Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Food for thought

I inherited my absolute devotion to, and passionate love affair with food, from my father. Throughout my life of 65 years, my dad has cooked the meals at home. Not only has he cooked, but he has experimented with food of different types for as long as I can remember. I once took a wedge of imported camembert (you couldn't buy it at the time in Tasmania) to (Huonville Primary) school in my lunchbox and was taunted in the playground for having 'that stinky smelling cheese' for lunch! Yes, it was indeed way 'stinkier' than Kraft cheese, especially in Huonville in the 1960's!

We regularly ate wild duck marinated in red wine and fresh herbs, with buckshot an additional extra!

We were force fed wild oysters at Cockle Creek as Dad tried to indoctrinate us into loving oysters as he did. He could never understand the lack of appeal even just the appearance of the oyster had to us children, let alone the strong 'fishy' taste and texture. This was many years before oyster farming commenced in the Huon estuaries. The fact that I could now, as an adult, eat oysters every meal probably means his brainwashing ultimately worked, but at the time it felt like purgatory, being made to at least sample the oysters.

Dad was the original 'forager'. We were offered for meals, on various occasions, possum, rabbit, crayfish, scallops, snake, roo, native hen (the most disgusting thing you'll ever put in your mouth!), duck, many assorted varieties of fish, and swan (which I believe was, and still is, illegal to hunt!). He foraged not because he was a tight arse but because he wanted to catch, prepare and eat whatever it was, in the name of experimentation.

Dad is (was) an artist, and along with his two best hunting mates, fellow artists Steve Walker and George Davis, spent many weeks, hours and days in seek of whatever quarry they set their targets on.

They traversed the whole island of Tasmania in their fruitful pursuit for gastronomic experimentation and perfection, whilst at the same time gathering art 'supplies' for their various artworks. Dad sculpted in Huon Pine, and has made many noteworthy sculptures around Hobart, as well as nationally and internationally. If you ever catch a glimpse of a news item filmed in the Senate in Canberra, directly behind the Speakers Chair you will see Dad's Huon Pine Australian Coat of Arms on the wall. If you wander into Galleria in Salamanca and look directly up at the ceiling, you will see some wood swans dangling aimlessly in the breeze from the ceiling - that's Dad's work too. A large amount of the Huon Pine he used came directly from the West Coast, and was hand picked for possible future sculptures he envisaged. The Huon Pine scavenging always seemed to coincide with a fishing trip, or a roo hunt!

So my life has been inextricably linked between art and food.

Fast forward fifty years, and Dad is not travelling so well health-wise. All in all it's not looking too crash hot for the old boy, but amidst the misty fuzz of his dementia, he can still discern flavours in foods I have lovingly prepared and bought into the nursing home where he now languishes. He instantly recalls times in his life when he has caught, cooked on a fire on the beach, and eaten a crayfish, such as the one I took into him. He gobbled up the scallops, which I had very lightly pan fried simply in some butter (he is the original 'butter' man, having poo-pooed margarine when it was invented and became common in household use at the time) and fresh-off-my-tree lemon juice. I stuffed the scallops into my Thermos and had the huge satisfaction of watching him scoffing into them, then getting transported back to a time when I was a baby, with he and mum and I living in Middleton and Dad walking to buy a bucket of freshly caught and shucked scallops from a local fisherman for 2/- for the bucket full! I think that equates to approx. 40 cents!

I find it exceedingly interesting how tastes are evocative of memory exactly as music can be, and hope he can survive till Christmas to feast on another succulent bit of turkey with the trimmings. He deserves it after a lifetime of savouring excellent food!
Posted on by Rita
1 comment


Sally H said...

What a lovely post, Rita. You were blessed to have such a father, and now he is blessed to have you returning the favour and indulging him with excellent cooking in his later years. I do hope he enjoyed Christmas lunch!