ddespite the fact that Victoria is still in deep winter in November, record numbers of people queued up to vote early for this weekend’s state election. Braving torrential rain, sunshine, hail, thunderstorms, off-the-charts hayfever and humidity – often all in the same hour – so many people cast their vote ahead of time that some social media users began to wonder if there would be anybody Left at the church hall on Saturday.
As a busy millennial (we’re 40 now) I too considered voting early. Saturdays are for standing in line for green goddess salads, not polls! I even went to the VEC website to find my nearest center, trying to decide which of my Friday afternoon meetings could be emails while I went out to vote.
But I stopped myself. As it turns out, there’s something even sweeter than the opportunity to exercise your democratic rights.
Every day I drive past my local primary school. This is the school my kids went to, long ago. After 10 years in the neighborhood I hardly notice it. But this month, as we’ve approached Election Day, it’s been adorned with a beautiful real estate-style board displaying bright illustrations and bold lettering. An important message. Critical, even, to the future of my humanity.
“SAUSAGE SIZZLE,” it says. And, underneath, “+CAKE STALL”.
The democracy sausage has been a PR triumph. In 2016 it was the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s word of the year. Whether you’re teaming “sausage in bread” or “sausage sizzle”, this snack has spun out into a veritable smorgasbord of choice.
Election-day sausages are found in hotdog buns, Turkish bread, roti, brioche rolls. There are posh sausages (Italian-style pork), vegetarian alternatives (pea protein) and the classic (“thin BBQ” – meat not specified). They can come laden with cheese and caramelised onions or alongside self-serve tommy-t/barbecue sauce/hot mustard/cold mustard. Sometimes they’re not sausages at all but an allusion: a bacon and egg roll; To install a brekkie burrito.
The democracy sausage has, by 2022, matured into a meal that offers something for everyone – which is more than can be said for the political parties on the ballot. Does that make it the best?
No, it doesn’t. Not while we have cake stalls. These staples of school fairs and church fetes are the source of great pleasure (for Country Women’s Association members) and enormous stress (working mothers). As a child I was lucky enough to have a nanna who seemed to spend her time exclusively baking from Women’s Weekly cookbooks, and our frequent visits to her house were largely motivated by the knowledge we’d find there a whole marble cake, or a tin of melting moments, or lamingtons plump with jam.
An unofficial Twitter poll shows that cake stalls now feature at almost half of respondents’ voting booths. While we number the boxes, reflecting on the pointlessness of existence, just outside is a gingham tablecloth with treats from happier times. Before we knew climate change would wash our homes out to sea, before we relied on billionaires for social interaction, we feasted on fairy bread, chocolate crackles and honey joys. I have never seen toffee in a patty pan, or indeed broken my teeth on one, anywhere but at a cake stall.
Sweets from the world’s best bakeries can’t touch these offerings. Each morsel is made with two secret ingredients: the manipulation of our feelings, and real butter.
Democracy sausages are fine. I mean, you can go to Bunnings and get one almost any time you like, sometimes even on weekdays. And you can buy your own square white loaf from the supermarket and chuck any old snag in it. They do taste a bit different on election day but it’s marginal – minced floor sweepings with a hint of empty promises. Still, no nannas slaved over a hot oven for them.
This weekend, when I wake up and walk down to our voting center, I won’t just be lining up to shape the future of this great state. I’ll be making a beeline for anything containing Copha, biscuits with a face on them, and something in a cellophane bag. Give me your hedgehog slice, your packet-mix brownies, your sweetened condensed milk balls. I’ll even take biscuits panic-bought from the supermarket the night before.
To borrow a phrase from young people now old enough to vote, stuff from the cake stall just hits different. And, to me, that’s election day.