Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Melba mixes it up.

December 18 …

The Times newspaper in England on this day in 1928 included a short article under the heading of Australian Christmas Cake Mixed. Gift for the Duke and Duke and Duchess. The Duke in question was Albert Frederick Arthur George - eligible for the title as second son of the monarch, who subsequently went on to higher things and became monarch himself (as George VI) when his brother King Edward VIII unexpectedly abdicated.

The newspaper did not explain why the Duke was so honoured, but it is to be hoped that he was impressed not only that the cake was made from Australian ingredients, at Australia House, in the presence of Lady Ryrie, wife of the High Commissioner for Australia but also that Dame Nellie Melba herself lent her watchful eye to the proceedings. Dame Nellie she was better known at the time for her operatic rather than her culinary roles, and sadly there is no explanation given as to how or why she came to be playing this non-singing role on this day. She was the woman for whom Peach Melba and Melba Toast were named, but this alone hardly seems sufficient qualification for a responsibility of such awesome magnitude.

The ‘recipe’ for the cake was given in the article. If a mere list can be called a recipe nowadays that is. At the time every English housewife worth her salt would have understood ‘the usual method’ of mixing the ingredients.

The ingredients of the cake were as follows: 2½ lb. butter, 2 lb. sugar, 2½ lb. flour, 1¼ lb. almonds, 24 eggs 10 lb. currants, 3 lb. raisins, half-gill brandy, half-gill rum, candied peel, &c.

There are other questions begged by this article too: were the eggs flown over specially for the cake? Or did they come from Aussie hens in the backyard of Australia House? What secret Aussie ingredient is included under the “&c.”?

Tomorrow’s Story …

Candy for Health.

Quotation for the Day …

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. Garrison Keillor .

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