Blackberry Flummery and The Family Doctor

Long, long ago when I was just a wee lass, medical centres didn’t exist.  Every family had a local doctor who they stuck with through every stage of their lives.  The doctor ran his clinic out of ‘rooms’ that were more often than not, within his own home, and answering the phone and making the appointments was usually his wife or an older nurse no longer wanting to work on the wards.

Now these doctors did house calls and they did them with no notion or imaginings that they could be robbed or mugged because that just didn’t happen.  At any time of the day or night if you couldn’t make it to their rooms they would pick up their doctor’s bag and arrive on your doorstep for a home visit.  The doctor’s bag was a thing of great curiosity and they would set it down with ceremony on a table or a chair and pop open the brass locks.  It was like Mary Poppins opening her carpet bag where it was a bottomless pit and you’d sit there wide-eyed, amazed and impressed at the assortment of instruments, equipment, bandages, pills and needles that emerged from the brown leather.  No one was allowed to touch the doctor’s bag and no one ever did.

Blackberry Flummery with mixed berries

Our family doctor was Dr Glen and he worked from rooms within his own home and he also lived just across the street.  As well as being a general practitioner he had that most important of necessities, a diploma in obstetrics.  I remember crossing the street with my heavily pregnant mother for her obstetric appointment with Dr Glen.  The waiting room was cold and dark and there would only be one small radiator heater on that was stuck high on the wall where the small amount of heat emitted was of no benefit to anyone.

The wooden chairs with leather upholstery were old and cold to sit on and you could feel the hard wire springs poking your bottom because the padding had worn through.  The receptionist was always busy bashing about on an old noisy typewriter, typing two sheets of paper sandwiched with blue carbon.   When the typewriter reached the end of a row it would make a ‘ding’ noise and then she’d pull the thing back and type again.  Then the phone would ring and it was an old black phone with a centre dial where you had to put your finger in to dial each number but secretaries often used a pencil so they didn’t break a nail.

A 1970’s dessert

When it was my mother’s turn to see Dr Glen we walked into the room and after some small talk about how she was feeling he asked her to hop up onto the bed and he pulled out a funnel shaped gadget called a pinard and put the wider end on my mother’s tummy and he put his ear to the smaller end and with all that advanced technology he then proclaimed he could hear the baby’s heartbeat.  He asked me if I would like to listen and I said I would so he stood me on a little wooden box and I listened but although I could hear noises I didn’t hear anything that sounded like the lub dub noise I was expecting.

A great dessert for children

The other visits I remember were those that came around all too frequently and this is when it was time for another needle.  We’d be in his room and after hearing the reason for our visit he’d get up from his desk and walk to the end of his room where there was a long bench with an enormous steriliser and out of that would come the glass syringes and the needles that one day he told me he sharpened just for me.  I was hardly put at ease.  After being jabbed with the reusable needle I was given a bandaid and then my eyes focused on the large glass jar of jellybeans sitting front and centre on his desk.  He would offer me a jelly bean but just one mind you as he didn’t want me to spoil my dinner.

Dr Glen looked after all seven of us for about 10 years.

A comforting dessert after a jab with a needle made everything seem better.  Here’s a blast from the past that’s so simple it’s probably wrong of me to call it a recipe but my mother used to make this and I loved it and when I was old enough to handle boiling water, I made it too.

Light as air


Serves:  4-6

Degree of Difficulty:  1/5

Cost:  This is a budget dessert.  I don’t think desserts come any cheaper.  This is less than $2.00!

  • 1 x packet of jelly – any flavour, I used blackberry
  • 375g tin of evaporated milk

Boil 1 cup of water and add to jelly crystals.  Stir until crystals have dissolved.  Place in fridge and allow to cool but not set.  Pour into a large bowl and add evaporated milk.  Whisk with an electric beater until light and fluffy.  Place in fridge until set.  Serve with fruit.

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  1. Love the description of the doctor’s office, which matched our doctor in my small town.

  2. I miss just having one doctor, I don’t think I’ve seen the same one twice in years! I love this dessert what a brilliant treat for being brave!

  3. Norma Chang says:

    We had a family doctor just like yours, your writings brings back vivid memories. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  4. Karen (Back Road Journal) says:

    I never had your Flummery dessert but it looks light and fluffy. With fresh berries, I’m sure it it very good.

  5. This post took me back to “A Country Practice” – did you ever watch that? The ding of the typewriter and the doctor’s bag…things are a lot different now. I miss having the one doctor, too. This dessert does look so delicious…and easy…I’m not sure why my mother never made it for us! I am going to have to make it for her soon…saving to my favourites now 🙂

  6. I am one of those younger doctors who is a GP with a diploma in obstetrics, but of course now we have much fancier gadgets to listen to baby’s heartbeats! Although I must say it was a pleasurable experience learning to use a pinard when I was studying, and it is quite an art! I do still do home visits for my older patients although I must say safety is an important thing on my mind nowadays!

