Vintage School Dinners British Style—Name Your Favorite
In a feat of amazing organization, I managed to escape scenes of domestic carnage by 6 p.m. on Friday night—in the wild this is known as abandonment of young—and went to the Sydney Theatre Company to see the American company Steppenwolf’s production of August: Osage County. This is the second play I have seen with this particular group of female friends over the last six months (the first was a British play, That Face), and I have to say we seem to be somewhat hooked on a theme of matriarchs with addiction problems.
Drink, in the case of That Face—which could have been accurately subtitled Off Her Face Whilst in Osage County—the mother fairly rattled with prescription pills. I thought Osage County was a stunning piece of theatre—I am just in awe of the writing and acting that can hold an audience for three hours, with dialogue so sharp that it provokes horrified laughter from the most emotionally charged situations. Like good books, I think good plays resonate on and you keep thinking about them and I am sure lines from Osage County will keep reappearing in my head for years to come. Apart from anything else the woman with the pill popping propensities had three daughters—anyone else spotting the similarities here? However I think after all this maternal anguish treading the boards, my female gaggle of playgoers may be in the market for a bit of light froth à la Noel Coward for our next outing.
Before we went to the production, we had dinner at Fratelli Fresh, which is a fabulous Italian providores and restaurant that has recently opened up down the road from Sydney Theatre Company. We galloped through a glass of wine and a salad, as time was short—salads are one of the things that Australian restaurants do absolutely brilliantly. One of the main salads had a beetroot base, but I must confess I always find it hard to get enthused by beetroot—I have vivid memories of primary school lunches with mounds of purple mush leaking across the plate, but Australians love the stuff, to the extent that a true Aussie beefburger definitely includes a beetroot layer.
My beetroot aversion made me think about how a whole generation of UK adults was scarred by school dinners—this is not a concept that exists in Australia where, although schools might have an on-site canteen, they definitely don’t go in for dining halls and full-scale sit-down lunches. Consequently Australian adults of my age have missed out on the delights of British school food such as liver, Brussels sprouts, custard, and bread-and-butter pudding (the last being Husband’s particular pet hate and which he describes as invariably "slimy").
I have vivid memories of haggis appearing at least once a week at my Scottish boarding school, and if I am not mistaken, any leftovers used to be resurrected in the particularly delightful form of squashed haggis slabs for breakfast. Fortunately I was quite fond of the stuff, and I also have to confess a weakness for the chocolate custard that appeared over a rectangular slab of ice cream and which no doubt accounted for my braw, brawny teenage outline on the hockey field.