Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Macadamia nut

SPECIAL NOTE: My mother is celebrating her 80th birthday tomorrow, and she is heading off to Melbourne with her three daughters and her granddaughter for a girls' theatre and shopping expedition. Happy birthday, Mum! (And watch out, Melbourne!!) :-)

I wonder whether today's children get to climb trees like I did when I was a boy. I guess they must, although I'm not in close contact with kids of that age these days, which is rather unfortunate for me. We used to spend hours in trees when I was a kid. We could have entire games that took place in a tree; we used trees as hiding places (essential for avoiding the washing up!); I can even remember the times I used to sit in a tree to read a book. I can distinctly recall the smell of the frangipani that was in our back yard at Annerley. Its flowers were beautiful, and it was a nice safe tree because there were branches quite close to the ground - they were really good for those times when you just wanted to hang upside down and look at the world from a new perspective. But I always thought that the best trees were the ones where you could get a feed while you were up there. Mango trees and Queensland nut (that's what a macadamia was known as when I was a kid) trees were fairly common - many Brisbane back-yards had one or both of these trees. Macadamia nuts originated right here in Queensland, native to the area around Bauple, just south of Maryborough. It wasn't until the trees were exported to the US for the nuts to be harvested and marketed in Hawaii that we Aussies realised their potential, and now there are significant plantations on the eastern coast, as well as a suitable marketing presence. As a kid, I found the Queensland nut an absolute delight, because not only did you have to collect them from the tree, but you also had to crack the hard outer shell to get to the delicious kernel inside. Much like the man in this photo is doing - he is Mr John Waldron from the Tweed Valley, a pioneer of the macadamia industry, and the picture appeared in People magazine in 1957.

(Photo: People Magazine, State Library of Queensland & John Oxley Library; #7719-0001-0003)

In houses that had a macadamia tree in the yard, after gathering a good supply of macadamias, you had to find a place where you could "bust the nut". Many of the houses were Queenslanders on stumps, and so under the house would usually be a laundry. Laundries back then were a couple of cement tubs and a copper in which clothes were boiled, then rinsed in the tubs. These utilities would be on a concrete floor to avoid washing day turning into a muddy mess, and there you could find a small hole or groove in which you would place the nut to stop it from rolling around. Then with a hammer, a brick or a rock, you would belt the nut to crack the shell and then you would pry it open as quickly as possible to get at the treat inside. I used to eat them as I shelled them, one at a time, but my sister was an accumulator - she would build up a pile of nuts like this.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And then, after I had eaten all of my nuts, she would sit in front of me and maddeningly eat hers, one by one!

tff

Next: First high-rise

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