Simplicity

princess-margaret-weddingFrom Ngaire’s journal, 6th May 1960
Princess Margaret’s wedding day. When we passed through the Square this evening the Cathedral bells were pealing merrily. Gerald and I went in to the Student’s Revue which we thoroughly enjoyed. We arrived home in time to hear Princess Margaret and her husband Antony Armstrong Jones leaving Westminster Abby.

Princess Margaret’s beautiful dress, described by Life as ‘the simplest royal wedding gown in history’ and by Vogue as ‘stunningly tailored’ caused quite a stir. It was designed by Norman Hartnell, who clearly knew all that is worth knowing about necklines.

Any brides contemplating a dress that requires the use of adhesive tape take note. Do I sound like Ngaire?

PS The Student’s Revue seems to have been less lavatorial than usual, perhaps in deference to the Royal Wedding.

 

The Empire Line

Princess AlexandraFrom Ngaire’s journal, 24th April 1963
‘Listened in to Princess Alexandra’s wedding
from 11.30 pm to 12.15 am.’

If you have a moment, there’s a newsreel of the wedding here. Broadcaster Richard Dimbleby’s commentary is fabulous, and I can imagine Ngaire leaning in and agreeing that  ‘cars are not always easy to get out of‘.  As for ‘the congregation too are uplifted by the mystical union’. Priceless.

Image: Flickr – Mig_R

Married Before Breakfast

From Ngaire’s Journal, 21st April 1955
‘Carol has been re-packing and listing her Glory Box.’

Carol (right) as a bridesmaid

Carol (right) as a bridesmaid

My mother Carol was just nineteen in 1955, the perfect age, at least in Ngaire’s opinion, to get serious about marriage.

In fact, Ngaire had been serious about marriage for years, progressively stocking a carved camphor-wood box with household linens, china, silverware and kitchen essentials. Mum was still extracting new tea towels from The Box when I was a teenager (by which time the The Box was running on Australian TV, and schoolteachers, fresh from the city and calling themselves Ms, were telling girls like me that we could be and do anything we wanted).

While I refused to have anything to do with a Glory Box (or the dowry of 20 cows Dad was always threatening), I am very grateful for the beautiful tea cups and plates my mother quietly collected for me. (I am even more grateful that they came with no caveat or expectations of marriage.)

Quincey breakfastAnother thing Ngaire was serious about was breakfast (along with lunch, dinner, morning and afternoon tea and supper). She felt very firmly that nothing worthwhile could be achieved on an empty stomach.

I tend to agree (about breakfast at least) and like to have stewed fruit in the fridge to dollop on my porridge. Today it was quince (I kept some back when making paste) and prunes, with some yoghurt and nuts.

PS. I came across Married before Breakfast (1937)  when searching about for a title to link breakfast and marriage.  I’ve never seen it, but the synopsis is truly intriguing.
After a leading razor company pays inventor Tom Wakefield a quarter of a million dollars not to publicize a hair-removing shaving cream that makes razors obsolete, he makes plans to take his socialite fiancé June Baylin on a glamorous world cruise. However, before that happens he wants to spread his good luck to his friends and falls into all sorts of romantic intrigue in doing so.

You couldn’t come up with a plot like that on an empty stomach.

With a Runcible Spoon

From Ngaire’s Journal, 17th April 1959
Tonight we went to a family party to meet Laughton’s new bride Lela.’

Tonight we have all gone our separate ways – one to the football, one to a party, another to the couch. And one to the kitchen, to deal with the quinces that have been lurking in a basket under Myrtle’s tea trolley for the best part of a week. They came from my lovely friend Jennifer’s garden. Jen has the good fortune to live in Port Fairy, and has a very abundant garden.

CCMM - Quince TartI generally either poach quinces for breakfast fruit, or make jelly (or both), but this evening I was in the mood for baking, and so made a tart.
A quince and rhubarb tart with almond crumble topping.
No effort spared.

The rhubarb gives this tart its tang – necessary, I think, to offset the sweetness of the quinces and of the crumble.
Serve it warm with loads of cream, with or without a runcible spoon.

