I have just been helping Herself make this year’s Christmas cake. The Christmas puddings were made a few weeks ago and at the moment, they are sitting in the fridge waiting for the flavours to meld and develop. Actually, there are two different puddings in the fridge as we now have family members who are gluten intolerant and others who are vegan and run screaming from the room if confronted by any ingredient that, at some time in its life, has had a face. The result is that for any extended family meal, before a dish can be made, all ingredients must be scrupulously scrutinised for evidence of gluten and uttering eyelashes.
When Christmas Day dawns and we are all around the table and the puddings come steaming to the table, Herself, saint that she is, will assuage the questioning glances by indicating which of all the offerings on the table pass muster. I don’t remember Mum having to worry about such things. The food was served and if you didn’t like it, wouldn’t eat it or were philosophically opposed to currants or orange peel, then you would be assured that there was always the dog waiting for your leftovers. My fading memory suggests that the dog usually went hungry.
But back to the cake – let them eat it! I am eternally amazed at how recipes come into being. Surely there wasn’t some tireless cook who was chained to a kitchen bench, endlessly experimenting with the proportions and types of ingredients. And I cite the Christmas cake as an example.
My bench chaining was brief but in that time, I was instructed to weigh several tonnes of currants, sultanas, cranberries, raisins and candied peel. To these was added a sack of our, several kilos of brown sugar, slabs of butter, a lorry load of slivered almonds, a farm load of eggs, most of the remaining spices from Batavia, salt and all the orange juice and zest from Sunraysia. All this was poured into a cement mixer and moistened with the odd keg of Muscat, Port and Brandy. All this is now regularly churned and left to ‘prove’, ‘cure’ or do whatever a mixture like this does over night.
How on earth was this recipe concocted? Perhaps a castle was besieged and there was nothing better to do to while away the months than experiment with whatever was left in the cellar pantry. How many failed, trial Christmas cakes were fed to the chained prisoners and how much reheated and tipped over the ramparts onto the vegans below?
Eventually, perhaps over generations of trial and error, we arrived at a recipe that works. Over that time the excesses have been eliminated and what remains is a balanced, fail proof recipe. It seems that we only advance through trial and error.
I suppose the same is still going on. In the never ending quest for novelty or to gain a hat for a restaurant, chefs seem determined ‘to go where no man has gone before’. Occasionally, I glance through one of Herself’s food mags and I’m gobsmacked at some of the offerings. Why, in the name of baked beans on toast do they have to try and convince us that turnip and lime macarons are worth trying? Yes, I know I’m a boring old fart but I’d like to think that I’m a BOF with some taste and discretion.
I know that on Christmas Day, I will devour the turkey and ham, gobble up the roasted potatoes and whatever vegetables are deemed suitable. I will have a few servings of pudding, complete with delicious animal by products. Both before and after CD I will enjoy the slabs of Christmas cake, subtly complemented by shortbread and chocolate-dipped, candied orange peel. All without a politically correct thought! You see, it’s time to pass over that task to others as this is my last ‘Kibbled’ column.
It’s sobering to reflect on the fact that some of you out there were not born when I started writing ‘Kibbled”, 34 years ago. Of course, I was just a youngster at the time. We had built a house in North Warrandyte, our two kids were going to WPS, I was involved in the Warrandyte Drama Group, Herself was at the Eltham Living and Learning Centre and we were ‘happy locals’.
In my years with The Diary, under the professional editorship of Cliff Green and more recently, Scott Podmore, I have been privileged to be able to share my life with you; my joys, my gripes and reflections on life. Throughout those 34 years, Jock’s fabulous cartoons have improved whatever I have written.
I have kept copies of all my articles and one day, I will sit or lie down and read the lot to discover what sort of man I have been. Whatever I discover, I know that without Herself I would have been a lesser one.
That said, all I have to do now, is press my … last … full…stop.
Ah Roger, it’s a sad, sad day saying farewell to one of our greats! On behalf of the Diary I offer a heartfelt thank you for all your wonderful columns, engaging and entertaining turns of phrase. We also thank the lovely Herself for being the subject of so many great yarns. You will always be a part of the Diary. – Scott P, editor.