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Monday, December 31, 2012

Aunty Ral's gingernuts

December 29-31, 2012


This morning we are guests on Bhakthi's RRR segment Cook The Book, and we'll be discussing Gillian Mears' recently published novel Foal's Bread. (Here it is, archived online.) The book traces the life of Noah Nancarrow, a talented and hard-working horse show-jumper living in northern New South Wales before the Second World War. The story is romantic and tragic, told in a style that's lyrical but also calls on the Aussie vernacular.

Foal's bread isn't anything you'd want to eat. It's a piece of tissue sometimes found in the mouth of a newborn foal and that can be dried out and kept as a lucky charm. Yet among the descriptions of animal husbandry and the Australian landscape you'd expect, this book is also littered with references to the food of the time. The colour and texture and sensation of food is often interwoven with the characters' experiences. Noah's sister-in-law Ralda bakes ceaselessly - to comfort, to celebrate, and to enter into competition at the Show.

To accompany our radio interview I've baked gingernuts. Aunty Ral's gingernuts are a Nancarrow family tradition on Show day and they're said to be crunchy and crackled on top, best dipped in a cup of tea. I took my recipe from my mum's yellowed Barossa Cookery Book, which was published in the time that this novel is set. I've typed it verbatim below - recipe writers then clearly expected much prior knowledge from cooks!


GINGER NUTS
One lb. 2 ozs. flour, 1/2 lb. butter, 1/2 lb. sugar, 3/4 lb. treacle, 1 oz. ground ginger. Mix all the ingredients into a stiff dough, roll out, cut into small biscuits, and bake in a moderate oven. 
- Miss J.M. Bartsch, Angaston

11 comments:

  1. I love the way the old recipes were written! No wonder so much more could be squeezed into books. Now I'm also getting nostalgic about the light paper and cardboard they used.. glossy paper weighs way too much!

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    1. Hi Lynda! They manage to squish in about 6 recipes per page, and gosh that paper is delicate. Not ones for weighing down with a phone book and spilling ingredients all over. ;-)

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  2. Oooh, which edition of this do you have? If you have the "C" paperback (whatever that means), then my mum's review is excerpted in the front :) (She's Whispering Gums :) )

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    1. Hannah, I'm amazed that you know this book! (Perhaps I shouldn't be, since my mum's one boasts that 100,000 copies have been sold.) I am having even more trouble than you working out which one ours is - there's no year on it, though apparently it's the 3rd edition.

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    2. Ha - I think Hannah means Foals Bread, not the Barossa cookbook (and yes, there is a review by Whispering Gums excerpted in the front of our copy).

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    3. Bahahahaha. Thank you Michael. As you were.

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  3. So pleased that I managed to catch you both on the radio, especially as I'd already been heartily enjoying the Cook the Book segment on Bhakthi's show! Foal's Bread has been on my must-read list for awhile now, and now I'm even more keen. I'm sure it will take me straight back to my childhood riding lessons where whenever I was forced to do showjumping, as soon as the horse left the ground I would promptly fall off.

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    1. Childhood riding lessons?! Hayley, I am sure you will get even more out of this book than we did - the horse care was interesting but completely foreign to us.

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  4. Ah, thanks so much for coming on the show guys. Still eating these on my first day back at work with a cup of chai. Ginger overload! Looking forward to having you back.

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    1. Mmmm, double ginger. Thanks for inviting us onto your show, Bhakthi! We had fun.

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