Backyards and Lamington

I think I have just come up with another cause… Oh damn I love this stuff.

Its a backyard thing. An Australian Icon.

Its entirely possible that a major conspiracy has occurred and I am blaming the Greeks and Italians, in fact with the issues now gripping Greece, maybe I am leaning towards them even more for blame.

This could well be a way of getting the recalcitrant Poms to return the Elgin Marbles. I love the idea that the Brits should be charged rental on them for the past 100 or so years in which case, it would most likely wipe out the entire Greek National Debt.

That’s not the conspiracy, its deeper and way more meaningful, involves such things as building bigger houses (I think they call them McMansions) to fill the block and thus to leave no room at all for any planting of fruit or vegetables. What I ask is going to happen when all the old Greeks and Italians die off and leave the next generation with no front gardens filled with tomatoes and beans and no backyards full of every type of edible produce?

Most younger Greeks and Italians can no longer make a salami, wine or even Tomato sauce… its gone, over, finito.

Now to take this to the proper level…  I grew up in a household where all available land, apart from the small plot demanded by my mother for flowers, was given over to edible produce. My father was not Greek or Italian, in fact several generation Australian from bog Irish descent. As I recall, in that time, everyone had back yards filled with water tank and edible produce. In fact with some pride.

In order to deepen and tease out this whole conspiracy, its also likely to be the fault of the burgeoning growth of Supermarkets who with little or no consideration took over small family local grocers and promptly squeezed them out and changed the face of food retailing in this country.

Shoppers were seduced, the whole taste of a nation began to change, tea started to be challenged by coffee, meat and three veg were no longer the done thing for the family dinner. Think rice and pasta… I still smile when I recall the blessed Iris serving a curry, the first thing to be said was that the curry was always semi sweet (it did contain sultanas and in some more adventurous moments, even slices of apple and once, to my utter horror, banana) and it was also always yellow, that’s what curries were, Keens Curry Powder was the only option. Apart from the unique taste and challenging appearance, the curry was served with rice and this was one small spoon, cooked in a small saucepan and the balance would be eaten by my father with a great blob of cream and some plum jam.

Pasta was found first in the tin from the above mentioned new grocers,  Heinz introduced this to the world in 1926 and it was the only pasta that I had tasted until I started to explore Italian owned restaurants in Melbourne like Cafe Sport, an upstairs cafe that was run by a great Italian Mamma and offered only the fixed menu… but what an education, what an experience and in the end, so dammed hard to get into. My mother was horrified at the thought of dried spaghetti and even more perplexed about how to make a sauce, the first sauce she offered was a good slosh of tomato soup (Heinz of course) and it tasted horrendous, Mum was completely at a loss as to what to do. In fact I don’t think she ever came to grips with the whole pasta thing and when the urge to Spaghetti was upon them, they opened a can or two… and do remember that by that time, this product also came with meatballs. But never served with parmesan cheese, it could be a little grated Kraft Cheddar.

Let me bring this all together. The Greeks and Italians came into this country in droves and in short order, changed the face of the urban landscape, even digging up nature strips and planting edible produce. Let it be known that no Anglo Saxon EVER did that, nature strips in suburban streets were sacred ground, meant for grass and perhaps, a nice European tree, certainly not for beans on a vine. The Anglo Saxons started to loose interest in growing produce on the basis of greatly expanded taste in food, the desire for more leisure time and sheer laziness. Grocers were in the process of becoming Supermarkets and getting rid of any competition. Life was altering, quickly.

What we did loose was taste and flavour. I know oh yes I know, the whole tomato thing has been done and redone over and over, but please, I grew up in the era when tomatoes were just normally great, full of flavour and delicious. I also grew up in the district where the Irish immigrants grew spuds and onions and the taste was simply delicious. Can I ask??? How many of you don’t think that potatoes taste as good?? God knows now we have a major number of varieties to enjoy and be confused about.

So here is the bottom line., the reason why backyards now do not exist..(s)

1. The Greeks are getting restive and trying to get the Elgin marbles back.

2. Sons and Daughters of Greek and Italian migrants are lazy and just want houses built edge to edge… no garden.

3. Supermarkets have controlled our taste buds for 50 years.

4. Councils are rebelling at the misuse of nature strips.

5. Potatoes do not taste as good.

6. My mother could not cook pasta.

7. The Greeks and Italians shamed the Anglo’s into submission by the superior gardens.

8 Most fruit and vegetable shops were owned by Greeks or Italians.

You do the sums, join the dots… Its clear that a conspiracy is in full flight, that we have been victims for way too long and further, that we need to rise up and fight, to reclaim our past.

Two examples of Picnic Food.. I have strong recollections of taking both these on beach picnics … more of them later.

The following always accompanied us on every picnic.

Bacon and Egg Pie

250 grams of shortcrust pastry

6 eggs

1 cup of milk

4 strips of bacon chopped with no rind

1/3 cup cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons chives

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

2 teaspoons Dijon (or in my mothers case, 1 teaspoon … scant… mustard made with Keens Mustard Powder

Black pepper and salt to taste

(optional) 6 extra strip[s of rind less bacon

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to fit into a 25 cm flan tin, chill for a short time, meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Prick the bottom of the tin and lay a piece of baking paper on which you have some uncooked rice, bake for five minutes, remove baking paper and bake a further five minutes.

Place eggs, milk in a bowl and mix to combine, add the chopped bacon, cheese and herbs with the mustard, pepper and salt to taste. Pour this mixture into the pastry case and place in a hot oven, cook for 35 – 40 minutes. If using the extra bacon option, it is placed on the top before cooking.

We always ate this pie cold and sometimes my mother would add sliced tomato on the top before cooking, this was my favourite.


170 grams sugar

60 grams butter

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 eggs well beaten

65 mils milk

220 grams SR flour

1/4 cup hot water

1 cup icing sugar

1 dessertspoon cocoa

2 cups desiccated coconut

Cream the sugar and butter, stir in the vanilla, add the eggs and milk alternately with the sifted flour. Pour the mix into a 28 cm x 23 cm (approx) flat tray with raised sides and bake in a 185 Celsius oven for 30 – 40 minutes. Allow to cool and remove from the pan, cut into serving sizes, 6 cm square ish.

Icing Mix, blend hot water with icing sugar and cocoa.

Place the coconut in a shallow tray.

Dip the cake pieces into the icing mix and then roll in coconut. Place on a wire rack to dry and drip.

There are options… my Auntie Mavis would always split the lamingtons in half, before dipping, and spread with raspberry jam, I think that made them even more delicious.

Peter Watson

May 2010

~ by peterwatson on May 10, 2010.

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