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Port Fairy Bowling Club and the away days...

My father was obsessed with lawn bowls. Dad had been a great swimmer and a member of the life-savers in Port Fairy when he was younger and I loved to watch him as he swam in his languid style, effortlessly cruising through the waves and seemingly never getting tired. As he aged and since Port Fairy had no swimming pool, the sea became less attractive and for a few years Dad gardened.. he grew everything. Then along with his good friends he had grown up with all his life, he discovered lawn bowls.

The bowling club in Port Fairy was on the corner of Bank Street and Gipps Street, opposite the river. It had tall shiny leaf hedges all around it above the green corrugated iron fence, mostly to protect the bowlers from the cold winds that could spring up at any time and send the ladies hats spiralling into the air and everyone running about looking for their cream cardigans. On the Bank Street side of the greens, was the entrance, it was sort of an arch that had been carved out of the shiny leaf and had its own door way, the street was a metre or so below the level of the greens and walkways, so you had to climb a few steps and woe betide you if you did not shut the gate, you would be stridently reminded by the ladies either those who were busy preparing the afternoon tea or those on the greens and even those sitting with their knitting watching proceedings. There were some things that just had to be.

In the end Mum I think realised that she had little choice but to join the club or her life was going to be socially dull. Mum was soon in training and in the end turned out to be not a bad bowler although I don’t think her heart was in it. All her lady friends were members, even the few single ladies of the Borough enjoyed the social life of the club. Mind you, I have to say that those who saw themselves as upper echelon of the social ladder, seemed not to be interested, I can't recall ever seeing any of the local doctors, solicitors or old family at the club. Its also fair to say that most of the Catholic community did not participate... a strange thing but any town in this country was divided along the lines of religion and class.

Summer was the main bowling season, it was at that time of the year that lawn bowls was at its busiest and the tournaments and regional competitions were held. There was great competition to be selected a member of the team to compete in these events. Dad was a younger and somewhat inexperienced bowler at that stage so only made it rarely to the team. I suspect too that his bowl delivery was somewhat dubious, even though he had been approved by officials as being correct. Dad had taken his rather laconic style to the bowling green and delivered his bowls straight legged and bending, he was very good and in time became one of the regulars at the competition.

Port Fairy summers were for me, all about the beach, I roamed from beach to beach, The East Beach when the surf was up, I even joined the life-savers for a brief time, but I was never good at any of the demands of clubs, so boy scouts, life savers and even a short stint in the local band left me as a loner, but able to jump all over the place. The South Beach was stunning, still wild, yet with tamed areas that at various times had housed such oddities as the nuns bathing box... in the days when nuns lived hidden lives and played the modesty game to extremes, the nuns would, when the summer sun was hot and biting, head across some open land between their convent and the beach, there they would all pile into the bathing box which was then slid, on rails, down to the water where the nuns would cavort and play until it was time to return, they never once left the box and to my knowledge, no one had ever seen them actually swim. Further along the South beach was one of my favourite places, everyone called it Pea Soup, I have no idea why, it was a piece of beach that was sheltered like much of the south coast, by large rocky outcrops which prevented the pounding surf from reaching the beach. Pea Soup itself was shallow, still and safe for little kids, a bit of  clamber over some rocks you could find the diving pool. This was a naturally occurring deep hole that had a diving board built, in the early days there was two boards, one higher than the other, as time and tide took over, only the lower board remained but that was enough.  Just near the diving pool was a natural area of rock on which we would lounge, change and should there be any girls around, pose.

 My bike was the means of me getting around and that had a history, Dad had bought it for me second hand and I loved it, bright red with a racing seat, no gears of course, but for me freedom. At that time I had a dog called Monty who was particularly devoted to me and would come with me where ever I went, trotting along behind the bike, swimming with me till he got too cold and then waiting by the water with a worried look on his face. Monty loved to chase rabbits and often when I was at the South Beach, Monty would head off into the sand dunes to see what he could scare up, after being sure that I was settled for a bit and unlikely to head home before his return. Even if that was to happen, Monty knew his way around town and could be relied on to be home in time for his dinner. It was this fun activity that eventually, to my utter horror, claimed his life. As he was romping through the marram grass, he was stabbed with a burr that lodged in the cheek of his face and eventually became a canker and then cancerous, I held him while the Vet injected him and his life slipped away with that same worried look on his face to be sure that I would be alright. I cried for days and could not even ride past the house of the vet. No dog has ever replaced Monty in my affections.

