Boiled puddings: Paul Oates

When I set up a permanent Base Camp at Mindik in the middle of the Huon Peninsula in1970, I arrived with the usual Patrol gear (Kerosene stove, canvas shower bucket and a “bedsail”. The “Bedsail” was a sort of canvas stretcher that was formed when you had two crossed posts standing up on either end and two lateral posts that were fed through a six foot cylinder of canvas and then tied to the cross bars. This produced a sort of bed about two feet wide.

I was extremely fortunate to discover however that a predecessor had left two very important items, a kerosene fridge and an inner spring mattress. While the mattress was good news, the kero fridge was even better. Then some kind soul (or souls) in Lae, I think it was the wives of senior officers, started posting out their old magazines and books to the District’s outstations. These were a godsend as they kept you informed of all sorts of goings on in the ‘real’ world. The real world was the one we left behind when we were posted to the bush. One of the books I was sent was called Lady Laverack’s Country Cook Book and was produced by the Queensland Country Women’s Association. This proved to be a veritable cornucopia of valuable cooking recipes and associated information.

For those who have been never been without the readily accessible culinary requirements of their usual day to day life, the old saying applies. “You never appreciate what you have until you have to do without it.”

I have always had a sweet tooth and liked my desert after dinner. For someone brought up on easily available dairy foods, the lack of items like ice cream and milk shakes was felt severely. There were a number of recipes in the cookbook for making ice cream. There was even a recipe on the tin of powdered milk that I was currently using. Despite trying a number of times to whizz the mixture up with a hand beater, the old kero fridge just wouldn’t freeze it fast enough however. All I got was a milky ice block for my efforts. Eventually I gave up and decided to try something else.

The cookbook had a number of recipes for steamed pudding. Ah ha! I thought. This is something I can make with my kero stove and a saucepan. I immediately wrote out an order to Carpenter’s New Guinea Company Country Orders for some unbleached calico as a pudding cloth to make the puddings in. Alas, no such thing apparently existed in the country I was told. Not to be deterred, I explored the local NAMASU trade store to see if they had anything I could use as a pudding cloth. All they had available was printed laplap however. Refusing to give in, I ordered some household bleach and bleached a piece of laplap. Now I was ready to try the delicious recipes in Lady Laverack’s Cookbook. Steamed currant pudding, steamed caramel pudding, steamed fruit puddings. Yummo! The list was quite extensive.

There was only one small problem. The bleach could not remove all the dye in the laplap. ‘A fly on the wall’ would have observed the keen, young kiap sitting at his collapsible patrol table after dinner, tucking into a brightly coloured blue pudding.


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