DIRTY WORK

FORCED TO DRINK BEER AND EAT DELICIOUS TASSIE TUCKER, ROOTHY REFLECTS ON THE HEAVY BURDEN OF BEING A CAMPFIRE COOK OFF JUDGE.

JOHN ROOTH

Phew! I just got home from the 2015 Tasmanian Campfire Cook Off, sponsored by Opposite Lock (OL) and crewed by the Derwent Valley 4WD Club. Itís a tough gig, this Roothy caper, Iíll tell you! Forced to fly all the way to beautiful Tasmania, then an hourís drive north of Hobart up through picturesque Richmond and the beautiful Coal Valley and then finally on to one of farmer Kerryís lambing paddocks for the annual Campfire Cook Off to undertake several gruelling hours of judging.

Yep, even the wife doesnít believe this could be classed as work, but I try telling her that, anyway. I mean, five teams cooking entrees, mains and deserts all on open fire pits on a crisp Tasmania day on the side of a hill with magnificent views all around. Sigh... She just canít see how tough it is.

I was invited down last year as a guest judge for the first ever Cook Off and Iím kind of hoping it gets to be a habit.

The Derwent Valley 4WD club crew are not only very serious about their vehicles and off-roading, theyíre also a wonderfully family-orientated group that really enjoys working and playing together. And they donít mind a drink, just quietly, either. Iím thinking the band stopped sometime well after midnight and I know I went to sleep to the clink of glasses and tinnies.

Not before Iíd had more fun than the average circus. I felt very humbled by the incredible effort put in by Josh and his dad Todd to build a Milo replica that really performed well off-road. Josh let me have plenty of goes with it and I had a ball chasing the kids around and clambering over the log pile. It was a great way to sort out a few more tricks for the real thing, too. Although, getting Milo to stand up on her front axle by roaring forwards and then slamming it into reverse could be a tad hard on the old cogs. And the old driver...

Itís more than just an afternoon filled with great food and a party, itís also an opportunity for a whole lot of the different sides of four-wheel driving to come together in an informal way. I was there representing both LowRange and Unlock Australia, but the other judges also included Brian Hevey, the National Council President of 4WD Australia; my old mate Pat the Track, who leads the way in a portal-axled GU trayback; Yogi, a very senior Parks Tasmania officer; Craig from Lightforce, who co-sponsored the event; and Ken Orr, whoís standing for the Shooters and Fishers Party at the next elections.

That is a wild and wonderful selection of interests, I can tell you! But at heart we all love the bush and want to do whatís right for it and itís at a function like this when everybodyís relaxed and having fun that some real common ground can be found.

To be honest, I reckon a bit of banter on the judgeís table, surrounded by bushloving 4WDers, probably does more good for the track-opening cause than anything else we do.

Or maybe I just love food. Look, I canít describe how good the meals were. From the Landy clubís Roadkill pie to bacon and chicken damper; from oysters Kilpatrick to curried scallops; from Chuck wagon stew (everything in the wagon chucked in the pot) to Milo pudding Ė this was a foodieís treat! And with a Peopleís Choice award up for grabs, you can bet the teams were keen to share the love around!

I want to thank the Derwent Valley 4WD club, OL, which always provides plenty of prizes and organisational backing, Lightforce, Hillbilly and Waeco, which helps out with even more prizes, and, of course, my old mate Brad Blackburn from OL Hobart. He invited me to the event on that first year around. I think weíre looking at a tradition here, folks, and Iíd love to see more of this across the country. Like bush cooking itself, get it right and there is nothing better!