Wendy Tomlins, Nana’s ginger slice and the little painted chair. Photos courtesy of Wendy Tomlins.
When I’m feeling homesick, I like to visit a memory; a visit to the warmth of my Grandmother’s kitchen. I still have the tiny painted chair that I stood on to reach the bench, apron tied under my arms to keep my dress clean. The same chair my daughter stood on to help me, and hopefully, her children will do the same one day.
That kitchen was always at work with pots of apples from the backyard tree bubbling away for apple pie. Dustings of flour and pastry bits on the red Formica bench. A wooden spoon to lick cake mixture from. Always a big pot of tea at the ready and cake tins filled with homemade goodness. Anzac’s, Afghans and Apricot Strudel to name a few of the things starting with A.
The sweet smell of baking is a sure-fire way to ward off a bout of homesickness. As the butter becomes room temperature, I can remember Nana opening the mesh backed meat safe and pulling out the big china butter crock. What could be better than creaming butter and sugar together to foamy richness, adding runny golden syrup and toasting coconut in the oven?
I never liked ginger as a child; it tasted sour in my mouth. Now, a fan of ginger everything, I chop sugary crystallised ginger into tiny pieces ready to add to the topping. As I take the base of a ginger slice from the oven, checking that the rolled oats and coconut are toasty brown, I’m pulled back in time to a place where food was part of love and sharing with friends, neighbours, visiting tradespeople and perfect strangers. It was a part of life.
Peddling my bike with a tea towel wrapped dish in the basket to various neighbours and acquaintances fallen on hard times, or just needing cheering up, I would hope that I could deliver my goodies and escape before kissed in thanks. Those moustachy, whiskery kisses (from men and women!) on my cheek were always the worst part of handing over good cheer.
As I take a container of ginger slice next door to introduce myself to my new neighbours I feel better. A good cup of tea, a piece of slice and a starched linen napkin is a cure-all for much in my world.