When I was a kid, we used to visit our Aunties for birthdays and other occasions and there was always lots of food.
There was Casserole Auntie. The food she served at her parties was mainly casseroles. Huge steaming casseroles full of delicious stews and curries and lasagnes and macaroni bakes and savoury baked rice dishes and then, afterwards, more casseroles full of baked desserts like chocolate puddings and apple puddings and orange puddings and more delicious sweet things that rose dramatically in their dishes in the oven until they were just about overflowing with yumminess.
She must have had an oven the size of a barn.
Then there was Tray Auntie. Tray Auntie only served food on trays. She was always hauling out another tray from somewhere. There were platters of sandwiches filled with all sorts of things from asparagus to curried egg to chicken and mayo to avocado and bacon to cheese and lettuce to ham and pickles to roast beef and chutney to tuna and onion to turkey and cranberry. Trays piled high with home made sausage rolls. More trays with home made party pies, tiny individual meat pies accompanied with tomato sauce. If you've never caught the aroma of home made party pies and sausage rolls baking, you haven't lived. We could smell them from outside the house when we arrived. Then trays of cakes. She made things like pink and white coconut slice, chocolate peanut squares, fudges, butterfly cakes with the cream, little pink iced cakes in patty pans with 100s and 1000s on top, pink and chocolate lamingtons, toffees, those honey cornflake cakes and chocolate crackles. All lined up in neat rows on trays. She was most famous for her rum balls, little chocolatey fudgy balls rolled in coconut and redolent with the flavour of the islands.
Then there was Gourmet Auntie. She served the latest things which in those days were probably seafood cocktail, garlic prawns, salmon mousse, beef stroganoff, chicken with apricots, lamb with mango, savoury meat loaf ringed with slices of tomato and pineapple with a glaze, rissoles with sour cream and chives, roasts with the little paper chef's hat things on the upturned legs and salads containing twisted orange slices, sliced radishes and green onions with the ends flared. And carrot sticks with thousand island dressing to dip.
They were all wonderful but I think I preferred Tray Auntie because as kids we didn't have to sit down to eat. We could all charge inside the house - brothers and sisters and cousins and the dog en masse, rowdy kids that we were - stock up on party pies and sandwiches (some for the dog) and charge outside again.
I loved visiting my cousins.
I wonder why.