From an early age, I knew I wanted to cook. My Nanny used to belt out the most scrumptious delights. The smell of the kitchen with biscuits, cakes, jam doughnuts cooking was euphoric! You could smell it down the road. I loved that street. 89 St Aubins St Scone. Mrs Brennan’s house across the road would be the same. She’d constantly have cakes on the bake. Between Nanny’s and Mrs Brennan’s, you knew something good was happening.
My Mum followed suit. She could rustle up a massive feed every day of the week, even if there appeared to be no food about. She was like David Copperfield the way she made shit appear. I loved eating Mum’s food. Even more so cooking with her.
Dad was a miner and a steak and 3 veg guy. He was a gun at putting down a hangi, whipping up a boil up, but boring as fuck when it came to everyday meals. We all couldn’t wait when he went to work on the afternoon shift. As soon as we saw that car hit the driveway, we’d listen to hear the car hit the main road a kilometre away, and as soon as that happened, boom! it was on. Preheat the oven…
Now that Dad was out of the picture we could experiment. Not that we had a tonne of ingredients, but we somehow found something to make that would taste delightful with a cup of tea or milk. Mum always said to me as we stood looking into the seemingly empty cupboard: “Stibby, while ever we have flour, water and an egg, we won’t starve” … How right she was
Ahhh yes. Lemon biscuits and cakes. Orange biscuits and cakes. Sponges, pound cakes, pancakes, chocky cake. Each sweet creation started out a generic mix and we would work out what ingredients we had available to transform it into something else. Mum and I would sit down at the dining room table near the fireplace and look through our cookbooks and dream about giving some of the recipes a go. We used to also have those trays of recipe cards. Some of the ingredients I’d never heard of at the time, but today they are staples in my larder [love that word].
Now, one of my absolute favourites was the pumpkin scone. When I knew Dad was about to go to work, and Mum had cooked us sausages and vegetables for instance, especially when one of those veges was pumpkin, Id get my brothers to save their piece of pumpkin to go into the scone mix when the old boy was gone and make sure they kept quiet. Or if Dad got an inkling something was happening like that without him, he’d probably just eat all the pumpkin!
An hour later, we’d be tucking into those fluffy orange clouds of dough heaped with butter, golden syrup, vegemite or whatever jam we had which usually comprised of apricot, strawberry, raspberry, or plum jams. Cheese and honey, which was a bonafied favourite of my brother Rossi. If we were really lucky there’d be my favourite.. FIG! Fig jam and cream to this day is still a snack I find hard to turn away from. Funny thing was, even though we made them regularly, I knew no-one else who made them. Until the wife of a Queensland peanut farmer made them famous…
As an aspiring young cook growing up in Australia it was hard to ignore the name of Margret Fulton. She was like bacteria, in everything! With her books, she became a force to be reckoned with and she set the benchmark for so many Chefs past and present, but it was another humble woman who offered the world her pumpkin scones with love that grabbed my attention… I strangely felt I had found part of my tribe, and quite chuffed even to think that it was someone who was hi-profile.
Lady Flo’s famous recipe
I can’t remember the first time I saw Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen with her scones on TV, but I was seriously glued to the screen thinking something like “finally! There are others that exist” Instantly, Lady Flo became a culinary hero of mine. She became famous in her own right not only for her pumpkin scones but also for her take on ‘Classic Country Cooking’ ‘Traditional Australian Fare’ as the title of her book suggests. It was hearty, warm, no fuss, comforting soul food, best enjoyed with family and friends.
Right up until I was 34 years of age, I believed that everyone in Queensland ate pumpkin scones. After 13 years living in Queensland, I have to say I’m a little bewildered that I’ve met ONE person, one. Numero fuckin uno amount of people that have made them. Most had only ever had those shitty supermarket versions.
WHHHHHHAAAAAAAT!!! This couldn’t be… How could this be? Why was this so?
Bit sad really. I kind of felt like I’d waited all my life to get to Disneyland, only to find that when I finally got there it was shut down. Oh well, back to Lady Flo…
Being the wife of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, arguably one of the most prolific and controversial political figures in the 20th century must’ve been an adventure. The Kingaroy peanut farmer born in Dannevirke New Zealand who rose to power as a ruthless, iron-fisted leader that knew how to control the media. Sure he may not have like protestors or union groups. So what if he allegedly had the police in his pocket, one thing stands true about the man, he knew hard work, and he wasn’t scared of it. And whilst you can’t believe everything you read or watch in the media, to me he came across as a family man that had love and respect for his wife, regardless if his staunch exterior didn’t express it. And unlike many politicians of the 21st century, who would sell their grandmothers for a steak sanga without sauce, Sir Joh for mine was kind of like the character ‘Thanos’ from the Marvel Cineverse.
Click of the fingers, the shit disappears. Things gain order. Only the worthy will remain. Not everything may have been done positively, but he believed it was all for the greater good. Underneath the hard exterior, there was a good family man.
Still, as they say, behind every great man is an even greater woman cooking up afternoon tea
And that I imagine was Lady Flo. 1st Lady of Queensland, Queen of the pumpkin scone. A rose amongst many thorns that brought joy and unity through her love of cooking. One of my all-time food heroes and one of the few people I knew of that shared mine and my Mums love for pumpkin scones. I never got the privilege to meet her in person and share a scone with her, but like all great food heroes, I hope to get to know her a little through the recipes in her recipes.
These days if someone asks me “what’s a pumpkin scone?”… I answer them in my best Sir Joh voice
“Don’t you go telling me about pumpkin scones! I know quite well what they are:
DONT YOU WORRY ABOUT THAT!”
The recipe in this blog comes courtesy of Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen’s cookbook
“Classic Country Cooking, Traditional Australian Fare”