85. Letters to Family – Journal Entry 18th November 1981

I would be very interested to know your impressions of Europe. Mary tells us you missed visiting London and Lourdes. What a pity! How many days were you away?

Marcello is in his second year of work and still enjoys it. His wife is expecting the second child. Nathaniel is now nearly two years old and starting to talk. He seems bright and is mainly interested in tape recorders, radios and hi-fi equipment. His maternal grandmother gave him a couple of old cassette tape recorders/radio and he knows which button to press, how to put in the tapes and take them out again. His mother encourages him to be as independent as possible so he can feed himself very well, selects the right pan for his omelette at breakfast and can usually make himself understood. There is no worry about toilet training – he just does all the right things – he used to crawl to the bathroom after his mother for his early morning scrub! There was no question of carrying him, however, the bathroom is next to their bedroom. Mum and I have to stop ourselves from fussing over him because he is quite aware of being the centre of attention. I find it very hard because he is very good-looking and has the most engaging manner, but then grandmothers are always mushy over their grandchildren. We are very lucky to have Marcello, Monika and Nathaniel with us.

At last, I have a photograph of Karen for you, taken at the twelfth-grade students’ formal dance. I also had a newspaper cutting of the three top students with a small photograph of each student, however, someone removed the newspaper from my desk. Yesterday she sat for her last subject examination and we will know the results today;  the academic year will not start until February ’82. Karen hopes to stay at the residential college which will be a break from home, she is eighteen years old after all, and may come down on weekends. Rockhampton is only forty kilometres away and Johnny is in Rocky most of the week. Last week we attended the high school speech night where Karen and the male co-captain gave valedictory speeches. She has been on debating teams for about four years and we thought she spoke well. Both Gareth and Karen won certificates for the mathematics competition.

Mum is almost into her round of Christmas celebrations with her various pensioner clubs. She was ill a month ago when she decided not to take her medication for high blood pressure, headaches and nerves. After a week or two, she collapsed with very high blood pressure and was in a highly nervous state. She enjoyed her week in our local hospital which is a very pleasant place; no-one is seriously ill there and if they were, they would be sent to Rockhampton Base Hospital. Our little hospital is right on the beach with good views from the public wards, the staff are usually friends or known to the patients, the food is good for a short stay and everything is clean, airy and cheerful. There is a TV in the lounge and in each ward. With only four patients in each ward, it’s really like a free holiday. The rest and change did mum a lot of good and after the initial heavy dosage of medicine, mum is now back to taking her medication only two times a day. All in all, life has never been better for mum, especially after hearing that all is well with Mary.

Barbara is improving steadily but it’s really difficult to keep her occupied because she is not interested in the usual activities like drawing, knitting or gardening. However, she now collects shells from the beach and mum takes her for a stroll at weekends. She can now choose books from the library for mum, cassette tapes of pop music and found a book on shells. At night, mum reads to Barbara; a recent activity which started after we decided to ban the TV from the house. When there is a particularly good programme, family members intended to go to the neighbours for TV. We’re not against having a television set for short periods, however, we consider indiscriminate television viewing keeps a person from being more constructive and active because it is a passive occupation and much time is given in exchange for very little information or pleasure. Now we read a lot, play games, play the record player or radio and talk to each other. When we see mum and Barbara enjoying their reading sessions, we feel quite firm about not having a TV.

Are you planning to come with Mary and Cliffy next year? Mum intends to go to Melbourne when they come so that she has a longer time with them.

Going onto something different, I wonder if you can give me recipes for Indian dishes which are either old and hence not known much, or regional. Let me explain: I have a small collection of Indian cookbooks, but I would like to add to them, either by getting more books or adding individual recipes which families may have, for instance, Cliffy’s mango seed pudding. I have the Dalda cookbook but it only gives a few recipes from each of the four states and one, of course, on South Indian cooking.

I have Veerasawmy’s cookbook on Indian food and several others. I thought Henry’s mum or Aunty Olive may have some and I though another source may be book stalls. Do you think it would be worth advertising for old cookbooks?

There are three that I am looking for (if you could find them and if the price is right):

  • Culinary Jottings for Madras by “Wyvern” (Colonel Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert), Higginbotham & Co, Madras, 5th ed, 1885 and first published in 1878
  • Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book by the author of Manual of Gardening for Western India, R Riddell.
  • The Indian Cookery Book: A Practical Handbook to the Kitchen in India, Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co, 1944 1st ed, 1869.