Recipe: Quince & rhubarb tart with almond crumble topping

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;   
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,
             The moon,
             The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.”
From The Owl & the Pussycat, by Edward Lear

Pears Go With…

From Ngaire’s Journal
1st March, 1956
Made pear ginger and pear sauce and bottled 10 quart jars of pears. Carol went to Phyllis’ millinery class this evening.’
2nd March, 1964

Bottled pears (Bon Chretien), made plum jam, baked.’
4th March 1951
Bottled pears. This evening went to the Annual Meeting of the Young Marrieds Group.’

Cooking with pearsInspired by a new season (I love Autumn – beautiful days, crisp evenings, the promise of boots and scarves…), and spurred on by my friend Sas’s return to blogging (you’ll find her at oneequalstwo), I have decided it is time for my first post of 2105.

The crate of pears in the laundry prompted me too. Dad delivered them the other day, picked from the trees my partner and I planted along the corrugated iron wall of the shearing shed. We’ve been surprised at how well they’ve done – the ground is stoney and the iron gets very hot in summer, but they’ve thrived. Dad’s kept a close eye on them of course, and kept up the water all summer, so we’ve had a fabulous crop.

Old Delhi marketsI was going to bottle them, but I waited a day too long and they were a bit ripe, so instead I stewed some for breakfasts and turned the rest into sweet treats for the long weekend.

Pears go with chocolate like a Young Marrieds Group goes with 1951, so I made an old favourite that we call Capricious Pear Pudding (a name I’ll explain in another post – it’s a long story) and a Chocolate Pear Tart. The subtle sweetness of pears seems to call for spices – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamon all work well. We’ve recently returned from a trip to India, and in Delhi, where we stayed at the  lovely Devna B & B, our host David took us into the old town, including to Paranthe Wali Gali (yum!) and the spice markets. This afternoon I cooked my pears with some of the saffron and cinnamon we bought there. They’ll make a perfect Autumn breakfast – porridge with stewed fruit, toasted almonds and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

PS Banana Paranthe would make a perfect breakfast too  – I’m on the hunt for a recipe, though it will never taste as good as in Delhi.

 

 

On a Roll

Harrison farm by Menzies Gibb

Harrison farm by Menzies Gibb

My grandmother Ngaire was related to the Harrisons of Christchurch in all sorts of complicated ways. With twenty-three children in the Harrison family, it was probably hard not to be related to them.

The Harrisons’ house ended up on Francis Avenue when their farm was subdivided around 1910, and a number of the children built in the street as they married and left home. William Menzies GIbb’s painting ‘A bit of old Christchurch’ is of the original house, with the Port Hills in the distance.

Choc Roll Pudding2Gertrude Harrison (who is said to have commissioned the painting) was married off to Ngaire’s father after the death of his first wife, and while she proved to be a less than tolerant stepmother, she was a wonderful cook. Given this I’m sorry that I had no success with her Chocolate Roll, but I have had more luck today with her sister Ollie’s Never Fail Sponge. I’m not sure if that would please Gert or not!

I added a generous quantity of good cocoa to Ollie’s recipe and turned it into a roll. The result was not quite the light-as air sponge I was hoping for, but an even better pavlova-meets-cake concoction with a chocolate fudge centre. As good as this is, I’d still like to master a proper chocolate sponge roll – I’ll just wait for our cholesterol levels to settle down.

The daunting Harrison sisters (1950s)

The daunting Harrison sisters (1950s)

Ollie Harrison’s Never-Fail Sponge (turned into a chocolate roll)

3 eggs, ½ teaspoon bicarb. soda, 1 small cup of castor sugar, 1 large cup of flour, 2 large tablespoons cocoa, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat eggs well. Add bicarb. and beat well. Add sugar and beat for 3 minutes.
Add sifted flour, cocoa and cream of tartar and mix through.
Bake in greased and lined lamington or slice tray at 180º for 10 – 15 minutes.
Turn out onto sugared grease-proof paper and roll up in the paper while still warm.
When just cool, gently unroll and fill with strawberries and cream then roll up again. Dust with cocoa and icing sugar.

