While in the process of looking for a new apartment, I have been living a rather vagabond existance, migrating between my daughter’s apartment in the East End and my parent’s place on the coast. Secretly, I am enjoying the freedom. There is something incredibly liberating about having ‘no fixed address’, no baggage to weigh you down and room to dream about all sorts of possibilities. Stripping oneself of material possessions brings a lightness of being, and some of my happiest times have been when I lived out of a suitcase.
Another thing I am enjoying in this transient state is the stories around the dinner table with my parents. My father is an accomplished storyteller with a great ability to paint pictures with his words and I find it difficult to stop myself from scrawling down notes as we eat. The anecdote that struck me the most this week involves chocolate.
My father attended Hynam Primary during the war in the 1940s, a tiny country school two miles down the road from our farm. There were only 17 students – like many one-teacher country schools around South Australia at the time. Sometimes, he tells me, he took his horse and trap to school; wind in his face and leather satchel bouncing on his back. Inside was his lunch tin, which often contained a couple of cooked ‘white sausages’.
One particular day in 1945 remains vivid in his memory. His teacher stopped the class and shouted,’THE WAR HAS ENDED, THE WAR HAS ENDED! You can all take the rest of the day off.’
In this tiny hamlet on the other side of the world from the frontline, they all bolted down to Casement’s General Store to celebrate. The store owner rejoiced by bringing out chocolate and presented each student with a small, square, precious block. My father, an insatiable sweet tooth, was in raptures and the memory of its taste stays with him. He was 12 at the time and it’s important to point out that he had only ever tasted chocolate at Christmastime, when chocolate rations were handed out at Casement’s Store. A small child when the war broke out, he had little memory of the taste of chocolate.
It got me thinking, if a ‘wonderful taste’ is rationed, is it more memorable, more treasured? Do we take for granted now the taste of so many things?
My father also reminisced about the time he went on a driving holiday with a mate along the Great Ocean Road. They stopped at a hotel overlooking the sea for dinner and scanning the menu came across Rice Pudding. ‘Rice Pudding, how exotic!’ My father had never tasted rice before and decided to try it…As I write this I find it hard to believe having just lunched at Chinatown. That was the early 1950s in country Australia. How things have changed. My mother pipes in and says that she had already tasted rice. During the war her mother was ill and got a prescription for rice from the doctor. This made her eligible for rice rations, doled out ‘for invalids only’.
Writing about chocolate and suitcases my thoughts inevitably turn to Haigh’s. As an Adelaidean, it’s a natural association. Rarely, do I pack for a trip without slipping some of their mouthwatering chocolate into my bag. The fourth generation, family-owned company is a local institution with a strong tradition of quality and a delicious range of beautifully boxed chocolates. Many of the artisan treats are handmade and hand wrapped. There’s also rocky road and novelties such as baby bilbies and milk Murray cods, but for a unique gift with South Australian flavour you can’t go past their iconic chocolate frogs. I find them simply the best souvenir around and excellent emergency gifts to take overseas. They come in a variety of sizes and are light to pack, unless you opt for the Super Frog that weighs in at 375 grams.
If you are a visitor, they are wonderful and delicious reminders of Adelaide to stash in your suitcase, and as you leave the sweet-smelling store you will always be handed a couple of luscious samples to try.
Today, it was dark chocolate speckles.