Beb is the family nickname for my mother Beryl Smith. In 1941, age 23, she married my father Ray and that was the beginning of a 64 year partnership. My mother was the youngest in a family of seven. Her mother died when she was only 9 and she was mainly brought up by her eldest sister who organised the household and did most of the cooking.
When my parents married during the Second World War, accommodation was in short supply and Dad was in the Army serving in country Victoria and Queensland. So like many young couples at that time there was little choice for them but to move in with Dad’s parents. In 1942 Dad transferred to the RAAF and was posted to England where he served with the SOE flying missions into war torn Europe.
Living with her parents-in-law gave Mum little chance to cook. She was inexperienced and as it was her mother-in-law’s kitchen it was not surprising that my grandmother did all the cooking. My Mum describes her as a good cook, she cooked plain food and did all the baking including sending fruit cakes to England during the War, but there was little opportunity for Mum to try her hand at recipes and to find her own cooking style. It wasn’t until after Dad returned home in Oct 1945 and a make shift kitchen was created in one of the spare bedrooms that Mum finally started cooking for her family. This kitchen didn’t prove to be ideal but it did give her a chance to cook for her husband and two small boys (a daughter was added later). She had to wait nearly five years until my grandparents moved up to The Dandenongs before she had a house and proper kitchen of her own.
Finally, when she had a place to cook, a family to cook for, her recipe collection began. Together she and Dad raised their family, had a busy social life, entertained family and friends and the Recipe Drawer became fuller and fuller.
Over the years the eating tastes of Australia started to change and Mum developed her cooking skills and kept pace with those changes, not through watching celebrity chefs on TV or reading masses of cookbooks, but by sharing recipes with others and clipping recipes out of newspapers and magazines. Her love of food and willingness to experiment, mainly on us, meant that her recipe collection grew and grew.
In 2014, aged 96, when she could no longer live independently she moved into a serviced apartment and the task of packing up her unit fell to my brother and myself. Among her treasured possessions were two large boxes containing plastic bag bundles of recipes. The recipes had been carefully put away, but true to form, were in no order whatsoever. There were just two cookbooks.
Now the recipes are in my keeping I feel that I should follow in my Mother’s footsteps and share them with others. I hope you enjoy them.
Hi Sharmila – great to hear that you enjoy the website and that it brings back memories of your time in Australia.