Built To Last

August 29, 2017

I read recently that the Antarctic Heritage Trust found a fruit cake that was over 100 years old AND still edible. The tin was a bit mankey but apparently the cake itself is OK. My guess is all the brandy in it has had an embalming effect.

The cake was allegedly found on Cape Adare in Antarctica, where a total loon – I mean Antarctic explorer – Robert Scott and his team were probably based for the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. I point out Dear Reader, that I use the word allegedly because I believe that cake was in fact found in my mother’s pantry.

I’m serious. I was at home recently for a few days and my sister and I did what she lovingly refers to as a “pantry audit”. She is also fond of a “fridge audit” at Christmas time. Food audits involve taking every single item out of the pantry or fridge, assessing its merits of remaining in the pantry/fridge, and then either putting it back or throwing it in the bin.

It’s like a job interview for the food items. A job interview many of them fail.

I have nothing but respect for my Mum and her generation of women who were pioneers for all of us. Ruth Bernard could easily have been the best Federal Treasurer this country ever had. When I was growing up, she ran our house on the smell of an oily rag! Like many women of her age, she was a stay at home mum but my sister (who has work all over the world) often refers to her as CEO of our family as she had ultimately responsibility for so many aspects of our daily life most of which was done on her housekeeping money. And she did it without a car for a time when she was first married. I remember being taken to Jack and Jill Preschool on Mum’s Vespa step through scooter*.
And yes, it was very cool.

But I digress, back to the pantry audit. Very few things get thrown out of the pantry at home for the following couple of reasons:
“It’s still good – *insert food product name here* doesn’t go off”
“That’s fine! It hasn’t even been opened”
“You can use that for cleaning”
Few things about the responses;
1)     Yes, things DO go off. Fact.
2)     Australia stopped importing that orange-flavoured drink powder Tang in 2010! AND why would anyone drink it ever?
3)     Yes, it’s true – there are many food stuffs that can we used for cleaning, but this does not mean anything you want us not to throw out falls into this category.

I appreciate that Mum’s generation grew up post-war and are not the voracious consumers we are. But we have never really had to do without the way previous generations have. Then again, things were built to last then. Apparently when light bulbs were first invented they lasted FOREVER! Well they lasted for years and years and years. There’s a light bulb in a firehouse in California that has lasted for 116 years! It was installed in 1901 and has rarely been turned off, and is known as the “Eternal Light” by physicists around the world. They should take the Centurion fruit cake there and eat it underneath that light bulb.

Mum’s Sunbeam Mix Master is 49 years old and still going – she uses it all the time. I want to throw it a 50th  birthday next year. Not like so much of the crappy stuff we have now. The flip side of course is it’s just so easy to just buy a new whatever if something breaks. And we don’t even have to wait until we can afford it – we just whack it on the credit card or sign up to store credit. Go into a shop and ask about lay-buy. Nobody under 40 even knows what it is. You may remember a few columns ago when I wrote about Kerbside Clean Up I said I wasn’t going to buy anything for the rest of the year? A colossal failure thus far.

The final needs to go to Scott of the Antarctic**, whose final entry in his diary “We shall stick it out till the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity but I do not think I can write more.”

*Mum’s cream Vespa step through scooter died a tragic and untimely death when Dad and his best friend cooked the motor doing burn outs in the fallen jacaranda’s out the front of our house during a dinner party. Mum is still dirty about it.

** I just realised that Aussie Crawl reference Scott of the Antarctic in their classic song ‘Reckless’. I love a historical reference in a song. Good from them!

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