I usually ended up at the bowling club because that’s where Mum and Dad would be and if I made my timing right, there was bound to be a sandwich or even a sausage roll left over for a hungry kid who had been swimming all day. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING stopped when time for afternoon tea was called, just who called it I have no idea, but I suspect that it was the team of ladies who were charged with the vital task of preparing the repast. And, since many of the bowlers would have also been travellers to other clubs, it was also likely that some other club members would also be present, then it had to be good. And good it was.

The tea urn was the centre of the table and the cups were stacked, cup and saucer in piles all around, you were expected to help yourself to tea, milk and sugar were already on the individual tables, coffee if wanted had to be ordered at the hatch and it would be made in the tiny kitchen using Turban coffee essence and milk.

Alcohol was frowned upon at Afternoon Tea and the bar only opened after the games had nearly finished and only those in the finals on the greens. There were a few ways of dispensing the food, it was either put onto one long buffet table and constantly refreshed as the hungry bowlers munched their way through endless sandwiches, sausage rolls, baby egg and bacon tarts, scones, drop scones with home made strawberry jam and cream,  cakes, big and small, sponge cakes which the ladies of the country seemed to excel with, my all time favourite was Ginger Fluff, or it was served to each and every table on separate plates. The supreme taste sensation was undoubtedly the sandwiches. It was these that provided the local ladies with the chance to excel.

Mock chicken, beef paste, sardine paste, sliced roast meats, eggs in so many ways, curried, mixed with chutney, stuffed back into their whites (one of my absolute favourite things, I had a great eye for a good stuffed egg and knew just who had done them. I have to confess here that even at that young age, I was a died in the wool foodie and was known to court some of the local ladies who I knew would always give me a cool drink and what ever was in the tins at the time!) I suspect that the shortages of the times of war were great teachers in terms of making do. While its certain that we did not have the elegant pates and terrines of French cooking, we did have the delicious meat pastes, the potted meats and the home preserved meats of the day. In todays world, we turn our noses up at the prospect of dealing with a calves tongue, but for my mother it was one of the delights of her kitchen and to this day, I remember with enormous fondness the thin slices of pink tongue served with brown bread and mustard One should perhaps point out that should you be lucky enough to enjoy a Bolito Misto in Italy, you would be given tongue to eat, with a mustard, the beautiful Mustard di Cremona, or even mustard preserved fruits.

In the cookbooks of the day, whole chapters were devoted to what was usually called 'savouries' and this included dozens of sandwich fillings utilising fish, vegetable and meats as well as the rarely seen poultry, however eggs were used in so many ways. I have often come across what I guess is the local Australian (via the UK) type recipe for 'meatloaf' or equivalent that was certainly a lesser creature than the wondrous terrines of France, but none the less, in their own way, were just as important as the terrine to locals in preserving the meats and offal.  I have come across recipes for an anchovy spread that was rather unusual since the wide use of anchovies was not common. Anchovy paste was readily available and I suspect that this is what found its way into the spread. I think two sandwiches were regarded as essentials for the fine buffet table, one a ham (off the bone naturally) and the other, an asparagus roll, tinned asparagus of course.

