pop out and sit at the table with us, drinking our wine, which no-one really minded, as it was part of the ambiance of this improbable restaurant. Bats were known to fly in, searching for moths, do a couple of laps of the dining room and just as quickly exit. Sometimes, some of our party would help out in the kitchen; it was a laid back kind of place. On some nights it would turn into a poker place, when the locals would turn up and play cards into the wee hours, drinking the local white lightning, which I can report is not all that much different to drain cleaner.

It was at Diggers Delight where I had my first experience of a number of European dishes such as choucroute and fondue, where Frank wickedly served up a meat dish to us and a few of the locals before asking what we thought of the meat, in such a way that we knew something was up. After a few local girls had left, he informed us that it was horse meat from a horse that the girls knew well, but was not as forthcoming as to the circumstances by which the beast had met its fate.

Frank loved to ramble far and wide and brought back to the restaurant wild foods such as stinging nettles and mushrooms. A particular mushroom that he found up there was a member of the boletus family and was probably a Phaeogyroporus portentosus, which is one enormous mushroom, with a cap that can be over 100 cm (39 ") and weigh many kilos. Frank used to slice them up and dry them in onion bags over his fire place. He once gave me a large jar of them all dried out and it was to last me many years. He also found morels there as well, only a few, as it was far from their favourite habitat.

One time he discovered a very prospective gold claim which he managed to onsell to a gold mining company. Another time a group of us decided that we could find a gold mine, I can't say that we had been drinking at the time, we might have been, but we were definitely convinced of our prospecting abilities. After a drive, we dashed off into the bush, down the side of a mountain, directed by Frank. After half an hour of walking we found an outcrop of quartz, oozing from the ground, so we continued on until we came to the head of a small creek where we started to pan. Bugger me, after a bit of digging the loose gravel we started to get colour! We panned and swapped stories for a while, before starting the ascent up the mountain. By the time we got to the top, we were so worn out, that all thoughts of becoming gold miners left us.

Frank used to travel a lot and spent a lot of time in Guatemala and I think Honduras, always prospecting. Odd things would turn up in the post, like chile seeds that he thought I would like, though I never planted them. Another time, on his return from Switzerland, he packed his favourite cheese into his sleeping bag. It was around the time of the first troubles with Iran and airport security had been stepped up. Customs were going through everything and Frank realizing the game was up told them where to find it. Later he told me that he talked customs into letting him eat as much of the cheese as he could. Eventually he went to court and the magistrate was so amused by Frank and his stories that he fined him only thirty dollars.

There is a type of person that can never quite settle down in life, and Frank was from that mould. He loved volcanoes, had books about them and had traveled to see them; even in Woods Point he was close to volcanoes, as the gold deposits had been formed by their action. The last time I ever saw Frank was at the airport, going back to Guatemala to live amongst the natives in their huts with dirt floors, chickens wandering in and out, lizards on the walls. I think he met someone there, but in his quiet way he never said much about her.

Life is funny in that when you say goodbye to someone, you never really know that you will see them again, even though the expectation is that you will. I guess that when you say goodbye to someone you know and love, you should say goodbye like it will be the last time, or at the very least make it heartfelt. I hope that I did that for Frank. The call came about ten years ago at two in the morning. It was Francois calling from Switzerland, Frank had died from a stroke.

Vale Frank, I miss you.
  posted at 2:36 pm

At 9:50 am, Blogger pentacular said...

I wonder, did I ever meet Frank? I know the other Francois but by your description I'm sure I'd remember? Great post N!

At 3:54 pm, Blogger Reb said...

What a lovely obituary, even if his death was 10 years ago. It's left a tear in my eye. Frank's lucky to be so warmly remembered, an immortality we all desire. Well done.

At 7:54 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi pentacular, you probably did meet him, he lived in the big old house on the way to the first crossing, though by the time you started to go to the Point I think the restaurant was closed.

Hi reb, I had no idea that I was going to wtite that until I mentioned his name a few posts ago, then all the old memories started to flood in. Because Frank was fond of peregrinations I don't think anyone would have written anything about him here, even though he was much loved by those he knew.


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