“44 Cookham Road” was a 1950’s asbestos fibro house on a quarter acre block in a suburb of old families and wide streets. The house was home.
It had a large front yard with a letter box that sat in a clump of ‘bird of paradise’ by the red and winding path that led to the front porch.
Houses in those days had a porch at the front and people were often found sitting out the front of their homes watching the world go by, kids played safely under the sprinklers on hot summers days, neighbours waived and called out to each other … a different time.
Stepping through the front door you found yourself in a short hallway that ended in the kitchen. Two bedrooms and the bathroom were to your left and the lounge room to the right. Beyond the kitchen was the enclosed back verandah and the third bedroom.
The kitchen, figuratively and literally formed the heart of this home.
My Nanna didn’t have a great deal and struggled to raise her four children on her own, the one thing she could give to them was a full tummy. Meals that were made with a lot of love, not a great deal of culinary pizzazz mind, but a lot of love!
At one end of the kitchen stood the refrigerator next to 4 tall cupboards, one housed the brooms, two the food and the fourth the plastics and medicines. If you stood facing that end of the kitchen half of the wall to your left was a blank wall painted pale green with the kitchen clock hung high on it. I learnt to tell the time on that clock.
The other half of the left hand side of the kitchen housed the stoves which were set into the kitchen fireplace. The old green wood fired stove with a cream door was the homes first stove. It was never used in my life time but my Mum often recites stories of getting home from school on a cold winter afternoon and being placed in front of that stove on a little stool to warm up and have her brownies or pikelets for afternoon tea.
Next to the old stove was the “modern” gas stove, which always had a tin kettle on top of it. Funnily enough my Mum still uses an old tin kettle on the stove to boil the water for her eighty five (and I am not exaggerating!) cups of tea per day. You would think she would have switched to a modern day faster machine given her requirements but sometimes the habits we form early on in life can evoke such warm memories and provide comfort that we continue them even if there might be a better way.
At the very opposite end to the fridge was a four seater kitchen table. For as long as I can remember everyone congregated at that kitchen table, be it Sunday afternoon tea or Sunday lunch roasts with extended family (I have no idea how we would all fit!), week night dinners, playing round after round of “uno” a card game I was obsessed with as a child, or various board games.
I have very fond memories of always finding Nanna seated at that table in the mornings when I got out of bed, usually completing a crossword puzzle or writing a list (perhaps where I get it from) and waiting to serve me jam and cheese on toast for breakfast. I know, right? But please, if you haven't tried it do me a favour and indulge yourself!
On the right hand side were the kitchen cupboards under bench tops made of torazzo that had worn away over the years making them pitted and constantly damp.
Above the kitchen sink were windows that looked out beyond the enclosed back verandah into the large back yard. Houses in those days had a back verandah and Nanna had enclosed hers years earlier to provide more room for her large family. In my time it housed the “budgies”, always two of in their hanging cages, the deep freeze, a second older fridge that held all the "cool drink" for special occasions, the laundry, toilet and a door out to the “sleep out” (the third bedroom).
The backyard was choc full of garden. Holly hocks lined the dirt drive way, nasturtiums stood guarding the back door, gardenias would splash their heady fragrance about every summer, camellia bushes would burst into bright pink colour every spring and there was a Jacaranda tree that would cover the back lawn in a carpet of purple flowers in summer. Oh, and not to forget the liquid amber that would shed its crispy brown leaves and spiky baubles every autumn creating a huge mess which drove Nanna crazy!
In the back right hand corner of the garden in front of the shed Nanna would grow rhubarb and the old fashioned spinach (silver beet) in cement troughs that had once been in the laundry.
That one quarter acre block, with all its quirks and the kitchen at its heart, made up 44 Cookham Road and for me it was and always will be in some ways what I think of as 'home'.
It was where I learnt to walk. Just out of interest I never crawled, straight from sitting to walking apparently. Seems from an early age I was destined to avoid anything remotely associated with "middle ground"!
It was where I learnt to talk, which I could do with a mouth full of marbles underwater, where I was taught to love and where I was very loved. To me it represents family, warmth, happiness and it evokes many beautiful memories.
It was also where I learnt to cook, where I developed my love of food (possibly over developed it as I was always quite the chubby child!) and learnt the importance of the kitchen as the heart of a home that brings a family together.
Be it lamb chops, ratatouille, Nanna’s famous vegetable soup (which for the record I have never been able to recreate just quite the same), or afternoon teas with white bread ham sandwiches, scones, pikelets and lamingtons topped with cream.
Or be it my Mum in the kitchen experimenting with the more “modern” cuisine (we are referencing the 1980’s here so you can just imagine!) with my Nanna running behind her tidying up as my Mum is not a “clean as you go cook” unlike my Nanna was and I am today!
As karma would have it my fabulously talented home cook partner, Andrew, is not a clean as you go cook either – perhaps the best aren’t!
My love for the kitchen, all things cooking, the small secret rush I feel when I look at my kitchenaide and the pleasure I get from watching the delight on people’s faces when they sample home made food cooked with love was all started at an early age.
It all started at 44 Cookham Road ...