FRIDAY FEAST with Jessica Owers

It’s Spring Racing Carnival time and Friday Feast is frocking up! Well, not quite, but things are starting to smell sweetly horsey around here. Rightly so, too! Rotten cats keep taking over the blogosphere and it’s about time that our noble and magnificent equine friends kicked back.

Not that I’m biased or anything…

I am absolutely delighted to welcome our very first non-fiction author to Friday Feast. Not just any old non-fiction author, mind you. That simply wouldn’t do. Friday Feasts only feature the best Australian authors and today is no exception.

Jessica Owers is an award-winning freelance racing journalist who has worked for such illustrious publications as Breeding and Racing and RM Williams OUTBACK magazine. Among many other achievements, her writing has also appeared in Inside Breeding, The Thoroughbred, Turf Monthly, OUTBACK and Racing Life.

In 2011, her book Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor was released to great acclaim, going on to win the Bill Whittaker Award for Best Racing Book in Australia 2012.

Take a look and you’ll see why. This is a story we should know!


Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor


In 1932, they said there would never be another Phar Lap. Yet within months there came a racehorse so wildly brilliant that he was instantly compared to the dead champion. He was Peter Pan. Within months of Phar Lap’s death, Peter Pan had won the Melbourne Cup and then two years later, won it again – the first horse in 72 years to take home a second. The newspapers of the day called him a ‘superhorse’ and declared ‘another Phar Lap takes the stage.’ But over the long years, Australia forgot their new champion. Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor is the tale of the horse that came next – the brilliant, speedy Peter Pan. Casting off the shadow of Phar Lap, this tells the story of triumph during the Great Depression and the coming of a champion when Australia least expected one. It is time to restore the standing of our other great racing hero.


Oh, I do love a good horse story and I’m sure you will too, especially one so expertly written. Peter Pan is available now with just a short click over to Booktopia, Bookworld or Book Depository, or for the ebook, try Kobo, Google Play or Amazon Kindle.

Now giddy-up, Feasters, because here’s Jessica!


At this colourful time of year when it’s all about Spring Carnival, I’m thrilled to guest blog on Cathryn’s ever-popular Friday Feast. The events detailed below occurred during a recent research trip to the U.S. for my second book, the biography of Shannon, a 1940s Sydney idol and one of racing’s most captivating and least-understood Hall of Fame racehorses. His book is due out spring next year.

Every so often, you just want one


It was very hot, and lazy early afternoon. I was on highway I-87 in upstate New York, rolling my rented wheels towards Saratoga Springs. It was the kind of day that makes you want to drive with your hand out the window, feel the brisk whip of wind through the car. I’d had a radio interview from my hotel room that morning, and it had gone overtime. Within minutes of hitting the road to the Spa (Saratoga Springs is affectionately called ‘the Spa’), I was starving.

Highway food is never the best, is it? It’s usually a select choice of greasy or greasier, fat or fattier. On that day, I skipped past iHop, Chucky Cheese and Wendy’s, none of which took my fancy. There’ll be something better, I kept saying, then miles of blacktop slipped under the car. My stomach began to eat its own lining.

Eventually, a state of famish will make you eat anything, so when an exit pointed to McDonald’s, I eased the rental off the highway and went in search of the golden arches. I knew that it was a fast fix, that in this heat McDonald’s food would leave me feeling disembowelled. But, food was food. I was just too hungry to care.

The first thing I’ll tell you about this McDonald’s was that it was spotless. It was the prettiest renewal of this franchise I had ever seen… neatly mowed lawns, a picnic area to gobble your takeaway. At the drive-in window there was an apple tree, stooped and splendid with fruit. The place was so unlike any McDonald’s I’d ever been to that it made me forget entirely the acrid food I was about to purchase.

I bought a single cheeseburger, that’s all. I didn’t upsize or meal deal. I didn’t need anything to wash it down. All I required was a little bit of fuel that would turn my vitals over until Saratoga, and so I took my little cheeseburger, wrapped in a small paper bag like something from 1977, and I parked in the picnic lot. I climbed out into the stale August afternoon, hair-dryer hot, and I tucked in.

