Food collection… and other stuff

I have collected kitchen dining and eating bits and pieces for as long as I can remember. I have long… long coveted a set of copper saucepans and purely on a whim, just bought some. Now my collection of food paraphernalia is getting a bit silly, yet strangely satisfying. Its not yet complete and I am having some moments where I remember buying certain things and believing that I still have them. Oh dear! I am one of those people who, in a crisis of need (and there has been a few) I sell everything.




There is little doubt that this would have featured strongly in the copper..

Old Fashion Corned Beef With Cabbage

First make sure that your butcher knows what he is doing, warn him, severely, that if the meat is not up to standard, you will presenting him with a slice or two for his lunch. This dish is one that seems to bring deep satisfaction to everyone who eats it. Not only that, you end up with some delicious cold meat for the next day.

1 piece of corned beef, 2 – 3 kg.(4 to 6 lb)

1 onion, peeled and studded with 6 cloves

4 carrots peeled and halved

2 ribs of celery cut into chunks

some Italian parsley stems

1 dessert spoon of red wine vinegar

1 tspn of sugar.


Wash the corned beef under some running water to remove any excess salt that has built up. Place in the bottom of a large saucepan that will hold it comfortably, add the vegetables, sugar, vinegar and parsley stems. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, turn it down to simmer and allow to cook just simmering for  2 1/2 – 3 hours turn the meat over every 30 minutes or so.

Remove the meat and set aside, strain the liquid, remove the carrots and place in a covered dish. Return the stock to the pot, add 1/2 medium cabbage, cut into reasonably fine strips along with enough peeled and sliced potatoes for as many as you are feeding. Sit the meat on top of the vegetables, return to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.

Remove the meat and let it rest for 20 minutes in a warm place.

Strain the vegetables out and keep in a warm place.

Take 1 tblspn of butter, melt this with 1 tblspn of plain flour and 1 heaped tspn of good Hot English mustard, 1 heaped tspn of sugar, stir the roux well, using the poaching stock, add 1 1/2 cups slowly to make a sauce. Test for salt and pepper and to give a final sharpness, add a splash of white wine vinegar.

Serve the meat sliced on top of the cabbage, splash on a little of the left over stock to keep the meat moist, surround it with the potatoes and carrots, pass the sauce around separately. (don’t slice all the meat, leave some in one piece and carve as you need it)

The list I have is strange, a sausage machine used by early Australian sausage manufacturers, made of black steel and powered by water pressure.. I think I bought this one day when the ghost of my Grandpa was inhabiting this shell.


I have got old tin measuring jugs, metal lunch boxes … interestingly enough this box is more the sort of thing you used to see in early American movies, sort of like a small suitcase with a rounded top. Now there is a box that if it could talk, what tales it would tell.


I want to hear the stories of what was in them, who cooked what and how it was eaten.

It’s the copper saucepans fault, the dealer who had them had a more modern set, I was tempted, but in the end the old saucepans won the day. At the moment they have joined the collection of silver plated tea and coffee sets on the top of the book shelves in my study. That room must be alive with the ghosts of past things, so many stories, so much to say. I’ve even got an ancient (17th century)wooden bread trough, French or possibly Belgium that could even double as my coffin when that day dawns. Its story is also fascinating, it was bought into Australia many years back and found its way to an orchard where it was carried and filled with apples and pears as they were picked.


I found a glass holder, one of those wire things that would have graced the tennis matches of the early 1900’s. Glorious affairs with beautiful people all decked out in creams and whites, large hats, sweeping lawns and jolly good times. What did they drink? What did they eat? The drinks were just for refreshing their fevered efforts, the true pleasure was tea, served of course by the butler, with plates of glorious sandwiches, super duper cakes and the tea drunk from tissue thin porcelain cups, poured of course from silver tea pots.


Don’t make the mistake of believing that this was only ever done in England, it was done in this country too, cities and towns all had their social gatherings and these were done with as much attention to quality and detail as possible. Even in Port Fairy, hundreds of miles from a city, these events were much anticipated and enjoyed. And there was barely a week went by that there was not some sort of social occasion. As one aged and settled down into married life and children, the social occasions merely changed, but still took place. When retirement came and time was more abundant, the ‘clubs’ like the bowling club, golf club, became the centre of activities, still with as much style and good taste as they could manage.


My collecting of foodie/eating/dining stuff also saw me find a set of eight chairs that in fact are from the first era of the telephone exchange in Melbourne when, the ladies who manned the manual exchange, wore large full skirts with many petticoats, so the chairs had to be swivel and able to accommodate the dresses of the young ladies, also they had to be able to be raised and lowered to suit the tall and the short. Its for me, just another example of having things, loving them and treasuring the memories. Can you even image the sorts of gossip and stories that were told by the young ladies who, would have come from good, God fearing families and who, actually worked when most ladies simply did not. And these were ladies who were privy to many conversations as they ran the exchange.