Entertainment was a lot more common in the days prior to television and before people took on debt loads that would cripple Pharaoh. With us now time poor, we never seem to have the time to get into the kitchen and spend the time making food that is economical, delicious and individual. In my home, some form of visitor entertainment would happen at least twice a week and that did not include trips to the Bowling Club, pop in for cups of tea with lady friends, or even dropping in to family members who were still expected to be able to produce a small, but delicious, array of accompaniments to the pot of tea. My mother spent at least one day a week, baking and filling the cake tins and biscuit barrels. Cakes would always be two, a fruit cake of some kind, Mum's Sultana Cake was my favourite and that would be baked every two weeks or so, it kept well and so long as she could keep me and Dad away from the tin, lasted. A butter cake of some kind would be made and that would last a few days as the cream would get sour or the cake become hard. For special occasions or even just because my Father loved them, Mum would make a Tea Cake that you ate with butter, and for Dad if she was being specially nice, a Caraway Seed Cake, which I hated.

Its fair to say that most of the women of the town found no contradiction in popping in to Caddies bakery to get some of Tommy Digby's cake. Tommy made a very fine jam roll, something that not many would do at home, although it was only a sponge. His Rainbow Cake was much loved and I recall to this day that the chocolate icing on the top was raked at a strange angle. The layers of pink, brown and yellow cake were separated with a thick layer of mock cream. Delicious. Tom also made Napoleon Slice, a slice consisting of cake, cream, jam, puff pastry (or more properly rough Puff) and topped with a modestly pink icing... very very yummy and, I am told, still to be found in Tasmania and New Zealand.. a trip worth taking.

One of my all time favourite things was to be told to ride my bicycle up to Caddies and get some pies and pasties for lunch... such a treat. Made fresh every day and the pastry was flaky, buttery and simply melted in your mouth. I knew that the meat fillings were fresh since the meat came from my own families butcher shop. Oddly enough, Dad was not a fan of the pasties, I was! I recall when he and I were sent one day to collect Mum from Mount Gambier, we passed through a small town just out of Portland, Dad spotted a bakery and since it was lunch time, we stopped. Dad bought two pasties for himself and one for me and we sat in the car to eat. My father declared them the best pasty he had ever eaten and returned to the shop for two more.  I think that I had been eating fresh crisp Delicious Apples as we had also stopped at our favourite apple growers orchard and got two boxes. Mums work would be cut out for her when we did get home, making the apples in many different things. One of my favourites was apple and cucumber relish.

Tommy also was the provider of puff and rough puff pastry for the town and it sat in great slabs on the counter to be cut up by the serving ladies into what ever you needed. No one bothered with the arduous task of making these two butter rich pastries. Mum varied her Sausage Rolls, sometimes making her own short crust pastry, sometimes getting some of Tommy's Puff Pastry and even on occasions, making her own Rough Puff pastry, something that I loved. Mum had a few secrets with her Sausage Rolls, she used sausage meat of course, but she added not only onion and some 'mixed herbs', but she grated an apple and even a carrot and they went into the mix... she of course made her own Tomato Sauce, so these beauties where a thing of much delight and even on occasion, Mum would make a larger, fatter version which would be sliced and served with some mashed potato and green peas. Not half bad.

Asparagus Rolls

2 tins of asparagus spears, well drained... mum would use one tin green and one white although she said that the white asparagus was a little too thick for a real lady to get her mouth around.

1 loaf of 'brown bread', course wholemeal will not do, you could be better to get a high quality pre sliced loaf or have it sliced by the baker. You will need to trim the crusts from the bread. Mum on occasions would lay the bread out and lighty iron it with a warm iron, it was, according to Mum, more elegant if it was thinner.

Butter, mayonnaise ( a home made proper egg mayonnaise with a touch of Dijon) salt and pepper.

Lightly butter the bread and then smear with mayonnaise, add some salt and pepper. Take one  spear of asparagus, starting from one corner, begin to wrap the asparagus spear in the bread, rolling it up. If the bread is thin enough (and it should be) the roll will stay glued up, if not, it is permissible, but not desirable to use a toothpick.

Pile these up on a plate like logs.

Stuffed Eggs

Most people just love these tasty treats that somehow only make an appearance on the buffet table or when guests are coming.

use hard boiled eggs and follow any of these..