Now, every once in a while life takes you by surprise. This was one such day. My little cheeseburger was delicious. It had been put together so well it looked like its brothers up on the ordering board (well, almost). The gherkins, perfect green frisbees, were tucked between the bun and the beef, each (there were three) sliced and diced perfectly. Whoever put them in there put them in carefully. There was nothing mushy about the burger, it was the perfect harmony of lightly melted plastic cheese and ketchup in spot-on quantities. It was the kind of cheeseburger to call home about, the kind to write a blog about.

When Cathryn asked me to guest on the Friday Feast, I just knew my little cheeseburger had to be the star of the show. My fiancé (an Italian restaurateur) will be mortified. Though my cheeseburger cannot compete with the impressive efforts of past guests, creators of gnocchi and chocolate surprise, exotic recipes from colonial Africa even, there’s something cool about it, something basic, don’t you think? The McDonald’s cheeseburger is the thing we’ve all had. It’s usually terrible, slapped up and messy and rundown with guilt, but when you get a good one, oh its good.

So, at this point in the blog I’m supposed to outlay the recipe of the divine wonder you’ve just read about. However, because the McDonald’s cheeseburger is neither a recipe nor divine, I’ll have to skip that part. Instead, I’ll tell you why my highway cheeseburger, though it fell down in nutritional talent, stood up in other ways that only a writer could isolate: it represented a brief stop on a long and fabulous holiday, a stop on the open road one hot, oily afternoon when I had few woes and only the itchy pursuit of the bending highway. It represented the brief, good things in life, the little things, and certainly reminded me that the best things in any moment of any day can come (almost) free… $1.06 is pretty good going, don’t you think?

Shocked and repulsed that a lowly cheeseburger has made it onto the fabulous honour roll that is the Friday Feast? Or, delighted that something so basic can be so good every once in a while? To win a signed copy of Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor, reply with your version of when something so bad has been so surprisingly good. The best answer will get a copy of Peter Pan spirited to them right in time for Melbourne Cup day.


Oh, I so, so adore this story! It’s amazing how much pleasure you can derive from simple things. Fish and chips on the beach. A luke-warm pie at the footy (supporting the Sydney Swans, of course). Not exactly health food, but hitting the spot perfectly.

So come on, Feasters, show our first non-fiction author a good time and regale Jessica with your tales of bad-good things. There’s an amazing prize up for grabs!

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, 25th September 2012 AEST. Australian addresses only, sorry.

If you would like to learn a little more about Australia’s strongest female voice in racing writing, visit Jessica at her website, check in on the blog or follow her on Twitter.


0 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Jessica Owers

  1. AvatarJoan Kilby

    Hi Jessica. I felt a small thrill of vindication when I read your post. About once a year I eat a McDonalds cheeseburger. I’ll be out and about with hubby and the shopping trip or whatever is taking too long. Maybe I’m a bit hungover from a big night out, or really tired, but definitely starving. “Pull in there,” I’ll say. “You’re joking. You’re not going to eat that crap.” “No, really. It’ll make me feel better.” And it does. A simple little cheeseburger fills the gap just enough to tide me over, it’s over really quickly and it’s small enough that you can still respect yourself in the morning.

    Your book looks really interesting. I’ve never heard of Peter Pan. Do you have any plans to write about Black Caviar?

    PS I love that you took a photo of your cheeseburger.

  2. AvatarJessica Owers

    Joan, I am so, so glad that there are others that enjoy a good terrible thing at the right moment. It’s the little things in life, isn’t it, and when they’re good they’re just sooo good!

    There are two books on Black Caviar coming out this October, so I don’t have any plans to take a pen to that story. It’s going to be a great year for horse books I think.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      You should try a Hungry Jacks Bacon Double Cheeseburger Deluxe, Joan. Now there’s hangover food!!!

      Wonderful article about Black Caviar in the Good Weekend last week. Had me all teary! But then I’m a shocking sucker for a horse story.

  3. AvatarBecky Korgvee

    My favourite memory of bad food being so terribly good is buying piping hot chips wrapped in butcher’s paper at a local football match my brother was playing in. Freezing and bored out of my brain, the smell and steam rising from those chips as I opened the end of the welcoming warm package is something I’ll never forget.

