Mango season joyously comes once a year. Two sisters meet in a kitchen to make mango chutney.
“Are you going to use this battered old cooking pot? One said to the other.
“Well, I got it a clearing sale just after I was married in 1955. It belonged to Franz Nyman who built the Yandina School of Arts, the other replied.
“It should be in a museum. I see it now: Chutney pot in use for over 100 years. Chutney cooked in this pot was eaten by the builder in 1916.
“No, I still use it. Museums will have to wait.
“And what about the recipe? Oh no. It’s in pounds and ounces when I only know kilos.
“We’ve got two kilos of chopped mango, that’s about four pounds, two pints of vinegar is one quarter of a gallon. Is that a litre? One pound of brown sugar is half a kilo. And salt and raisins? We will just put what we think and that will do.
“When did we change to decimals?
“In 1966, we began to use dollars. Weights and measurements followed a little later. I think you should get a new recipe book with modern measures. Fifty years on and all that.
“No, this was Mum’s.
“You are putting in garlic. She never used garlic, chillies or capsicums or any of what she called wog food.
“But she used castor oil. A cough in the night meant that next morning she was waiting with the spoon of castor oil mixed with orange juice. I can still feel faint when I smell orange juice.
“And so that is where Mum’s recipe book went. You have it. And where’s Granma’s recipe book?
“I never saw one. I think it was all in her head. With nine children and in-laws and grandchildren, she always coped. The Depression of the 1930s and rationing in World War Two taught everyone not to be fussy but to be thankful.
“Remember Uncle T. he was a baker and had nine children, five to his wife and four to his girlfriend. There must have been a constant stream of kids asking for bread at the bakehouse.
“World War two was a bad time. Uncle S. came home to find his wife had gone. And what about the man down the road who came home to find his wife had a new baby. They came from one trauma to another but seemed to get on with their lives. No one ever talked much about their hardships but we all knew.
“The family has had just one black sheep but he was only an in-law and claimed he was set up. I never blamed him, always told good jokes.
“Some of our relations are being different. You name it and we have it.
“It’s modern to parade your preferences.
“I know what Mum would have made of all that but what do you think Granma would have said? Some of her comments are still with me. She knew so much about human nature and always seemed to be tolerant and forgiving. She knew we were not all the same.
“Yes, now we can see she was right about many things. Some cultures treat their elders with great respect and treasure their wisdom. Nobody listens to me, mostly they think I know nothing.
“She had some great recipes which she would expand or reduce depending on the number needing to be fed. There was always soda bread ready and all you had to do was tell her you were hungry, and you got a slice with syrup or jam. Ever made soda bread? It was made with soda and buttermilk to get the rising with a good fire going in the old wood stove.
“I hated the smell of homemade butter in her kitchen. I would pass out if you waved it in front of me. Those were the days without refrigerators and the butter often went off. But the next day Granma would make fresh butter and so her work never stopped.
“The saying is A woman’s work is never done. It’s only too true.
“Their food was all organic even before the word was invented. They had to be self-sufficient or there was nothing to eat. Today’s supermarket food has lost its quality where only appearance matters. The chemicals used on food production are killing us.
“Take these mangoes, no spray or artificial fertilizers here. They just grow and produce without us doing anything. I do not like the taste of shop mangoes, they pick them green, almost as bad a taste as their tomatoes.
“Tropical fruit has to be ripe. I don’t like using green mangoes for chutney or salads.
“Granma’s family were German, sturdy peasant stock, and the recipes were heavy, a heavy diet for heavy people. Lots of meat and potatoes, milk and eggs. They made jams, chutneys and pickles from whatever was available, even the fruit from the prickly pear in hard times. Families walked off their farms with the prickly pear invasion in Queensland and that was eventually all made right by the introduction of a beetle.
“We were luckier than the present generation because we grew up with aunts and uncles and grandparents nearby. Sunday afternoons were filled with visiting relatives. Nowadays our families are scattered around the world. Get-togethers are a rare event.
“I have to take long trips around Australia or New Zealand to go and see my off-spring but I take a little bit of home, some mango chutney.
“Hot mango chutney.
“Yes, I add cayenne pepper.
“I do not add spice like that, nor would Mum or Granma. I really don’t like your chutney.
“Well, I do not like yours, it’s too bland, too jammy. If mine is a bit hot, they don’t eat as much. I‘ve seen a bottle a day disappear.
“Do you remember when we put the chutney on to cook?
“No, but it looks done. Time to take it off. Will we have enough bottles?”
AUDIENNE BLYTH firstname.lastname@example.org