In a shout-out to Essential Workers for the month of April, the reminder that here in New Zealand and Australia, we honour those who fought for our freedom on April 25th, which is celebrated as ANZAC Day, I share with you an ANZAC poem by Australian Great War Nurse, Erica Strom in a publication called ‘Australian Great War Poetry. Oh, and you might just want to bake these yummy ANZAC cookies which New Zealand women baked to enable soldiers to diversify their nutrition during the Great War – I think it might have given the soldiers a little reminder of home too.
As I read this poem I thought of all the wonderful nurses who are at the frontline of the Covid-19 battle. If this is you, then you might resonate with it too.
On June the 12th, 1917, a large contingent of army nurses left Melbourne for overseas. They went to Salonika, in Greece, to staff British hospitals there. Christine Erica Strom was one of these nurses. She penned this poem called ’50 Years Later.’
50 Years Later
How long ago it seems!
So young we were, with earnest questing eyes
That probed the future for our destiny;
With sense of purpose, and with plans and dreams
Concerning many things.
And then the challenge came: and so we went;
And, looking back across the drift of years,
One would not now have had it otherwise.
So much is clouded now in memory,
But contemplation brings
Some aspect we can share.
Adventures on the way; and all the joys
Of fellowship; the team-work that was there;
The tents; the wards; the boys;
The busy nights and enervating days.
Greece and its ways;
Laughter and fun;
Long conversations when the days were done.
The night-staff gathered in that supper tent,
Their lanterns waiting like so many dogs;
The dixies, and the taste of mutton bird.
The scraps of news we heard:
Rumours and warnings.
The awful misery of winter mornings.
Mail days, and all that letters meant to us;
Long thoughts of home, and matters to discuss;
Depression and despair,
And pillows damp with tears!
The summer heat, and nets above the beds;
The locusts, the mosquitoes, and the frogs;
The wasps that fought with us for marmalade;
Mushroom, in autumn, thick upon the slopes.
The harassed Head
Whose rules we thought unjust –
All those mistakes we made!
The pale romances, and the shattered hopes;
Real loss, and quiet grieving.
Pay days, and cash to spend; days off and dust
Upon that winding road
Of tragic poverty.
The guns that broke the silence of the nights,
And (how one hears it still!)
The Last Post sounding on that quiet hill.
The mud that followed rain.
The smoke-filled wards; dark days; the driving snow;
The Vardar wind that seemed for ever blowing,
Those large and frozen bottles of quinine!
Then peace, at last;
And soon upon the scene
All those reactions common when a strain,
Long held, has passed.
Then, gradually, the end:
With friend’s farewell to friend
The patients leaving.
The closing of the wards: sorting and stowing;
How we had longed to go –
And how we hated going!
Christine Erica Strom, Great War Nurse.
In another shout-out to ‘something essential’ during the Covid-19 lockdown, then for those of you not in New Zealand, you may not know about the Edmunds Cookbook and on a very well-thumbed page, I have the recipe for ANZAC BISCUITS. I don’t think there are many women of our generation in New Zealand who haven’t made these biscuits over the years. I like them because they keep for a while (if you don’t eat them all at once) and as part of the adjustments I now make to baking, I now make them with a Gluten Free Baking Mix.
The history of these biscuits is fascinating. During WW1, the wives, mothers and girlfriends of soldiers were concerned about the nutritional value of food being supplied to their men. Any food that was sent to fighting men had to be carried in he ships of the Merchant Navy. Most were slow and had no refridgeration, so any food sent hod to remain edible after periods in excess of 2 months. The women came up with a nutritional answer: a nutritional biscuit. The basis was a Scottish recipe using Rolled Oats. They don’t have eggs to bind the mixture because due to the war, many of the poultry farmers had joined the services, thus eggs were scarce. The binding agent is therefore, golden syrup or treacle.
At first the biscuits were called Soldiers’ Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits. During both World Wars, the Country Women’s Association in New Zealand (as it was then called), devoted a great deal of time to the making of Anzac Biscuits. Here is the original recipe from the Edmunds Cookbook for you.
- 1/2 Cup of Standard Grade Flour (I use a gluten-free flour which requires around 3/4 cup instead)
- 1/2 cup Sugar (or use 1/4 cup so you reduce sugar in your diet)
- 3/4 cup of Coconut
- 3/4 cup of Rolled Oats
- 100 gm Butter
- 1 Tablespoon of Golden Syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon of Baking Soda
- 2 Tablespoons of Boiling Water
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C [350 Fahrenheit]. Mix togehter all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, rolled oats and coconut). Melt the butter and golden syrup. Dissolve the baking soda in the boling water and add this to the butter mixture. Stir the butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Place level tablespoons of the mixture on cold greased or lined oven trays. Allow space between them to expand. Flatten with a floured fork. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Makes 22.