Posts Tagged ‘Austria’

Australia before the arrival of garlic.

July 8, 2017
IMG_0920 the potato bake

The long lost Leek for potato-bake

Many upright and still standing older burgers of Australia  cast the occasional nostalgic look back to the Australia of the yesteryears.  They were uncomplicated years, and we stood up for Queen and country. One had the school assembly with the accompanying waving of flag and wafting through most schools was the sacred banana sandwich with at most a slice of Devon as close to Continental compromise,’  as  allowable under the White Australia policy. Till the seventies, all thing British were strictly adhered to. We were more English than the English and all enjoyed Yorkshire Pudding at Christmas and pulled crackers on New Year’s Eve.

https://www.google.com.au/#q=the+white+australia+policy+definition&spf=1499498124507

If I remember right it were the arrival of boats from Southern Europe in the fifties that spelt the beginning of the end of this peaceful Australia. True, we were already accustomed to the many from the Magyar background which Australia tolerated reasonably well, especially when they were found to be rather deft hands in Real Estate and building fancy Continental Restaurants.  In Sydney’s Double Bay one could already in those early nineteen-fifty years enjoy a real percolated coffee and with some calm discretion even order a goulash or some other European  dish. I remember an upright frumpy matron from outer suburbia of Wahroonga getting up calling for the headwaiter while pointing to the plate of steaming goulash demanding in a shrill voice to know why on earth it was so hard to put ‘ good clean AUSTRALIAN food on the table.

The Hungarians came from persecutions not that that prevented many Austrians and other  migrants from Slavic bordering countries claiming the same, even though some might well have held some rather dubious posts in the former Wehrmacht but at least they were white and that is what mattered above all else to Australia during those turbulently difficult  but yet yawningly placid years.

It were really the Italians and Greeks with their Garlic importations that changed the previous benevolent mood in Australia away from mother England and all things British. The first garlic clove was introduced by Luigi- Parresone of Palermo who started a fruit shop in Sydney’s Oxford Street. It was Oct the 30th, 1957, on a sunny afternoon, when garlic for sale was first spotted by an irate true blue Australian just coming out of the cinema which was adjacent to this fruit shop. This man had already loudly complained when the first of some cinema goers refused to stand up while the strains of ‘God save the Queen,’ were being hammered out on the Hammond Organ at the beginning of the film which was An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr. This refusal, together with the garlic proved too much to this upstanding Aussie.

It was later claimed that garlic and the Euro influenced refusal to stand up for the Queen that accurately predicted an ominous decline in our much beloved Anglo culture. This odoriferous garlic soon permeated throughout much of the good country of Australia and even reached Broken-Hill as early as 1959. It was said to have been introduced by Croatian migrants from The Snowy Mountains Scheme that drifted to the outback; first to Mount Isa and then to Broken Hill. They were difficult years and the police had to be called when battles broke out between  pro- and anti garlic mobs in King Street, Newtown. Brick were thrown, shops burnt and universities with professors seething with discontent..

Today, Garlic is totally accepted into the Australian cuisine and as much liked as the much beloved brown coconut encrusted Lamington cake during those earlier times. Indeed, we now enjoy food from all corners of the world. Vive le difference is now our catchcry.

The banana and Devon sandwich pervasively permeated primary schools remain a curious remnant from the past,

as was the final jettisoning of the White Australia Policy.

 

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The marvel of the life-giving cabbage roll.

June 6, 2017

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It seems the privilege of the old to shamelessly bore endlessly the young with tales of the past. We already know of my parental desperations when claiming not to know ‘where on earth did Gerard come from?’ It is of little consolation now that my little boy search for my real parents by scanning sea’s horizon did not bear much results. No boat with my real parents ever appeared. I just had to reconcile myself with going home with wet shoes and accept the ones who at times seemed to disown me.

Another one of those memories refusing to lay down are those of a more edible kind. The war-time cabbage. I am here now because of the humble cabbage. Towards the end of the war it was the most covetous food item in my birth-city of Rotterdam. Even today, when I try and light the gas stove, the smell of the escaping unlit gas reminds me of war and my mother’s search for food. About the only food that could be had, if one was lucky, were cabbages.

