The Lost Recipe

There comes a time when we all actually get serious about cleaning out our “stuff”, items we no longer need, but still retain for various obscure reasons.

We recently helped my daughter and partner move house and I was amazed at the amount of “stuff” they had accumulated after only eight years together. This prompted me to get serious about getting my own house in order, sorting out my historical detritus.

It’s a complex, difficult process, more emotional than physical. Particularly with sorting through old items of one’s parents. It’s as though your childhood is finally slipping away into the darkness, it’s a type of guilt about disposing of items which once meant something to them. But there is little stuff that I would personally use, and I know my children would not be interested in these superfluous snapshots of family history.

With Dad, I have many memories and reminders. The piles of his writing, the boxes of slides, and a few treasured old tools. With mum, it’s not so easy, she was mainly involved in the garden club. But thinking about her life, if there was one particular remnant I would choose to mentally retain it would be her cooking. It was her role in the family. The Sunday roasts, the apple pies, but particularly her famous tasty Christmas pudding.

From a young age I looked forward to Christmas day on my aunt’s farm on the Mornington Peninsular.  For lunch, the huge dining table seated a horde of assorted uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, friends and other hangers on, to consume a massive meal.  After the main Christmas course, all would keenly await the highlight of the day – the grand entrance of the pudding.  This icon would be carried into the room by my mum, the maker, and would be flaming with lashings of brandy, (in itself a fire danger in the old timber cottage.)

We would devour the pudding, hoping to get a thruppence or sixpence, which sadly we had to return for next year’s pudding.  There were second helpings, laughter and compliments to mum that this was her best pudding yet.  Then onto the second highlight of the day, giving out presents.

This ritual lasted for decades.   Faces changed, older family died, cousins brought new partners, grandchildren arrived, but mum always made the pudding.  In October, the annual process would begin.  Mum would spread the ingredients on the old timber kitchen table, and clamp on the heavy cast iron hand mincer. I played a critical role as the suet mincer, laboriously but proudly mincing up a huge pile of suet, at that young age not knowing what this tough sinewy stuff was.  Mum would start up the big Sunbeam mixmaster; we would all give the mix a stir with the old wooden spoon, throw in the money and make a wish.

Dad’s role was to maintain a steady fire to steam the pudding for eight hours. Our old house in Clifton Hill had an outside laundry with a huge copper boiler..  He would rig up a device to support the pudding by its cloth loop at the right height, and every hour would stoke the fire and top up the water.  Finally the pudding would be hung in its cloth ball in the laundry until Christmas day.

The huge family gatherings finally ended, but mum still made a smaller pudding for the immediate family.  After she died, dad continued the tradition until he died.  All this time, I never actually knew what the pudding contained, as mum refused to give away her recipe, and dad continued this secrecy.  We were simply happy to enjoy the rich sticky tasty treat.  When he died I found the recipe, scribbled on a piece of tattered paper in an old diary.

By that time I had forgotten about the suet, and was horrified to see what we had been eating all those years —  slabs of saturated fat, plantations of sugar, chocolate, gallons of alcohol, all bound together by healthier mixed fruits, but topped by a sugary creamy custard sauce.  Great for me as a diabetic.  My wife was horrified at what her mother in law had fed her. I thought it best to keep quiet about the huge tub of lard in mum’s fridge, used to baste the rich Sunday roasts, which all enjoyed.

In honour of my dear old mum, I made her pudding, only once, the first Christmas after dad died when the recipe came to light.  It was not as tasty as mum’s, as I left out the suet, and went easy on the sugar, but my family enjoyed it and I had fun telling the kids tales about their gran and pop and aunt May’s farm.  It brought back happy memories of our big family, now dispersed, and about our times on the farm a long time ago.

The recipe?  Long since gone.  I recently spent hours searching through old recipe boxes, through my parents’ papers, and I couldn’t find it.  I would not have thrown it out, and it must be somewhere in the house, and may turn up one day, maybe my kids will find it when I go. But in the process I had a beautifully poignant time, trawling through mum’s old recipes, dad’s old stories, ancient photos and the memories of my early life.

Out of curiosity, I googled “old fashioned plum pudding” and hundreds of hits came up, all with the same type of ingredients, including the suet.  This was slightly surprising as I thought mum’s recipe was unique, but clearly many mums in that era were busily boiling up puddings pre Christmas, and their little kids were busily mincing suet. But I guess the eating environment gives each pudding its own unique flavour.

