Why Write Family Stories
A few years ago I was served a curry in China. It was a rich stew with lumps of meat, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables. The aroma and taste immediately took me back to my childhood and to Grandma’s kitchen. She was making her lamb curry.
As was a child of the 1950’s, Gran’s cooking is a cherished memory. In addition to her lamb curry, she made Irish stew, Cornish pasties, pikelets, roast rabbit and a fruit cake to die for. In those days, lamb was often on the menu. There were thousands of sheep in the surrounding countryside, so lamb and mutton were always cheap to buy. Chicken was expensive and only served on special occasions. Rabbits were trapped locally and delivered by Rabbitohs who trudged door to door selling their wares. The milkman also called, as did the baker, the grocer, the butcher and the iceman.
Gran didn’t have a car and she didn’t have a telephone so the grocer and butcher came on Mondays for an order that was delivered two days later. Gran didn’t have a refrigerator. She had an icebox. The Iceman called two or three times a week carrying a large lump of ice on hessian bag draped over his shoulder. This went into the top of the Icebox and kept food cool for a day of two. Gran did most of her cooking on a wood stove. She also had a Kookaburra stove complete with small oven but Gran thought that food tasted better when cooked in a wood burning oven. The stove was also used to heat the irons. Gran had several heavy little irons which would sit on the top of the stove on ironing days. When hot the iron could press half a shirt.
Grandma didn’t have a washing machine. She washed in a fire heated copper in the backyard. Everything went into the copper and was boiled up with Lux suds. When the clothes clean they were lifted from the copper by a poker-a long smooth stick that was used to stir, prod and extract the hot washing. It was then fed through a hand operated wringer before being hung on lines that were strung around the backyard.
Grandma was born in 1876 in the little gold mining town of Creswick in Victoria. In those days Creswick had a large Chinese population who had migrated to Australia in the hope of making their fortune in the goldfields. Many, who failed to prosper, opened laundries, market gardens and restaurants. They introduced the first flavours of Asian cooking to a mostly British working class population. Their recipes were copied and modified by wives and mothers like my Grandmother. She was over eighty when I knew her. Her life was so different from the lives we live today.
My generation, the Baby-Boomers, are the last group of people who can record stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is these stories that give a human face to the history of our country. If we don’t tell these stories they will be lost to future generations. I began this website in the hope that it would become a venue for all those interested in our past. If you have written a book about Australia or its people, it can be promoted on the website and sold in the bookshop. If you have a story that is worthy of an audience, write it down and post it to the blog. As many as possible will be featured in the Readers Stories Section. Together we can preserve our past and bring our stories to future generations.