Fish, Flummery and Fondues


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.

THEN

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.

NOW

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


25 thoughts on “Fish, Flummery and Fondues

  1. I am loving your food posts. I have a copper fondue set. We used oil and later stock to cook the meat. The dips were all laboriously hand made. My hair caught fire over the fondue set when I was trying to impress my boyfriend (now husband). He was wooed with my meals from the WWCookbook and I bought many of their dinner party books during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

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    1. I can’t imagine that having that flaming experience would have been any fun, but you got your man 😉 Perhaps it was how you dealt with the crisis that impressed him. you might almost say the WW cookbooks are part of our culture I guess.

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  2. There is so much I could comment on here Pauleen. Friday night fish for us was fish and chips. I don’t think fish was available in central Victoria in those days. Flummery? I’ve never had it, but I have had blanc mange. When I was first married I became a bit of an expert with the fondue. Neither us nor our friends could afford to eat out, so we would take turns in hosting. At our house the fondue set came out every time for a period.

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  3. I have eaten flummery and Blanc mange. I think Blanc mange is heavier but I guess it’s similar.

    Have eaten a lot of fish over the years with a Dad who was a mad fisherman. When he retired the second time ( of several more), our budget was buoyed immensely by a large esky of frozen mackerel and whiting. Sometimes we scored sand crabs too. When we lived at Mooloolaba we were often paid in buckets of prawns and bugs.

    I still had my fondue set in pristine condition until a few years ago when number 2 son who likes to cook acquired it. 😊

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    1. I remember flummery as being light and fluffy like it’s name. I have to try it I think. What a windfall that your dad was a good fisherman and that trade sounds as good as our crayfish-vegetable trade 😉

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  4. I grew up near the fishing port of Fleetwood in Lancashire in north west England and fish was a standard dish on the weekly menu – always on a Friday, through tradition rather than any Catholic link. Today we still enjoy fish – cod, tuna, trout and my favourite salmon. I think it was a visit to Bavaria many years later which introduced me to fondues – and that was it! Flummery I had heard of through historical novels but I must admit I have never tried it or seen it on current restaurant menus.

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    1. I think fondue has probably become too passé to be on a menu. You’ve reminded me I didn’t mention that we regularly have salmon now though I had to be persuaded 🙂

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  5. I grew up in Nebraska and my grandmother, my mother’s major cooking influence, was German. Lent was full of frozen fish sticks. Or the amazingly unhealthy fast food fish from Long John Silvers. I’ve gained a little more appreciation for fish in my adult life, but it’s something we go out for rather than cook. I can’t wait to get vaccinated and go out for salmon BLTs and fish tacos again.

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  6. Memories of mother-in-laws Flummery and Blancmange leave a bad taste in my mouth, they were awful. We loved the fondues we had with friends as newlyweds and young parents, they were fun for us bur disasters for the tablecloth. Your questions dredge up so many memories, perhaps I should go through all your posts and compile a list of the questions to answer one day?

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    1. Jill, feel free to invent a meme with your questions 🙂 I’m sure I’ll be over the topic by end of April.
      Fondues were fun when we were young…I think our last one was in the mid 80s. We had no tablecloth disasters. Your experience of Blanc mange and flummery doesn’t sound fun.

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  7. My family had fish sticks on meatless Fridays, probably right out of the freezer — but we kids loved them (especially loaded up with tartar sauce)! And I remember my folks having a red, metal fondue set, which they broke out when they had friends over. Great memories! https://mollyscanopy.com/

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  8. Fondues – yes. For wedding presents at the end of 1971 we received 3 fondue sets. it was great fun with friends but have given all away or disposed of in many moves. Would be a total no no in this Covid era! Love a feed of fresh fish which was sadly lacking in my childhood. not sure what we ate on meatless Fridays probably tinned spaghetti!

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    1. TInned spaghetti doesn’t appeal as a meal I confess. Lol Re the four fondue sets…we got three or four coffee percolators, two the same in different colours. A testimony to the other half’s coffee addiction. I still can’t quite believe he now has peppermint tea before bed rather than decades worth of caffeinated coffee. I hadn’t thought about the covid implications of fondues!

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  9. We had fish on Fridays too Pauleen, when I think about it I remember smoked cod – was it boiled? – I hated fish. I hated the slimy texture and the smell. Today, I’m still a bit particular about it, but still manage to have it twice or three times a week – grilled salmon, fried sea bass, and grilled crumbed whiting being my favourites. I had never heard of flummery, had to google it. I’m not a big fan of jelly (it has that slimy quality) so I’m not sorry to have missed out.

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  10. My mother used to make a pretty fantastic chocolate blancmange back in the day. Yes to fondues but never the ceramic type. They look great! WW cookbooks are among the many I collect. I like collecting things like the Kelvinator cookbook or the Davis Gelatine cookbook. So many frightening pictures. They make us shriek!

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