My parents were pretty relaxed and liberal in their approach to how they raised us; my siblings and I ate dirt and snails from the garden as toddlers, took the public bus to school before we’d turned ten, and any questions we raised were answered and discussed openly and honestly. There were two areas however in which my parents were outstandingly strict – what we ate and how we entertained ourselves.
To this day, when my peers – now in their mid twenties – reminisce about the television shows and video games of ‘our’ youth, I am as lost as I was then. Any video console game was outright vetoed and TV in my house was a privilege; it wasn’t until my teens that we were released from an arrangement whereby my two siblings and I had to agree upon one half-hour show to watch each afternoon, and choose only from those aired on ABC – Australia’s public broadcaster.
Food was a similar affair, but one for which I am still grateful. My parent’s philosophy was pretty simple and sensible (though after some of the tantrums it caused, I’m still reluctant to concede them that point!) …kids ate what the parents ate and we weren’t to leave the table until we’d finished our meal, but most importantly what we were given was always fresh, healthy and homemade.
My mother was a great cook, the kind who thought nothing of coming home from a full days work and still preparing an elaborate meal every single night. She schlepped to and from Melbourne’s biggest fresh food market twice a week – a forty minute tram ride with three kids under eight in tow – so we could afford to eat so well. Meals out were few and far between, but when they happened it was fresh, fragrant Vietnamese or a couple of pizzas shared between us with a homemade salad.
Funnily none of this meant we went without treats. Although I suffered some serious lunchbox envy most days at school, in hindsight I’m pretty sure none of the kids with rollups and chocolate covered ‘muesli’ bars during the day went home to snack on platters of carefully cut fruit, occasional homemade cookies and some form of dessert on the table most nights.
I like to think I’ve inherited this philosophy and I’m sure that some day I’ll endure my own kids’ whines of “but everyone else gets to mum!” with the knowledge that some day they’ll appreciate it like I do. That said, there are some mass produced, preservative filled, supermarket best sellers that come to be in your pantry because they are just that good! I can’t really think of mine right now but Tim loves a Mint Slice and I must say I’m also partial. So in the spirit of all that is written above I set out to make my own. The verdict? Really, really good… and definitely all the better for knowing what’s in them!