It was during pensively resting in my fauteuil yesterday that one of those fleeting memories came to the befuddled fore. Heaven knows why they appear? I decided to try and make cabbage rolls. Helvi too became quite enthusiastic.  Some month ago there was a rather elaborate Baltic & Polish food sale on at Aldi’s. We discovered a huge jar of pickled cabbage leaves and a culinary inspiration got to us suddenly. We took it home and put the jar to rest amongst the Dutch Herrings and Italian tinned tomatoes. Occasionally I would stare at this jar of cabbage leaves and would proffer to make something of it, but both decided to relegate this delicacy for consumption to a future date. The cabbage leaves all looked so pale and withered all drowned in the vinegar.  I was happy to notice that the vinegar was an honest marinade and just that, and not the dreaded Balsamic version. The best thing it had going for it was the fact it was imported from Macedonia. Macedonia has such an exotic almost melodic ring to it. All those vowels.

Of course, cabbages is what used to make the world go round. From China through Russia and Europe, including Great Britain. What would England be without their beloved cold cabbage, consumed while standing up in a draft? The Koreans make the five-star Kimchee. A soul food if ever there was.

One only has to visit the old Eastern European towns and cities, where through the centuries of cabbage-food cooking, the very stucco, bricks and ancient cellars of the streets are impregnated with this pungent smell of the cabbage. Who has not walked through old Vienna or Budapest not to smell this delectable vegetable permeated into the very soul of these so musical societies. The very waltzes of Johann Strauss were  conceived after generous ingestion of cabbage.

So, yesterday I finally opened this large jar. Helvi remembered she made the humble cabbage roll many years ago. It is made from raw minced beef mixed with whatever one wants to mix together with a handful of boiled rice. She urged me not to overdo it with spices. ‘Just try and be a bit subtle this time, don’t muck it up,’ she urged kindly, but with some authority and deep husband knowledge.

I followed her urgings but when I momentarily and in a latent fit of wild adventurism thought of Kimchee I chucked in a small quantity of chilli flakes. The whole mixture was then kindly wrapped into the jar-released cabbage leaves. It filled the entire baking dish with two neat rows of nine each, totalling a rather large quantity of eighteen rolls.  With its red-coloured tomato marinade it looked very beautiful and enticing. Enough for an entire Austrian regiment.

After baking and allowed ‘to rest’ I made a nice dish of mashed potatoes and spinach. It was a nice dish but the chilli made the rolls too hot and spicy. I should not have added it. Helvi heartily agreed that I had mucked it up a bit.

‘When will you ever learn to contain yourself and not overdo things?‘ She said, adding. ‘Where do you come from?’

 

Back to Memory Lane and Alexander van der Bellen.

May 24, 2016

 

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Gertrude Cottage

Yesterday we decided to combine a visit to our daughter and grandsons with a visit to a local market near where we used to live. It has been twenty years since we left the inner city suburb of Balmain. Faithful readers of my ‘Oosterman Treats’ of bits and pieces’ might remember we first strayed into this area back around the late 1960’s. Freshly married and with two daughters in tow, we bought ‘Gertrude’s cottage’ for $ 12500.-. It came with glorious views and shimmering sunshine reflected on the hardwood floor just below the Harbour’s bridge and its blue waters. It also came with a couple of woody-weed eating goats.

It was then possible to save and buy a place. It seemed to be within reach of a normal working young couple. Today, that’s not possible. That house would now be over three Million. I don’t understand why this is so. Some say, wealthy Chinese from mainland China are buying houses. Others claim that the shortage of houses are to blame. Some of the more radical (xenophobic) claim that the foreigners are buying up and just leave the houses empty and pick up on the capital gain.

It seems to me an accident waiting to happen. Correction seems inevitable. How can houses be left empty when the need for houses and housing is so great? Look at the refugee camps around the world. Some have housed people for generations. The young grow up into adulthood and have children of their own, all in refugee camps,not knowing anything else.

Anyway, a glimmer of hope can be gleaned from Austria. Alexander van der Bellen has become president. He nipped the anti-refugee right wing contender within a narrow margin. I like Mr van der Bellen already. At seventy three he still enjoys cigarettes ( why should I torture myself giving up smoking at my age) and loves comic books. He is also green and an outspoken champion for the underdog and refugees.

He comes from an aristocratic Russian-Dutch-Estonia background and both his parents were refugees from the Stalinist dictatorship. He is not just a tree hugger but also a professor and an economist. Not a bad mixture. Let’s hope he throws off the anti refugee mentality that now so often seems to grab headlines instead of the much more prevalent and common more humane views of the majority of people. He did win the election!

I do hope that in Australia too, we will see a resurgence of a more humane majority emerging from this steaming racist xenophobic morass of Australia that seems so often to grab the limelight. Mind you, with Murdoch still hanging around, it is not surprising.

http://www.amazon.com/Almost-There-Fragments-Restless-Life/dp/0994581033/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1464128774&sr=8-1&keywords=Almost+There+by+Gerard+Oosterman