Returns

Where Ngaire and Gerald return from their Tour of Europe,
the National Party is re-elected
and Ngaire celebrates her birthday.

From Ngaire’s and Gerald’s travel letters

21st September 1958, from RMS ‘Strathmore’
We arrived at Bombay at 12.30 pm and went ashore at 2.45 pm when we commenced the Bus Tour organised by the British Women’s League of Mercy (£1 each)…The heat was slightly more bearable that that of Aden.
The Taj Mahal Hotel is a tremendous establishment…
In the centre of a public square were the Men’s conveniences, shielded only by a trellis fence – one better than Paris…
The Hanging Gardens were beautiful…

StrathmoreWe passed the Tower of Silence and saw the huge vultures…
There were men selling beautiful crochet cloths of all sizes…
We passed the Laundry where all the citizens send their washing. Men stood in the water and beat the clothing against concrete slabs. How on earth anything comes out white is a mystery, but our courier assured us that she sends her sheets and pillowcases there and they are returned washed and ironed, beautifully – 1/6 for a week’s wash.

Further along we heard some cheering and musical instruments and found a bridal procession. The bridegroom was arrayed in glittering gold and flowers…He was being led along the main street by his friends and followers, to the home of the bride.

Ngaire's 21st

Ngaire on her 21st birthday (1927)

23rd September 1958
At 1.15pm we passed the ‘Stratheden’ sailing northwards. Poor things. They have to pass through the Red Sea.
The SW coast of India seems to be covered with jungle and very seldom is a house seen.
We are due to arrive at Colombo at 6am; the pilot is to come aboard at 4.30 am. We have bought tickets for a tour, so should see a little more of the Mystic East.

Thank you so much for your birthday greetings. Daddy has given me some beautiful pearls and I am very thrilled.
My cotton frocks are getting a good wearing and washing so I suppose I shall need some new ones for home.

We haven’t entered the Deck Games on this ship. There is no Deck Golf and I am hopeless at the other games.”

I’ve been jolted into blogging action by Ngaire’s birthday (she would be 108 tomorrow), and the return of the NZ National Party. My very one-eyed grandmother would have approved (she even linked Labor with a shortage of nice dressmaking fabrics at one stage).

Tomorrow I’ll bake something suitable in her honour, or perhaps just iron the pillowslips.

Crossings

From Ngaire’s journal, 25th February 1959
At 3.45 pm we all left home and accompanied Carol to the Airport. She was very excited and looked beautiful in her crème colour coat, crème shoes, gloves and bag, apricot frock and pale green hat. The plane, piloted by Geoff White, left at 5pm and was due at Melbourne at 9.30 pm.’

I’m sticking with the aviation theme this week.

My parents met in Christchurch in 1958. Dad  – an Australian  – was there on a working holiday, and pursued Mum after spotting her in the Durham Street Methodist Church choir. In early 1959, my mother flew to Melbourne to be reunited with him and to see (with a view to marriage) what she thought of Australia.  It was to be the first of many Tasman crossings, backwards and forwards between Christchurch and Melbourne.

My mother Carol and her brother Warwick at Essendon airport Melbourne, 1960

My mother Carol and her brother Warwick at Essendon airport Melbourne, 1960

It’s hard not to feel a little envious of a time where passengers dressed so well and where you may know the pilot by name.  Melbourne readers looking carefully at the photo of my mother and uncle at Essendon airport may also envy the helicopter service into town. For those of you not from here, getting to our city’s airport is a journey that is neither convenient nor glamorous.

Geoff White went on to become a distinguished pilot with Air New Zealand, flying their first DC-8 into Wellington for the initial trials. I think he may now live in Australia.

And a post script. My father was hours late to pick Mum up in 1959, and she was left sitting on her suitcase outside the shed that served as a terminal at Essendon. A cleaner, locking up for the night, told Mum he doubted her  beau would show, but he did and the rest is history. He has never been on time for anything since.