If you or Mary have time, I would appreciate it if you could jot down a recipe or look in a second-hand bookstall. If what I ask for is too difficult, please forget it.

Did I mention that a few years ago I ran an Indian cookery course? There was a good response, three classes of about ten each, and I was paid quite well. I was reminded of this the other day when one of the participants asked for help with an Indian dinner party she was to give at her home. Curiously enough, the vindaloo was the one dish that most of the participants raved about. One can buy bottled vindaloo paste, at quite a high price, and it tastes better than our own mix. Do you know what is used?

23 Nov 1981

Tio Danding
Thank you very much for your letter. My mother, of course, is upset to know you are finding life very difficult and even before you wrote to us, we sent some money for you to Tio Vincente. It is not much (a little above 35 pesos) starting from October. I hope you have received it. My mother is the one who sends that every month for you and I don’t know how long she can afford to do that, so enjoy the money while it comes; I will let you know when she cannot send any more. In spite of the pain in her head after a car accident two years ago, she is keeping active. The rest of the family are well but working hard at study or a job. Barbara attends a special therapy centre in Rockhampton and a free bus takes her there and back over forty kilometres away. It is a very good place, Barbara has greatly improved and is learning many things there.

Look after yourself and try to be as cheerful as possible.

I sent a letter to Singapore about a year ago but did not receive a reply; perhaps you should write directly to them because we don’t know if they received my mother’s greeting cards.

26 Nov 1981

Tio Vincente
I was wondering whether you received any money? We are a little worried because we haven’t heard from you as yet. Did you get my letter written in August? I hope the money is arriving regularly and that you will have a good Christmas and New Year.

Over here life goes on as usual. My mother always has pain in her head from an accident two years ago, otherwise, she is quite well. There are many activities like physical exercise classes and sports clubs for retired people; they have a jolly time together.  She tries to be active, gets out and about and likes her garden of flowers. Barbara is in good health and her behaviour has improved; she still has her bad moods and talks to herself, however, with a little medicine she quickly gets out of her withdrawn moods.

It is getting hot now and the flies and mosquitoes are active again. Winter here lasts from June to September and is like Banawae weather; cold during the day in the shade, when it is windy or at night.

Karen has now finished high school and will start college next year, Gareth has just finished his first year at high school with four more years to complete matriculation. Johnny is still working long hours. I do the cooking and study a little mathematics. Our best wishes for Christmas and New Year.

Lots of love from all of us.

Tio Vincente
Another short letter in case you have not received my August letter.

I hope you realise that one-sixth of the money is for Tio Danding. Your family gets five shares and he gets one share. However, I also said in the letter that the first amount was for your family only, so starting from the September money, which should have arrived at your bank in October, Tio Danding should have received his share for October and November. By the time you get this letter, there should be another payment for him through you. I hope I have explained the arrangements clearly. If you have any doubts please let me know. My mother is sending the money for Tio Danding through your bank account as it will be too costly to send it separately to both of you. I hope you do not mind.

Note: ‘Tio’ means Uncle in Tagalog (Philippines)

80. Pork Vindaloo – Journal Entry 8th October 1981

Today I have a long list of jobs to do; household tasks like washing and hanging out clothes, making the veal tail stew and preparing a basket for our trip to Rocky. On the way I will pick up wax sheets for the candles, take mum to the Cultural Centre, visit the library, get money from the post office and pick up the refund at Medibank. I also need to find shirts for Gareth, a raincoat for Barbara, material for Gran and stop for lunch, our usual fish and chips and fizzy drinks in the park.

Even I’m calling mum Gran these days since all the children, their friends and our friends call her Grandma.

The trip to Tanby for the wax took over an hour with a delightful visit to the Blanks shed. There were hives, huge vats of honey, boxes full of squeezed honeycomb and bees buzzing around boxes in the yard. Under the house were stacks of new hive boxes with frames waiting to have the foundation sheets pressed on.

Blank has a scheme for making money from pollen.
“What stopped you doing this before?” I query.
“Lack of pollen,” he shrugs.
“Where would the pollen come from now?” I press him to elaborate.
He explained that he was going to Mackay to spread his beehives around but expects trouble from the Mackay people who don’t like his bees. Such is the life of a beekeeper.

9th Oct 1981

Dinner tonight will be baked salmon, rice, peas, tomato salad, Johnny’s excellent homemade capsicum sauce followed by Danish pastries. The capsicum sauce looks fiery red on the pink fish. Perhaps I should make saffron rice to add to the colour scheme?