  7. Joanne @ Eats Well With Others says:

    My mother has somehow convinced my grandmother’s doctor to still make house visits since my grandmother can’t really leave the house very easily, but I think he’s an anomaly. 🙂 Love the sound of this simple delicious dessert!

  8. Eva Taylor says:

    I remember those days, Charlie, that was when doctors cared more about the patient than the money. Today these clinics are a business. This dessert does look lovely and refreshing.

  9. Amy @ Elephant Eats says:

    I love desserts with this texture!! I make something similar but use heavy cream and whip it first…but this sounds much easier and healthier. I definitely have to try it 🙂

  10. Reem | Simply Reem says:

    This post bought back so many memories of our family doctor. I remember his visits to our home, when we needed him. His brown doctor bag, his smile, his passion for his job, those were simpler days, people use to care about what they do and above all care for each other without insurances getting involve…
    Anyways.. This dessert looks fabulous… How simple and refreshing and easy…

  11. Can’t relate to the house doctor, but I do know the phone and the typewriter you have described..actually I was trying to get a phone like that from ebay a while ago 😉
    The dessert with berries looks very tasty.

  12. Minnesota Prairie Roots says:

    How fortunate to have a doctor across the street. We would wait for hours as a child to see the doctor.

  13. The Squishy Monster says:

    I love an oldie but a goodie!!

  14. A_Boleyn says:

    I can’t say that I have particular memories of old doctor’s visit but I enjoyed yours. 🙂 Fun and inexpensive dessert indeed though the fresh fruit and berries would definitely take it over the top these days. 🙂

  15. Victoria at Flavors of the Sun says:

    Those were gentler times, to be sure, those days of our youth (and I am older than you). Luckily, here in Mexico doctors still make house calls–and they are always so lovely about it. Even the homeopath I use makes house calls. But the big medical centers are getting to be more like in the US.

    What a fascinatingly easy recipe! I can imagine that kids particularly would love it.

    Oh, Charlie, if you missed my follow-up remark on the noni fruit on my blog, those prices were in pesos in spite of the dollar sign, which makes it about US$2.50 per kilo. I can see where it would be confusing.

  16. your food photographs and recipes are killing me 🙂 so beautiful so beautiful… Thank you dear Charlie, love, nia

  17. Cucina49 says:

    I love this post–such a different way of looking at health care. I can’t recall a doctor in the US ever making house calls. As for that vintage dessert, in a word–delicious.

  18. Lovely memories – I remember our doctor being like that, although rarely did she ever make house calls..

  19. Glamorous Glutton says:

    oh, i’d forgotten the re-usable needles. I do remember the house calls though. It was great when you could guarantee to always see the same doctor not just one of 15 in the practice.GG

  20. Choc Chip Uru says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories my friends, always such a wonderful read 😀
    I cannot even imagine the concept of a single family doctor 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  21. lisaiscooking says:

    How convenient to have your doctor right across the street! Love the reminder of secretaries turning the rotary phone dial with a pencil. Kids today will no idea about that. And, who wouldn’t love a retro dessert like this? Looks so good with the berries.

  22. Suzanne Perazzini says:

    That dessert is one we often had growing up on the farm. I still look at evaporated milk with suspicion – I never did quite like its flavour. Unless it was sweetened of course.
    My grandfather was one of those doctors you describe. He was awarded the Queen’s OBE medal because right through the depression, he continued to drive miles and miles in the middle of the night to visit his patients when called out even though he knew they couldn’t afford to pay him. He used to come home from the farm visits with eggs and even live chooks. His wife was seldom impressed with the live offerings.

  23. InTolerantChef says:

    I remember going to the doctor and having her fall asleep in the middle of consultations. If you waited patiently for a few minutes she would wake up and pick up mid sentence as if nothing had happened. It always freaked me out a little bit, I think it still would 🙂
    I also remember making this dessert in home economics in eighth grade, it was hugely popular and I proudly made it at home to show off. Delicious memories Charlie!

  24. Somehow the idea of needles being sharpened gives me the heebie-jeebies, even though I’ve never been too fussed by regular injections.

  25. cityhippyfarmgirl says:

    So, so different now isn’t it… my grandfather was a doctor with my grandmother being the one tapping away on the typewriter. I used to love visiting their rooms.

  26. OrgasmicChef says:

    I have never eaten flummery in my life but I suspect I’d like it, especially after a jab.

    We had a family doctor back in Maine but doctors in the states are different than down under – even in the olden days when I grew up. Here, the doctor comes to get you from the waiting room and you go to her (or his) office where there’s a desk and an exam table. In the US there are heaps of exam rooms with tables and no desk. Patients are gathered by nurses and filed away into these rooms and where the history is taken, weight taken, etc. before the doctor shows up for about 180 seconds and that’s it. 🙂

    The first time I saw a doctor in Australia I couldn’t believe he talked to me for nearly 15 minutes.

  27. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    I remember needle trips to the doctor. I had to sit on my mum’s knee until I was quite old (I mean really embarrassingly old). I bowl full of this wouldn’t have gotten me through it back then when I was a terribly fussy eater but it would fix me now. Yum!

