Posts Tagged ‘lamington’

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.

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.


Christmas Pudding.

December 1, 2013

A Christmas pudding needs no introduction in Australia. However, back in 1956 it did need explaining for us. We had never heard of a pudding dedicated to a religious event in Holland. Mind you, it was only a few years ago when I mentioned a spongy type of chocolate cake with shredded coconut that this was called a lamington. For most of my life I was ignorant of one the most hallowed and revered delicacies, as British as fish and chips or a Beefeater on his watch.

It is still the same with Christmas puddings. An event and tradition I have been excluded from till now. The exclusion was never deliberate. I never really experienced it, it was my own ignorance. The esoteric world of the dietary and culinary delights of Britain is lifting its veils and I am most honoured to have been accepted.

Little could I have foreseen that in my post middle age, but not yet in my final pre burial stage, I would be called upon to help and prepare and cook a Christmas pudding. Not only that, the lady who politely requested my help is English, very English. I have to be very careful not to mention my support for Australia’s push into a republic. It would not be a good ‘show’. She has taught me the whole lineage of English Royalty right back to the Prince of Orange of Nassau and a diversion even further back to William the Silent. I learnt to be just as polite ( and silent) not wishing to point out that the Dutch Royals are also Oranges of Nassau related.

The lady is our good and very lively neighbour. Too old to have bothered about the ways of her new stove, computers, skyping and all that electronic wizardry. I too have problems with this stove. As usual, too many options. I am surprised it doesn’t have photographic capability or Windows 8.1 Clouds with Sky-drive.

All the help she required from me was to simply switch this beast of an oven on with about 4 hours of cooking time on 140c heat. Please, could you be at my place at about 6 o’clock, she asked? On arrival she had a large ceramic container filled with all the fruity looking ingredients including bright red and viridian green glace bits. Most of it were what looked like raisins and lots of dark brown dried fruits, perhaps dried plums, apricots, persimmons, dates, currants and some nuts. The lot she kept turning and mixing in a churning type of electric powered machine.

I fulfilled her request by trying out all the buttons to find the 4 hours cooking time. On our own similar stove I usually put on many hours and just keep track on the required cooking time before switching it off. I rarely use the oven. In fact I cook mainly outside lately.


Before I go any further I must add that our neighbour cannot be hurried. Her cooking is more of a slow meticulously laboured organized way of life rather than cooking. I swear that the walk between the kitchen bench top and the oven takes her about two hours. She gets waylaid by lots of diversions. She will shake the salt or just look at the bowls contemplating something. She surveys her vast array of cake dishes, ladles, spices, and like a conjurer keeping rabbits well hidden or…a voodoo priest contemplating in deep concentration a beheaded chook, finally makes a decision…she calls a good friend on the phone!

I decided to give the oven a couple of extra hours, just in case! When I left, she was still on the phone. Next day I enquired. She said, “oh, I think I forgot the baking powder.” “It did not rise”. “It is solid though.” “It tastes alright.”
Very nice Christmas cake, thanks Gerard, she added.

Whoring by dad in Fremantle

September 8, 2009

Whoring in Fremantle and lamingtons.

By oosterman

Johan Van Oldenbarneveldt 

As hinted earlier, the first Australian Port of Call, Fremantle on a February Sunday, 1956 was somewhat of a surreal experience. I am not sure what the Italian Luigis or Greek Stavrosses thought about it all. Despite my fifteen years of age or because of it, I needed to see and meet new people, our first Australians to be precise. After the whole ship donned Sunday best with coats and ties, pre-pressed and creased pants and frocks, the twelve hundred passengers could not get off the boat quick enough.

 We all sauntered ‘en masse’ over a large steel bridge spanning acres of industrial rail-lines and rubble, walking for quite some distance when we finally found our way to Fremantle’s first row of houses. Perhaps because of the intense heat and distance we already encountered some passengers who were on the way back to the ship. One Dutchman who we knew from onboard proudly practised his English and said “kept left in Australia” to us, in a strong guttural accent, eyes sparkling. We of course still walked on the right hand side, but not him. He would definitely succeed in Australia! Our eight of us persevered but somewhat uncomfortable in the simmering heat and in all our finery.

