It is strange how memories of one’s childhood are quite often associated with the sense of smell. For me and my sister, Mione, it is the aroma of jam from the summer fruit as it bubbles in the large iron pot on the wood stove; it is the smell of fresh cow’s milk and of our Mother’s bread making. It’s the perfume of the honeysuckle and roses which grew profusely in the garden of “Raheen” which Dad lovingly nurtured. I have only to smell an apple and I am back again at the old Brady Home, ‘Mallacoota House’ holding my Grandmother’s hand as she opens the wirenetting gate under the house. ‘Mallacoota House’ was built very high in front which enabled the area to be wire-netted all around, thus making a wonderful drying place for the racks which held apples, pears, quinces, onions and pumpkins. There was never a shortage of produce as Grandfather was a great advocate of fresh fruit and vegetables and early photos show the garden and orchard he had established which extended right down the hill to the foreshore.
There is another wonderful aroma slotted into my childhood memories, that of Dad cooking breakfast, not just your ordinary breakfast ……. he cooked Pufftaloons! Now, I am not sure if that is the correct spelling perhaps it was a French word but that is what we knew them to be. (Editors note: Google has over four thousand entries for puftaloon and two hundred for the double f version, the bulk of the entries are Australian with a hint of a Scottish origin.) “Tommy” and “Tiny” (Dad’s pet names for Mione and me), “Are you getting up today?” he would ask, and we would be out of bed like the proverbial shot for it was always exciting when Dad elected to cook breakfast. The old Metters stove with its top fire-box would have been stoked well with wood as to make the mixture into the most mouth-watering, magically-named Pufftaloons. Just to hear the name evokes memories of the warm kitchen, the wooden chairs and table the latter set with pretty crockery on an embroidered cloth. How we relished those treats, they were so delicious they didn’t require anything extra but there was always home-made jam, golden syrup and the most wonderfully flavoured honey that Dad would have acquired from robbing a hive on our bush property which is now Shady Gully Estate. In Shady Gully Creek at the bottom of the hill, Mum grew watercress brought from Yankee Creek which ran through her family’s farm at Nethercote.
They were great breakfasts and no matter how it stormed outside, or that the visibility to the ocean was non-existent, we were warm and cosy in our little haven quite oblivious to the rockets from Gabo sounding out their shipping warnings.
Years later, my mother-in-law was telling me of an incident which she and her sister Mrs. Ada Hite obviously thought was hilarious. Aunty Ada (Grandmother of the Rankin siblings) was the then proprietress of the Wonboyn Guest House and one morning a very ‘hoity-toity’ (their words) guest requested Pufftaloons for breakfast. Not having heard of them they enquired as to the ingredients and apparently made them to his satisfaction. “And do you know what they were?” my mother-in-law continued. “Fried scones!” Somehow I could not bring myself to tell her that we had always called them by the magical name of Pufftaloons. Fried Scones, how mundane! How could I begin to share my childhood recollections of cold winters, of flood· ing rains and a cosy warm kitchen where a wonderful father cooked up batches of happy memories.