My first memory of cooking is of making lemon pudding in Havelock North. I must have been about three because we moved to Hastings in October 1948. Here is a photo which I think was taken at the time we lived there. I thought I had a more recent one taken in 2008 but now realise I did not take one, probably because the light was wrong when I walked there from the village. The house was much improved and it was no longer in the country. I know my mother did not enjoy living here. She was a city girl and this house was up an unsealed road and almost a mile from the 'village' that was Havelock North. There was only one neighbour: a middle-aged couple who lived across the road. In this photo you can see the side of the sitting room with its two small windows, one on each side of the fireplace. Then there is an 'extension'. The window on the left is the dining room and I assume the one on the right in the kitchen. I did not realise we had tank water but it makes sense and I do remember my mother saying we had a septic tank (I think).
Like most very early memories this one is short and may have been altered by remembering it during my adult life. It is dark so must be winter. I am standing on a stool or a chair at the kitchen table and ‘helping’ my mother to make a lemon pudding for my father’s ‘tea’. Tea in New Zealand English was a word generally used to describe the evening meal. At the time my father worked in Napier which is about fifteen miles away, so he was out all day. My sister who is eighteen months younger than me, does not feature in this memory so I expect she had already been put to bed. I know it was a privilege to be allowed to help like this. In this memory I am banging the grater to get the lemon rind off. You also had to scrape at the grooves on the grater to get enough zest. I can dimly remember my mother adding things to the mixture: I think an egg. Certainly the recipe my mother used only had one egg although I have always used two.
We ate this pudding often so my other memories of making it may be from other occasions. I remember that it was cooked in an oval Pyrex glass dish which was then stood in a roasting dish half filled with water. I now realise that was a form of bain marie. My parents received a lot of Pyrex items as wedding presents in 1943. A ship had arrived in Wellington with a load of Pyrex and there was very little else available because of the War. In those days presents were delivered to the home of the bride and her parents in the days leading up to the wedding (only a fortnight in my parents’ case as when my father announced he was about to be sent overseas his mother immediately said ‘Why don’t you get married then?’) My parents had been engaged for some time. The presents were then displayed for the guests to admire and I guess people must have gone to the house specially to do this. I can certainly remember these visits as a child. Apparently another guest then arrived at the house with another piece of Pyrex. When he saw the pile of Pyrex items he immediately said he would get something else and took the item away. The replacement was a set of bellows for the fire. In the days when the only form of heating we had was an open fire, these bellows were very well used. But lemon pudding was always cooked in the oval pie dish.
Other things I remember about lemon pudding as we called it, were that there was a lemony juice under the sponge. I was going to put a link to a recipe on-line but there are so many that I think you should just Google it. It seems the more accurate name for this pudding is Lemon Surprise Pudding. Also the quantities of ingredients differ from one cookery writer to another. Some have as many as four eggs! I think the version my mother made was probably frugal because, although I do not remember rationing, there was some in New Zealand. Also lemons were truly seasonal and only available in the winter. They were grown in the far north of New Zealand so it was not like the British and bananas in the forties. And of course we used salted butter because there was no other kind and as far as I know no margarine. Food in New Zealand at this time was definitely superior to that in Europe.