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U3A Writing: Mother's Labourer

Joan Semmler remembers the hard work involved in helping her mother to cook.

My mother was an excellent cook. Growing up on the farm I was labourer for many of her marathon efforts. On the days that she made two dozen sponge cakes for a wedding, eight dozen pasties for tuck day at my brother’s school or dozens of cream puffs for a dance, as well as pies and cakes for the family, my first job was to bring in loads of wood to feed the blue and cream enamel Metters wood stove.

When all the ingredients were assembled on the big kitchen table, Mum would start beating and mixing, usually without a recipe book in sight. I would line and grease the tins in readiness. (For sponges, measure ¾ cup of plain flour, 1 tablespoon of self-rising flour, 1 tablespoon corn flour, a teaspoon of carb soda and ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar for each double sponge.)

Putting her hand in the oven Mum judged the temperature and put in the tins. Sponges were beautifully risen and out of the oven in fifteen minutes, so I was kept busy, washing and greasing tins and measuring.

There was much labouring involved with pasties too. Cutting up onions, potatoes, carrot or pumpkin into tiny cubes was not my idea of fun. However, it was my job, as was the washing up and putting away when the cooking was finished. The results were always worth the effort.


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