So, as you all know, I was really really looking forward to Porchetta Day, pork, pork, wine, cheesecake, pizza, pork. I was working in regional Victoria for the week and managed to get two flights which took me only an hour from home (our town doesn't have flights going to it) and C's plane arrived the same day. Thursday and Friday were pretty manic- setting up everything - working early in the morning until late at night. C and Dad were down there for about 12 or 13 hours on Friday making sure the tables were set up accordingly, setting up the tents, making sure the little tents were in the right places, putting the signs up, turning the power on etc etc. It's amazing that this little festival has actually got off the ground, because it is a not for profit festival, but the volunteers are amazing, they all work SO hard.
The perfect day arrived, in stark contrast to the ABC North West NSW forecast, there was not a shower in sight and we looked to be heading for 26 - beautiful Spring weather. I headed down early to put last minute things in place, and to set up the bread stand where I would be helping out for the first two hours. The hoards started to arrive, checking out the stands and asking lots of questions. We had lots of interest in 'The Little General Olive Oil' which we were also selling at the stand. Last year, Nadia Mancini from The Little General came to sell the oil, but this year, we did it on her behalf. In the first hour people were already getting in the spirit, most rushing to try Papa's cheesecake which AGAIN, ran out ridiculously early even though we tripled the amount we bought last year. Just as I was about to finish my shift, grab another piece of cheesecake and go and see my friends who had travelled from far and wide to be there, My poor Mumzy came running over to me saying, I've cut my finger really badly. There was blood everywhere.
One of our friends took her straight up to the hospital (3 minutes away) expecting that it would need to be stitched, but when the Doc tested the movement in her finger, it was suspected she had cut through the tendon in her hand, we were told we had to travel an hour away to a much larger hospital where there are orthopedic surgeons on staff. So - I went up and grabbed a very pale and continually apologising Mum and took her an hour away where we had to wait in the Emergency department for about 3 hours- then go in and have a ring block (which REALLY HURTS)put into hand and wait to see orthopedic surgeon to come out of surgery and assess! We then found out that she would have to come back the hospital the next day to have the tendons repaired and so at 6:30 p.m. we left to go home. Sigh- poor mumzy and poor my stomach- missing out on Porchetta Day.
Luckily my friends were having a little shindig at their house so I could pop in and catch up with everyone there, I'm really conflicted. I am sad I missed Porchetta, but happy I could be there when Mumzy needed me! Mum and Dad left to go back to the hospital (an hour away) the next morning, but by the time they had arrived, they had to go back home as a massive trauma had come in that needed priority. So... yesterday, Mum and Dad trundled back accross and my sister A (my other sister is O.S at the momento) and C and I went accross later, to drop C back to the plane and to go and see Mumzy. Mumzy had to have the tendons and nerves repaired and will be wearing a cast for the next 6 weeks. Argh- Poor Mum! Mumzy HATES hospital and so luckily we convinced the doc and nurse to let her come home where she could have a good nights sleep. She certainly did a good job at hacking her finger whilst cutting some Ciabatta-- moral to the story- be careful when you are cutting people - you can seriously do some damage!
So instead of all the stories I was going to tell you about Porchetta Day, I'm going to get a few other people to do a little round up and do guest posts over the next week. I'm assured everyone else had a FABULOUS time and we more than doubled the attending numbers from last year- so it was a roaring success!!
Today though, I'm going to post one of the articles I wrote for a local magazine called 'Spring' that came out in the local Namoi Valley Independent in conjunction with Spring and Porchetta Day - hope you enjoy xx
There is nothing like home cooked food and it seems that Grandmothers have perfected the art of comforting fare. Even though there are plenty of ‘home style’ cooking products on the market and nanna food is being served in all the hippest restaurants, in my mind, nothing can come close to the real thing. Somehow, Gran just made it taste better. Maybe that clichéd ingredient, ‘love’, really does have something to do with it.
It pains me to serve one of Gran’s classics that I have spent hours trying to recreate, only to find that ‘something isn’t quite right.’ I follow the recipes to the scrawled letter and still, frustratingly, remove a meringue from the oven that has no chewy centre or try to work some disastrous pastry that has sunk far into the tin. Can I get away with blaming my being born into generation y, for the reason my version of lamb roast seems a little less great than the one Gran used to make.
Our Grandmothers grew up in very different times, and perhaps this is why their cooking seems to be so fabulous. Home Economics was compulsory for those that attended school and it was considered to be quite embarrassing if a lady did not have a decent repertoire of recipes to whip out when hosting a dinner party. There was no option of ducking down to the local takeaway for some mongolian lamb and eating out was a privilege saved for those few very special occasions every year. Entering some sweet treats in the local show was a rite of passage for many country women and preserving excess fruit and vegetables was just plain old sensible, making sure nothing went to waste, as tougher times could be just around the corner.
The irony is, the Grannies did the best with what they had. The culture of buying ‘couture’ ingredients to ‘star’ in dishes would have seemed ridiculous to a Gran, particularly those who came from humble beginnings or lived through the Great Depression. Paying $30 a kg for designer sausages would have been laughed at and dismissed as something someone with ‘more money than sense’ would do. Yet, in this day and age, it is easy to find ranges of sausages featuring ingredients such as free range chicken, organically grown macadamia nuts with magically healing manuka honey and this is what we generation y’s are conditioned to buy. Grannies, Nanas, Omas and Nonnas simply had plain beef or pork sausages but managed to make them taste so wonderful with rich, dark, oniony gravy that most certainly did not come from a packet.
By the time Grandmothers are Grandmothers, it seems they have a perfect recipe for every occasion, or at least Granny Pat always did. When we were sick with the flu, hearty beef and vegetable soup would nourish our aching bodies. For the day after the night before, the perfect bacon sandwich with hand cut chips and gravy on the side perked us up. For happy occasions like birthdays, there were meringues galore and fairy cupcakes with jam made from last year’s abundant strawberry crop. For more sombre meals suitable for occasions such as a teenage break up or when nothing seemed right in the world, creamy potato and leek soup would make the night just a little more bearable.
I know there were many more gorgeous Grannies around Gunny that also created exquisite dishes, one in particular Nanny Beryl, who sadly, recently passed away, was famous for her sponge cake. Whilst I was never fortunate enough to eat a piece, I believe they were glorious. It’s funny how the matriarch mafia managed to make these wonderful cakes flawlessly, time and time again, when everyone in the recent masterchef challenge failed time and time again, turning out cracked, sunken pavlovas and dry, crumbly mud cake. And yet, there was no Cordon Bleu Academy or classes at expensive after work gourmet haunts for these precious ladies, they just had to spend the time cooking, without taking shortcuts, and for many, you can tell it really was a labour of love.
These Grannies were a special breed, coming from the school of old before old school was cool. I’m really hoping they managed to pass on enough of their magic touch to ensure that for centuries to come, the sponge cake competition in the annual show will be just as fierce as it was 50 years ago. I want my children and grandchildren to grow up in a world where ‘baking your own’ isn’t a foreign concept and everyone can at least whip up some Anzac biccies or a made from scratch pie. It’s up to us now, to be the keepers of the recipes, spending the next 30 odd years practising, so by the time we are Grandmothers, we too can effortlessly prepare some signature meals that will nourish, console, placate, excite, fill and inspire the generations to come. I’m really hoping that practice does make perfect.
For Spring Magazine in the Namoi Valley Independent