Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Puftaloonies to pumpernickel

I have been thinking of food recently - partly because I read Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell recently. Julie Powell, stuck in a deadend temping job, decided to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking over a year - and blog about it. The book is very entertaining - a collision path of lifestyles which makes for good reading.

It also made me think of my own cooking and eating history. My mother was a good cook who lacked confidence. In the seventies in Brisbane we ate mainly lamb chops - short loin lamb - and three vegies. I was sent from the bookshop across to Barry and Roberts - the department store on Elizabeth Street, to buy the chops.

But on weekends she would break out with the food of her own youth or the continental food from her early twenties, which were spent in Melbourne, post the World War Two immigration influence on Aussie food.

The former was definitely childhood comfort food. I remember her getting very excited about making some fried pastries called puftaloonies. Her grandmother had made these heart-attacks - they were so heavy we had one each and had to lie down for the rest of the afternoon.

The continental food was harder to find in Brisbane - I can't remember where we bought pumpernickel bread and roll mops, but I remember eating them in our Camp Hill kitchen, my mother cutting the last roll mop in half, up the middle and I can taste that salt and pickle taste, and feel the soft flesh as I write this. I loved the fact they came rolled up, around a pickle, fastened with a toothpick. I liked the ritual unrolling of them to fit them on a piece of dark bread. They were the height of sophistication.

I went to boarding school when I was twelve and survived on a menu of grey meat, lumpy gravy, white bread and thick skinned custard. The highlight of the boarding school food week was Sunday tea when we had a small square of cheese, tinned tomato soup and scones. Could it have been scones? I think so. I still love tinned tomato soup and still grate cheddar into it.

We also used to furiously mix nescafe instant coffee with sugar until it went creamy and then when hot water was poured on to it foamed up, looking for one beautific second like a cappucino.

In my sixteenth year, still at boarding school - though only for the year and only just - I became a vegetarian which should have taxed the school kitchen except they ignored it completely so I lived on instant mash, tinned soup, dessert and white bread. Not to mention nescafe and menthol cigarettes. Ugh.

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