You could be forgiven for thinking we don’t actually eat here.  With the exception of breakfast cereal, I have written virtually nothing about restaurants or local foods, such as kangaroo or Tiddley Oggies.  It is a serious omission.  We don’t dine out often, but we do eat, and I shop for groceries two or three times a week.

If you could rate people on some sort of sliding scale with carnivores at the top of the scale and vegans at the bottom, Australian males would be at the top or even over the top.  Since their post-aboriginal culinary heritage began in England, it is not surprising that part of the meat eaters’ consumption is associated with the bakery business– meat pies and sausage rolls. It is said that these date back to Egyptian times.

In Melbourne, there are two family names solidly linked to the bakery business– Ferguson and Plarre.  “Percy” Ferguson was born here in 1880; Otto Plare was born in Germany in 1882.  From the time Otto sailed for Melbourne and set up shop on Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds, these two men were rivals. Both men enlisted their family members in their bakeries; both families lived above their shops and both bakers found their best customers among the immigrant population.  They emphasized quality and good service.

The bakeries thrived when Melbourne boomed and struggled during the Depression.  Otto had traveled and worked in highly cultivated places before emigrating, so he had an advantage when it came to “fancy” cakes and pastries.  Ferguson had perfected very popular pies.  Their sons took an avid interest in baking.  Ray Plarre was actually caned for drawing pastry designs in school.

On a brief visit to Melbourne in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson’s Air Force One was met by Eileen Plarre’s  little green Prefect (car). There was a large crowd of people who had made a corridor to the plane, but instead of the President coming out, Eileen took advantage of the opening to deliver rum truffles, green frogs and other fancies directly to the President.  She had the perfect cover, a police escort right from the Puckle Street bakery.

In 1980, under ever-increasing competition from other bakeries, the two firms merged.  Their meat pies include country chicken, steak and onion, beef and cheese, sweet curry etc.  The company’s pasties got a name change when Ken and Pam Ferguson discovered that the original name for pasties (which has an entirely different connotation in North America), was “oggies.”  Tiddley means proper.  Pasties are stuffed with vegetables instead of meat.

According to Wikepedia, Australian meat pies were generally locally produced locally because of the lack of refrigeration in the early days of pie production.  One brand that began at a local bakery in Bendigo has been branded by its association with Australian Rules football– Four N Twenty.

A floater  is a an inverted meat pie, smothered in a plate of thick green pea soup.  It is typically covered with tomato sauce, often enlivened with mint sauce or malt vinegar. The Chiko roll consists of boned  mutton, celery, cabbage, barley, rice, carrot and spices in a tube of egg, flour and dough, which is then deep-fried.  The wrap was designed to be unusually thick so it will survive handling at football matches.

By this time in this post, you may be positively salivating, your taste buds overwhelmed with the idea of these delicacies.  I cannot claim responsibility for the stampede of gastronomic tourism that is surely about to begin, but if Australia wants to shower me with some of the  dollars they have left over from the “Australia” campaign, I won’t mind.  Not a tiddley bit.

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