Part 2: Eat like Nanna did

Teapot cups cakes biscuits

Afternoon tea at Cousin Marg’s farm

Digging into the family memory bank has revealed some interesting food clues to yesteryear. The exercise caught the imagination of my cousins and here they reveal a few memories of what was on their tables as children in the 60’s and 70’s rural Australia. 

Shops on an intersection

Canowindra corner shops where Cousin Marg shopped as a child in the 40’s

Cousin Marg Berry, food memories from 1940’s, 50’s country NSW Australia

Vegetables from the garden, fruit from the orchard… We were lucky. My father always had a great vegetable garden with tomatoes, beans, lettuce, cucumbers and corn. He also grew rockmelon (cantaloupe) and we had an orange tree in the back yard. In latter years, there was a beautiful passionfruit vine with the sweetest fruit and muscatel grapes as well. One of my uncles had a beautiful orchard of peaches in the summer months and an orange grove with navel oranges. Another uncle had an almond tree.

Family meals…my earliest memories of meals were at my grandparents’ home.  My grandmother Ettie would beat up cake batter with currants for patty cakes. My grandfather Tom loved lamb’s fry (liver) and bacon. For breakfast there was porridge or cereal.

We had a Sunday roast lamb or beef and roast chicken when it was still regarded as a delicacy. Dad was a keen fisherman so every now and again we had beautiful cod, perch, yellow-belly and rainbow trout. There were also curries and stews and occasionally sausages. Desserts were rice pudding and stewed fruit or tinned peaches, jelly and custard and home-made ice cream and jam roly-poly. Fruit salad on special occasions.

DIY… at one stage we had chooks (chickens) and gathered eggs. Dad and my uncle killed and butchered lambs from the farm. Dad milked a cow for years so there was fresh cream and home-made butter. What a procedure that was – getting the butter milk out before the butter emerged. An enduring image is my aunt turning the separator. I also remember her scones and meringues.

Everyone had a specialty… Auntie Gladys’ specialty was a biscuit cake. Seven layers of a biscuit recipe sandwiched together with plum jam (strawberry was too sweet). Iced with white icing. It kept well and there was always some in the cake tin. Mum’s main cake was a sultana cake – again it kept well. She won prizes at the Canowindra Show for her fruit cake and rainbow cake. There was a special order for the three layers – yellow, pink and the chocolate. Of course, a variation on that was the marble cake. Mum also made green tomato pickles, relish, orange marmalade and plum, apricot, blackberry jams. Getting the blackberries would involve a whole day and a trip to a farm. She and a friend would be well protected with over-alls and gloves. I remember the billy cans of blackberries.

I’ve taken on board many of the recipes – especially green tomato pickles, the biscuit cake, patty cakes, etc., as well as dabbling in Chinese dishes, shepherd’s pie and fish pie. Today, like so many others, I find myself looking up recipes on the Internet. I rely more on packets and tins. Fresh is still best though.

Saucepans on wood-fired stove

Cousin Marg’s wood-fired stove top today


Wattle flowers

Wattle in full bloom on the road to Cousin Marg’s farm

Margie Crowther, organic farmer, inherited memories from her mother 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s in country NSW Australia.

Simple fare…Mum (born in 1929 in Cowra) used to say about her young days that they often had just bread and dripping (fat from roasted meat) with a bit of salt and pepper on it. They considered that yum. How healthy we now know that to be? Natural fats!

Home Delivery…Mum said that they always bought fruit from the man with the horse and cart. I think this went round the residential streets every day or two. I can imagine that without cars and lots of kids to raise mothers would have found getting to the main street of some towns a big ask and it was only done when absolutely necessary.

Home Grown…Vegetables were mostly grown in the back yard. Mum used to say that they afforded meat about once a week. Mostly they would eat whatever it was with a bit of grated cheese on it instead of meat.

Sheep in green field

Sheep grazing in the paddock on Cousin Marg’s Boorowa property

Cousin Marion, food memories from 1960’s, 70’s country NSW and Queensland, Australia

Standout recipes…One memory of Gran’s visits to our farm was her fabulous mulberry pie when they were in season. Her mulberry pie was sensational and no-one I know makes one as good as hers. Mum tried, I’ve tried – no good! Her mulberry pies have always been an inspiration for me to have a mulberry tree in my yard where possible. My efforts with mulberries involve mulberry sago made from the spare juice from stewed mulberries. 

Our mum, and Gran, were an absolute whizz at pikelets. Again, mine have never measured up. Mum was also constantly called on for her biscuits – Margie’s good at these now.

Hearty cooked breakfasts…When we lived in the country we always had cooked breakfasts – chops or sausages with eggs from our chooks (chickens). Chops weren’t usually dinner fare, they were reserved for breakfast.

Jams and preserves…Mum pumped out marmalade and jam. She used to melt little wax beads to form a wax seal on top to preserve them. Once though the wax overheated and lit up. Flames were everywhere. I still remember Dad screaming round with the fire extinguisher and once activated it seemed this one wasn’t going to shut off until it was empty. Foam everywhere! Inside, outside … everywhere!! Thankfully, the fire was under control quickly and the kitchen and house were saved. Bit of smoke damage to the ceiling and a dent in Mum’s pride but that’s about it.

Meat storage…We had a meat-house where lamb and chooks were cut up after a kill. I don’t recall cattle being done at our place but they may well have been since we did stock cattle as well. We were fortunate to have mains power on our property, so refrigeration was always available.

What food memories do you have? Please share.


About Seed & Tell

Food tastes best when shared. We believe the story of our food should also be freely available – the origins, ingredients and methods and issues surrounding our modern food chain all matter.

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