The week 4 prompt in the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge is the ancestor we would most like to invite for dinner. Obviously if it were possible to invite just one of my deceased direct ancestors to dinner I’d choose my Dad. What I wouldn’t give to sit down to one last family dinner with him present, and to be honest I think my family members would also surrender all to sit down one last time at a table with Dad. It would be even better if Dad were the one cooking the meal because he was a damn good cook.
Dad was a cook in the army, and yes, I know all the jokes about army cooks. But Dad really was good. He taught my Mum how to cook, he taught me how to cook. I can whip up a mean omelette and every time I do I think of Dad as he taught me the tricks to a successful omelette.
Poor Dad – he was a very clean cook. I’m a very messy cook. I always remember him saying “clean as you go”. It was one of his rules for successful cooking. As a teenager I liked planning an elaborate 3 course menu and I’d invite the cousins to dinner. I’d pick a cuisine – Greek, Chinese, French. I’d spend the day cooking and the meals were always successful – but boy – the kitchen was a disaster zone afterwards!! Dad used to say I was the only person he knew that could burn 3 saucepans and 2 frying pans just to make a tomato sandwich. And he was probably right.
Family dinners and get-to-gether’s have have always featured heavily in my extended family. There were the Fletcher’s, Mum and Dad, and my sister Roselyn and I. Then there were the Kilpatricks – Peter and Jessie (Jessie was Mum’s cousin) and their 2 daughters Lynda and Cheryl. Back in the 70s an invite to Jessie’s place for dinner meant a meal of corned beef, white sauce and vegetables. I have to admit Corned beef has never been a love of mine, but the company was always great.
Festive meals such as Christmas would consist of a selection of roast meats (Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Ham). Typically the meat was cooked the day before and served cold on the day. We live in Australia, and Christmas Day is damned hot. No-one in their right mind would spend the day in the kitchen melting and sweating to produce a traditional roast Christmas. The accompaniments were some basic salads such as coleslaw, a rice salad, and a pasta salad that consisted of finely chopped bacon, onion, celery and carrot that was lightly fried and added to cooked macaroni with a dressing of made of mayonnaise and tomato paste. We never really varied from this year after year. What can I say ? It was the seventies. We all lived through the seventies…
The one concession to the traditional “English” style Christmas feast in my family was the Christmas pudding. It wasn’t necessarily served hot, but it was always the highlight of the meal. By October every year Nan would have made a pudding, and it would be left hanging, wrapped in calico, in the laundry waiting for Christmas.
In those days, Christmas Eve in my family was always spent at Jessie and Peter’s house. And the Christmas pudding was a highlight. The pudding would arrive at the table with sparklers lit, and there were buried treasures within in the form of sixpences for luck.
Christmas 1978 at Jess and Pete’s: Standing at the back Peter, Sitting around the table, Jessie, Roma (Mum), Les aka Slim (Dad), Ron and Fay Phillis (Mum’s Sister and her husband), Albert Restall (Jessie’s father), slightly to his right you can see his wife Jessie Restall. The person behind Uncle Bert, you can just see a little of her blue-rinsed is my Nan, Connie, Mum’s mother and Uncle Bert’s sister.
Christmas 1978: The Kids table – My sister Rose-lyn, Me (look at the frosted eye-shadow! – gotta love the 70s), Cheryl, Aunty Kath (Jessie’s sister banished to the kids table) and Lynda.
Chritmas 1978: The star of the show – Christmas Pudding!!
Fast forward 40 years to our present day and the Fletcher’s and the Kilpatrick’s still regularly get together and enjoy a meal. Along the way we’ve lost family members, we lost Dad and we lost Cheryl. We’ve gained Tony and Karl, Lynda’s husband and son, and my children who also join us ocassion.
The food we serve at our family dinners today is massively different to what we served back in the 70s. 40 years on, Australia has become incredibly multicultural – we’ve learnt so many cooking techniques and recipes from incoming immigrants. The impact of modern day television shows such as Masterchef has also had an impact. When you shop a Coles or Woolies there are free magazines packed full of recipes. Australia, believe it or not, has become a nation of foodies.
These days when our family get together we never trot out the old traditional recipes. Instead we view a family get-to-gether as an opportunity to experiment with a new recipe. Every time we get together the food changes. Last time I had lunch at Jessie’s she served an unbelievable Salmon and grilled peach dish. What can I say – it was to die for. It deserves to be a classic – served again and again – but it probably won’t be. Because next time Jessie invites me to dinner, she’ll have a new recipe up her sleeve – and, guess what? – it will also be amazing.
If you’d like to try out the Salmon and peach recipe at your next family dinner – here it is: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/asian-salmon-peach-salad/50669092-42c1-4138-bc47-56a1692fb7c0
4 skinless salmon fillets
1 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 long red chilli thinly sliced diagonally
1 oak leaf lettuce, leaves separated, coarsely torn
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup coriander leaves
4 white peaches,Stones removed , cut into wedges
2 tbs pine nuts
1/2 stem lemongrass, pale section only finely chopped.
2 tsp finely grated ginger
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tbs Tamara sauce
1 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
To make dressing place all the ingredients in a screw top jar ,shake until we’ll combined.
2. Heat a barbecue or chargrill on medium cook salmon 2. mins each side or until cooked
To your liking, transfer to plate, cover with foil , rest 5 mins, coarsely flake
3 Combine onion chilli lettuce mint coriander and peaches in a large bowl,
Drizzle with dressing, gently toss to combine
4 Top with salmon and sprinkle with nuts