Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Recollections of a hungry child.

Jo at Amuse Bouche invited me to reveal what food reminds me of home, which I take to mean childhood home. Let's take it from a different angle: the following are some memories of home associated with food, or possibly the reverse. We have touched on this topic in the past, but a little nostalgia never goes astray.

Here are ten memories that come to mind:

• The pipe-loaf bread that was delivered to our door daily, still warm and soft and fragrant, by baker Mr Goodwin driving his Baker Boy (brand) Morris J-type delivery van. During school holidays we could even choose from the huge wicker basket he carried to the front door loaded with poppy-seed buns, long rolls, high-tin loaves with black tops, French sticks and fruit buns.

• The milk bottles delivered by horse and cart at 5 a.m. every weekday - early to avoid milk spoilage on hot summer mornings. In winter if I was awake, I watched through my front bedroom window as the horses emerged out of ghostly mist, their hooves ringing on the cold road. They frightened me.

• The aroma of the pie-warmer in the canteen at primary school. Not strictly home, but the aroma - today rarely encountered outside country football match kiosks - never fails to bring back the feeling of being nine and hungry.

• The herb-and-onion fragrance of a mince stew, starting to cook, smelled when coming in from school. Waiting for dinner was torture. How could a child do homework? You had to get out or you would drive your mother crazy. Here, eat half a loaf of buttered bread and come back in an hour. Yes, we had an appetite.

• Rice pudding baking in the oven. Cinnamon, nutmeg, egg. A brown top that still quivered. A rectangular 1950s Pyrex dish, yellow with line-drawn black flowers.

• Fish and chips in newspaper brought home by my father from the fish shop. The heat of the fish and chips made the newsprint smell like it was hot off the press. Splash on some vinegar. Delicious.

• Picnic sandwiches at Gisborne, on the hill near the pine forest. We were too many to travel in Dad's Holden so I got to go with my grandfather in his Vanguard.

• Toffees in paper patty pans at the annual school fete on Caulfield Cup day. Acres of the things. You'd bite into them and your jaws would lock. I think it was a parent-led conspiracy: the mouths of hundreds of parish children must have been shut for days.

• The unofficial dinner gong for my family for several years in the late 1960s was the Dr Who theme music, which came on just as my mother was serving dinner. This unforgettable piece of electronica is described by Wikipedia thus: The theme has been often called both memorable and frightening, priming the viewer for what was to follow. I should use it on William and Thomas. "Get to the dinner table or I'll play you the Dr Who theme!"

One more:

• One day in the very late 1970s, when the ardour - and arduousness, too - of raising seven children finally found my mother bending ever so slightly towards economy of labour, there appeared on the dinner table something never before seen in my family: a pack of frozen supermarket garlic bread (cooked too long in the oven, of course). The trend was short-lived, for which I feel both guilty and glad.

Readers: your childhood memories associated with food in comments below, please.


Anonymous said...

The smell of Mum's tea cake - heavy with butter and cinnamon - on our return home from Saturday morning swimming lessons.

The abundance of blood plums from the back yard tree and the oddles of recipes we concocted each summer to use the surplus once we'd run out of neighbours to off-load them to.

Pancake hits and misses. Buttery, sometimes burnt, floury mess ... lots of fun.

*Sharon* said...

Hot, buttery toast with pools of liquid butter. Served with warm milky Milo in our Womble mugs after we had splashed our way home from school on a winter's day.

Nana's fabulous fish on Fridays. Fish pie with rich and creamy potato top, generously topped with cheesey breadcrumbs. She did her own fish and chips, cooked in dripping. The chips were our treat as we waited for tea - we were allowed to have the small crunchy ones. Thick, pillowy-doughy batter encasing fresh fish. All served with Watties' tomato sauce that we weren't allowed to have at home.
The smell of the roast that drifted through the house all afternoon. It didn't matter what the meat was - chicken, mutton, beef, but my favourite was pork. All served with roast potatoes, kumara, pumpkin, pan-scraping gravy and the inevitable peas. Half the fun was the anticipation, and then stealing the crispy bits as Dad cut up the meat. And there would be a pudding too....

Janis Gore said...

Pan-fried chicken with mashed potatoes and cream gravy, alternating with pot roast on Sundays.

Un-iced yellow sheetcakes for dessert during the week. Sometimes someone would screw up and cut a piece of sheetcake rather than cornbread for dinner.

Beef stew on cold days in winter.

Coconut cake for my birthday. Until I changed my preference to apricot fried pies.

Still can't make a decent apricot fried pie.

Julie said...

Sour-cream waffles and bacon, on casual Sundays after church. (We had them for dinner last night. I've got three waffle irons in this house right now.)

Grandma's chocolate cupcakes. I make them now, but I top them with Bailey's Irish Creme icing. She would have disapproved of booze in icing, but admitted it was good.

Macaroni salad. With fake, store-bought mayo sauce. I don't even like it, but it was at every picnic, always. Coleslaw, too.

Coffee cake, warm out of the oven, and catching heck for cutting a chunk out when it was supposed to be a gift.

The smell of liver and onions - it was my father's favorite but I chose to go to bed hungry that night. Ditto baked cabbage with a drizzle of vinegar.

Brownies. Home made potroast. Snickerdoodles. Pumpkin pie out of the school lunch. Tomato soup. Grilled cheese. Hand-churned ice cream.

Oh man. I'm hungry now. I didn't realize I came from a family of foodies, but we were definitely a from-scratch bunch. (I'm carrying on the tradition.)

KT said...

I used to bake a batch of cookies - chocolate chip or molasses ginger snaps - and all 7 of us kids would sit around the table and eat hot cookies until they were gone, or only a few were saved for my dad if he was lucky.

Oranges from our backyard tree. Supermarket oranges never even come close.

jo said...

I love these! LOVE them. I am quite intrigued by fried apricot pie.
I have never heard of it and I adore apricots. It is cold and rainy here today and that fish pie has me pining. Right! Off to the shops.

Janis Gore said...

Jo, I'm the last one to tell you how to make them.

Mother bought dried apricots and plumped them, and cooked them with just a bit of sugar, nothing else, just enough to take the pucker out.

Then she wrapped the apricots in pastry, so you had a half-round, and fried them in a skillet with an inch or so of fat. Oil, in later days.

My pastry is fine, but I can't get the filling right.

kitchen hand said...

Anon, we could never use all blood plums either. Only so much jam.

Sharon, you've painted a picture of your childhood.

Janis, tell us about the apricot fried pies.

Julie, from-scratch is making a comeback. All sounds wonderful. I remember sneaking icing from the fresh-baked cake and trying to trowel it back into place.

KT, like your oranges, our backyard peaches and nectarines were completely different to bought ones.

Thanks, Jo, my question is answered!

lesley said...

I remember Sunday night roasts and my Mum getting me to pick mint growing on the side of the unsealed road on the way to the local milk bar, so she could make mint sauce.

Rabbit stew. Whenever I smell parsley I think of mum's rabbit stew. Bubble and squeek...made in a special iron pan that was only ever used for this dish of leftover veggies...yumm.

and Friday night's, when dad would bring potato cakes and dim sims home...when they actually had some flavour.

kitchen hand said...

Nice memories, Lesley. I was sent out to the back yard for mint. It eventually took over the whole back fence. We couldn't pick enough.

Nick said...

My mom's turkey soup she made on the first day of deer hunting season and coming in from freezing my butt off for hours

kitchen hand said...

Nick, what a great memory.

jo said...

This made me think of those apricot fried pies....