Allyson Gofton shares the memories of her mother that inspired her career.
As a child it never occurred to me that my mother’s baking, so simple in its production from the modest use of the baker’s basics - locally churned butter, and fresh eggs from the neighbour’s clucking brood - would provide such enduring memories, that in time, would help me on my career path as a food writer.
Our small, 60s and 70s-decorated family home could pretty much be summed up in this Russian proverb; `A house is beautiful not because of its walls, but because of its cakes’. Looking back, we had very little, although at the time it did not seem so; good food, served generously to family and friends, was a hallmark of the Gofton home.
Ivy, my mum, one of four kids raised by aunts after their mother died in childbirth, lived in a forgotten part of northeastern Tasmania, growing up in a lean-to house with basic wooden floors and a coal range. With no money to spare, Mum learned to bake the basics; an art that can turn the simplest of ingredients into the most exquisite of goods.
She passed these skills on to me. Our scones were made with no butter, only eggs and the soft dough was patted out on brown paper (shopping then came in brown paper bags!). Once the scones were baking, the mess was simply rolled up and the paper used to light the fire. Our Sunbeam mixer’s two interlocking beaters whirled loudly, but as the base was broken, I had to stand and turn the bowl until the beaten butter and sugar resembled whipped cream in colour and texture; a lesson in patience and creating perfection. Mum’s Date Loaf had endless variations, dependant on what was in the pantry on the day of making. “Variety is the spice of life, even if you are a Date Loaf”, Mum would say to me.
Immediately after coming out of the oven, her Tea Cake (click here for recipe) - sparse on richness, but non-the-less so soft-textured - was christened with a thick layer of butter and cinnamon. Heaven!
Served in doorstop-sized wedges that were also slathered with butter, it is the finest recipe my mum could ever have bequeathed to me.
When it came time for tea, the same careful attention went into the setting of the table: tea in the pot, sugar and jam bowls with their partner spoons, butter in a dish with its knife, cups, saucers and plates. While nothing matched and much was chipped, the love was honest and pure – and the baking simply delicious.