Family Food Fare and Favourites
Join me as I dig through my memories, and recipes, to rediscover my family’s food “back in the day” and how those food habits have changed over the decades to today’s diverse and multi-cultural cuisines. This is my theme for the 2021 A to Z challenge.
Fishy tales: Being good Catholics, Friday was fish night. Nothing fancy, often fish fingers, curried prawns or the dreaded yellow cod. When we went on holidays to Magnetic Island, fish would suddenly be a regular night-time meal. Dad and I would have gone out into Picnic Bay in the dinghy, or fished off the jetty with just our rods. Typically we’d catch exotic reef fish like parrot fish, coral trout or rock cod. They are delicious fish but I’m just not really a huge fan of fish meals.
I’m dredging my memory but I think we also had a simple version of fried rice in my childhood/teens. Although we like it, it’s not something we typically eat in our house today. What we did have, for breakfast or lunch, that may have been a bit unusual was fried bananas. They are delicious provided the bananas aren’t too soft, and you get a nice brown caramelised crust on it.
Did your family have flummery for dessert? I haven’t eaten it for decades and would have expected it to include beaten egg whites, but apparently not. I remember it being quite delicious though. According to Bill Bryson, it’s similar to the American version of blanc mange. Who am I to argue, though I prefer the sound of flummery. It’s also interesting that Wikipedia links it to Irish workhouses in the 1840s and to Longreach in the 1970s.[i] I do know I enjoyed the fluffy melt-in-the-mouth taste of it and was happy when it appeared as the nightly dessert.
Does your mother’s recipe book show which recipes were given to her from different friends? It was probably more important then, when fewer recipe books were available.
Fish: For the past 20 years we’ve lived in prime fishing territory. In Darwin, it would be barramundi (best caught during the runoff after the Wet), or Golden Snapper. We have never thrown a line in despite the sons-in-law being mad fishermen. We could also get excellent prawns brought in on the trawlers, just as we can here on the Sunshine Coast. On occasions we have take-away fish and chips from the local coop, just as we did today.
A turning point in Australian cooking habits was the publication of Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks and especially the Margaret Fulton cookbook in the early 1970s with their introduction to more sophisticated meals and different cultural influences. Certainly the latter was well thumbed, splattered, and regularly consulted by ourselves and our daughters over the years. We even found copies of her original book for the daughters on ebay. Margaret Fulton became an Aussie culinary icon. Similarly,, we were somewhat surprised when we saw the popularity of the themed Women’s Weekly cookbooks on sale in Ireland some years ago. And what mother hasn’t used the Children’s Party book for their child’s birthday cake?
Did your family indulge in the Fondue fascination? We certainly did and while we started with a cheapish metal fondue set, we later turned to the heavy ceramic cheese fondue sets that we first saw overseas in 1974. There’s something very communal and hospitable about a fondue meal, however retro it may be. I have happy memories of having cheese fondues in front of our fire in Brisbane with visiting friends. When we moved from Darwin we left ours with Daughter #3…I’m not game to ask if she still has it.
New Food Fare: Fennel, with its aniseed taste, is a new introduction to current vegetable options and is included in various salads, soups, and curries we make.
Of course thoughts of fondue turns the mind to cheeses. Once upon a time, cheese equalled cheddar. Nowadays, cheese is a hugely popular food, especially in our family, and comes in diverse styles and tastes from Cashel Blue or Crozier Blue to wheels of Parmesan, from Bay of Fires Double Bries to Manchego. If your daughters are as OCD as mine are about their cheese, having a separate cheese knife for your cheese platter is de rigeur.
Do you like eating fish? Is it something you ate often as a child or now?
Did your family have copies of the Women’s Weekly cookbooks or the Margaret Fulton cookbook?
Do you love a cheese platter?
As an aside, I was amused when I went looking for my mother’s prize recipe to discover this link on the Trove front page.
[i] A pint of flummery was suggested as an alternative to 4 ounces (110 g) of bread and a 0.5 imperial pints (0.28 l) of new milk for the supper of sick inmates in Irish workhouses in the 1840s. In Longreach, it was a staple food in the 1970s and in Forbes, it was a fall-back dessert in the 1950s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flummery