Stuffed Artichokes - Chicken Cotoletta - Mum's Tomato Salad
My Mum lives in a place called Coomboona – though very little evidence exists to confirm that this is even a ‘place’. You can't get there following road signs, for Coomboona has no signage to indicate its existence; there is no township; no post office (though legend has it that there was one, once); and Google Maps is in the unfriendly habit of ignoring us altogether in favour of adding the prefix ‘North’ to the name of the nearest town (a substantial distance away) and lumping us in with them. For all of this though, Coomboona is what the place has always been called, and despite its apparent obscurity, it’s not all that difficult to get to from Melbourne … or not until the very last minute at least. Heading north for about 2hrs or 200 kilometres on the huge corridor of the Hume Highway, Coomboona is just one exit away. Well, one exit, and one barely marked little right hand turn.
The road onto which this hidden turn takes you is very long, and runs straight as a die. A distant line of bush shimmers at its end, glimmering green forest gums marking the edge of the Goulburn river. The straight set of the road is deceptive though, for as you drive along, a circuitous cast of characters and scenes to rival Alice’s experience in Wonderland appear out the window to either side...
First, there are the Alpacas to the right. Though normally found on chilly Peruvian hillsides, they seem, to me at least, equally happy munching down the dry summer grass that grows high along the fence-lines of the flat river plain, (though what might constitute an unhappy alpaca face, I don’t know). Next, and to the left, are some pomegranate plantations, flowers red and large like hibiscus on lush green shrubs lending an incongruous tropical feel. Further, and to the other side of the road, are acres of vineyard and a little winery bottling up classic French varieties grown half a world away from their original home. A small distance further again, across from some orchards of apple and pear, a hundred or so little brown and white dairy goats wander curiously at the feet of the lofty knock-kneed camels who are their strange new field-mates, (this recent and particularly unlikely addition to the roadside menagerie a surprise even to me).
But past all of this, when you seem to be almost at the bush line itself, and when black and white dairy cows are beginning to appear to both sides, you are finally almost there. Look up for the glimpse of white roof above the trees, and turn in through the black iron gates – a final rabbit hole through the rabbit hole – Coomboona Homestead, the green garden oasis amidst an Australian bush backdrop of eucalypt and sun-burnt yellow that my Mum calls home.