  4. AvatarPeter

    Good “light” on nutritional read , can definitely relate to the good old fashion dare I say “junk” food associated with the fun time road trip! Maybe next time Jessica can share some of those Italiano receipes with us! Personally when i partake in one or even possibly two too many refreshing drinks I cannot resist or go pass South Melbourne Dimmie Simmies, from South Melb Market, They taste oh so yummy and kick in and help alleviate that well earned hangover!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Peter, I have heard about these dim sims. They’re famous! Alas, I have yet to sample their deliciousness. Something I must remedy soon I feel.

      Hmm…Italiano recipes, you say? Looks like we’ll just have to have Jessica back and prod her for one.

      Thanks for the comment and dim sim reminder. I read about them when we first moved to Melbourne but forgot. One for the foodie bucket list.

  5. AvatarImelda Evans

    I normally prefer healthy to trash, but there are times when I hear the siren call of the Lord of the Fries (with mayonnaise, euro style) or the nutrition-free sugar-bomb that is an original glazed Krispy Kreme donut (American spelling cause they’re American). And I make it a rule never to ignore the call of a siren. Them girls can get scary, if scorned… Great post ladies!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      I’ve never sampled Lord of the Fries, Imelda, but there’s one right near Flinders Street station that makes my nostrils twitch every time I walk past.

      I soo agree about the siren call. The consequences can be terrible if ignored!!! Never had one for Krispy Kreme though. A sausage roll, oooh yeah, but never a donut. Hmm, maybe I prefer fat to sugar??

      Great to see you here.

  6. Avatarannegracienne Gracie

    Hi Jessica, lovely to see you here! Peter Pan is a very fine book (I don’t need to be in the draw as I already have a copy.) I must say that though I do have a fondness for a good Italian restaurant, I also enjoy a good burger.

    I think the burger that stands out in my mind the most was one from many years ago — i’d been hitch-hiking and camping in Tassie with a friend for about a month, and we were on our way home — catching the ferry at Devonport. We got into town really starving, having not had much to eat all day, and found an unprepossessing-looking cafe where we ordered a hamburger with the lot. OMG it really was ‘the lot’ — there was even a sausage sticking out of it. And to two, cold, weary starving hitch-hikers, it was the best meal in forever.

  7. Avatartrishmorey

    Hey Jessica, great to see you! I’m someone who’s never quite got the appeal of Maccas, they just don’t do it for me. But a decent potato fritter (because a slice of potato battered and deep fried is so much healthier of course:-)) – oh yeah.

    They can be dense and overdone, the batter tough, the grease factor bleh, but when done well, when fresh and golden and the batter crisp and crunchy over a delicate slice of just cooked to perfection spud – ohhh, sublime.

    Congratulations on your success with Peter Pan and I wish you very many more!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Potato fritters??? Ohhhhhhh! I haven’t had one of those since….I don’t know, but decades I suspect. Used to LOVE those things (known as potato scallops where I come from). Crispy and salty on the outside and then all soft spud inside. Sublime indeed.

      Hmm. Really want one now, and there’s a fish and chip shop about 5 minutes walk away….

      Thanks for dropping by, Trish.

  8. AvatarFi

    Hi Jess, congrats on your prize winning book. Such fab news. I missed that. Thrilled to bits for you.
    I’ve enjoyed a good cheeseburger in my time. My fave roadkill is bacon and egg (with BBQ) on a really soft roll. The best ones come from the ‘filthy Peruvian”. My husband’s nickname for the man who runs the shop. This little guy has a picture of Machu Picchu behind the counter, and I said I wanted to go there one day. Well his eyes lit up and he drawled, ‘I could show it all to you,’ just as my husband walked in. (Ian’s six four and he looked down at the guy and raised an eyebrow.)
    Now whenever we’re on that road my husband always slows down, ‘I suppose you want a roll from the ‘Filthy Peruvian’. Makes me smile every time, but I still love the rolls.

  9. AvatarJessica Owers

    Filthy Peruvian…. sounds like the perfect title for your next novel! Hey, everything is material, right? I hope I get to see all you girls at some point in Coogee again. No filthy Peruvians, but my Italians could step into that role!

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