Lots of what I have collected is aimed at the country estate that is in my plans for the future. I have this vision of a spacious, yet modern, built in a U shape of cement bricks with large sliding glass windows that allowed a lot of light in. All this will open onto the central courtyard that will contain a swimming pool and stunning herb gardens. The kitchen will be a central island bench of polished cement, suspended above will be an antique butchers rail (yet to be found) on which will hang all my cooking accoutrements. The stove will be a massive great Aga (I think oil or gas fired, I am not sure I will want to have to deal with lighting fires) A large stainless steel refrigerator commercialish, without being overt. Like me. Then surrounded by my collections, all of course displayed ready for use, with impeccable taste and panache. Like me. Ah the dreams. But if we don’t dream it will never happen.


I know that I have written and even raved about things of the past and I confess to be somewhat obsessed with it all, but we do seem to live in the now so much with not much consideration about the things that surround us. I accept that the now is what matters and that the past is the past, but the now is a product of the then. In many ways, the then is not that far removed from my own memory and I recall the way that my mother and her sisters loved life and all the wonderful things they got up to. Its easy to eulogise, things were often tough in the old days, food was often boring life was often boring, unless you had bucket loads of money, nothing has changed!

Copper was a metal of the wealthy, it was not common for the ordinary people to own any copper cookware to use in their kitchens, over what was an open fire.

You will see that the first gas stoves were only invented in 1820. My mothers family home in Mount Gambier was not equipped with a gas stove and all the cooking was done on a a wood stove that was often kept alight all the time. It was the job of the men of the house to be sure to have a pile of wood ready, usually just outside the kitchen door, to allow the cook to stoke up the heat when needed. My much loved Aunty Mona never ever had anything but a wood stove, she learned to cook on one and simply never changed. When I was allowed to go and visit her, I loved the way she and I would push an old wheel barrow down to the local saw mill (just around the corner) and fill it with off cuts, one barrowful a day was enough to crank up her wood stove and allow her to cook. the condiments, cakes, great roast dinners and just humble pieces of toast at the open door of the fire box. There is no better toast than that cooked on an open flame.. delicious, no wonder the Edwardian dandies enjoyed crumpets toasted with their very own fork, by the open fire. Completely understand.

It is of course very likely that the foods cooked in the various pots pans and devices from the past, was not the completely exotic and exciting range of delectable bites, we all envisage, indeed it is very possible that it was dull and mundane, even if it was from some current food country like Italy or France, there is little doubt that the daily food that most people ate was, seasonally a little different, but year by year much the same.

It was not until the end of the 1800’s that food began to improve for the masses and some diversity was able to be enjoyed. Until that time, most people ate a form of bread (mostly brown or wholemeal) cheese, onions and potatoes. Oysters were common food in London as they were found it great numbers in the Thames river. So it would be fare to say that my copper saucepans, although most likely French and from that era, cooked a modest range of foods, seasonal and more diverse than their English cousins.

I am a romantic, at least when it comes to food. I have this whacky concept that everyone sat down to luscious meals prepared by deeply earnest, slightly over weight women whose whole life was dedicated to my enjoyment of the pleasures of the table. Naturally I would need a butler and a personal assistant, equally dedicated to ensuring that my life was filled with richness and pleasure on a constant basis. I of course would remain rake thin, playing tennis and sailing in jaunty little boats, occasionally rowing some punt or boat up some elysian river or lake whilst gentle breezes blew and the hum of busy insects and the call of beautiful plumed birds softy caressed the air. That said, should another type of mood fall upon me and I dream Grecian islands, sapphire seas, mellow wines and gorgeous people, then I want a small, but not mean, stone house on some Island in the Aegean, the beach at the bottom of the garden, a kitchen presided over by a foodie Yaya who spends her entire life in pursuit of perfection and tries hard, every single day to surprise, titillate and excite me with the delights of her skills in the kitchen. Naturally all the food is the result of home growing, fish from the sparkling waters and sheep that have feasted on the wild herbs to be found in the mountainous heart of this ancient, architectural wonderland, cheeses that have been aged to perfection, and the figs, pure jewels. And of course the pleasant company of fellow writers, artists and creative people who needed to come to this idyll to recharge batteries. Money was never to be mentioned.

Its really not all that difficult to be what you want to be, just simpler in the imagination and far, far less expensive.



~ by peterwatson on August 30, 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: