Christmas is a time for family and with the backyard still undergoing renovations my thoughts have turned to my family food memories. To for those who don’t know me personally, I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters, 5 kids in 5 years and then 5 years later there is me! Much like the Brady Bunch, I am Cindy but with no blonde hair and definitely no curls.

As with most families back in the day, we lived on meat and 3 veg, lots of beef mince, SAO or Salada biscuits but our point of difference from most people of a similar age was fish. And did we have fish! We had fish by the net loads, at least 3 times a week fish would be on the plate. Dad and my brothers or grandfather or uncle would go out in the trusty boat called GO38S to Port Davis which is somewhere near Pt Pirie (I think) and return with dozens and dozens of whiting or some other fish (you can tell my interest level in fishing by the details :P). They would then set up a filleting station and the fillets would be brought into Mum for packing into little plastic bags much like the lunch bags we have now but these had flaps not seals. Popped into the freezer for easy access for dinners for 6.

There was also a pasta dish made with Rosella tomato soup that was fabulous eaten cold the next day, didn’t matter at all that the orange bits were congealed fat from the mince. Leftover roast lamb from the Sunday lunch roast was battered and deep-fried and became colloquially know as “mutton fish” because I asked what kind of fish it was – well all I knew was that fish came battered so it had to be a fish of some sort, right? My kids don’t understand that we never ate takeaway until KFC was built in Pt Pirie when I was about 10.

There are also stories about eating geese that Mum and Dad kept in the backyard but I can’t remember that as all the geese were eaten by foxes when I was 4. Dad remembers eating goose sandwiches as they made the 24 hour trek across the Nullabor to Perth when I was a baby. Can you imagine 8 people, 6 kids ranging from 11 -1,  in a Holden Kingswood station wagon with a mattress in the back just driving, driving, driving without stopping all that way?

One particular grocery item was the stand out of my childhood – Kraft blue box cheese – mostly because I still can’t understand how a cheese can sit on a shelf and not need to be refrigerated! I’m too scared to look at the list of ingredients and how many preservatives because I ate a lot of it in my time. Cheese and carrot salad and savoury tarts which were like mini quiches and just on its own – it was the only cheese we had until the singles were made, very new and exotic!

Christmas was always lunch at home followed by tea (never called dinner) at Gran’s house a few streets away. There was mashed potato salad – mashed potato scoops cold on a plate, jellied carrot salad, cold chickens, sometimes cold turkey, always tomato, onion and cucumber salad, watermelon balls, jelly slice, cream puffs and jelly cakes. Fun times were had when the cream puff competitions were on – who could stuff the most in their mouths with the older generation removing their false teeth to gain an unfair advantage. Always lots of cousins and lots of food and always Papa handing out those wrapped lolly bon bon things.

I’m not sure if it’s just me or if everyone remembers things that happened by what was on the dinner table at the time. Do you have a particular ingredient that is the foundation of your youth?

(Some of the family members enjoying Christmas at Crystal Brook in years gone by)

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