The Gravy Train

What is in a name? Nothing. Or everything, depending on whom you ask.

What?s in a kiss? Well, it?s sort of sugar and spice, and a bit of tongue if you?re lucky.

What?s in a footy pie? Err pass. Some questions are better left unasked. The humble pie of winter?s gone was as much a part of football as the football itself. They even shared the same texture, colour and taste.

Gristle and gravy, so hot that it burnt your mouth and boiling sauce that scorned you, as it rolled down your chin. Buy a pie at half time and it was cool at full-time, assuming the volcanic molten ooze hadn?t broken free its flimsy pastry sarcophagus and deposited its contents on your shirt, or worse. The ground.

But with Superleague came a whole brave new world of footy food.

Like revamped entertainment and fireworks, offerings at grounds went from pies and chips to such new age ?exotics? as the gourmet potato, corn on a stick, cappuccino and even a flirt with the improbable schnitzel.

The pie that had been a health threat to generations was now under a death sentence of its own. And to survive it needed more than just preservative 440 and a shot of formaldehyde. It needed a quadruple bypass.

At the 11th hour, as per script, enter a hero a big white hat. A chef?s hat.

But lets backtrack.

Back when St George started their run of 11 in a row, nine year old Vili Milisits arrives with his family, via a refugee camp, with little more than the clothes on his back.

Five years later he completes an apprenticeship at a local bakery and 4 years after that sells his car for stock and opens his own bakery.

From here Vili plots his revolution by night.

He takes a humble pie and experiments with replacing gristle with chunks of Aussie beef.

He then abandons the cardboard casing for a light flaky crust.

Then, just as Edison perfected the light bulb, Vili tinkers with ?build?, the term used to describe the product?s feel in the hand. His genius and persistence creates a practical base that stays strong enough to resist tearing, and yet remains soft enough to enhance the flavour of the flaky dome, and the chunky meat.

The result is a pie that doesn?t react unfavourably to heating and reheating. One that can be consumed standing up, with one hand, leaving the other one to gently cradle a beer, or to gesticulate wildly at a referee.

The footy pie had been Reborn.

But as they say, the proof lies in the eating.

On arrival at the SFS for the Saints Vs Roosters match, I headed for the snack-bar and the cellophane wrapping which looks and sounds like a little Christmas present.

The next thing I noticed, as I took my first bite, was how the pie maintained its integrity, while still being strangely malleable. And then the flavour, and what a flavour, kicked in.

Suddenly there were no more words - only a series of grunts and guttural noises of approval.

To give you an idea, I?m working from notes here, as I was far too emotional to remain coherent.

"The Flaky golden pastry breaks gently as it gives way to a centre of rich gravy and generous beef pieces. The final third part of this heavenly troika is the soft pastry on the bottom that never looked like ripping or tearing. A 9.7 out of ten. And to prove that it's no fluke, I better have another."

All I remember is coming to, and a St Johns Ambulance person standing over me muttering something about " Sensory Overload'

Once Vili saved the footy pie, he went to work on bigger, but never more important projects. Today his company exports to Asia, Europe, the Pacific and the U.S.A.

He has even widened his repertoire to include Rendang Pies, Goulash Pies and even a Kangaroo Pie.

Which sort of makes sense. If Australia is like the old song says, ?Football, Meat pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars?, it took a refugee from the Cold War to find a way of combining three of the four elements.

Villi we salute you.

Disclaimer: A number of animals were not only hurt in the writing of this article but also eaten


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