Ah, potatoes. The contortionists of comfort food, the big warm hug of the veggie patch. Lauded for their humility, milked for their vodka and jammed in the exhaust pipe of Datsuns parked in cul-de-sacs across the world. They dominate international cuisine, are friend to fat, and comprise one half of the happiest marriage, steak frites. Potatoes are for the proletariat, having kept the poorest people alive since Paleolithic man unearthed the carby carbuncle and disproved the Paleo Diet. And so, it’s with admiration that I pin a new medal of honour to potato’s dirty brown, already laden lapel: spuds galvanise friendships. I stopped frequenting pubs when I stopped being a soak, only occasionally ducking in on a fever-hot day to enjoy the icy AC, and not a G&T or sixteen. I miss the camaraderie in the communal drowning of sorrow, but happily surrender the lonely drowning in sorrows that inevitably followed. Soon after putting down my last schooner I picked up my first steak knife, trading a dangerous crutch for… well, a dangerous utensil. And with the best cheap steak coming off the pub grill, I traded nights spent slavishly propping up the bar for nights spent searching my old crawl for the best fresh meat. On a Wednesday evening after work, we wander into The Light Brigade, on Oxford Street in Sydney’s Paddington. After walking indirectly, and talking zealously, for two hours, we two new colleagues have discovered broad planes of common ground. Inhabited only by noisy squirrels. The special is 250g rump steak with chips or mash and veges or salad ($12, save $10) plus gravy or chimichurri. The steak is pleasingly charred and medium-rare, the chimichurri earthy and zesty, the baked vegetables doleful, sopping with oil. We can only stop talking long enough to grab a chip, then… oh. No talking. No talking, please! These are the chips that mend broken hearts and fill the deep well of misery. These golden batons are salve for the soul of the soak; beer battered and dunked in smoking hot oil, blessed with salt – they are faultless. Finally quieted, by the pleasure of food and the squeaky wheel of new friendship, we demolish steak frites. And the next Wednesday night, then the one after that. Everyone knows you won’t win friends with salad, but you can win friends with chips. I won’t ever again raise a glass to the potato [po-tah-toe?], but I’d like to say thanks. Thanks to an old friend for my new friend.

2 thoughts on “THE LIGHT BRIGADE

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