Christmas, dogs, and food.
It's funny how some people seem to go all out for Christmas even after their kids have grown up, or if like me, they don't have any kids. I was 'over' Christmas before my mother died, just before I turned 21. My brothers were both married with young families of their own, and Mum was disabled for the last few years of her life, so Dad and I didn't see any reason to do anything special. Dad always went to church anyway - he was in the choir, and he was gone in the morning and again in the evening. I really can't remember anything about Xmas once I'd got into my late teens. When my brothers and I were kids, and Mum had better health, we always had lovely family Xmas Days. Even in our Aussie summer, we'd have the traditional roast chicken and vegies, pickled pork (no turkeys over here back in the 50's!) followed by plum pudding. The pudding always had threepences and sixpences mixed through it, and you had to be careful that you didn't break a tooth by biting on a coin. My Dad's two brothers would sometime come over, or we'd go to their place, and it was just great.
When i was growing up in the 50's, none of our pets (dogs and cats) were ever taken to a vet. If they got sick, they just seemed to get better of their own accord.
The only time I remember seeing a vet was when one of our dogs got distemper,and Dad called someone to our house. He brought a gun and shot the dog. I can only assume he was a vet, and he would have discussed it with Dad and Mum before shooting the dog, as they wouldn't have permitted anyone to bring a gun to our home otherwise.
Chicken was a luxury item. We had it twice a year – at Christmas and on Easter Sunday, along with Pickled Pork and roasted vegetables.
On Good Friday, Mum sent Dad to the local shopping strip for fish and chips for tea.
Most weekends we would have Roast lamb for Sunday lunch, cold cuts for tea, cottage/shepherds pie for tea on Monday, and by then there was nothing left of the leg except the bone, which was given to the dog to chew on for weeks afterwards.
We all sat down together for breakfast. There was porridge or Weet Bix, grapefruit halves, mixed grill of lambs kidneys, bacon, sausages and mushrooms, and toast and marmalade. And yes, we all had a bit of everything.
I can’t remember what the rest of the family had for lunch during the week while they were at work or school, but I had sandwiches with cheese, Vegemite, or jam, and a piece of fruit – banana, apple or orange.
In winter, dinner menus usually consisted of offal such as kidneys, lambs fry (liver), sweetbreads, brains, tongues, or tripe. I developed a taste for all of them, although lambs fry took a bit longer to get used to. Mum did the tripe in parsley sauce. Sometimes we would have lamb chops or rissoles. She served all these with fresh vegetables – potatoes, carrots, peas, beans, cauliflower – whatever was in season or cheap at the time. We didn’t have broccoli, capsicum, zucchini or any other ‘foreign’ vegetables, and only occasionally had rice or pasta. Mum would also make soup – only one kind – vegetable soup with lamb shanks. It was delicious and none of us got tired of it.
In Summer we had salads – sliced Spam or Corned beef (from a tin) with lettuce and tomatoes from our garden, canned beetroot, hard boiled eggs, and occasionally canned pineapple slices (Mum would smirk and call it a Hawaiian Salad).
Our meals were always two courses – mains and dessert, although in winter we’d sometimes have soup to start off with as well as mains and dessert. On weekends, dessert could be steamed puddings of which there were several varieties (Sago, jam roly poly, golden syrup, and so on), or lemon meringue pie, Queen pudding, or another typically British recipe. During the week, dessert was usually a can of fruit (apricots or peaches) with icecream or on a pavlova shell. I remember one night when Mum had bought a pavlova shell in the local cake shop instead of cooking one herself. It was at the end of the dining room table still in a brown paper bag. My brother Ian had finished his main meal, and looked around the table saying ‘What’s for dessert, Mum?’ As he asked that question, he thumped the flat of his hand on the brown paper bag, thinking it was just an empty bag. POOF! Pavlova shell crumbs sprayed over everything. Mum said icily “THAT was dessert, Ian”. None of my family can remember that, but I still giggle when I think of it!
Like many of the women of her generation, Mum excelled herself with her baking. Christmas cake was cooked a month or so in advance, and wrapped up in tin foil to develop the flavours. (I still do this). During the rest of the year we enjoyed all kinds of cakes and biscuits. She had a dozen or so cookbooks, and a drawer full of magazine and newspaper cuttings of recipes, and after she died, I took most of them with me to use over the years.