In mum’s memory here is an old imperial recipe which from my early memories seems to most resemble her one. For the fun of it, I may make it one Christmas, and we would greedily and guiltily consume the sinful product, but I reluctantly think not. Maybe a synthetic suet pudding will suffice.

 

The could have been mum’s Christmas suet pudding.”

4 oz plain flour

2 oz dark chocolate grated

1 teaspoon mixed spice

6 oz fresh white breadcrumbs

10 oz suet ground

8 oz brown sugar

2 oz dried apples and apricots

2 lbs raisins, currants and chopped dates

2 oz hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds chopped

zest of one lemon and orange

2 teaspoons of vanilla essence

1 teaspoon almond essence

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon honey

qtr pint dark rum or brandy

Visit to Ellis Cottage

Ellis Cottage WPEllis Cottage 2

On Tuesday, men from Diamond Creek OM:NI visited Ellis Cottage just north east of Diamond Creek. The cottage was built out of uncut local stone circa 1885 by William Ellis, who with his nephew Nathaniel Ellis, established a model farm on 150 acres on the site now known as Ellis Park.

In 1850 William Ellis purchased a large portion of land between Diamond Creek East and Wattle Glen. A successful farmer and businessman, Ellis also purchased land in Yarra Glen, Diamond Creek, Woodstock and Greensborough.

The cottage and grounds houses the Nillumbik Historical Society’s collection of historic photographs and documents of pioneering families from the area.

Unfortunately Daryl was unable to obtain the recipe for the delicious scones we had for morning tea.

 

Cota’s Morning Tea

Council On The Ageing

I was looking at the wicking boxes of free vegetables growing at the station platform. It was trying to rain as the silver train slowly stopped to pick up more commuters heading to the mysteries of Melbourne. Ken and I said goodbye to David as he went to do battle with Centrelink in Greensborough and we continued on to the big smoke. It was now a typical scene on the train with computers, iPhone’s and not a newspaper to be seen and as we chatted we felt like aliens among robots.

Arriving at Flagstaff  Station at about 9-30, a bit early, we walked down a cobblestone lane way to view a blue-stone building wall and to our amazement there were several two tone brown Sparrows waiting to dive down and check out the menu in the open rubbish bins, there was a man sitting there also, with his shoes off, eating some kitchen offerings. Back into Lonsdale St and up to level 4 a different world, clean bright and cheery faces of all the invitees to Cota’s Volunteer’s Morning Tea.

What a very impressive attendance of mixed cultures and volunteers both men and women who support all those aged in need of direction. Cota knits many services together and helps the aged in their golden years. A 100-year-old man gave a heartfelt speech and support for both Cota and OM:NI. After the awards and speech’s Cota put on a wonderful morning tea enjoyed by all and networking was further fertilized among Melbourne and Geelong volunteers.

Leaving, we stopped for a while in Lonsdale St, amazed at the variety of people’s dress from Barristers wigs and all, office attire, workers, shoppers and a homeless man huddled under a thin blanket with a skinny dog shivering from cold and hunger – a street displaying the wealthy and the homeless.

Like two rabbits heading for home we scurried down the staircases of Flagstaff  Rail Station and boarded the Eltham train, you never know who you may meet on a long silver train, it’s very random which carriage you get into and who you sit next too but a smile can engage the most amazing encounter and enter Olaf, an amazing young man with technical skills and a great personality in conversation we found he lived at the end of the same street as Ken in the same suburb!  

Arriving back home I felt so humble, a warm home a welcome from my wife, cat and a comfy lounge chair to sink back into reminisce over the day’s experience and watch the log fire turn into red embers as I slipped into a welcome warm slumber time.

A Chance Encounter

The ride had started nicely. It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon, my solo riding day; I can ride where I like, explore trails, without having to follow the wishes of the Thursday cycling group. That day I had suddenly decided to explore a new trail, branching off from the main track to Warrandyte, reached by a wide gate.

To my delight it began well; the track was a gently winding dirt one, following the river on my left, so according to my calculations I could casually ride back to Fitzsimmons Lane, a fairly short distance.

However, the track steadily became rougher, steeper and rocky, seeming also to veer away from the river. After a while I lost my bearings, but hoped the track would eventually head back to Eltham. But the track petered out into a steeply hilled area, with power lines leading in a straight line into the distance. Definitely lost, but feeling safe, I reasoned it would be too far retracing my steps, the power lines must lead to somewhere familiar.

