Arriving in Australia, Jackie decided she’d come to a quasi-paradise.
“I was frightened a bit in the early days. I originally arrived in Far North Queensland. Rain forests. The Great Barrier Reef. Visually stunning, but the ‘sticks’ food-wise. In Australia, the food culture hits the cities first and trickles into the country. I was fresh from New York. I may not have done much to improve on our “Ugly American” reputation by terrorizing the restaurants with my slick city standards and Manhattan-molded demands. I’m surprised they didn’t slam the food in front of me and scream, “Just bloody eat it!” but that would have been decidedly un-Australian.”
The beauty and the sense of hopefulness coupled with the bounty of incredible produce available across the board, and the multicultural abundance of restaurants, markets, food stores, etc., wore down Jackie’s tough Brooklyn barnacles.
“I have never seen a culture that embraces such a wide variety of good food. One of the things I especially love about Australia is great food is not an exclusive commodity. From the little fruit purveyor and the neighborhood butcher, to the huge chain stores and the sumptuous open-air markets, there is a high standard of quality and competitive food prices. There is no delineation based on income levels or what neighborhoods you live in. There is such a respect for food there. I totally fell in love with it.”
It was so disheartening when I returned to New York and was forced to shop in the hermetically sealed, genetically engineered vegetable section in my neighborhood supermarket. I’d see them seriously selling pink tomatoes and I’d want to break down and cry. But I’d stay strong knowing that I knew a place where I could still squeeze those juicy red beauties before I bought ’em.”
And she finally felt really comfortable singing.
“I was in Australia maybe three days. I’d been horseback riding with my friend, Barbara, in this huge tea plantation near the Great Barrier Reef. Our host was serving us cups of tea that he boiled up in his ‘billy’ (a can that Australians would hang over the open fire when traveling in the Outback in the old days) and he was playing “Waltzing Matilda” and singing. He asked if anyone else wanted to sing and I froze. Barbara piped up, ‘My friend Jackie sings.’ It was all eyes on me and I did it. It was like someone opened a floodgate. I was singing on boats, in karaoke clubs and at festivals. I was winning prizes! When I finally moved to Melbourne, I realized my dream and worked as a professional singer!”