Dear Grandma,
You’d be most surprised
were you still here to see
the way the world’s evolved,
round freshly made sponge
feather-light as before
my childhood memory
of shaky hand rattling plate
beside bone-china tea.

Early on battle’s morn my father lit the furnace
before greeting bovine troops at dawn.
You marshaled yesterday’s fowl bombs in a bowl
with double sifted flour and home-made butter mix.
A campaign involving cream from morning’s billycan
the top inch beaten into thickened white peaks.
Strawberries rationed and bottled in sweet syrup
from a hill-top garden in your last summer.

Grandpa, washed up from the early muster
with his girls at the parade-ground bails
proudly drives his commander out the front gate
and into town where gathered outside the hall
the other ranks greet, talking trench talk
of rain, pastures and market price news.

Having delivered the quartermasters
with arsenal of cooling sponge and scone
handled carefully under best tea-towels
in expectation of stiff competition
and happy home front celebrate
victory from another win.

Throughout the old recipe books
manuals for feeding the troops
the time-tested favourites underlined
handed down, mothers to daughters
and the wives of your four sons.

Years later your grand-daughter,
not too small to lick the bowl,
contemplates her own domestic war –
wonders what would you say, if you knew
the diminished ranks of sisterhood
in desperate strategy came to attract
robust young country women
to fall into line amidst thinning ranks
by changing rules of engagement
permitting shop-bought packet mix
the sacred front line to infiltrate?

Alexandra J Cornwell


Marion and Samuel Spencer Cornwell – at their home at Tyagarah NSW before going out to a local ball.

I conceived this on 17th April 2013 after hearing an ABC Radio National news item reporting that the Country Women’s Association (CWA) is now letting commercial cake mixes be used in their cooking competitions:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-12/qld-cwa-to-allows-packet-cakes-in-competitions/4626206

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