My mother was a great cook and became rather adventurous in her later years. Quite a feat for 1970s small town Tasmania with its limited access to ingredients and food knowledge. Having grown up on a farm during the depression, she knew how to make food work and we were the first house in our very homogenous street to have the smell of cooking garlic and Chinese style stir fries wafting out the door.
I’m guessing Dad had some influence and even though he rarely cooked (French Toast and barbecues were where it was at with Dad), being from New York, I realise now that we were the only house in our neighbourhood that ever had spaghetti on the menu. It was very foreign food back then. Dad actually used to tell the neighbourhood kids that spaghetti grew on trees, which they believed.
The spine cover has fallen off but is safely stored inside the book and I intend to have its structural integrity restored one day.
It’s what’s inside that is the interesting thing. Because she knew cooking techniques inside out, many of her recipes are just the ingredients with no instructions. Or there are several with words like “cream butter and sugar, etc”, and that’s it. The rest is obvious … obviously!
Although I’ve had the book in my possession for a few years now, I’ve only recently started to readthrough it and seek out the best of the old fashioned recipes. Things that we grew up loving as kids, such as the rich steak paste that went so well on toast and the cakes and biscuits that were always in our school lunchboxes. We rarely had shop bought biscuits and in true teenage style, I didn’t realise how blessed we were.
Every year Mum made lovely tomato relish, probably based on the recipe below, although I don’t think she made tomato sauce that often. For all you cooks out there who do sauce with bottles of Ezy Sauce, here’s an old fashioned, real alternative, straight from the pages of my mother’s cookbook!
This wouldn’t be an exactly measured cake, using our modern day measuring cups and spoons. Mum just used ordinary spoons and cups, so when it says “2 small cup walnuts” it would mean exactly that. Not a mug, not a big cup, but a small cup.
This is the War Loaf recipe, exactly as it’s written in the book as pictured below.
Pour 1 cup boiling water on to 1 cup stoned dates. Add 1 small cup sugar, 1 goo tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon soda then 1 well beaten egg, 1 small teaspoon vanilla, 2 small cup walnuts and lastly 2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder.
Mix rather well. It’s rather a wet mixture. Pour into greased tin and bake 45 mins in a moderate oven.
Mostly what this book is for me is a reminder that those of us who still cook today use techniques that we’ve learned from years of practice and love and nurturing and that has nothing to do with opening a jar or a frozen packet, much less going to a super fast processed stuff chain outlet and having the gall (as my mother would have said) to call it food.