This is the second in my series of iconic Orstralian foodstuffs. Please check out my vegemite storyÂ if you missed it. (I'm also tying in the two word challenge each week as slim as the connections may be.)
The lamington quite simply is a cube of sponge cake, coated in chocolate icing (frosting) and rolled in dessicated coconut. Modern variations can include a jammed or creamed centre but purists avoid such recklessness. According to history the lamington was so named after Charles Wallace Baillie, Lord Lamington, the governor of Queensland from 1895 to 1901. Our governors aren't like those in the United States in that ours are not elected but are appointed by the Crown. So for many generations they were chosen from the ranks of the chinless toffy-nosed gentry in Blighty.
(Governors are still appointed by the Crown, but only after our elected legislative bodies tell the Crown whom to appoint. The Crown, having much better things to do, and who can blame her, merely nods regally and waves a dainty diamond-encrusted paw in the general direction of the paperwork. The appointing thus done she can get back to her g and t, the form guide and avoiding her wanky sons. Our governors these days must be Orstralian and they come from many walks of life but most commonly the law, politics, or the military. Queensland's current governor not only has a strong well-defined chin, she's also a woman. Which makes her from the ladyry and not the gentry I suppose.)
This historical bloke, our Lord Lamington, seemed pretty cool though because one source declared he couldn't abide the cakes and referred to them as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits."Â With material like that who the hell needs to make things up! His time in Orstralia clearly cured him of any genetic predisposition to toffy-nosedness.
It has been suggested his chef concocted the confection in order to use up stale or burnt bits of sponge cake. This explanation has become widely accepted because we've all had experiences where a thing has turned out not as we had hoped so we've turned it into a different thing. (My fried rice for example. No matter how diligently I toss the grains, it always turns into something best used for puttying up the windows.) I can't see why this elite cook wouldn't have been caught in a similarly unfortunate situation.
But why has this fairly unassuming cake achieved cult status in Orstralia? Particularly as there are far yummier things to eat around these parts? The answer is Lamington Drives.
A Lamington Drive, like the American 'bake sale', is a fundraising event. At any time small children can be seen wandering about their neighbourhoods with clipboards and order forms to raise money for their schools. Office workers annoy their colleagues so that Amber's dance troupe can get to Mullimbimby for the finals. Chaps on building sites call in favours to help little Jake's soccer team and the Hospital Ladies Auxillary is always looking to donate a new respirator or two.
Through some mysterious genetic imperativeÂ folksÂ readily agree to buy a dozen or so lamingtons and hand over the hard-earned in anticipation of delivery a week or so hence. Regardless of the apocraphyl account above, the best lamingtons are those with the freshest sponge. And since the advent of commercially prepared tasteless ones in plastic wrap on supermarket shelves, a fresh home-made deadset proper dinky-die Lamington Drive lamington is one of life's pleasures.
(Here comes my discrete set up for the two word challenge bit.)
"A bee, as used in quilting bee or working bee is an old word to describe a gathering of friends and neighbors to accomplish a task or to hold a competition." Wikipedia
(Wasn't that handled delicately?)
1972, Brisbane, Orstralia. Summer started early that year. By October it was already hot as buggery. Twenty or so women, my mother one of them, congregated at the school tuckshop for a working bee. There had been a Lamington Drive and these women were there to do the bit where they actually produce the lamingtons. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lamingtons.
To begin, they bake large rectangular slabs of sponge and when done, cut them into small squares. This part, while uncomfortable and tiring on a hot summer's day, was not difficult for these redoubtable tuckshop ladies. (You must appreciate that where two orÂ more tuckshop ladies congregate, school principalsÂ shake with fear.) Â The problem started with the next bit.
The next bit in lamington production is dipping the cubes of sponge into a chocolate icing mixture that boasts a perfect consistency. The mixture must be thin enough to accomplish dipping with ease, yet substantial enough to thereafter acquire solidification. This enables the next next bit, rolling them in dessicated coconut, to occur without incident.
I'm guessing you suspect by now that 'incident' is precisely what happened.
With all ovens baking at full speed, combined with the unseasonal heat-wave, our brave women found themselves in a very hot room. A room so hot that chocolate icing, at anything like the required levels of perfectness, could not be produced. At all. Oh, they tried. They tried and tried. Electric fans were brought in from all about and set up around the tuckshop kitchen. Mercy dashes for replacement supplies of icing sugar, butter and cocoa were made throughout the day. Despite this there was no way in hell that icing was ever going to set. The end result was buckets and buckets of a coconutty, chocolatey, cakey soup. Not something one can sell in dozen lots. As far as mad bees go, this was a doozy.
Because this was mumble mumble years ago I don't remember how the situation was resolved. Perhaps everyone received a refund, or maybe they got together a week later and tried again. All I properly recall is one extremely tired cross mother at the end of the day swearing she never wanted to look a lamington in the eye again. And just to prove it she promptly developed an allergy to coconut.
BlightyÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â A term of endearment for Great Britain. I'd have to look up its derivation to enlighten you, but I'm sick to death of research right now.
TuckshopÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â In schools here we have no cafeterias. Instead, a group of otherwise under-utilised mothers volunteer to make salad rolls and fry up chicken chippies, in order to provide an in-school meal programme for the kiddies at a moderate cost. The money raised goes towards.. er.. providing an in-school meal programme for the kiddies I guess. Tucker = food, therefore 'tuckshop' equals shop at where one can acquire food. It all makes sense really.
DeadsetÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Very much so
Dinky-dieÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Even more so
Yummier thingsÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Well for a start there are prawn and avocado sandwiches. Add freshly ground pepper and gently wave a lemon over it. Oh, be still my heart.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â My naughty potatoes .
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Tim Tams. These will be the subject of next week's instalment so for now I'll just say they are the best non-battery powered substitute for actual sex that I've ever experienced.