Monika took Barbara to the bus stop so I washed up the breakfast dishes, minced the sheep hearts for the new chicks and fed the chickens. The older chick that had been quite sick seems to be getting better. I collected the eggs and hung out the washing and was at my desk by 8:30am. Johnny is at home today; after I managed to put in some solid study on my Calculus problems finding relative extrema, we had an enjoyable lunch of bread, cheese, olives and wine.

Nathaniel is now being weaned before his nap. He cried, ate four coconut macaroons and vomited, then vomited again. Monika gave him several baths to calm him down, wheeled him in the pram and put him in bed but he would not sleep. By 3:40pm Monika and Nathaniel called a truce; he stopped crying and played cheerfully about until dinner time and then fell asleep when Monika took him for a ride with Johnny who drove Karen to work.

I shall tackle Emmet’s Learning to Philosophize this week and How to Read Better and Faster by Lewis next week.

12th Oct 1981

Johnny was asked at work why he was looking so happy. Life is good at the moment, in spite of the usual piling up of bills and the continuous shortage of money because of our large family.

Just paid $112 to the solicitor last week; on listing our current bills we have, in addition to our usual ones, car repairs to pay off at $100 per month for the next twelve months, the electricity bill arriving soon and the Rover needing money for repairs which mum has kindly offered to give. Christmas is coming up and then we will have Karen’s living expenses when she starts her studies. I will need textbooks next year too. Fortunately, Karen has a good chance of earning a certain amount towards her expenses for higher education.

Dinner tonight is pork vindaloo with dhal, rasam, tomato onion salad, coconut chutney and chapati. I also need to make the tomato puree and ragu for tomorrow and pikelets for afternoon tea.

Vindaloo

(a Portuguese development)

Ingredients:

½ kg pork (or stewing beef)
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
3 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground chilli
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika (optional)
1 tsp curry powder or 2 tsp ground coriander (optional)
2 Tbsp vinegar
Salt to taste

Method:
  • Fry the chopped onion and garlic in oil
  • Add the spices and fry a minute more (add a little water if too dry)
  • Add the diced meat and fry until coated
  • Add a drizzle of water, put the lid on the pot and simmer on low until tender
Variations:
  • Add curry leaves when frying onions
  • Add grated ginger to frying onions
  • Add ¼ tsp of ground cloves and ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Add 2 Tbsp tomato puree with meat

79. Fegato Alla Italiano – Journal Entry 5th October 1981

Bach sonatas are filling the house. FM is the best thing that has happened to us in five years. Maybe even ten years?

The day so far has been a very enjoyable one. Lazed in bed after waking at 5am and doing a few exercises. I went into the kitchen to make coffee and sandwiches for Johnny’s lunch. It was pleasant to chat for a while before the tasks of the day.

Monika took Barbara to the bus stop and I stayed in the kitchen and chatted to Gareth and Karen before they went to school. Usually, I only pass the children on the way back from the bus stop, so it was a nice change; I even made their sandwiches for school today, an unusual activity.

After dealing with the breakfast dishes, putting a load of washing in the machine and feeding the chooks, I was back at my desk by 8:30am. It took a whole forty-five minutes to tidy my desk, think a bit and drink my coffee before I finally settled down to work; of course, FM was on. I studied with sweet baroque music filling the air followed by gentle, soulful pre-baroque music and singing.

6th Oct 1981

I was late to my desk, it was rather a long morning filled with household tasks. The bus was late and then I sat with Johnny for a chat and coffee before he left for work. Monika is taking Nathaniel to playgroup and she also has a nursing mothers meetings today. We swapped the big Australorp chicks to a different cage to make room for the new brood that hatched yesterday and today. I put nine eggs under the broody duck in spite of my resolve to stop breeding ducks for a few years! I want to see if the few Pekin eggs, nestled among the Muscovy eggs, are fertile. I tell myself I can always sell or give away ducklings. There is a sick chick among the older chicks so I had to put sulphurquin in their drinking water. I wonder what they think about the taste.

Mum reminded me that the garbage was collected today, so I left the chook feeding in a hurry and made my way down our stony driveway with a bag of rubbish, only to be met by mum staggering up the drive struggling for breath. She managed to gather herself together after a short rest and went to get ready for her indoor bowling session.

It is now late afternoon and I have not yet started on Calculus. I have, however, made bread, Danish pastry and stewed mulberries.

