One thing us expatriate sand gropers will never get used to is the god-awful muck served up as "iced coffee" east of Eucla. I have travelled far and wide in this wide brown land, and many of my travels have been sustained by the magic of the coffee bean - but I prefer to ingest it in chilled form, for this is indeed a hot, wide brown land, and whilst a piping hot coffee might make sense to someone driving a rig across an ice road in Alaska, it's a silly flipping thing to be drinking when the sun is hot enough to fry turtles before they can cross from one side of the road to the other.
I have found that this is a position also sympathetic to Territorians and those that stuff murder victims into oil drums. When it's hot, the sickly sweetness of Coke just doesn't do it for you after the second or third mouthful - but an icy cold, strong iced coffee is as refreshing and palate cleaning as it gets.
When at home, I am a creature of habit, preferring to dine at the same place day after day, eating the same meal if need be for weeks on end. But when I hit the road, I put on my adventuresome head, and poke my nose into all sorts of weird establishments in search of perfection - or at least something edible and drinkable. I am yet to find a place that serves the magical combination of a perfect iced coffee together with the perfect vanilla slice, but I will not stop looking for it until my final breath.
Last weekend's jaunt took me far from Sydney - I think we ended up spending around 15 hours on the road - and a trip like that usually provides several opportunities to sample the local produce. I normally do my own ordering, simply because I have found that given the chance between doing something right and fucking it up, most people will choose the second option. I like to place my order, repeat it and then ask for it to be read back. That doesn't eliminate the second option entirely, but it does have a material impact on how often the second option is selected.
In this instance, I had to forego ordering and delegated the task to J. I had my hands full with a Monkey smearing a chocolate covered donut all over his face, so J shouldered the burden of facing the fuckup factory on my behalf.
I think we were lulled into a false sense of security by the curly chairs, the hand-lettered menu, the funky decor and the air of quite industry that the place had about it. You see, last time we were in this particular town, they hadn't heard of coffee. I don't think they'd heard of electricity either, and some of the locals certainly hadn't made an acquaintance with a dentist or a shower in a long, long time. The appearance of this cafe, with its purple lettering and the staff with rings through their noses showed that civilisation had at last reached this corner of our wide, brown land, and with it, perhaps an appreciation of the art of making an iced coffee.
Boy, was I deluded. That veneer of civilisation was no more real than the set of a ghost town in your average 1950's Hollywood cowboy movie. I was so taken aback at what we were served, I had to take a photo of it. Instead of putting a shot of freshly extracted espresso into a glass, and the topping it with cold milk and ice cubes, they poured some horrible coffee syrup into a glass and topped it with cold milk. No ice. No coffee. About 90 teaspoons of sugar.
SO HOW WAS THAT A FUCKING ICED COFFEE????!!!!!!!
I was so entranced by the coffee syrup that sat in the bottom of the glass that I photographed it as I drew a straw through it - it wasn't even mixed in properly. There was at least half an inch of pale, unmixed syrup sitting in the bottom of the glass. It had the consistency of warm snot.
The only upside of this little debacle is that we discovered that the Monkey liked it. Don't ask how a three year old managed to get his hands on a tall glass of "iced coffee". The thought of a caffeine-crazed 3 year old in the back of a car for 5 hours would send most parents around the bend, but we were safe, because the coffee syrup appeared to not contain any actual coffee, or caffeine. It was just sweet, brown, cool milk. With thick pale snot in the bottom. Utterly disgusting to me, but completely fascinating to the Monkey. Other parents might recognise a phrase like, "I drinking ice coffee", followed by a large dribble of brown milk down the chin as he tried to talk and drink through a straw at the same time.
When I went inside to pay the bill, I noticed two signs.
One stated that they were desperate for a barista.
The other stated that they needed a cook.
Given how utterly crap the coffee was, I'm just glad we didn't eat there.