  28. Vanessa Carnegie says:

    Flummery! I haven’t had that in ages! They used to give it to us on school camp, and now I know why 🙂
    My doctor had a jar of jelly babies. Sometimes he’d give us one and sometimes he’d forget, but we were too well brought up to ask for one, so we’d sit there, staring longingly at the jar. He delivered my older brother, and his senior partner delivered me, but sadly both have now retired 🙁

    • GourmetGetaway says:

      Oh I know what you mean… there is no way I would have asked for a lolly if the Dr forgot!! Times have changed 🙁

  29. This sounds so quick, easy and mainly delicious, I shall have to give it a try sometime. I love the story down memory lane when life was simple, great post.

  30. Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy says:

    Oh I just loved reading this post over my morning coffee!Memories, be them food related or er..needle related are just so important and it is great that you have this story documented. My Grandmas used to make us flummery when I was little!

  31. I will be making this tomorrow… yum:)

  32. will share with my dr friends 🙂 i think they call it blamouge in the UK

    • GourmetGetaway says:

      Blancmange is made using sugared warm milk, vanilla and a cornflour paste. Thank you so much for reminding me of this. I used to make it for my younger siblings when I was 15 yrs old! (I used to sneak some melted white chocolate into it as a surprise)… I think I will have to make it for my children now 🙂

  33. ChgoJohn says:

    That was such a different time in the days of the GP. Ours was my doctor until I graduated high school — and a little beyond. My elders treated him with such respect and if he showed up at the house at night, someone was definitely ill. Hopefully it wasn’t you. This dessert may be easy to make but, with all of those berries, I bet it’s a family favorite.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Thanks John. I’m glad you also grew up with a family GP. Such a shame things aren’t the same way these days xx

  34. I have never tried this dessert but it looks and sounds wonderful! Will have to try this. I am sure my little one will love it.

  35. ATasteOfMadness says:

    Wow, this is so simple! I can’t believe it! This sounds delicious, and I have all the ingredients 😉

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Thanks so much. I just visited your blog but unfortunately I wasn’t able to comment on your buttermilk pancakes because you don’t have the URL/name option xx

  36. Juliet Batten says:

    My mother used to make this one too! We loved it because it was so light and fluffy, and for her it was really easy. We had a family doctor just like that also.

  37. I have never heard of flummery but it does look like just the thing for recovering from a needle. It is amazing how doctor’s surgeries have changed over the years – not necessarily for the better I think!

  38. GourmetGetaway says:

    It is so funny reading your posts… sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking life was always like it is today but you remind me exactly how much has changed since I was a kid. As a side note, we didn’t have medicare rebates so we needed to under the threat of death to go to the Dr, I only went twice before the age of 16 for illness. The other times were immunization only!

    I had recently been thinking about all the little desserts we used to make with jelly when I was a kid. Desserts too were much simpler 🙂

  39. Charlie, I just love reading all your memories – it always causes many of mine to come flooding back. I can almost smell that big leather doctor’s bag that they all had back then. Believe it or not, a doctor that we used to visit would offer Mum a cigarette at the beginning of a consultation! I’m definitely going to try the flummery.

  40. I have such a visual of the nurse dialing the phone with a pencil. Reminds me of my grandma. 🙂 I love the choice of blackberries for this dessert!

  41. yummychunklet says:

    What a fun sounding dessert…flummery!

  42. So simple & easy … Love the vision of the nurses and the doctors bag 🙂

  43. I’ve never heard of flummery! It looks light and fluffy and really good. I remember dialing my grandma’s phone with a pencil and I even remember the sound of the rotary dial. Good memories! Wouldn’t it be nice to have doctor’s that make house calls these days? ~ April

  44. Charlie, I never had this kind of dessert…looks indeed light and summery…
    Reading your post about the family doctor, I must admit that got me goose bumps about the reusable needles 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this post and hope you are having a great week!

  45. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says:

    One of the best fluffy puddings from childhood for sure!
    🙂 Mandy xo

  46. Gosh Charlie you bring back the memories with your doctors story. Also ‘flummery’ yum – will you be showcasing sago pudding & rice pudding next?

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Gail, I’ve actually done a tapioca pudding but not rice pudding – I’ll have to get on to that before the end of winter xx

  47. Cinnamon Girl says:

    Looks delicious, I love foods that are easy to make!

  48. Wow that really is the cheapest dessert you can get hehe woo hoo I love that and I have so many jelly packets at home hehe I know what you mean by having a family doctor my dad use to have one too hehe now it’s so much easier with medicial centres 😉

  49. corrie @ says:

    What a wonderful trip down memory lane. We too had a family doctor that made house calls, When I fell down the steps and cut my chin he came and put three stitches in and then had a cup of coffee with mum. It was made with ‘carnation’ milk. I still think of him every time I have a coffee with carnation milk because mum let me have a little sip while sitting on her lap. A big 9 year old baby! 🙂

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