Wednesday, October 3, 2012


This is one of my favorite pictures.  I received it last Christmas as a gift from my parents.  It's beautifully framed and sits in my dining room.  When I first opened the wrapping paper and saw the image I thought, WOW, what an awesome picture.  It had everything that appealed to me - old houses, people with character, the era, rural life, sepia photography.  Mum and Dad sure did a good job of choosing this picture for me.

Except they didn't ...choose it that is.  This photo is actually of my own family.  Despite many (as in 25) years of doing my family history, I had never seen these people or this photo before.  The people are Thomas and Harriett Russell, at their home in Blayney NSW. It was taken in 1910.  I wont bore you with the rest of their genealogy, but so you can get your bearings, they are my great great grandparents.

My Dresser where their photo sits with all my other cherished things.
The reason I am sharing this with you today is I had this thought while I sat at my dining table reading recipe books (well Delicious magazine actually, what Mr K calls my 'porn') and making a shopping list of ingredients to concoct all the wonderful meals I salivated over.  It dawned on me, as I wiped drool off the pages, and looked at this picture, that my dear great, great grandmother, Harriet, would never have had such a luxury of choosing a recipe and popping down the shops for the ingredients. 

Quite the opposite in fact.  She would have looked at what food was available and thought "What can I make with this?"  She would have had very little I am guessing.  A chicken did not come in neatly packaged Styrofoam trays, with skin removed and boned.  A chicken was killed only for a special occasion (that's why a Sunday roast was so special) and it would make three meals at least - the Roast, leftover meat would be picked off the bone for a chicken and vegetable pie and then the bones used to make chicken soup.  Nothing was wasted, not like today when I cringe when I see a chicken carcass tipped into the bin, the breast and legs pulled off and the rest discarded.  We are so wasteful.  If we went back to the old days where we had to breed and care for that chicken we would understand the value of it.

There was not a rainbow of vegetables to choose from either.  What was available was whatever was in season.  Food could not be grown all year round, we had to eat what the climate and mother nature dictated.  Necessity to preserve means we have yummy things like pickles and preserves and dried fruit and vegetables.  I find when I have to be frugal, I get far more creative in the kitchen.  Even if we don't have to really pinch pennies, I still regularly have a clean out the pantry/freezer challenge and see what I can make with what I have to hand. 

I feel sad sometimes that we dont live like this anymore.  I yearn for a more 'connected' life, one that we have skin in the game in.  I want to feel proud that I grew what I cooked, and feel a sense of satisfaction from this.  We have lost our connection to what it means to be a human at its basic levels.  Sometimes I just have an overwhelming NEED to get my hands in soil and compost. 

I wonder if we dont all have this desire inside too?  Is that why there has been such a resurgence of people having backyard veg gardens and chooks.  Is this how we will get the best of both worlds? 


1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful gift.

    Have you looked into Trove yet? So much fascinating little snippets in there.

    I think it's sad that to live simply is a radical thing nowadays. You cant book a table at a restaurant without a credit card, you can't sign up for anything without an email address, you cant get paid (or get your medicare rebate!) without a bank account. However I'm grateful for the things that we have now- the great range of fruit and veg available cheaply, the advances in medicine etc. Just a shame we have to lose some things to gain others.