A rocky four wheel drive trail followed the pylons. I had to walk up the steep rises and carefully ride down the descents. The thought flashed into my mind about what was I doing here, a seventy year old man in a deserted location, with no help around if anything went awry. My Cyclo Cross bike was certainly designed for severe off road riding, but maybe the rider was not designed for this purpose.

The outcome was predictable. On a really steep descent, I took a chance and began to carefully ride down but lost braking control, started skidding and finally crashed. Fortunately I came to rest on top of a four metre high embankment leading into a steep gully. One metre more and I would have been in serious trouble.

The bike was undamaged, but my knee was badly swollen and painful, I must have knocked it on a rock. The only option was to keep following the trail to civilisation. Finally a fence and house appeared, then another. To my relief, the trail then ended at Beasley’s Nursery, and I rode slowly and painfully home, where after checking the Melways I realised I had gone the wrong way, upstream rather than down, straying into a Parks Victoria reserve. Heading away from Fitzsimmons Lane.

Later that night, I reflected on the event, ruefully realising that it had happened entirely by chance — Why?

Because two months earlier, on the same ride to Warrandyte, at that gate, I had answered my mobile. As I remounted my bike, a man walking past suddenly stopped and started a conversation, mentioning that past a nearby gate, over a bridge, there was a track along the other side of the river that cyclists used. In all my years of cycling this area I had never seen that track, nor seen cyclists on the other river bank, so I thanked him and rode off, convinced he was mistaken.

So on that sunny fateful Tuesday a month later, as I was passing this same bend heading to Warrandyte, on a pure whim, thinking about what the stranger had said, I stopped at the gate, which was normally locked. Now the padlock had been changed to a latch. Naturally I passed through the gate and rode to the bridge. To my surprise, I realised the stranger had told the truth, because a bike trail began. Naturally again, I decided to follow it, as every good cyclist would, with my crash being the unexpected end result.

If my phone had not rung at that exact moment; if the stranger had not appeared at that precise time, if the gate had been locked; I would have remained blissfully unaware of that bloody trail, would have casually continued to Warrandyte and safety home, looking forward to the Thursday ride with the guys.

Instead, as directed by my doctor, who diagnosed a knee hematoma, and prescribed rest, I have been dolefully sitting inside on the healing couch, leg elevated, ice compress in place rather than being cheerfully perched on a bike seat, eagerly traversing familiar and safe trails with the Thursday peloton.

Curiously enough, the topic for the week’s writing group was the expression “chance would be a fine thing.” A fine phrase, meaning ‘it would be lovely if something was to happen, but it most likely won’t.’

It sadly occurred to me that this definitely applied to my unfortunate episode. As I was precariously riding down that steep rocky hill, the thought furiously flashed into my mind was that it would indeed be a lovely thing if I could not crash, but this looked more unlikely the further and faster I descended.

Hopefully, I should be back on the bike shortly, having fun with the Thursday peloton pedalling on our familiar safe trails. The lesson has finally sunk into my

Septuagenarian brain that sometimes it’s not worth taking a chance.

Jenny Macklin MP honours’ Ken Ramplin


26 January 2018
Australia day awards 2018 for Jagajaga

It was a lovely summer’s day when the awards were presented in the fully renovated mud brick community hall in leafy Eltham. Hundreds of locals and dignitaries attended to witness the awards being presented on this uplifting and inspiring occasion. In recognition of the efforts and sacrifices of ordinary people for the betterment of all other needy persons in Jagajaga.

106 awards were presented to individuals and groups for their long standing efforts some for more than 30 years.

The Australian National Anthem and Waltzing Matilda were both expertly sung by Mandy Lyn Brook, her renditions were riveting.

Ken (now 78 ) had 26 invitees and family attend to celebrate the presentation of his award for establishing the OM:NI groups in Diamond Creek, Eltham, and Hurstbridge where now over 70 men attend on a fortnightly basis to make new friends, reunite with community and build their confidence again.

Ken also has built a riding group to raise funds to eliminate Prostate Cancer known as “Ken’s Pedal against Prostate”

Many photos were taken with family, friends and council reps, and Jenny Macklin MP.

At day’s end Ken went home had an hour sleep, got on his bike rode to town for a pizza and sat with Lorraine to reminisce about what a beautiful community we live in.

