Katz and the Cashews


Dear Danny
I am a fan. Admittedly I am not the fan I used to be – but there you go. You have been off the boil for quite some time now. Your move to Saturdays has not, it seems, done you any favours. Back in the day, when you were a mid-week regular of the former broadsheet that runs second to the Murdoch press in Yarra City, you were the highlight of my newspaper reading week You outshone all other columnists. You made me laugh – so much so that on occasions I took the paper to school and read your contribution out to my students – making them also chortle with glee, giving them something of joy to remember as they plodded through the hours to freedom.

And now I am going to be brutally frank, Danny. On Saturdays you have come back to the pack – not so bad, I guess, given the quality of my other favs – Flanagan,, Wright and Squires. But even worse, once in a blue moon you also write total drivel. Once upon a time your shtick was consistently delightful – now, not so much. Why, sometimes I do not even bother to complete your contribution. I turn to the other ‘Insight’ columnists, mentioned above, instead. They rarely let me down. But, Danny, even if you have lost your edge, I will never completely forsake you. Each week I do return and on occasions, you still richly reward me to the degree I think, that perhaps, you are back on song.

I suspect doing it for as long as you have it must be supremely difficult to come up with something fresh and original to riff about for each deadline, thus your waning. Some of your fellow regular wordsmiths have now departed – I’d reckon for similar reasons. I lament the passing of Kate Holden still and I now also miss Bob Murphy. I live in hope that’s only because he’s ascended to the captaincy of the Doggies and will return once he’s hung up his boots. But I diverge…

Now I’m about to congratulate you on last week’s effort, Danny. Your rumination on the delicious treats of your youth, when growing up in the sixties – yes I did check on your vintage – was a sparkling gem, brightening a wintery Saturday. It spoke of what you could look forward to being treated to, as a child, when there was some excess money available for such luxuries. You were almost Pythonesque in this memory piece and you inspired me to do similar. Well done.

For you, Danny, in that golden age when the world turned on its head momentarily, before righting itself again, your treats took the form of cashews, mangoes and smoked salmon.

My dear darling Leigh loves cashews too – but unlike your scribe, she is very strong. I’ll often buy her a packet for a treat too – although, in your recollection, they came to you as single units. And you also reported to us that these days, even while composing the very column under examination, you now stuff them down en masse – just as I would if I was let loose on them. No, my Leigh can just allow herself a handful a day and leave it at that. She is an inspiration to me that I can never live up to, so when she offers me the packet to partake of a modicum of its contents, I always decline. A couple are never enough. I truly love cashews, macadamias and pistachios but, as it is no doubt for you too, Danny,once I sample I am then invariably overcome by that dreaded disease from which there is no escape – the munchies. Once I start I can never stop until the receptacle containing the blissful offering is empty.

I am a fifties child, my friend, so therefore I cannot remember cashews ever being around the shelves of our corner grocery shop – supermarkets were a long way off appearing in my regional corner of Tasmania. Peanuts would be there I would think – and mixed nuts, but they were reserved as a Yuletide only attraction. As for mangos and smoked salmon – they were exotica beyond imagination. For the former read a whole pineapple rather than the tinned variety; for the latter a good feed of couta, locally caught, so devoured more or less straight from the sea.

So what were the special treats of my childhood. My parents were by no means rolling in pounds, shillings and pence but we did okay. Here are some of my recollections – not only of the stuff that made me salivate, but of general tucker as well.

Roast chook. Yes, roast chook. Back then the fowl itself came from backyard coops, its flesh a rich yellow in hue. It was served biannually – at Christmas and Easter, wrapped in brown paper and aromatically cooked in the electric frying pan. Just the smell alone tantalised the taste buds beyond belief. Accompanying it on the table were fizzy drinks, originating from a small factory run by Cooee Cordials. Initially they were for only birthdays and other special occasions. I always chose the green – that colour didn’t send me troppo as did the red invariably selected by my mini-mates. There were also the joys of Choo Choo and White Knight bars, as well as the marvellous Cadbury Snack assortment. And clinkers, don’t forget clinkers. But don’t get me stated on the glory years of lolly treats.

These days scallops are a rare treat and crayfish beyond this scribe’s budgetary means – but back in the day they were common fare – albeit still incredibly delicious. Whitebait patties were a regular when in season, as was the greasy, but delectable, mutton bird. Rabbit was either stuffed and placed in the oven for and hour or so, or stewed with a flavoursome bacon gravy. Roo and wallaby were not unheard of either on the table – an acceptable patty could be made from them as the meat was considered rather strong and gamy.

For desserts, Danny, my mother was a dab hand at trifles and sago plum pud and I adored them. Ice cream was generally home-made from condensed milk, but the commercial variety came in cardboard bricks, rather than tubs. We all jostled for the chocolate part in these Neapolitan confections. Jelly contained fruit and I also treasured junket. Rice and macaroni were also considered as sweets, served with copious sugar and milk.

There were Sunday lamb roasts and lamb’s fry with bacon. Much could be done with Belgium sausage, even fried – as was the afore-recalled pineapple. I can remember the first icy poles putting in an appearance, a more sophisticated version of the fruity ice blocks we produced ourselves, or so we thought. I recall the first frozen peas and best of all, the arrival of potato crisps. My father produced from his work case the first I ever laid eyes on – a packet a Samboy barbecue flavoured. I though I’d died and gone to heaven and that taste sensation was probably the cause, for me, of the contagion that is the munchies.

And for breakfast – what else but dripping on toast.

All those memories came back to me, Danny, as I read ‘Remember when Cashews were a Special Treat’ – so thank you for returning me to my own days of yore, in culinary terms. And you are forgiven, Mr Katz, for any past loss of zing – as long as you can still come up with such excellent content, now and again.
Your Still Fan
Steve from the Blue Room

Danny’s column that Saturday = http://www.theage.com.au/comment/precious-childhood-treats-lost-in-bulk-bin-buy-now-any-season-world-20150626-ghx5s1

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