Sunday, September 18, 2011

Country on Show

Last Thursday we headed inland to Mingenew where the yearly two-day Expo was in full swing.  In other places this Expo could be classed as a country show, though in all fairness the Mingenew Expo concentrated on produce rather than side show entertainment.  My small indulgence was a packet of what Australians call Fairy Floss but what I have grown up knowing as Candy Floss  And yes, I did have sticky fingers, but hopefully managed to wipe my face completely clean of traces that clung around my mouth.  Delicious, but a once in a blue-moon treat!
The countryside is looking wonderful and the cropping farmers are looking towards a huge harvest of wheat, canola, and barley.  One paddock, back a little from the roadside, is already showing golden heads, while others had beards turning gold, almost like an old man with a beard of patchy grey but certain in the knowledge that the silver of maturity is just around the corner.
Mingenew is a typical country town of Western Australia; a main street that has a post office, a bakery, a small supermarket that sells not only groceries, but magazines, newspapers, books, and fruit and vegetables.  Two or three blocks of streets run back from the main street on one side, while across the road from the 'shopping centre' a parking area for cars, trucks, and caravans act as a barrier from the railway track.  A very small industrial area lies across the line.
Each year the sports grounds are utilised as the Expo venue, transforming football grounds, cricket pitches, and the race track into a huge showcase for  produce and machinery.  Spraying and harvesting machinery tower above the human population effectively resembling a monstrous machine from an alien planet dominating the landscape.  Small children, and older males clamber over these farming equipment; the children in wonderment and the older males no doubt wondering if the bank would see its way clear to finance one of these essential-to-the-croppers business machines.
Pens of sheep and alpacas capture the attention of all ... merino sheep with wrinkly faces and horns stood next to the dorper whose 'fleece' doesn't need shearing, but instead falls off leaving a coat that looks all the world like hair ... the owner had a sample of the fleece that I was encouraged to feel ... not at all like the wool that I knit into cardigans!  The dorper sheep are breed for their carcass, not fleece.


 Wrinkly faced Merino
A row of small open tents showed a variety of goods ... leather belts, sun hats, jewellery, garden ornaments, a children's farmyard zoo where children were offered the treat of feeding the animals.  One white and tan goat had down to a fine art how to manage to get a taste of all food on offer! 
There were caravans to look through, not as luxurious, but able to go off the tarseal, camper trailers, delightful outdoor furniture [one outdoor bench had space to store cushions etc in inclement weather], political parties politicised, insurance companies made dubious promises, farm agents and land agents sat in their space drinking tea chatting clearly delighting in their day at the Expo, and a little train gave rides to young and old alike.
My favourite place was the big tent that had stalls within.  I bought some Salvation Jane honey, the nearest I can find in Australia to New Zealand clover honey which is my all time favourite.  There were wine stalls, a barber cutting hair, the CWA stall where I purchased a slab of diabetic fruit cake and it is every bit as scrumptious as the non-diabetic type with the added bonus of being healthier!  Schools vied with each other for the attention of Outback parents whose children need to go to the city to boarding school to finish their education, while Morawa Agriculture College had an excellent display of metal work completed by their students.
The Mingenew Expo has something for townies and country folk and each year I discover a new exhibit.
The day wound up with an unexpected surprise.  Once home a coffee was essential!  I was sitting quietly in my chair when an unusual noise attracted my attention.  I crept to the door, and there I found a blue tongue lizard trying to extract the last dregs from a beer can! 
An alcoholic in the making?

Dave filled a plate with water ... we truly do not want an alcoholic lizard around the place!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Delicious, lucsious, new season strawberries are now in the supermarkets and on sale at the markets.  No matter what time of year strawberries are a treat, but the first of the season seem to be sweeter and tastier.

Last weekend I picked up a punnet of strawberries grown in a market garden in the northern suburbs of Perth with no clear idea of how I would present them.  Further along the aisles a jam roll pushed its cheeky nose towards my shopping basket, its jammy smile enticing me to buy.  Mmmmm ... jam roll and strawberries.  I could hear a trifle calling.  Next stop, the dairy for a packet of whipping cream and with its inclusion I had all the ingredients for a trifle [custard out of a packet ... cheaper, and just as tasty as home made, and certainly one less messy pot to wash ... is always in the pantry].  That trifle lasted three dinners, though had we not 'partaken' of some for an early morning tea on Sunday, it may have lasted four.  However, if one is to be decadent, we might as well go the whole hog!

As I washed the cut glass dish, essential for a trifle, strange thoughts flitted in and out of my mind.

Puddings!  Puddings that I ate as a child; those puddings today would be considered uninteresting, boring even, but to small children of the 50's they were puddings fit for a king; nourishing and full of energy filling goodness.

My favourite was macaroni custard, which consisted of cooked [al dente] macaroni tubes added to a good pint of milk into which two eggs were added, and small dollops of butter placed on top.  The butter helped to form a brown skin that was eagerly fought over by my brother and I.  Rice pudding, made in a similar way somehow didn't rate as highly.

Then there was apple pie, the one that my Aunty Clarice perfected.  The shortcrust was delectable ... oh dear, my mouth is watering at the thought!  When it came my turn to be cook to my own family I preferred its simpler cousin, apple crumble.  No shortcrust to roll out as with a large family time was of the essence.  I used to add a sprinkle of nutmeg, or cinnamon to the apples.

There were chocolate steamed puddings, golden syrup dumplings that were guaranteed to add inches to the waistline.  Back in those days we simply worked the extra calories [that we had never heard of] off.  There was a quick, but very scrumptious and ever so easy to make, pineapple upside down pudding made in the frying pan.  Its cooking time was usually as long as it took to eat the main course.

Today families seldom eat puddings.  What a shame!  Spotted dick, jam roly poly, or apple roly poly, coconut tart, all made regular appearances on the dinner table.  In summer when fruit was available from the garden we had rhubarb crumble, or a favourite with my youngest son when just a toddler, stewed rhubarb set in a raspberry jelly; or gooseberries and custard, plums and custard, or any in-season fruit and custard. 

At Christmas my Mum always made a plum pudding, boiling it for what seemed forever, and sometimes a brandy sauce as a special addition. 

That simply made trifle brought back so many memories of meals that were all home cooked from home-grown produce.