We all congratulate you Ken.

A Tribute to Kelvin Kaires *(KOM:NI) – Vale


It is with much regret that the men of OM:NI Diamond Creek reflect on the recent passing of Sir Kelvin (Kel) Kaires – friend, brother and much respected colleague. On 15th August 2017, at the age of 89, Sir Kel passed away peacefully in his sleep at home.
He spent 89 years traveling this planet meeting and inspiring people from all walks of life, excelling in electronics building his first television set and ignition systems still used in cars today, he was a small framed man with an inquiring mind full of wisdom which he graciously passed on to all that listened.
He understood the health issues and remedies of the human body and enjoyed a loving lifetime with his childhood sweetheart Val.
He joined the OMNI Diamond Creek discussion group as a founder member and became our mentor and grandfather/brother, we always looked forward to his input and humor in our meetings. He unified the whole group so much we created the Sir Kelvin Award, this became the annual award bestowed upon other worthy members of whom Kel would officiate having dressed in robes and placing a sword upon the shoulder saying rise Sir?
Illness prevailed over many months and Kel could not always attend OMNI but all that visited him came back with the same message I can’t wait to be with you all again, tell the boys I miss everyone of them and I love them all dearly.


Kel made such a difference at our Diamond Creek Group and he felt his time with us stimulated his thinking and re-invigorated his zest for life. How many times did he re-affirm his love for us and his gratefulness for making the last few years of his life worthwhile.
Ken Ramplin

What sad news that Sir Kel has passed away. I will always remember what a kick he got out of conferring the Sir Kelvin Award onto the next recipient. He always had some wise words for us all and he certainly enjoyed a joke.
Our memories of Kel will live on and always be remembered, may he be at peace.
Tom Hendry

Sad news indeed. A true icon and font of wisdom of OM:NI Diamond Creek. A lovely man, a unique man.
Nick Grange

Yes, sad news indeed. Kel was one of those guys who could always make the group laugh, with his humour and quick wit. He still always found time to listen to the rest of the guys. He will be missed as both one of the founding members plus the elder statesman.
Bruce McCorkill

Yes the sad loss of a real character. He acknowledged all with a cheeky word but an encouraging grin and respect.
A wealth of experience and jokes.
Phillip Davis

…Zebras and 2ltr vinegar bottles will just never seem the same again..
Anon

Sir Kel was at my first meeting, and his intellect and wit epitomized the essence of OMNI Diamond Creek. In return he genuinely loved us all with the humility he possessed and exuded. With great regret, I will be unable to attend Sir Les’s service or Tuesday’s memorial lunch for Sir Kel, but remain in the spirit of love and respect shared by every fortunate member of OMNI Diamond Creek.
Manhug and love to all
Barry Jackson

I met this wonderful man at my first OMNI meeting, and whilst warmly greeted by all present, Sir kel went out of his way to personally and privately welcome me into the group and assure me that I would easily fit in with all the guys as they were such a good group of men.
Over time I got to see what a wealth of worldly experience he possessed and how he was always willing to share whatever knowledge he had that he believed would be of benefit to all the blokes.
One of very few men I have met over my life time that never had any problems saying to another man “I love you”.
Sir Kelvin ,truly loved and missed.
Ron Wright

How lucky was OMNI that in 2011 you walked through those doors and into our hearts.
Thank you Sir Kelvin for role modelling that it’s okay for men to share feelings amongst each other.
That it was more than alright to show joy & pain, to cry and to laugh and to tell someone how much they really mean to you.
When we were looking for an icon to name our OM:NI Awards after, it was a no-brainer that you were the choice.
These are a few of my favourite images of you … and believe me there were many spectacular memories you so generously gifted.
Thank you for the privilege mate.
Larry Cahill

One of my favourite memories of Kel was when the lady journalist from the local paper came to an OM:NI meeting a few years ago to gather material for an article about our group. She asked Kel, “What exactly do you blokes get out of OM:NI?” To which Kel responded, “OM:NI has taught us to behave like women, that is, to talk to each other about the things that really matter to us and to open our hearts to each other.”
…Tim Bruwer

I met Kel some 5 years ago he was always jovial and serious but told many jokes repeatedly including the one about the Zebra; he was inspiring to be with. He also told stories of sailing around the Whitsunday islands off Queensland.
Daryl Morrow

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* KOM:NI – Knight of the Order of OM:NI