Some of our very first kitchen experiences were often at the knees of wonderful wise folk who seemed to be able to conjure cakes and slices from fresh eggs, a whiff of vanilla or the mere hint of lemon. Home baking is alchemy of sorts that produces wonderful aromas that in turn create feelings of nostalgia and sometimes even of hope and comfort.
The sense of smell is our first and most immediate link to the world around us. It reminds us of what (and who) we love. Smell is perhaps the most complex sense we possess and possibly this is why it is the least understood and most often taken for granted. Scent does not actually trigger memories – it triggers the emotion that caused the memory to be formed in the first place. Scientifically speaking, olfaction and memory do seem to be linked. According to studies there is a biological basis to their close association. Olfactory neurons send information immediately into areas of the cerebrum, while others simultaneously travel directly into the portions of the limbic system associated with memory.
There is that certain smell of mechanical kitchen machinery and the creaming of butter and sugar in a flour dusted chrome and formica kitchen that, for me, captures the essence of my childhood and home. These days there are more than a few cafes popping up around the countryside that have managed to enchant their customers with mismatched crown lynn crockery, sugary treats and milky tea – tapping into some of those early memories.
Afternoon tea – a great New Zealand institution that was an opportunity for the housewife to display her baking prowess has all but disappeared and sadly there are many children today who have never sampled home baking icons such as Ginger Kisses, Neenish Tarts, Madeira Cake , Gingerbread or homemade shortbread.
Good old fashioned recipes have recently been resurrected around modern coffee tables, as they jolly well should be. Lovely books with titles such as ‘Afternoon Tea’ published by Frankie an Australian magazine and ‘Ladies a Plate’ by Alexa Johnson are full of old favourites photographed on delicate crockery and vintage linen, are arriving in bookshops hopefully encouraging a new generation of home cooks to embrace their roots and fill the tins!
Jan has just started a blog on this – Cooking the Past.
Back in the day, at school, we were all taught how to make Hokey Pokey Biscuits, a rather plain but extremely delicious lunchbox staple. The warm and buttery aroma of these gorgeous golden syrup delights floating from the cooking room weeks before it was our turn to cook was even better than actually eating them. Mothers and fathers, teach your children how to make these biscuits!
Thinking of hokey pokey biscuits reminds me of Highlander biscuits and Kiwi crisps. They were never chocolate chip biscuits but kiwi crisps – when did they change?
Of course Highlander biscuits were Kiwi crisps without the chocolate.
You can’t perfect these recipes – they are as good today as they were 50 years ago.
Raspberry Jam Drops
Dates and Cream Cake
Chocolate Weetbix Slice