*remove the egg yolks, mix with cream, salt and pepper, mustard & paprika with a dash of white wine vinegar, return to the egg white and pipe it in. dust with chopped parsley.

*add anchovy fillets to  above

*add some chopped gherkin and pate to above

*add some chopped ham to the basic recipe above

*chop some olives and capers into the basic mix

*add some curry powder for curried eggs.

*chop some fresh herbs into the basic mix

If you are one of those people who have or can find, a piping bag, then pipe the egg mix into the whites for a great 50's presentation. Remember that no home would have been without one in the fifties.

Sultana Cake

This is the much loved cake that is so easy to eat, its hard to know when to stop.

Pre heat the oven to 180°c/360°f (it will take 20 minutes to reach heat and have a shelf set just above centre, but not the highest)

250gr (8oz) butter softened

1 1/4 cups caster sugar

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 tspn baking powder

2 tblspns milk

1/4 tspn lemon essence or a squeeze of lemon juice

1 1/2 cups sultanas

Cream the butter and sugar until it is light and creamy, there should not be any feeling of sugar in the cream, add the eggs, one at a time and beat in well after each addition

Sift the flour with the baking powder and begin to fold into the egg/butter/sugar mixture alternately with the milk and lemon juice, when this is well combined and not overworked, fold in 1 1/2 cups of sultanas.

Use a 20cm cake dish and butter and flour it well, put the mixture in and bake for 1 hour at 180°c/360°f, turn the temperature down and cook for a further 30 minutes (150°c/300°f) or until cooked.

Allow to rest in the pan for a few minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.


* sardines and crisp bacon with mayonnaise on whole-wheat toast.

* tapenade, sliced tomatoes, and arugula on sourdough bread.

* fried flounder, bacon, sliced tomato, and red onion rings on a toasted, buttered hot crispy bun.

* thinly sliced prawns, cucumber and radishes with dill butter on pumpernickel bread.

* sliced ripe summer tomatoes, drizzle of extra virgin oilive oil, salt, pepper and basil on fresh white bread with crusts removed.

* cream cheese, currants, and chopped pecans on cinnamon toast.

* bananas, bacon, and peanut butter drizzled with honey on raisin toast.

* cream cheese, golden caviar, orange nasturtium petals, and snipped chives on very thin slices of black bread.

* tasty cheese and chilli chutney on toasted sourdough bread.

* scrambled egg, sliced ham, and sliced red onion on toasted rye bread.

* grilled Italian sausage and warm fennel or onion confit on a toasted roll.

* sliced roast lamb, eggplant caviar and yoghurt on pita garnished with chopped cucumber.

* sweet Gorgonzola cheese, sliced fresh purple figs, and fresh mint on grilled panettone.

* sliced roast lamb with fresh mint mayonnaise on toasted soda bread.

* roasted red and yellow peppers with sliced smoked ham on a thin baguette.

* sliced avocado, tomato, cucumber and alfalfa sprouts with mayonnaise on toasted multi-grain bread.

* hot tuna fish with chopped arugula, roasted red pepper, and sliced parmesan cheese.

* hot steak sandwich with roasted shallots and tarragon mayonnaise on a thin baguette.

* sliced sweet onion on buttered white bread rolled in mayonnaise  and chopped parsley.

* roasted cheese sandwich with sharp cheddar cheese, sliced tomato and crisp bacon.

* thinly sliced roast pork with apple butter on walnut whole-wheat bread.

* corned beef and cole slaw and mustard on toasted sour dough bread.

* egg salad and asparagus tips with dill mayonnaise on croissant.

* sautéed garlic sausage, onion confit, and  Dijon mustard on a thin baguette.

* sardines and egg salad on toasted rye bread a red pepper and ginger marmalade topped with a fried egg on roasted multi-grain bread.

*great freshly sliced ham off the bone with a home made mustard on chunky white rolls.

*focaccia loaded with slices of Italian sausages, roasted capsicum, tapenade and cos lettuce.

*smoked salmon, cream cheese and red onion on bagel, scatter a few capers on top.

