We loved it when Uncle George sent us a ham or turkey from the farm in Griffith. In later years he sent oranges and apples in huge sacks, Dad used to pick them up from the railway and wheel them home in his wheelbarrow. We older ones got busy peeling the green apples and Mum stewed them and made pies. And what pies they were, served warm with custard, we couldn’t get enough of them. I think flour must have been cheap, Mum made lovely pastry and we had lots of pies.
Every drop of dripping was saved from cooked meat. It was clarified by boiling in water, as the gravy from the dripping came to the surface it was skimmed off. When all the water was boiled out of the fat it was allowed to set and was used in cakes as well as pastry. Mum even made cream from it, by beating it by hand, adding sugar and vanilla and the cream was lovely in her cakes.
Eggs were reasonably cheap in those days, when the fowls were moulting they were scarce. Mum used a teaspoon of vinegar to replace an egg and a teaspoon of glycerine to keep her fruit cakes moist. My sister, Nola, and I often speak about Mum’s mutton pie. She used neck chops and cooked them with onion, herbs and carrots. She would thicken the mixture, line a deep pie dish with pastry and bake it. Delicious!! It was a funny old pie to cut up, but it was fun chewing the bones. She also made a very tasty rabbit pie and we had braised rabbit also.
All our soups and stews had lovely light dumplings on them, I suppose they were good fillers, with eight hungry people sitting around the table. Our roast beef was always served with Yorkshire Pudding. She made a lovely syrup tart, by lining a tart plate with pastry, crumbling bread crumbs to a thick layer covered with gold syrup then a lattice top made of pastry strips. Served warm with custard it was very tasty. I’m not sure her pies were so bad for us either, we were a healthy bunch, chubby but not fat. Sure many people died young, but a lot grew old as well. Doctors had no means of detecting serious illness as they do today, nor did they have the cures.
I particularly liked her fried scones. She had a pan of sizzling clarified dripping into which she dropped balls of scone dough until they were golden. They came out as light as a feather, we’d queue up behind her and take one as she lifted them out and drizzle golden syrup over them. I’m feeling quite guilty no thinking of the time she spent cooking but I think she really enjoyed doing it.
In wintertime, the fuel stove was kept going most of the time, it heated the whole house. Very often a pot of soup was simmering away on the hub ready for a quick cup. When we were out at night, Mum left cocoa made up for us in the oven, our boyfriends would walk us home, usually a mile or so from theatre or a dance, drink the cocoa and then, in Jim’s case, walk nearly two miles home. In later years, he rode a push bike and often doubled me. Later still, he had a motor bike. One night Jim sneaked home from camp at Ingleburn. He wasn’t going to come in, but remembered the cocoa. He quickly downed it and we got to the front door we heard his bike being kick-started. By we time we got out the bike was disappearing up the hill. The police found it the next day. My soldier did not get back to camp on time that night.