BOWRAL, SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS
Chefs often speak about nostalgia being a large part of their inspiration for dishes they create. Tastes and smells taking you straight back to childhood moments. Every time we eat an ice cream cone, we are reminded of hot summer days as kids, biting the bottom off the cone because you were told not to; warm, sticky ice cream running down your arms, onto your lap and onto the back seat of the car. (Your dad swerving to the side of the road, grabbing the half-eaten cone out of your hand, tossing it in the bin, and you crying all the way home.)
We have so many memories tied to food, however, it was on a day trip to Bowral (100km southwest of Sydney) last week, that I was reminded of memories we have tied to interiors as well. Visiting a beautiful holiday home down a country lane, memories of my grandma's house in a small town in rural Canada came to the surface. I adore screen doors; the mosquito mesh in its frame and the creak as it opens and closes ("Don't let the door slam behind you!") taking me straight back to grandma's summer porch. With our rush to modern day conveniences, it feels like we are missing out on the quaint simplicity of such things as a summer porch. A simple lean-to on the back entrance, which had glass window frames that popped out in summertime, giving you a cool spot to sit and read a book on a warm summer afternoon. And lopsided concrete steps, where you would sit with your siblings and lick an ice cream treat from the local dairy. Neighbours would pop by with a handfuls of roses picked from their garden. The blooms would be popped into a glass and placed in the center of the aqua Formica table, flecked with gold. Summer's bountiful harvest would be turned into pots of strawberry jam, peaches and cherries floating in juice in pretty glass jars.
Not only memories of summer, but winter too. A mysterious stove in the basement supplying heat to the little house. Very vague memories of this tiny spot, as little children were forbidden from descending the steep, narrow, rickety stairs (yet it was ok for a frail grandma to use?). Various relatives would visit grandma throughout the year to ensure her wood pile was sufficiently stacked to ensure she would not go cold through a frigid Canadian winter. (She was toasty warm inside. Meanwhile, the rest of the family were cooling off out on the summer porch, now fitted out with its single pane windows.)
Grandma's house has long since been sold, and I live on the other side of the world now. There is a joy in knowing that fond memories can be accessed in new places. Even though the seasons are upside down; the autumn leaves are turning in April not October, that still makes me feel like I am living in an alternate universe! It also serves as a reminder to enjoy the simple things in life, whether it be a jar of fragrant roses, fresh jam and cream on a scone, a book by a crackling fire or warm steps to enjoy an icy treat.
All images © Donna Vercoe