For dinner, we had liver with sage, onions, parsley, grilled bacon, new potatoes, leftover vegetables and carrot salad. The children are glad of the bacon to help the liver go down. The sage, parsley and lemon juice add a fragrance to the strong flavour.

Fegato Alla Italiana (Liver)

Ingredients:

½ kg onions (diced)
100g butter
800g calves liver (slice and pat dry)
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup dry white wine
2 fresh stalks sage
1 small bunch parsley
Salt and pepper

Method:
  • Brown the finely chopped onions in half the butter.
  • Gently brown the liver slices in a separate pan for about 5 minutes in the remaining butter until cooked, adding salt and pepper.
  • Take out the liver from the pan and sprinkle with lemon juice.
  • Pour most of the white wine into the pan to deglaze.
  • Add onions and sage and reduce.
  • Add fried liver, parsley and the remaining wine, warm through and mix gently.
  • Serve with grilled bacon, new potatoes and steamed vegetables or salad.

§

Pudding was a delicious combination of stewed mulberries, ice-cream and Danish pastries.

Must remember to wash the pots on the top shelf which are covered with cobwebs and mildew.

Found out today that Mary was in the hospital for minor surgery. How to tell mum?  She is already in a nervous state and may see Mary’s suffering as connected to her ‘sins’ of late; she may even get depressed. I’m not sure she will handle the news.

78. How To Read A Great Book – Journal Entry 23th Sep 1981

The whole family felt very proud; Nathaniel won a baby competition. Barbara is still at camp and Mum doesn’t feel well, she is still somewhat withdrawn after the dramatic events with Les.

It was a good day, Karen turned eighteen and we had an excellent dinner of eye fillet, broccoli, corn, beans, crinkle cut chips and a creamy peppercorn sauce with shallots, followed by an exotic fruit salad.

Cream and Peppercorn Sauce

Ingredients
150ml fresh cream
1 heaped tsp flour
1 heaped tsp butter
2 tsp green peppercorns (rinsed)
1 tsp brandy
½ beef stock cube dissolved in a little boiling water (or meat glaze)
Shallots, finely sliced (optional)

Method
Melt the butter and add the flour slowly while stirring as for a roux
Add cream, peppercorns, brandy and stock
Mix until thick
Pour over meat

I spent most of the day dipping into Adler’s book How To Read A Book, The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, which explained in great detail, how to read a great book, “those that are of enduring interest and importance” and “of reading analytically, interpretively, and critically”. After dinner, Johnny and I had a long discussion about the process of reading properly.

24th Sep 1981

It’s been a leisurely morning so far. After a hearty breakfast of steak and eggs, I fed the chickens and ducks, tidied the bedroom, gave the vacuum a thorough clean and then vacuumed the kitchen.

Nathaniel and I picked a huge bowl of mulberries and then I hung out the clothes. Jobs had to be done by 3pm so we could leave for Rocky to see Karen off to Brisbane.

28th Sep 1981

Made a mutton-chop curry and dhal early in the morning; the masala for the curry was fragrant and delicious with a mixture of curry powder, clove powder, 5-spice powder, chilli, ginger, fresh coriander leaves, fennel leaves, lots of chives, tomatoes, yoghurt and pepper.

In the afternoon, I took Barbara to Yeppoon Hospital to have her foot examined. They confirmed what we thought, it was a pulled tendon and no bones were broken, however, recovery would be slow. Managed to read a number of short stories from Century of Humour by P.G. Wodehouse while waiting at the hospital. We arrived home at 5:30pm and Johnny had already made the rice for our dinner so we could eat straight away. Had a rum evening with Johnny.

29th Sep 1981

Today Johnny, Karen and Gareth are away so I have a family free day from housework. I should be able to work at my desk most of the day.

The conversation with myself went as follows:
What to do next year?
Why?
Because I’m not sure I can do mathematics.
You haven’t really given it a go.
True.
I might have to work next year.
As what? Why not press on with what you are doing this year and consider the matter in November?
The problem has not been defined as yet.
Yes, it has.

  1. I may not have the ability to do mathematics
  2. Seem incapable of working hard and consistently at study
  3. May have to earn money for the family

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes:

How to Read a Great Book by Alder & Van Doren (1965) PDF here.

75. Brown Bread – Journal Entry 8th Sep 1981

While feeding the chooks, I noticed a duck trying to eat a large green frog that I had killed last night. It was rather mangled and had been dragged around in the chook shit. The carcass was too large to swallow whole and the duck wasn’t getting anything off the frog. I tried to pull a limb off but it was surprisingly hard to casually pull off a leg. I left it, not willing to try harder.

