Someone wise once said that the only thing we can be sure of, ever, is the past.
It’s mostly great to look back on what happened back in The Day, what we ate, wore, did in the privacy of our own home – as long as it’s acceptable reading on a family news platform and there were no pictures. Although there are probably times we may want to, we can’t change anything.
Your author was swept back in time this week with a visit to the Allambee Club at Yass, where it felt like not much had changed since it opened its doors to women, and only women, 100 years ago this year.
Although it’s in the main street of town, once you’re inside you can’t help but feel the serenity. You could be a lifetime away, in someone else’s very nice house, complete with the softest of furnishings and pastels of colour. There’s earl grey in the cupboard, flowers (dried) in the vases and everything matches.
It was, and still is, the place for Yass Valley women to meet, talk, and raise funds for worthy causes, often through entertaining.
It was this gift for entertaining that led members to mark their 75th birthday in 1998 with the most delicious of little books – sensibly titled Members’ Favourite Recipes, but offering so much more.
We’re not just talking best-scones-on-a-plate recipes here – although of course there is a very good one in there for cream scones. We’re talking dishy dishes here – like advice on how to preserve your husband.
Like all good things in life, it says, with husbands, you have options.
“Husbands, like peaches, will not keep the year round unless they are well preserved. First, select him carefully, be sure he is not too green, neither should he be over-ripe. He might look very tempting and mellow in the market, however, if he is too old he will not stand the test of the preserving process, but will expose his hard stony heart.”
Then, for the culinarily challenged of us, there are absolute dinner lifesavers like Easy Cold Tomato Soup, with the emphasis on the Easy. Recipe: Half a pint of milk, one can cream of tomato soup, one carton of sour cream and some chives or parsley. Method? Blend it together.
Or why not try your skill at Crispy Parmesan Pita Bread. Method: Cut pita bread in half and sprinkle parmesan over it. Place in oven until crisp.
Also quite liked the sound of Emergency Casserole … OMG it’s an emergency, I better make a casserole.
If you care to drink to that, may I suggest you try a refreshingly cool recipe for Reception Punch for 50 – it involves two cups of sugar and enough oranges and lemons to ring the bells of you-know-where. But wait, there’s more: if you’re still hungry, you can learn how to make sandwiches for 50 – but be warned, it involves a kilo of butter and about the same of ham slices and bits of chook.
But if there’s a personal favourite, it would have to be June’s Pineapple Punch – for purely medicinal reasons. Apparently the maker served it at a birthday lunch for her daughter and it proved to be “a wonderful loosener-upper”. Recipe: A bottle of port, another of red wine, yet another of white wine, two cups of loaf sugar and a tin of chopped pineapple. While you’re still upright, combine all ingredients and chill. Just before you serve it, add two bottle of champagne. Cheers.
You’d think after all those sandwiches and one too many glasses of that punch, a nanna nap would be on the cards. No, it was time for an anecdote or two, including this gem from a convenor of the club’s entertainment committee.
“The committee met on Saturday afternoons and I had to come down from tennis at 3 o’clock. I had been told to wear a top coat because I couldn’t come to the club in my short tennis dress – not so short either as short skirts were frowned upon at the tennis club and shorts not allowed at all.”
Confessing that she was about the same age as the club, the convenor recalled as a child when the club meeting room was the nursery “where our nurse could wash our dirty face and hands” and where the “attendant” would serve afternoon tea in the sitting room dressed in a black dress with a white cap and apron threaded with black ribbon”.
Let’s drink to that.