*don't forget thin white bread with cucumbers and a light spread of mayonnaise.

*creamed cheese and celery with fresh herbs on brown bread makes great sangos.

*rare roast beef on rye with seed mustard and sun dried capsicums.

Cold Boiled Ox Tongue

This is a very old dish, certainly on every great banqueting table, pressed tongue would have appeared. Although today we are likely to shudder a little at the prospect of even handling a tongue, the meat is delicious. Tongue can be obtained either fresh or pickled in brine, either way, this recipe will work for both.

1.8 to 2 kg (4lb) piece of pickled or plain ox tongue (pickled is best)

1 large onion cut into quarters

2 leeks split and washed

2 carrots cut into chinks (no need to peel, they are for flavour)

1 - 2 cloves of garlic peeled but not cut

6 parsley stalks (if you have them) if not a few leaves from some celery will do.

1 bay leaf

6 whole black peppercorns

2 tspns of powdered gelatine

2 tblspns of good port

You will need a good bowl that you can cover and weight for pressing the tongue, make it wide enough so that you can sit a board and a house brick on it.

Use a good firm scrubbing brush and give the tongue a good hard scrub then soak it in water to cover for a good half day.

Remove from the water and place in a deep saucepan along with the onion, leeks, carrots, garlic, parsley stalks, bay leaf and peppercorns, cover this with 3 litres of fresh water and bring to the boil. As it boils, skim away any scum that rises to the surface with a slotted spoon. Simmer for 3 - 4 hours.

The tongue is cooked when the skin on the surface begins to blister and the T shaped bone at the root of the tongue comes away easily. Take the tongue from the water and plunge it into cold water to cool. Pull all of the skin from the tongue and clean off all the gristly pieces under the tongue and at the root.

Fold the tongue into a circle and place in the bowl.

Boil the cooking liquid briskly to reduce by about 30%. Taste the liquid, sometimes this can be lacking in flavour in which case, add a stock cube or two, but be mindful of the salt.

Strain the liquid and reserve 280mil,(9floz) try and get the liquor when it has settled a bit to make sure that you are getting the clearest part of the stock. Add to the port wine. Dissolve the gelatine in a kitchen cup with a dash of water over a small saucepan, add this to the 280mil (9floz) and pour over the tongue.

Weigh it down as heavily as you can and leave it overnight, turn it our and it will be able to be carved easily. Serve with a selection of delicious pickles and chutneys as a garnish.

English Potted Meat

This is a very old fashioned way of eating meat. It originated in the days when meat could not be kept and this way it was able to be preserved for longer. No mater how it started, it is truly delicious and worthy of a picnic table or a great autumn or spring lunch. Eat this meat with a good hearty hot mustard or perhaps some of the wonderful Italian mustard fruits.

1.5kg (3lb) shin of beef on the bone, get the butcher to cut it into thickish slices, go for meat that has not got too much fat, some is necessary, but not excessive.

750gr (24oz) pickled salt pork belly, skin on.

6 black peppercorns

1/4 tspns ground cloves

1/2 tspn mace

1 bay leaf

2 tspns of anchovy essence (available from grocers or use 2 pounded anchovies)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the beef and pork into a saucepan and cover with cold water, add the peppercorns, bay leaf and spices, bring to the boil and turn down to simmer. Simmer for 3 hours skimming off the scum that rises every now and then.

Remove the meat from the liquid and cool. When it is cool, take all the meat from the bones and skin of the pork, you can pull it apart with a fork or chop it, which ever you please, it should be on the small side.

Strain the stock and return the meat to the stock along with the anchovy essence or the two anchovies. Return the pot to the boil and cook on moderately high for 20 - 25 minutes. Taste for seasoning and if salt is needed, add now.

Take a nicely shaped bowl and pour the contents into the bowl, after you have rinsed it with cold water. Allow to set, this is best overnight in the refrigerator under a piece of kitchen plastic.

Turn it out onto a board, cut into thick slices and eat with great mustard fruit and a tomato salad.