from one generation to the next
My maternal Grandma Lois Bower lived well into her 99th year. Her father died aged twenty two, her mother at twenty four, her brother, twelve. Thankfully she managed to defy the odds and I am here to tell her story and share her recipes.
Grandma cooked instinctively, she only owned one recipe book, a 1907 edition of “Mrs Beeton’s Family Cookery”. She learned most of her repertoire from her own Grandmother and from the cooks in the homes where she worked as a scullery maid, before she was promoted to the role of cook. Grandma took a bold step for a single woman and in 1924 she came to live in Melbourne. Family rumour is that she migrated on the promise of marriage, but by the time she arrived her suitor had disappeared. She met my Grandfather on the sea voyage from England and they married later that same year. There was fifteen years difference in their ages.
Australian food in the early part of the 20th century was plain. Austerity forced upon the population by the great depression and two world wars then limited the variety and availability of ingredients, and to be skilled in the kitchen meant being thrifty and using what supplies you could procure, well. My grandparents were of limited means, honest working class people who grew their own vegetables and kept a few chickens in the back yard. Meals with Grandma were meat and two vegetables, followed by a simple dessert, often milk based, she was the queen of silky baked custard, junket and blancmange.
As Grandma aged she gifted to me her treasures, the small things that spelt refinement to her, a silver cake knife, boxed silver teaspoons, her fine china gold edged tea set. Among my most treasured possessions is a natural linen tablecloth, embroidered with cream silk threads. Grandma had spent hours stitching her love into that cloth, it was her wedding gift to Mal and I. See them in the photos.
Grandma called this cake “Parkin”.
1/2 cup treacle
1/4 cup golden syrup
150 mls milk
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 1/2 tablespoons dried ginger
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pre heat the oven to 150C. Grease and line a loaf tin.
Warm the treacle, golden syrup and butter, beat in the eggs. Sift the flour and spice and bicarbonate into a bowl, make a well in the centre then beat in the wet ingredients. Pour into prepared tin and bake for approx 1 hour. Keeps very well.