Sponges, Scones, Soup and Satays

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.


Those days of yore were replete with examples of S food.

My mother was a dab hand with Sponges – lovely and light, layered with cream and topped with cream and fresh strawberries. They were her culinary forte and something I really miss. If only I could make them half as well as she did, and no, having her recipe makes no difference.

I add an S to my scans so I know they’ve been done. Sometimes I can even find the scans again 😉

Shortbread was something we made every Christmas from a recipe of my Scottish paternal grandmother’s. Intriguingly I’ve learned from Trove that her Scottish grandfather, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, also sold shortbread in his pastry shops in Charters Towers and Ipswich.

Evening Telegraph, Charters Towers, 17 December 1908. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213985458

Mum and I went to Butter Marketing Board Cooking classes when I was perhaps in my early teens or a bit younger. To my delight I was able to make excellent, light scones. Sadly, this is a skill that’s deserted me over the years since – too heavy-handed I fear.

Tinned sardines would appear on my school sandwiches, especially on Fridays, when if I was lucky I’d be able to get a packet of potato chips/crisps to add to the sanger. Sounds weird, but I enjoyed them.

Wintertime brought mum’s soups to the fore. There wasn’t a lot of variety but they were warm and very filling especially her pea and ham soup.  The colder weather was also the cue for different desserts and steamed puddings would enter the nightly menu. I really enjoyed them and in a way I wonder why I’ve never made them myself. Maybe because I’ve spent 30 odd years in the tropics? Perhaps I’ll give one a try as the weather gets colder this year.


Many of these old recipes and meals appear on our menus today albeit in different flavours.

Scones are a great taste treat for occasional morning or afternoon tea and a key part of the High Teas that we occasionally enjoy for birthdays.

Similarly, we regularly have salads but they’re vastly different from the lettuce, tomato, cheese versions back in the day. Among our favourites is a Spanish Rice Salad.

Soups include the “oldies but goldies” like pea and ham, but have diversified to cauliflower and blue cheese, seafood chowder, tomato and orange, pumpkin, and this week, mulligatawny. We both have a loved memory of the amazing New England seafood chowder that we ate at Ogunquit, Maine nearly 30 years ago. I’m not sure anything will ever quite live up to that standard.

Shortbread remains a Christmas treat that gets made almost every year. One particular year it was my morning tea every day for work because it included permitted food. When you make it often, it does help you to know exactly when it’s ready to take out of the oven…neither too firm or too soft.


Scallops aren’t exactly new, but we never had them when I was a child. I simply can’t resist them when I see them on a restaurant menu -they’re among my favourite foods. We had a memorable meal of hand-dived scallops on the Island of Mull when visiting Scotland one year. They were scallops on steroids. And then the memorable Christmas entree we had in Tasmania in 2008 with scallops, pureed cauliflower and olive tapenade, thanks to our daughter the chef, and the sous-chef (me).

The restaurant where we had delicious scallops is on the far right.

While I will eat Spinach if it’s put in front of me, it’s not something we seek out or use in our day-to-day cooking, and neither did mum.

Spices in my youth were limited mostly to ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice. These days our spice cupboard bulges with a vast variety of spices to mix and match, especially for curries. Is there much better than the smell of spices added to food?

Back in the day, sausages came in pork or beef. Now a local butcher uses Bangalow Pork and adds exotic ingredients like chocolate – believe it or not, they taste great! And then there are satays which are always delicious. And the introduction of salami with our Mediterranean immigrants.

Have we got it good or what?

Which of these foods do you like best?

Do you cook scones or sponges or steamed puddings?

What’s your favourite seafood to eat?

Ogunquit, Maine; boats and fishing boats – I’m in heaven.

19 thoughts on “Sponges, Scones, Soup and Satays

  1. My mother too was a dab hand at sponges, whether it was sponge puddings as desserts served with golden syrup sauce or home made jam; or delicious sponge cakes with icing – my favourite chocolate. Of course here in Scotland, shortbread and scones are standard fare. My husband once tried scallops and said it was like eating India rubber- a comment he repeats whenever scallops are mentioned on TV cookery programmers – so he has never forgotten the experience and never tried them again!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a great fan of soups in colder weather, particularly leek and potato (we had it yesterday) and gazpacho when it is hot.

    I once made scones but they were hard and my husband called them stones. He makes the scones in our house and they are very good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I had forgotten about sardine sandwiches, that Friday smell in the school lunch! I never mastered the art of the sponge either but they were a childhood favourite. Seafood of any variety is frequent in our diet and the delicious laksa with spice and seafood made by my husband last night included plenty of both.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mum’s sister, Aunty Lil, took me to cooking classes at the Australian Gaslight Company when I was about 12. I now wonder if Lil realised that Mum’s cooking ability was limited and she wanted me to have some skills Mum was lacking.

    Aunty Mary made sponges until she was ninety, they were a staple at family gatherings. Lil, who was an excellent cook, taught me how to cook several of her staples including coconut cake, cheesecake and quiche.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I make a pretty good sponge even if I do say so, but make them rarely these days. Extra calories that we don’t need as we are getting older. As for scones, I love to eat them but despite many goes at them, really am hopeless at making them. Lots of memories of steamed puddings in winter. My favourite was jam steamed pudding

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am with you on the scallops. I can’t resist them. Aren’t there some lovely memories coming up in the comments section? I love soups. One of my favourite recipes is parsnip soup. Or parnsip snoop as I liked to call it. So fabulous but not for your waistline – lots of cream. I have never been a dab hand at sponges or the like although I used to love making cream puffs or profiteroles in my youth. Now they are lots of fun to make.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy to see sponges on your list. I’m a big fan of the Great British Baking Show and love to hear Mary Barry was rhapsodic about the basic, utilitarian sponge — and the correct way to make it. Short bread was a favorite of my mother’s — served with strawberries. I love that your ancestor sold shortbread in his shop. That’s a great Trove find! https://mollyscanopy.com/2021/04/space-flights-sweater-sets-and-slam-books-atozchallenge/

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t. The look easy enough when she makes them — but then the contestants are sometimes challenged 🙂


  8. Soups – you reminded me that we would often have a roast or other substantial meal for lunch on a Sunday with visitors. we would then have soup for the evening meal. I was always hungry but not because we lacked food but because I was fussy and didn’t like bread or salad and often went without from choice. So anyway I didn’t mind soup but I never found it filling so I would complain to my mother that you drink soup, you don’t eat it!

    The best seafood chowder I have ever had was at Monterey – I think it was actually oyster chowder. I make a point of buying it whenever I see it on the menu in the US but Monterey did it best.

    We rarely had cakes or biscuits in our house. I don’t know why, perhaps because we didn’t entertain much except immediate family on special occasions but I remember visiting my Great Aunt Hilda. She had a wood stove and cooked all the time. She would hand beat her cakes and I mean literally – she didn’t use a spoon and they were the best cakes and biscuits ever. I still have her recipes for jam drops, coconut cracks, chocolate cake etc.

    You are making me hungry 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t you love special travel memories like oyster soup at Monterey?! Those old time cooks who hand beat their cake and biscuit mixes must have had good muscles. You gave me a good laugh about drinking soup.


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