Saturday, 25 April 2015

37. Centenary Spirit

I usually start with my column, but I’m changing the order to share something that’s of significance to me as an Australian.

This time last year, I featured a wonderful romance story – Jenny Schwartz’s ‘Memories of Love’ in honour of ANZAC Day – April 25. This year marks the hundredth anniversary since Australian and New Zealand troops stormed the beaches of Gallipoli in World War One. Friends of the family participated in the dawn service on that very beach. Can you imagine the emotions felt by those in the place where so many lost their lives? My daughter marched in the parade this morning in honour of her great grandfathers. We followed them down to ANZAC Memorial Park, listened to the stories and speeches and stood proudly while we honoured the flags and sang the national anthems for Australia and New Zealand. Poppy emblems and sprigs of rosemary (for remembrance) stretched as far as the eye could see and we were proud to honour the memories and the sacrifices of all involved.

While I don’t have a story to share, I thought I’d pass on a little history and a treat we have in honour of our troops.

ANZAC Biscuits

During World War 1 and World War 2, the wives, mothers and girlfriends were concerned for the nutritional value of the food being supplied to their men. Here was a problem. Any food they sent to the fighting men had to be carried in the ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these were lucky to maintain a speed of ten knots (18.5 kilometres per hour). Most had no refrigerated facilities, so any food sent had to be able to remain edible after periods in excess of two months. A body of women came up with the answer - a biscuit with all the nutritional values possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats, which were used extensively in Scotland, especially for a heavy porridge that helped counteract the extremely cold climate.

The ingredients they used were rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water. All these items did not readily spoil. At first the biscuits were called Soldiers' Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits.

A point of interest is the lack of eggs to bind the ANZAC biscuit mixture together. Because of the war, many of the poultry farmers had joined the services, thus eggs were scarce. The binding agent for the biscuits was golden syrup or treacle. Eggs that were sent long distances were coated with a product called ke peg (like Vaseline) then packed in airtight containers filled with sand to cushion the eggs and keep out the air.

As the war drew on, many groups like the CWA (Country Women's Association), church committees, schools and other women's organisations devoted a great deal of time to the making of ANZAC biscuits. To ensure that the biscuits remained crisp, they were packed in used tins such as Billy Tea tins. You can see some of these tins appearing in your supermarket as exact replicas of the ones of earlier years. Look around. The tins were airtight, thus no moisture in the atmosphere was able to soak into the biscuits and make them soft.

During World War 2, with refrigeration in so many merchant navy ships, the biscuits were not made largely as it was now possible to send a greater variety of food such as fruitcake.

ANZAC biscuits are still made today. They can also be purchased from supermarkets and specialty biscuit shops. Around ANZAC Day, these biscuits are also often used by veterans' organisations to raise funds for the care and welfare of aged war veterans.

The CWA, Brisbane, the War Widows Guild, Brisbane and Queensland State Headquarters of the RSL supplied this information.


1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 (three-quarters) cup coconut
125 g (4 oz) butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
½ (half) teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon boiling water

Combine oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut.
Combine butter and golden syrup, stir over gentle heat until melted.
Mix soda with boiling water, add to melted butter mixture, and stir into dry ingredients.
Take teaspoonfuls of mixture and place on lightly greased oven trays; allow room for spreading.
Cook in slow oven (150°C or 300°F) for 20 minutes.
Loosen while still warm, and then cool on trays.
Makes about 35.

Lest We Forget!

My column has migrated to a new newspaper as well as the local pages’ website. Soon there will be nowhere my family can escape from my oversharing. J

Don’t let the title fool you. It’s not exactly a global warning.

Gaseous Emissions

It’s been terrible reading about baby Riley succumbing to whooping cough because he was too young to be immunised and murdered bride-to-be Stephanie Scott. While not everyone will find my daughter’s antics amusing, I do hope this column brings a smile in the wake of such sadness.

I grew up in a female dominated house and now girls rule in my family too. Consequently, the discussion of burps and other gaseous emissions aren’t quite the same as I imagine a male dominated family might enjoy. I like to pretend my girls are going to grow up to be ladies, but it appears as though flatulence jokes have room at our place after all.

Screaming with laughter, the little one ran out to share her latest creation. ‘Mum, I snuffed,’ to which I replied in my most knowledgeable voice – ‘you what?’
‘I snuffed. It’s when you sneeze and fluff at the same time. You know – a snuff.’

Seeing her so delighted with her ‘made up’ word and her many attempts to recreate the event for the family certainly made me smile. The only problem now is that her father thinks he finally has a partner in crime.

The past few weeks have sped by and unfortunately, I haven’t done as much reading and writing as I would have liked. Illness in the family and the trials of moving a loved one from one home to a new one in light of a completely different lifestyle change has taken over for a little while. Thankfully, everyone is feeling much better now. I was planning to cull a few things, but instead I’ve acquired a few (several) bits and pieces which I now need to find a home for in my rapidly shrinking house. Either that or my hallways have shrunk.

Of course, that didn’t stop me adding four more books to my reading pile and writing a short story for a friend after she challenged me to write about ‘frilly knickers.’ I liked her suggestion so much I even nominated it as a homework topic for writers’ group. My original plan involved no more than a thousand words. Six thousand words later, I had a story that needs to find a home via a competition or perhaps in an anthology someday. And after some editing, fussing and much nail biting, I sent a copy to my friend (who’s also a writer). I’m happy, she’s happy, and clearly, I should undertake more topics choices from her in the future.

For now, I’m enjoying the change in weather. Things are finally cooling down so I can get stuck into cleaning out the garage (because I no longer have the excuse that it’s too hot) and get back into my walking (because I no longer have the excuse that it’s too hot) and most importantly – I can get back into the writing. J


  1. Hi D.D., loved your ANZAC story. For the first time I made ANZAC biscuits this year. Every year I plan to bake them but never manage it. They didn't turn out too bad, if I say so myself!
    Your story about frilly knickers sounds intriguing - perhaps there's an avenue to self-publish and make some pocket money? I know I'd buy them.
    Thanks for another great post!

    1. Pleased you enjoyed it, Rowena. :) Well done on your biscuits. I bet they were delicious. :)

      LOL I have to fuss over the frilly knickers story a little more but I like your suggestion.

  2. Life does have an annoying tendency to get in the way of writing -- although now you've totally intrigued me with "frilly knickers" :) And I'm glad everyone is feeling better and settled.

    I *love* Anzac biscuits. I have nothing but good memories from making them -- starting in high school with the monsters a friend and I made. Even the teacher didn't quite know what we did! They were tasty though :)

    1. Life does have that annoying habit of butting in on writing time, but family comes first. And everything is calming down now, thank you. :)

      Are frilly knickers going to appear in one of your stories now? ;)

      LOL I wonder what you did to make such extra special ANZAC bikkies. I remember making them in high school too. I liked cooking more than I liked sewing. That hasn't changed. :)