We've seen during the past few months that there's nothing that brings people together more than tragedy.
Oh, and maybe vanilla slice. There's nothing like biting into a generous filling of custard, not too flaky puff pastry, white vanilla icing, not too thick. You don't want it to fall apart when you eat it, nor do want there to be too much resistance.
About a week ago the Empty Esky campaign launched a search for the best vanilla slice (from a fire affected town). Punters from across the nation voted en masse and now the final four has been announced.
For Maddie Barry at Bermagui's Cream Patisserie, the competition is a ray of light in what's been a long month. Her family evacuated to Canberra on January 2, she lost most of the stock in the bakery as the power was out in the town for eight days.
When we spoke on January 30, they were packing up early as the fire warnings for the weekend started up again, a staff member who lives further south had been told to come home and get ready to evacuate again.
"Life's 50/50 at the moment and our focus is on supporting the locals, because ultimately it's still not safe for visitors."
Crew from the Bermagui RFS, and teams from Queensland and Tasmania who are working in the area, are being fuelled by Cream's delicious cakes and snacks. Barry's even found time to make gingerbread with local children in holiday care.
She says the Empty Esky campaign has been brilliant. "It's been a great way for people who aren't at ground zero to gain some insight into what's going on and how they can help," she says.
"Hopefully it will keep us in people's minds so down the track when the weather has cooled and the threat's over people will remember we're here and come and visit. The support right now is great for people who have lost everything but it's the ongoing support for businesses when the news headlines have moved on that's really important."
And as for that vanilla slice
"We make them fresh every day, it features our handmade puff pastry, our signature French vanilla custard and topped with sweet icing and a feathering of chocolate," she says.
"It's not your standard bakery snot block."
Barry is up against some stiff competition. The other bakeries in the running include Gumnut Patisserie in the Southern Highlands, Harrietville Bakery on the Great Alpine Road in Harrietville, Victoria, and Bruthen Bakery in Gippsland's Bruthen.
- Fill Your Esky is a series from The Canberra Times highlighting regional producers and food and wine based businesses recovering from the bushfires. If you have a story you'd like to share email firstname.lastname@example.org