Unearthing memories from long ago I find dollops of family, friends, school, playfulness, off the wall laughing and sometimes crying. There were mostly good times, which were of course, like anybody else, trumped at times with a sprinkling of sad moments.
From time to time I remember specific events but truthfully, the older I get the harder I find I need to dig into that memory bank. Not surprisingly, what I do recall easily are so many memories of food.
My childhood was full of food. Lots of food. I’m guessing this may have something to do with my Mother whose philosophy was ‘if you have a meal and I wasn’t around to see it, did you really eat?’ Even now, the first thing she’ll ask my kids is ‘have you eaten?’ And of course she’ll insist that they have something regardless of their response.
My Mother also had quite a sweet tooth, which I’ve definitely inherited from her. We always had Turkish delights lying around which she would squish and sandwich between two milk coffee or arrowroot biscuits. And then there were the bowls of sweet and creamy rice pudding, the dish that now holds a special place in my heart. Thinking about these I feel a great sense of comfort.
In my moments of nostalgia I tell my kids about my past ‘foodie’ thoughts and experiences. I wasn’t much into cooking back then but I was always a sucker for good food.
One time I told my girls about how I wished I could ‘download’ food from my TV, during my favourite ads!
‘Omg, Mum! Where did you even get your ideas?’ was their response as we had a good laugh and spoke about how cool that would actually be! Because, embarrassingly, I really wished I could!
I’m sure we’ve all had those extravagant, unrealistic food dreams. Haven’t we? You know the ones that look like something out of a Willy Wonka factory with endless flowing chocolate rivers, marshmallow pillows, candy trees and all things chips, gum and ice cream.
Oh my ice cream!
Reminiscing about all the sweet food flashbacks, ice cream has to also be the one that always takes me back to my childhood bringing with it a flood of emotion and memories. From the fun Bubble O Bill (with bonus gum) to the little tub of Streets Vienna to a crunchy, yet creamy, Golden Gaytime or just a simple, refreshing lemonade Icy Pole.
I remember them summer days playing under the Hills Hoist with my older sister or out on the street with the neighbourhood kids. I remember the joy of getting a single gold coin and all the goodies I could buy. Hardly anything these days, but back then I could get at least two or three items. I remember browsing the short aisles of my local corner store with coin tight in hand. I recall waiting at the counter, often stuck behind my next door neighbour, who would pull out a bag of 1c, 2c and 5c coins to pay for her pack of cigarettes. No one ever really understood her or knew much about her, except that she had a little Yorkshire Terrier, named Chyky that she yelled at all the time.
While we waited in the queue (mostly impatiently), Paul, the corner store owner, would quietly count every coin she gave him (sometimes twice). Memories flood back of Paul who we loved for his red frogs. “And 10c worth of red frogs, please,” I’d always add and watch happily as he placed them in a little white paper bag. All while we had our eyes on our ice cream hoping it hadn’t started to melt.
Ice cream doesn’t just bring back memories of Summer and the corner store though. I was that child who was cuddled up under a blanket, in front of a heater, with a bowl of Neapolitan ice cream or if I was lucky there’d be some left over Lebanese gelato secretly hidden at the back of the freezer.
That Lebanese gelato was such a favourite treat. The taste, the texture and the flavours were different to what we could get at the corner store. I loved it. Still do. Going into Ibrahim Pastry* (a Lebanese sweet shop) takes me back to those times and I love that it’s still in the same spot so I can share it with my own kids where we also sneak in a baklawa or two!
Eating all things sweet does come in moderation these days, unless it’s a special occasion where we tend to let loose a little.
We had one of those weekends not long ago. It was hubby’s birthday and since he also loves his ice cream we decided to do a mini ‘Sydney Pub Ice Cream Crawl’. Over the first day we started at Aqua S, which you’ll find tucked away in the midst of busy George St in Sydney’s CBD. I’d heard about this place many times and I can tell you we were not disappointed. The kids (and I!) loved the drama of having a large web of fairy floss wrapped around a cone, with a swirl of soft serve and finished with a coating of caramel popcorn, toasted marshmallow or popping candy. Their oddly flavoured soft serve options add to the experience. Their main one being sea salt, which was an unusual taste that seems like it just shouldn’t work, but strangely tasted great!
The soft serve was a filling start, so a bit of a walk around was necessary. Darling Harbour is only a short walk away from George St, so that is where we ended up for a ‘proper’ bite to eat before we ventured off to our next pitt stop, N2 Extreme Gelato. At this point we were already so full we actually started to re-think having ice cream again. Who has ice cream more than once a day? I wasn’t sure our stomachs could handle it! Quickly, I was starting to see this ‘Crawl’ come to a sudden halt.
But as we walked down this backstreet of Sydney’s Chinatown and up towards N2 we were welcomed with a puff of smoke willowing out through gaps in the glass at the counter. Now this was cool! For a moment I was in a trance, contemplating those childhood food dreams I had so often! Our full stomachs were forgotten as our eyes admired their use of liquid nitrogen, in a row of kitchen mixers, where they made the gelato to order. At this stage I couldn’t resist. They really got me at ‘Kat on Krack’! No, literally that’s what I ordered ‘Kat on Krack’ – a milk chocolate gelato with a crunchy layer, topped with milk chocolate, wafers and a chocolate filled syringe (just in case there wasn’t enough chocolate).
So yep, don’t judge us, we finished our second round of ice cream for the day and it was so worth it!
Our last stop wasn’t until the following day at Gelato Messina. We are loving their new store at Westfield Miranda because it’s where we often go to shop. Other than hubby (who had a scoop of his all time favourite lemon sorbet) none of us could imagine eating more ice cream that weekend! (Childhood dream finally de-bunked – one cannot simply eat A LOT of ice cream without feeling sick!) Instead, we took a tub of three different flavours to go – Yoghurt & Berry, Salted Coconut and Mango Salsa sorbet and their ‘Gooey’ Peanut Butter gelato.
So in honour of childhood reminiscing, a few days later I used the Messina yumminess as toppings to my all time favourite childhood dessert – The Rice Pudding.
And here’s how you can make it too…
What you’ll need:
1 1/4 cups of rice
1 litre milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon rose water
1. Wash rice until water runs clear. Place in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes, until rice is half cooked. Drain the rice.
2. Add the milk and sugar to rice and stir constantly until milk comes to the boil. Reduce heat and leave to simmer, stirring all the time, for a further 10 minutes.
3. Take off heat and stir through the rose water (see Note). Leave to cool slightly before pouring into glasses. Add your favourite topping(s) just before serving. Makes about 6 – 8.
(Note: You could omit the rose water and replace this with one whole vanilla bean. Slit bean and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and the bean to the mixture at the beginning of Step 2. Remove bean before pouring into glasses. As the ice cream I used as toppings, this time around, have their own strong flavours I didn’t add either rose water or vanilla.)
*Ibrahim Pastry 4/412 Princes Hwy, Rockdale