Not a soul to be seen. Was this a practise run for a Neville Shute’s film set of ‘on the beach’? This might be the best way to describe what confronted our family walking through the deserted and weather board peppered street scapes, even though the ‘on the beach’ was not written till 1957 with its theme of an Australian town awaiting death from an atomic bomb.  Perhaps the feeling of a town without people being visible often acts as a catalyst for many a book or painting. Did Neville Shute visit Fremantle on a Sunday prior to writing his best seller, I wonder?  Apart from Neville Shute’s book and film with Ava Gardner, another example of the strange feeling of this typical Australian town on a Sunday, might well be in contemplating a painting by Jeffrey Smart. Of course at that time, those artists were totally unknown in Fremantle and no amount of clairvoyance of its people could have been responsible for the feeling of emptiness in those streets.

In fact, there were people there, with here and there a steady radio drone coming from within the cream painted weatherboards. Years later when I learned how to spot signs of life within those curtained and venetian blinded off houses, a cricket score then often betrayed life, even though the desire to be unseen and to remain private was strongly adhered to.

Bustling Fremantle 1956. 

My dad and kids bravely walked on determined to finally say something to someone, preferably a real Australian. We walked up a hill with on top some kind of monument and even the so longed for palm tree finally in sight. Diagonally across from the monument and palm park we spotted a shop with doors open. We made a surge towards this shop, thirsty for any quenching liquid and first contact. We entered the shop and expectations of an introduction and possible handshake were foremost in dad’s mind.

 A handshake was always done back home and as common as donning a hat to a passerby, or standing up for a lady in the bus or tram. Surely, anyone could sense that we were belonging to the just landed. The shopkeeper seemed totally unaware of our presence and did not even look around from where she was stacking a shelf with her back to us. The situation was not helped when the younger kids started to fidget and the thirst and promised quench was getting more urgent. We had no option though and surely with the noise and restlessness she would finally have to acknowledge us. Was she deaf or mute, possibly blind?

It was none of that, it was just that in that part of the world, customer service was still not to be given under any circumstance, a mere leftover from the days that it was common for people to disrespect authority and not to be seen grovelling to the gov’nr. A fair crack of the whip is all they could hope for and this shopkeeper and her ancestors had been taught and also learnt that the customer was now the person to be kept subservient and waiting. The shopkeeper was the Guv with the whip. Of course, my dad had no inkling at that time of those delicate cultural nuances brought out and exposed in those minutes of waiting for a response from this shopkeeper.

Lamington shop. ( Amsterdam) 

Yes love? Finally a response, but ‘yes love’, did he hear right? A question from female shopkeeper calling someone a’ love’, what was this now about? Dad and family went through war and hunger, changing and moving to other city, had a large family, took a boat to the end of the universe with a marriage and fine wife intact and so strong, and now, finally when on first walkabout in Australia and on a first meeting with an Australian and after a long and hot walk, he was called ‘love’ by a strange woman? This was too much to take in, he quickly pointed at some brown cakes sprinkled with some white flaky stuff, and two large bottles of a luridly coloured soft drink or lemonade. We all bolted as fast as we could. ‘Love’ indeed. It must have been a brothel. Those very first cakes were about twenty years later identified as ‘lamingtons’.

It was a slow walk back to the ship. There was a lot to think about and to digest. The lamingtons were eaten in silence and the soft drink shared amongst the eight of us. I remember being vaguely aware of my friends comments back home about Australia being closed up on a Sunday. I started to feel apprehensive as well as tired and mulled over the shop woman and her strange reluctance to serve us. It was way beyond my depth to accept the day as a rewarding experience in meeting our first friendly and welcoming Australian.  I missed my friends