Tag Archives: cheese

Let’s talk hardtack

This morning I woke up to a  version of this ; The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended, one of my all time favourite hymns.

I lay in bed listening to words and music that I hadn’t heard in years, and felt profoundly peaceful. The hymn was part of our New Zealand  Praise Be programme for Remembrance Sunday, on this second Sunday in November.  On Remembrance Sunday,  people throughout the Commonwealth  pay tribute, before God, to those who laid down their lives in war.  I haven’t been to a Remembrance Sunday service, in real life,  but the few scenes (and one  service sheet ) that I have seen, via the internet and television, always impress me with the beauty of their words and their music and their surroundings. Heavenly and divine aptly describe these church services where we honour peace and life, and, somehow, try to atone for the horror of war and conflict.

Now, although to a certain extent I am a person of faith, my spiritual life is more bread and butter than angels and divine inspiration, which means that, as I was  listening to the hymn this morning, my mind suddenly  jumped from wreaths on tombstones to one word…hardtack!  Yes, hardtack! Well…. it was nearly breakfast time, so quite natural that my stomach/brain would be reminding me of food. And, since an army is said to march on its stomach, I would guess most soldiers, of older times, also thought  more often of hardtack (what they would rather have, or what they could do with it!)  than their Maker.

Hardtack, as many of you may know, is a  type of plain cracker made from flour and water and salt and, in ages past, was used to sustain soldiers and sailors.  Hardtack was hard, very hard, and very long- lasting. It was a substitute for bread. In World War One, Australian and New Zealand troops ( ANZACS)  jokingly called their hardtack,  ANZAC wafers. They were also called ANZAC tiles.

According to this source,  http://definingnz.com/bully-beef-and-biscuits/ , the daily ration of an ANZAC soldier  was ”disablingly bad”  and included 7 ANZAC Wafers ( ie 7 hardtack biscuits).  Considering many soldiers  didn’t have a full set of teeth, or had false teeth,  eating the rations must often have required more energy than they had to spare. Apparently the Anzac biscuits (and the bully beef) were so inedible that, sometimes, they were merely nibbled on and then thrown in to No Man’s Land.

The Australian War Memorial  website offers a recipe for ANZAC wafers. However, I don’t suggest you try it, unless you  want to boost your dentist’s bank balance.

A happier and more nutritious alternative would be to try these delicious, crunchy rye crackers that I made, based on a  recipe  by New Zealand caterer, Ruth Pretty. I had to  bake the crackers about 15 minutes longer than suggested, to get the degree of cracker-ness that I like but, my goodness, they are good. No armed services personnel would throw these crackers in to No Man’s Land.

Rye Crackers

Rye Crackers

And, if you do make these crackers, or something similar, remember as you munch, that our service personnel once had more to fear than enemy fire. Remember too, that how we treat and train our armed services is often more  important than how we pray for them.

After bites; Captain Clark Gable had false teeth 🙂

Some viewers may not be able to see Praise Be for copyright reasons.

© silkannthreades

Often the soldiers managed no more than nibbling away at the edges before tossing the centres out into No Man’s Land. – See more at: http://definingnz.com/bully-beef-and-biscuits/#sthash.4Em0zDGB.dpuf
Often the soldiers managed no more than nibbling away at the edges before tossing the centres out into No Man’s Land. – See more at: http://definingnz.com/bully-beef-and-biscuits/#sthash.4Em0zDGB.dpuf
Our rations are 7 biscuits a day, a very little each of jam, tea & sugar & a very fat chunk of bacon. There is any amount of bully beef but only because it is poor & barely eatable. I have a struggle to get satisfied; it takes a lot of gnawing to fill up on biscuits & our 7 are as many as a man with ordinary jaws can manage. – See more at: http://definingnz.com/bully-beef-and-biscuits/#sthash.4Em0zDGB.dpuf

Medlars; the moment of truth?

The medlars had begun their bletting; remember this?Bletting MedlarsThe two medlars on the left of the photo appeared to be fully bletted (rotted), so I cut one of them in half and discovered this;Are you ready?Gulp……am I really going to eat this?…. why, yes, but not in one gulp!  I take my most elegant teaspoon (so I can convince myself I am tasting something gorgeous and unrotten) and scrape out a small amount of the soft, thick, apple sauce textured flesh. I  gingerly place the morsel  in my mouth……to search for  the moment of  truth; to understand the essence of medlar.    Mmmmmm……Mmmmmm?  Doesn’t smell bad; doesn’t smell anything. Doesn’t taste bad, but how does it taste?  Like a floury, very ripe crab apple, minus any of the sharpness of apple, and steeped with the spices of mulled wine?  Possibly……but there’s another taste that is tickling my tongue; a taste that has been lost with time. Another delicate scrape licked from the spoon and, suddenly, my senses are whiplashed back through five decades, to a place and time about as far removed from my present placing as one can get.  I am in the warm tropics, in the tiny town of my birth. I am with my friend Julie, under the tamarind tree by her garden gate. It is tamarind season and we are sampling the tamarinds. We open the dry pods and suck on the sour, sticky, date-brown pulp, delighting in its acidity. We delight, too, in spitting the big seeds once we have sucked all the flesh from them.  We feel free, and adventurous, gathering sustenance from the ‘wild’. Sometimes, we find a tamarind that is riper than the others. It has a faint mustiness, an otherness to it; not unpleasant, not sweet, not sour, but we toss it aside because it is the sour fruit we crave.

So, a medlar tastes like a tamarind? In a way, yes. A little bit; like one of the musty, over ripe tamarinds, devoid of any hint of sourness.  That is where my taste bud inventory took me; back to the tamarind tree. But, whether or not  it is more like a floury crab apple or a musty tamarind, or a combination of both, it is assuredly an ancient flavour; in the same way as the flavours of the crab apple and the tamarind belong to the ancient realms.  The medlar’s taste belongs to the ages, and, like the best of fine whisky, or aged cheese, needs to be savoured gently to appreciate its uniqueness. That I can vouch for.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you about the flavour of medlars, here’s a photo with a hint of what I am going to do with them next………

Time for the next stepTree notes: If you would like to know more about the tamarind tree, this link to Kew Gardens provides excellent information  http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Tamarindus-indica.htm

© silkannthreades