During my childhood, a favourite outing for my sisters and me (but not for my mother) was shopping day. My mother would pile all five of us into the car where we roamed about as we weren’t strapped into car seats and we didn’t wear seat belts. In fact at some stage a law came in stating it was now compulsory for the driver of the car to wear a seat belt (but not the passengers) and everyone was up in arms thinking they were now living in a police state.
The first stop was the petrol station. That wasn’t a bother though because mum would just pull up and a young man would come running over to the car door and mum would wind down the window and say, ‘Could you fill it up please?’ and the man would fill up the car while someone else checked the oil, water and tyres. Then mum didn’t have to get out of the car to pay, she just signed a piece of paper and the amount would go on her account and that would be sent out at the end of the month. And the petrol station wasn’t a convenience store, it was a grotty, dirty and smelly ‘station’ that was full of stacked tyres and bottles of engine oil and the only edible thing they sold was chewing gum.
Next we went to the supermarket and parking was always available and you could often park right outside the entrance because these spots weren’t reserved for the disabled. The supermarket seemed enormous yet it didn’t sell fresh produce like fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood or deli items. It also didn’t sell newsagency or pharmacy or gardening or hardware or kitchenware items. And you didn’t buy your milk there either because that was delivered to your home early in the morning in glass bottles with silver caps. You left your bottles out the night before and put your four cents in the bottom of the bottle because that was all it cost for 600mls of milk. The ‘milko’ also delivered cream, grapefruit and orange juice.
At the supermarket every item was priced so you knew how much you were paying and then the items were individually rung up on the cash register. You paid for your groceries with cash as that was the only currency. Two people worked behind the cash register, one was the cashier, the other was the packer. There were no plastic bags, everything was packed into brown paper bags.
Then it was off to the green grocer. You didn’t touch anything. You stood behind the counter and told the Chinese man what you wanted. He then went and found it and packed it neatly into a box. Choice, variety and foreign influences didn’t exist. If you wanted a lettuce you got an iceberg. If you wanted an apple you got a granny smith. If you wanted an onion it wasn’t red or white, it was brown. If you wanted a potato it was mammoth, covered in dirt and looked like it had just been dug from the ground, not like today’s potatoes that look like they’ve grown on trees. And we didn’t think we were missing out.
The next stop was the deli where we were allowed to stand on the bag shelf and the ‘deli-man’ would give us all a slice of devon and we were excited. There was one type of ham and one type of bacon and one type of salami and nothing was ‘shaved’ and certainly there was no cheese section. The deli sold nougat and that was considered very exotic. It was also beyond anyone’s budget so we were left wondering how it tasted.
Then we went to the butcher and my sister and I couldn’t wait to enter his shop because we wanted the butcher to give us his usual friendly wave. We were dying to once again stare at his gruesome stumps. We never tired of the story of how in his line of trade, he had severed his thumb and fingers (all on separate occasions) in the slicing equipment. And he wasn’t alone. He had others working for him who’d also sliced off a finger or two. We were fascinated. There was no mention of compensation back then, it was just a case of bad luck. And even if you did find your missing bit of finger or thumb there was no one skilled enough to sew it back on so you just went back to work and got on with life.
And in the car on the way home we’d ask mum, ‘Tell us again how he chopped off his fingers?’ and mum would tell us the story again and then say, ‘And that’s why you don’t play with knives’.
Have you had an incident with a knife?
Here’s a recipe from my childhood. My mother would make these for her dinner parties. These are wonderful and deserve to be re-visited.
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: I was able to make these using ingredients I had in the fridge and pantry but I had to buy the chocolate and that cost me $4.00. I think these are a great treat to serve with coffee and very inexpensive compared with purchasing a box of chocolates.
- 90gm (3 0z) butter
- 1 cup castor sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 185gm (60z) flaked almonds
- 125gm (4oz) dark chocolate
Cover a baking tray with baking paper and mark out 5cm circles using a cookie cutter. Place almonds on a separate tray, place into moderate oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Place sugar, water and butter into pan, stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved and butter has melted. Bring to boil, boil uncovered for 8 minutes or so until mixture is dark golden brown.
Remove from heat immediately, add almonds all at once, stir only to combine. Do not over-stir or mixture will turn sugary.
Working quickly, place tablespoonfuls of mixture on to circles, pressing out to edge of circle with back of spoon. If mixture becomes too thick, return to heat for a few seconds.
Place chopped chocolate in top of double saucepan, stir over simmering water until chocolate has melted, allow to cool slightly. Turn biscuits over on to flat side. Spoon a teaspoonful of chocolate on to flat side and spread out to edge. When chocolate is almost set, run a fork through the chocolate to give a wavy effect.
This recipe has been adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook