I’m in Hobart, Tasmania staying in a generous corner room on the 15th floor of a rather grand hotel just over the road from Salamanca Place. From my room I look from one window back out over the city snuggled into the hills and from the other, out across towards the water. I say snuggled because it is cold and grey rain laden clouds are moving towards us – the hills offering some protection. And it’s cold. Even in my room it’s cold.
I am here for the fifth PopCaanz conference. I haven’t missed one yet but each time they come around I swear I won’t submit an abstract or register. This conference always costs a bomb. The venues are always very grand and the food is amazing. But for any one interested in popular culture, it is like being in a lolly shop. There is so much to choose from and every panel is so tempting.
Today I am presenting in the biography stream. I am talking about a find I had in the New York City Library whilst researching Dione Lucas. I was told that The New Yorker had an extensive archive at the library and that often commissioned stories, along with their run and kill folders had been kept. I had read a 1948 profile of Dione Lucas written by Angelica Gibbs and I wondered if the accompanying folders were in the archive.
As a visitor to New York I felt very special presenting my New York Library card to the librarian in the special archive section.
The run and kill folder had been kept and its 100 + pages had the original article and all of its subsequent edits as well as fact checks and a fascinating dialogue between Angelica Gibbs and her editor. They hated Dione and they hated her crowd of culinary hangers on. This had come across in Gibbs’ profile but the run and kill was telling and vicious.
I had hoped that this folder would help me with biographical information that I had not been able to check. Dione’s stories about her life changed over time and as an early profile I hoped I could get the real story before Dione changed it in later years. But I got more than that. I realised that as famous as she was, she did brag and boast and she was disliked by many. She was even probably a bit superior with her British artistic pedigree and her accent. As a result I stopped liking her too much and started thinking about her life in a more realistic way.
So that is that paper.
Then tomorrow I am talking in the food stream. I am talking about the White Wings Dairy Bake Off, an Australian cooking competition based on the Pillsbury Bake Off and a bit like a 1970s version of Masterchef but without the Masterchef house or Matt Preston and of course no TV cameras watching every move nor editors cutting out a show fit for TV audiences. I am interested in the year that Galloping Gourmet Graham Kerr became the chairman and changed it from a baking competition for housewives with a team of female home economists as judges, to a search for a distinctive Australian Cuisine with an international panel of famous chefs as judges. I am still thinking about this competition and the way it changed course then died a few years later.
And so it is time to register now and start the day. The sky is lightening up a bit and the clouds appear to be moving on. The traffic is building in the street below.