Back in the day when expectations were so much lower and excitement meant being given an ice block, we were on a family holiday, just a few hours north of Auckland. It was a little town of mostly rural residents where the pace of life was relaxed and the setting idyllic. I must have been about five years old and not looking out for much; just hoping to be taken to the beach where I could play in the sand, visit the rock pools, collect sea shells and be given the occasional treat like an ice block or a barley sugar lolly.
But one day my father announced that the town’s annual fair was on and that he would be taking us there for the day, the very next day. In one more sleep. I had no idea what to expect but I was so excited I barely slept a wink. I’d been told there would be a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round and I could have rides on both. It seemed too good to be true.
Early the next morning and after a sensible breakfast we drove off to the fair that was held in a paddock. It was a glorious day full of sunshine and as soon as I stepped onto the paddock I could smell farm-type smells of hay and sheep and horses. We went from stall to stall visiting the animals and I saw pigs with piglets and baby lambs that still had their tails and ducks with ducklings and cows feeding their calves and mares looking after their foals.
And I had a ride on the Ferris wheel where I went up so high and went round and round and enjoyed the fact that we were the last to be removed before the next ride. I went on the merry-go-round where my father lifted me onto one of the outer horses because he said I’d travel a greater distance. There were also tractor rides where the tractor towed behind it a row of sacks. Children would sit on the sacks and hold on to a bit of rope then the tractor would start and we would be towed all over the paddock getting bumped along and breathing in exhaust fumes. You had to hang on for dear life or be strewn across the paddock and left there as the tractor continued on. There are many reasons why you don’t see that kind of an amusement ride these days but back then it was nothing but sensational fun.
I was also given a wooden stick with sticky pink fluff on it called ‘Candy Floss’. I had never seen it before in my life. I loved it. I also had a toffee apple. Another treat I’d never had before either.
I was so sad when it was time to go home. I hoped to be taken to a country fair another time but that was the one and only occasion where I went to a country fair that was genuinely ‘country’ and not an overly commercialised and orchestrated event.
What everyone used to enjoy back then after a day working in the paddocks was coming home to a family roast. The most popular roast was lamb and everyone grew mint and from the mint they would make their own mint sauce. Here’s how my mother used to make her mint sauce using mint from her own garden (of course).
Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Mint Sauce
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: The shoulder is one of the least expensive parts of the lamb and it has the most flavour.
For the shoulder:
- 2kg lamb shoulder with shank
- olive oil
- small bunch of rosemary
- bulb of garlic broken into cloves, unpeeled
Preheat oven to 160C.
Place lamb in a large roasting dish. Scatter rosemary and garlic cloves around the lamb. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 4 hours.
For the mint sauce:
- 3/4 bunch mint
- 1 tbspn raw sugar
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup malt vinegar
Place mint on chopping board and sprinkle with sugar. Chop mint finely. Place mint and sugar mixture into a jug. Add boiling water and stir until sugar has dissolved. Add vinegar and stir until combined. Use immediately.
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