Peter Farmer snr. talks about Damper and Dip
Denise Cook: What did you do when you were eating? How did you eat your food?
Peter Farmer: Well with our food we – mainly it was damper cooked in the ashes. Mainly it was damper and dip we call it.
Denise Cook: Damper and dip?
Peter Farmer: Dip. We used to melt the fat in the frying pan and then tip Holbrooks sauce into the fat when it got hot and the damper would be hot so we dip it in there and eat it there that way or put a bit of salt and pepper in and just dip it in. Our main feed was always damper. We had to make a fire three times a day. Doesn’t matter how hot or how cold it was. We had to walk across the reserve, across the railway line to get our wood. There was well everybody had to walk across there so that bush up the over the reserve it was pretty clean. Never left too many sticks laying around. Sometimes there would be I think the Shire would come and drop a bit of wood on the corner of the reserve there or something like that. But mainly we would have to go across and get our wood over across the bush there. Because there was always sticks hanging across the fire and with us playing around and we’d kick the stick and off would go the billy can or the pot or whatever was on the fire but I remember we ate that much fat and stuff Mum used to make a damper and put the fat in the damper while she made it and then put it in the ashes and then the fat would melt all through the damper so we didn’t have to put it – we didn’t have to put any fat on. We’d just eat it like that.
Denise Cook: And did your Mum cook the damper in a camp oven or straight in the ashes?
Peter Farmer: No, straight in the ashes. We never had a camp oven. We had pots, a few pots. We hardly had anything really when you look at it. I think we only had about three or four knives. Hardly had butter. We had butter through the winter because in the summertime it’d be like this water here. Just melt. And I say the summer days was really hot too as well. I think it was probably hotter than some of these days we have up here and then again we had no shoes. I used to go to Tambellup and stay with my grandmother in the Christmas holidays and stuff like that. And the Christmas holidays the sand would have been as hot as the beach sand. And I remember there they had about three tents which we – they – my father’s sisters and brothers marriages used to – like – were married and all camping around in one little bunch there. That was the worst because you’ve still got – I used to go to bed with the sand. There was no – I used a mattress on the floor and in the
tent and then there was so many of us that we all you know still sleep together well we’d all cart some sand in somehow because there was a big sand hill which they more or less camped on. And for years, I think it was fourteen, I think it was around, I was fourteen before they got a, or fifteen, before they got a little, a couple of them little tin shacks put on, just on top of the hill there. But they was another excellent [?] time because you had so many kids to play with and there was the river there and we’d go swimming all day through the summer. But the food didn’t change. It was more or less the same.
Denise Cook: Did you get meat or vegetables to eat at all?
Peter Farmer: Well I couldn’t remember the – oh yeah we used to, we used to cook the potatoes in the ashes along with some pumpkin and parsnips. Couldn’t remember putting any carrots in but I know the parsnips we cooked them.
Denise Cook: So they’d just go straight in the ashes too? The carrots and parsnips.
Peter Farmer: Yeah. But they would – you’d cook if rabbit, I remember having the rabbit because rabbit stew was a onion and potato and stuff like that and even with the chops as well but mainly we had most of it was cooked on the fire but used to have a chicken wire which we’d put on the fire and that would keep the dirt off the meat and sausages. I remember we put – cooking the sausages and because they were all full of fat they’d get a big flame and they used to get a cup of water and just bang it on like that and out would got the flame and they would say you can get in and cook you know roll them over and stuff like that but everything was cooked on the fire, like on the coals. See with the Noongars they used to eat a lot of flaps off the sheep and I think they had to get in first down at the butcher shop because I don’t think he had enough flaps to go all around and so that was a bit of a who got there first, got all the flaps. Anyways one day Dad went in, went to town and we seen him coming home with this, we had nothing to eat anyway, we was all sitting waiting and we see him coming home with a parcel and I thought, oh yeah he must have some flaps or some meat now for sure. When he put it down and rolled it open there was all fat, you know, what they pull off the sheep, suet they call it and we was all, “Oh no.” So we had nothing to eat anyway although we probably had a bit of damper there but well the fat came good. We used to melt it up and you could cut it up and put it in the pan and let it melt and put our salt and pepper or Holbrooks sauce in and dip it with damper. But talking about damper, one of the worst feeds I can even think of was damper, a cup of black tea and a tin of sugar, so dip the damper into the sugar – no, into the tea first and then into the sugar and eat it like that. But we had – when we were – I can’t remember when we started eating Weetbix because I know we had Sunshine milk and some of the Nestles milk, you know used to be in a tube – in the tins. We used to open and put two little holes in it and suck that. I can’t remember if it was in – just yeah might have been on the reserve I remember having the Weetbix. We used to use Sunshine milk, not powdered milk, we’d never buy bottles.
From: Peter Farmer snr., interview for South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, 23 June 2008
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