It’s enough, already!

Some poor logistical planning recently on the part of my son and I saw us cruising the streets of Cullinan on a public holiday looking for a beer and lunch. But it seemed that many others had suffered poor logistical planning too and had also descended on the town, and all the more obvious eateries seemed fit to bursting. And then my son saw a sign for the Oppiestasie Restaurant & Pub pointing down a rutted dirt track. So there we went. It is, indeed, the old station. All the tables on the old platform were full so we were ushered inside, to what would have been a waiting room or ticket office. It’s a homely, small place, with wooden panelled walls and a wooden slatted ceiling that hasn’t been repainted from the days when it was a station, which must have been shortly after Mr Cullinan found his diamond. The ceiling’s pale green gloss enamel paint is now faded and stained by smoke to a pale brown, and some slats are coming alarmingly loose. Nevertheless there’s a sense of character to the place which makes one feel right at home. Outside, where the railway tracks were, is a playgound for children, trains having become no more than a ghostly memory. The friendly young waitress warned us that we faced a wait for our orders as they were understaffed and under pressure. No matter, we assured her. We had the whole day ahead of us free of the cares of work, the state of the nation etc. And so we settled down with a couple of beers to a good chat ~ family skinder, and banter about this and that. In time we ordered a simple lunch of homemade beef pies and salad, and more beer. Now here’s the thing. I have eaten food out of many things in my decades upon this earth. Plates of paper, china, plastic and enamel, plastic lunch boxes, metal scoff tins, planks of wood (of dubious cleanliness), slabs of super-heated granite or cast-iron (that continued to cook one’s medium-rare steak to the point of ruination), even banana leaves. Not to mention the more modern fad by a certain fish restaurant chain of serving food in cheap aluminium frying pans. But Oppiestasie in Cullinan has taken absurd eating surfaces to a whole new level. For in time, from the kitchen, appeared two old miner’s shovels, the handles shortened to a few inches, and the shovel part resting on four welded-on bits of round-bar to make the thing stand level.
In the shovels were our pies and salad with a small enamel mug of thick gravy for the pie. The grub itself wasn’t bad. The pies were, indeed, home-made, generous both in size and in their filling, which was a wellflavoured mixture of tender gristle-free beef chunks and mince in a rich sauce, and the salad a generous portion of lettuce, tomato, and the usual. A bottle of vinaigrette dressing, which appeared unbidden to adorn the salad, drew the comment from my son that it added an interesting, somewhat galvanic, flavour to the salad when it came into contact with the steel of the shovel. Hmmm… Now don’t get me wrong. Full marks to the owners of the pub for some imaginative thinking. The rear of the pub overlooks the Cullinan Mine’s big hole (incidentally, at one time the largest man-made hole in the world), and miners’ shovels must have been ten-apenny in the town at one time. But it’s enough, already. Because where to from here? Imagine, for a moment, what the next bright idea for eating surfaces might be. Imagine, for example, a pub near a hospital (it would probably have a name like The Broken Syringe or The Surgeon’s Scalpel). And imagine if the owners became really “creative”. Would they serve the food in old bedpans? And then I saw a boredpanda list on the internet entitled weird-food-serving-ideas-restaurants-we-want-plates, and I realised that, somewhere on this crazy planet, it’s already been done. Well, not a bedpan, exactly, but there’s a restaurant in Cuba that serves food in a porcelain urinal. Chunks of welldone meat smothered in a thick, brown gravy. Whether the obvious resemblance of this dish to the usual contents of a water closet is intentional I have no idea. But it’s better, perhaps, than being served a urinal full of chicken soup.

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