My second last visit to my health provider caused a nostalgic spell of thinking about doctor visits of my childhood. These back to the future memories were caused by the sign that greeted you as you stepped out of the lift. After I finished my conversation, and check in with the Check You In Human I looked back at the sign; even though it was a standard 21st Century white, corrugated cardboard on a stand sign it invoked nostalgia and longing. I stared blankly at the Self Service Check In sign and thought back to when family doctors made house calls. I wonder if I’ll think back to my first Self Service Check In experience with the same nostalgia.
When dad was quarantined to the house and the bed in the front room with hepatitis, our family doctor came to the house to see him a couple of times a week. Mum would let him in through the front door. I remember him coming into the passage carrying his Gladstone doctor’s bag. The first thing he did when he got into the front room was put his Gladstone bag on the bed next to dad. He seemed to know where everything in the bag was without looking; he’d pull out his stethoscope, a thermometer, a metal tongue depressor, and a torch to shine down dad’s throat.
When dad was first diagnosed with hepatitis mum took my brother and I down to the doctors clinic to get vaccinated. The clinic was a house in Electra Street, just down from Ferguson Street. The waiting room was one of the front rooms, and the doctor’s room was another room in the house. There wasn’t a Self Service Check In computer in sight; just the lady to tell you to take a seat and that the doctor will be with you shortly We all reacted to the vaccine, and in a couple of days our necks, backs, and armpits were dotted with a collection of weeping and suppurating, boils and carbuncles. Mum changed our puss stained bandages once a day, and drained the boils and carbuncles by gently squeezing around the inflamed puss filled bumps; she’d give us a couple of Aspro’s so we’d get a good nights sleep.
Mum was our home nurse when I came home from the Williamstown Hospital after having my tonsils out. She put a spoon in a glass, and put her nurse’s call system on a small table beside my bed. Whenever I needed anything I’d rattle the spoon against the side of the glass. Because of my inflamed tender throat she fed me different flavours of Cottees jellies throughout the day. It seemed that whenever I rattled the spoon a bowl of jiggling jelly would appear; without knowing it I started behaving like one of Skinner’s rats. The jelly kept appearing until the doctor, on what was a fateful house visit, declared that my throat was sufficiently healed and I could swallow solid foods.
Cottees jelly was always something special in our childhood; if it wasn’t nursing you back to good health then it was the jewel in the crown on a birthday party food table. If you stripped away the glitter and excitement of a birthday party what really mattered was the food on the table; as youngsters we judged the success of a party by the food. The must have foods were bowls of cut up lime or orange jelly, plates of chocolate crackles and fairy bread, and a couple of jugs of Kia-Ora cordial.
If you’re fortunate enough to have grown up in Australia, then you’re no stranger to fairy bread; deliciousness disguised as slices of white bread covered with butter and smothered with hundreds and thousands, and cut into two equal triangles. If you’re talking fair dinkum fairy bread then forget about the artisan sourdough bread and cultured Danish butter, and start thinking slices of Tip Top smeared with Western Star butter, and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.
I suppose smearing butter on a slice of white bread and covering it with tiny coloured pieces of sugar is outdated and unfashionable in today’s world that demands you need to create a nutritional home so the little ones will develop a positive relationship with healthy food; it’s all about loading up the table with kohlrabi salads, vegetables cut into fun shapes, fruit sticks, and carafes of kale smoothies.
There’s no surer sign you’ve left your childhood behind than when the fairy bread, and chocolate crackles, disappear from the birthday food table; adolescence is announced by a table laden with party pies, sausage rolls, cocktail frankfurts, and bowls of tomato sauce. You’re initiated into your teenage years by your best mate whispering in your ear; there’s Little Boys on the table. Cocktail frankfurts are a shorter version of a saveloy; hence the name Little Boys. And from that time on a large bowl of Little Boys, and a bottle of tomato sauce, will be on every one of your Aussie party food tables. It’s a well known fact that beautifully presented food looks appetising and appealing. Little Boys should never be served with a split skin. Little Boys should only be warmed; they should never be cooked. Little Boys should be put in a saucepan of cold water straight from the fridge, heated slowly on a stove, and as soon as they boil taken off the heat.
I don’t know an Aussie who doesn’t worship and respect the little saveloy. Fair suck of the saveloy is a commonly used phrase Down Under; often shortened to fair suck of the sav. Kevin Rudd, a former Australian Prime Minister is famous for using his own variant of the phrase: “Fair shake of the sauce bottle mate, if you were to compare what this government has done in terms of the promotion of women of talent and ability compared with our predecessors, it’s chalk and cheese: fair shake of the sauce bottle mate”
Aussies use fair suck of the sav in everyday speech. It’s an all encompassing phrase that’s used to express awe, wonder, exasperation, or frustration. It can also be used to convey disbelief.
Me: G’day; pie and sauce thanks mate
Cake shop Assistant: What type? Steak and Curry, Caramelised Pork and Pepper, or a Chicken and Asparagus.
Me: A meat pie; a pie filled with minced meat and gravy
Cake shop Assistant: Sure you wouldn’t like to try one of our gourmet pies? A Thai vegetable curry, or a vegan Chili Con Carne
Me: I’ll have meat pie thanks mate; an Adams or a Four’n Twenty
Cake shop Assistant: That’ll be twelve dollars mate
Me: Fair suck of the sav mate! I’m not buying a carton of them
The shop window should should have given me a clue as to what to expect; I should have asked the hipster Cake Shop Assistant with the big glasses and a bushranger beard if the gourmet pies were served in a mason jar and a glass of Kombucha tea.
I remember Mum making meat pies. She had a set of six, small oval metal pie tins that she used to make her meat pies. She’d cut a up pound of gravy beef from the butcher into extra small pieces, dredge them in flour, brown them, and then simmer the browned pieces with some chopped onion and water. Mum lined the small pans with her home made pie crust; she’d spoon in the meat mixture and seal the top crust by crimping it with her fingers. And into the oven the meat pies went. If mum was making her meat pies today you’d probably hear in a cackling singing voice from the kitchen
It’s nothing but crusting!
Here drink this, you’ll need it.
The worst pies in London
And no wonder with the price of meat
What it is
When you get it.
Never thought I’d live to see the day.
Men’d think it was a treat findin’ poor animals
What are dyin’ in the street.
Mrs. Mooney has a pie shop.
Does a business, but I notice something weird.
Lately, all her neighbours cats have disappeared.
I never had the heart to tell mum that her pies never came close to an Adam’s or Four’n Twenty; if I’d had to choose I would have been up the street in a flash to Mr’s Worms Milk Bar in Melbourne road for a Herbert Adam’s.
I don’t recall the exact time mum got her Sunbeam electric fry pan. It ended up spending most of it’s life on the kitchen table. It cooked sausages and rissoles for our breakfasts, and grilled lamb cutlets and chops for our tea. The Sunbeam sat triumph on the kitchen table and reheated mum’s home made meat pies and sausage rolls. And it heated water to carefully warm cocktail frankfurts; and we never ate a cocktail frankfurt with a split skin again.
You’ll have to excuse me. I need to take the lamingtons out of the fridge and coat them with chocolate icing. But maybe I should make Fairy Lamingtons for my little afternoon soiree. Instead of sprinkling the lamingtons with coconut I’ll use hundreds and thousands; I should also have a jug of Pimm’s No 1 mixed with with lemonade and chopped strawberries, a few slices of orange, a mint leave, slices of cucumber, and loads of ice.