Gracetown Cookfest

Sunday Blog 61 – 13th November 2022

I’m not sure if any of my other siblings even remember that holiday. But it’s stayed with me to this day. The Gracetown Cookfest holiday I am calling it. In need to differentiate it because every holiday since the 1960s we six lucky children went en famille to our asbestos beach shack in Gracetown, near Margaret River. This simple rectangle of a house was built over a couple of weekends by my dad and a couple of friends and was endlessly tweaked over the decades. He sold the house in the nineties. (I know. Devastating!!)

On this particular Cookfest holiday, my dad had decided he was going to do some cooking. That may sound revolutionary for a working man in the 1970s. But as the middle child of eleven in a family of nine boys he simply had to help his mother out. He worked beside his mother, who was a good cook, and he became one too. 

She would bake a loaf of bread I guess daily, using natural yeast starters like potato skins. Her scones were legendary and her recipe has been passed to her numerous grandchildren. My uncle John, just two years older than my father, was relegated to managing the dairy farm. His kitchen experience usually meant wolfing down food.

“I could swallow a scone whole without biting it,” he would tell us at many family gatherings over the decades. Nine boys are stiff competition for nutrition!

On the way down to our Gracetown beach house that holiday, dad stopped at a fresh food market. That wasn’t really a “thing” in those days. I can still recall the deep, vital green of the celery sticks he chose. The orange carrots, the enormous onions. The plumpness of the chicken he chose for his stock. I was entranced so entranced by the whole ritual I can still remember the larger-than-life celery looked and how good the meal he made tasted. It was like a whole world away from the apricot chicken, the tuna and almonds, the insipid, pale curry with currants or endless chops and over-cooked vegetables that were usually on the menu for us.

Today I googled chorizo chicken and prawns to find a funky new dish to combine those three awesome ingredients. (Jumbalaya. Delicious!). One minute I was chopping celery, the next I was transported back to that Gracetown kitchen, channeling my dad and cooking up a storm. He passed in 2020 and when I think of him the most when I am cooking.

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