Have you got long lasting memories of hanging out in your grandma’s kitchen? I sure do. My Nana H was the best cook – some of her specialties were chocolate chip biscuits, sponge cake, trifle and bread rolls made from scratch. In fact she taught me how to make bread from scratch and I still do – it’s incredibly soothing.
There’s something really comforting about coming into a warm kitchen after a day out in the paddock, when it’s freezing cold. Not that it’s cold at the moment, but I distinctly remember coming in from lamb marking, when the wind was so cold that my nose was red and running and my hands were so cold they felt hot.
One of the beautiful things about these childhood memories of mine, is Nana’s Aga stove. It used to run on kero and it never went out during winter. As a “Farmer’s Wife”, Nana would always have the big kettle on the edge of the Aga, so the water was always warm and never take too long to boil when unexpected visitors turned up, needing ‘whet their whistle’. (Who remembers that saying?!)
During winter there’d always be a pot of soup of the burner and bread rolls proofing in the warmer, before being cooked in the oven.
I’m not sure if it was the Aga that created that beautiful, homely feel or it was Nana’s love and cooking that did. Perhaps you couldn’t have one without the other? Whatever it was, I have so many happy memories of sitting at the kitchen table talking to Nana while she cooked. Or helping (more likely hindering!) her cook and serve up. Or cleaning and polishing the silver. She used to pay me two cents per item. Who remembers Silvo? Then I’d take that two cents per item to school and buy myself come apricot squares (at one cent per square) from the school canteen. And do you know what? As yummy as those apricot squares were, they never tasted as good as what came out of Nana’s Aga.
I was lucky; I got the Nana’s love of cooking genetics. Not the gardening one. I hate gardening, love cooking!
Nana’s garden reminded me a bit of the Secret Garden novel. Lots of little nooks and crannies. Nana had a few palm trees that spread their branches over much of the garden that would give the areas that ‘secret’ feel. Roses bushes and Camelias. The normal geraniums were there too, along with all the fruit trees and veggie patch.
As a kid I’d spend hours roller skating around the cement verandah and scaring myself everytime I thought I saw a snake in the undergrowth. At my screams, Nana would head out with her piece of twitched wire and go a-snake-hunting. Sometimes they were there and other times it was my active imagine that created a piece of bark into a snake. (My imagination has always worked well!).
Nana would always wear a skirt. If she was cooking she’d have an apron on – usually covered in flour. The quirkiest thing about her though, was she used to ride a yellow bike. She never held a car licence. If you’ve ever been to the Flinders Ranges, you’ll know how stoney it is! Over the loose stones, she’d ride to ‘turn off the mill.’ She also used to catch the tram out to Annesley College when I was at boarding school and bring me chocolate chips biscuits from the kitchen in David Jones and a packet of liquorice bullets.
How lucky I was to have Grandparents close by. In a couple of days Nana would have turned 108. She’s been gone for twenty years, but my memories are as clear as if they happened yesterday and I still crave her presence and wish I could talk to her. Does that ever leave you? I’m guessing not.
What are your memories of your grandparents?
My 81 year old mother still lives in her house on the family farm at and does all her cooking in and on her wood stove ( which I have to cut the wood for) . And the food is great, from roasts to soup to baking all sorts of cakes and biscuits. I keep telling her to update to an electric stove but she says she loves her wood stove and hauling buckets of wood from the wood heap helps keep her fit.And I am rewarded with an ample supply of biscuits and slices when I call in for a cuppa.