I was still in the chicken pen when Les drove up to see mum. Joan and Sue arrived behind him to pick up Monika and Nathaniel. I watched mum shyly introduce Les to Joan and Sue. Mum and Les are now admiring mum’s flowers. There aren’t many but they’re hers and she’s proud of them. They are having coffee now. I had a quick chat to find out whether Les liked the boiled fruit cake so I could make him a reasonable exchange for his strawberries, enough for Johnny to make another batch of jam. Mum seems to be making an effort to get to know Les better and they seem quite happy together.

Would love to write and tell the folks back home that mum is having an affair! Actually I don’t think it would surprise them, even though mum has not done this before. I don’t think her capacity for such action is in doubt. She told me today that she didn’t have to be asked twice and seems very much in the air, absent-minded, giggly and thinking of snatches of romantic songs to express how she feels.

This is a queer position for Johnny and I, being all mature and responsible. We advised her not to get serious and worried about details but to get to know Les better and enjoy the relationship. There are certainly problems, if one cared to look further than the next few months. Would mum want to spend more days at his house? What would the mentally retarded daughter have to say about the new relationship? Would she welcome it or will it be a great loss to her? Mum has been Barbara’s closest companion until now. Why is Les pressing mum to spend the night with him at his daughter’s house?

Yesterday was the first cooking day of the season and I wonder if it is worth having a baking day; can one afford to spend a whole day cooking?

Made five loaves of brown bread, the evening meal, beef goulash for Wednesday, a pot of beans for Monika, a pot of beans for salad, lots of hot water for coffee and tea, three boiled fruit cakes, two chocolate chip cakes, a tray of buns and two small loaves of fruit bread. We lit the gas stove for the cakes and used the wood stove for the rest.

If planned properly, we could make savings of time and fuel by cooking more evening meals to freeze, making plain and sweet bread, storing cakes in the cupboard for immediate consumption and cooking beans or dishes that need long cooking times. Some things could be prepared the night before and we could start early in the morning. Dishes should be washed and tidied as one goes along or else there’s a lot of work at the end of baking.

Brown Bread Recipe (3 loaves)

Ingredients:
9 cups wholemeal flour (3 lbs)
1 dessert spoon of dried yeast (1 oz) or ½ oz fresh baker’s yeast
1 heaped Tbsp milk powder
3 tsp salt
3 cups water (1½ pints)
1 Tbsp oil

Please note, these measurements are approximate and with practice you will get the right feel for the dough. For instance, the water might be too much or too little for the flour you use, the main thing is that the dough should not stick too much to your fingers when kneading.

1st Stage

Take 7 cups of the flour, the yeast, milk powder and water and mix to a sloppy dough.
Cover and leave overnight.
This stage ensures a strong and elastic bread. If it is not convenient to keep the dough overnight at least let it stand for a minimum of 4 hours.

2nd Stage

Put in the salt, the rest of the flour and a tablespoon of oil or fat and knead to a smooth dough. When smooth, continue kneading for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough may need more flour if it is too sticky. You can add 2 teaspoons of treacle, molasses or sugar if you wish.
Cover the dough with a sheet of plastic to keep the moisture and warmth in the dough.
Leave for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

3rd Stage

Knead dough for 10 minutes and shape into 3 loaves, put into greased tins (cake tins are fine but loaf tins preferred).
Cover with plastic and leave for 1 hour or until the dough rises to the top of the tin.

4th Stage

Bake in a hot oven 225 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to 200 degrees Celsius and continue baking for 60 minutes.
Take the bread out of the tins and cool on wire stands.

Notes

  1. There is no need to keep the dough warm or to heat the water for the bread. Remember, use a plastic sheet to cover the dough and keep the bread bowl out of draughts. For a lighter bread, substitute a few cups of plain baker’s flour say 7 cups wholemeal and 2 cups plain flour.
  2. Elizabeth David’s book English Bread and Yeast Cooking is an excellent manual to own, and interesting to read even if you don’t use her recipes.
  3. Bread freezes well and if you put a frozen loaf into the fridge the night before, you’ll have fresh bread in the morning. This means you only have to bake once a week if you are willing to make a big batch in one go.
  4. You may increase the flour without increasing the quantity of yeast used because leaving the dough overnight will increase the yeast.