Happy Birthday Caroline

From Ngaire’s journal, 4th February

My mother Caroline with her father Gerald and Grandfather Henry Mottram(top left), with Ngaire (top right) and celebrating her birthday with friends at the orchard (second from left, back row).

1948
Carol’s 11th birthday.  A party was out of the question on account of the Infantile Paralysis epidemic.

1955
Caroline’s 18th birthday. We gave her a Glory Box.

1958
Carol’s 21st birthday. We were busy all day preparing for the party. Phyllis came in the morning and I don’t know what we would have done without her help. She made the fruit punch and the fruit salad and did other things.
Cain’s caterers did the supper which included sandwiches, savouries, cakes and Pavlovas, and it was delicious.

2014

Mottram family party, 1950s

Mottram family party, 1950s

Happy Birthday Mum!

For those of you with a crowd to entertain, here are Ngaire’s quantities for Fruit Punch.
Keep in mind that these quantities are based on very lady-like 30z servings — she may have used Champagne saucers or even small tea cups.

Ngaire’s Fruit Punch for a party

Number of servings*:

100

50

25

Cold tea

8 cups

4 cups

2 cups

Sugar

900 gms

450 gms

225 gms

Pineapple juice

4 cups

2 cups

1 cup

Lemon juice

4 cups

2 cups

1 cup

Orange juice

4 cups

2 cups

1 cup

Grapefruit juice

4 cups

2 cups

1 cup

Lemons for garnish

8

4

2

Also need mint for garnish.
*Based on delicate 3 oz (85 ml) servings.

A January Wedding

From Ngaire’s journal, 9th January, 1965
A January Wedding‘We went to Hawarden, arriving at the little Methodist Church at 2.30pm. It was a lovely wedding. The bride looked beautiful in an embroidered white satin dress and the bridesmaids wore pale pink, rose-pink and mahogany pink.
The weather was perfect. Fruit punch and savouries were served on the lawn in front of Mr Wright’s home and at 5pm the guests adjourned to the marquee in an adjoining field. It was a delicious wedding breakfast: ham, salmon and potato salad, curry and rice, stuffed eggs, cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes. The sweets were fruit salad, piles of strawberries and cream.
There were 40 telegrams, including a cable from Warwick and several from Melbourne. Speeches were made and items were given – two humorous recitations, a violin solo, two vocals solos (one by an uncle, aged 83, which was excellent) and a vocal duet by the mother and an uncle of the bride. Hubert (the bridegroom) made an excellent speech of thanks. The telegrams were read by the best man and two groomsmen alternately, which was a very good idea.
Herbert and Ruth left on their honeymoon at about 8.30 pm. The bride wore a beautiful outfit of peacock-blue, with black accessories.’

What better way to start the new year than with an elegant wedding and piles of food — Ngaire’s two favourite things. As it happens, stuffed eggs are high on my list of favourite things. Happily, they’re practically carb free and are packed with protein so no New Year’s resolutions need be broken. Just don’t think about the fat.

A good stuffed egg must include just the right quantity of excellent mayonnaise (for flavour and for texture) and, in my opinion, must be presented simply and without any attempts at modernisation.

Ingredients
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled; 2 tbsp very good whole egg mayonnaise;1 tbsp sour cream; few chives and a little dill, finely chopped; good pinch dry mustard, salt and pepper
Method
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and scoop the yolks into bowl. Set whites aside.
Mash the yolks with a fork, gradually adding the mayonnaise and sour cream. The mixture should be creamy but not too moist — it should hold its shape. Add the seasonings then gently stir through the chopped dill and about half of the chives.
Fill the whites with the yolk stuffing. You can use an icing bag to do this or just spoon it in. Sprinkle with remaining chives and garnish with some flat leaf parsley.
Tip: If the eggs are a week or so old the shell will come away easily, leaving the white smooth.

By the way, Ruth and Herb now live in Auckland and, amongst other things, conduct tours of the WWI battlefields in France. Ruth is as elegant as ever.