If you miss Ballarat, you miss Australia. Forget Sydney. Sovereign Hill went down in history and stayed there. Like going to Colonial Williamsburg, VA in the United States, or Mackinaw Island, MI or Columbia, CA visitors step back in time when they walk the city’s streets.
“Oh my dear man, would you care to tour my garden?”
How could he refuse such an offer?
Guests are easy to spot. They dress funny.
How delicate the tiny petals looked, so romantic.
“These would look lovely in a bouquet on the table for tea, would they not?”
“Perfect like you, my dear.”
“Are those flowers moving. There’s not a wee bit of air moving.”
“Indeed, I do not feel anything but the scorching sun. I’m wearing my coolest dress today.”
“It flatters you, dear woman.”
“And are you keeping cool in your dapper black?”
“I’m not fussed about this suit.”
“Don’t get your knickers in a knot, my dear. We’ll have a spot of tea, straight way.”
“What do you think of these muted colors, dear man?”
“Most muted, yes indeed. Most muted.”
“There, I saw it again. A bit too much movement.”
“Ah, it’s nothing to rot your socks, sir. It is simply my turkey. He wanders the garden looking for a shady spot.
“I think I’d like to join him.”
“Let’s get you to the porch for a lot of iced tea and maybe Sarah has baked some meat pies and pavlova.”
“That sounds lovely. It sounds like you have everything all sorted. Good on ya.”
“Thank you my dear. We’re in a good posi here on the veranda, don’t you think?”
“I’m enjoying shade and my lot of tea. Thanks for inviting me in to see your garden, and the surprise turkey.”
Mrs. ET and I headed across the plains of Victoria from Melbourne, AU to Ballarat by train. Seventy-five minutes later, we coasted into the station surveying the historic town of Ballarat. Her niece and sister-in-law picked us up and the adventures began.
The main interest was Sovereign Hill. Replicating the Australian Gold Rush in the 1850s, reenactors peppered Sovereign Hill with authenticity. There were miners, majors, mothers, and bakers making meat pies.
“Have you ever had a meat pie?” Carol asked.
“Of course,” I answered like an Aussie know-it-all.
Only I did not know that the Aussie definition of a meat pie was so different than an American Meat Pie.
Carol could not wait to get her hands on an authentic Sovereign sausage roll, and told me I had to eat a meat pie or my life would not be complete.
“Where are the carrots, peas, and potatoes?”
“What part of meat pie didn’t you get, Marsha?”
“This looks like hamburger, not roast beef.”
“It’s minced meat pie. Try it.”
Remembering back to Christmas more than 50 years ago, I recalled my great-grandmother’s minced meat pie. It was a sweet spicy pie filled with chewy brown stuff called “mincemeat.” I did not think I wanted to try that again.
“Is it beef?”
“Yes, but minced meat can be beef, turkey, pork or any meat. It’s minced MEAT, Marsha.” (They sure are dense in the US, I could hear her thinking.)
I explained about mincemeat as best as my 60-year old memory of it would allow.
“It’s meat, Marsha. It’s not sweet.” Carol urged.
I gave in. I opened it and sure enough, it looked like hamburger.
“You’re not supposed to open it,” Carol admonished me sternly. “Put the top back on and put tomato sauce on it.”
“It’s too hot. I’ll burn my mouth!”
Oh no, I thought, catsup. Now it sounds like Mom’s meatloaf. That was awful! I can’t do this. What am I going to do now?
“You’re ruining it!” Carol said. “You’ve got to put tomato sauce on it!” She sounded frantic for me to do it right to get the full effect of the Aussie meat pie. I was frantic, too.
“Carol, I can’t put catsup on the top. How am I going to eat it? I’ll have catsup all over my hands and face and who knows what else.”
Carol was disgusted with me. I could tell by her sigh. “It’s not catsup. It’s tomato sauce anyway. You’re not doing it the Aussie (pronounced AUZZY) way. But go ahead JUST TRY IT!”
Gingerly I took a bite without catsup. It was different. I could not identify the flavor, though. Basically, it tasted somewhat like hamburger. The pie crust was flaky. The meat was meaty. I was hungry. The whole thing was gone in five minutes.
Thank you, Carol, Kate, Mandy, and Paul for such wonderful day at Sovereign Hill. I’ll have more to share about our amazing experiences in later posts.
Remembering Ballarat at Home
When I got home, I thought I would make some Aussie meat pies for Vince. I made my own pie crust, which was a mistake because I did not have eggs, and I like eggs and vinegar in my pie crust.
Rolling it out I soon realized that I did not make enough pie crust for two pies. I made another crust. Piecing it all together, I pinched it around the top and thought it looked good OK.
For the meat filling, I followed the recipe below – sort of.
Since I did not have real stock beef, I used brown gravy mix. I did not use enough water. Also, I was missing Vegemite. OH WELL! Carol gave me some of that on a piece of bread at her house. It’s nutritious.
Proudly I baked the pies. Neither Vince nor I remembered to take a before picture. Vince asked about catsup to put on top.
“What’s the date on that bottle of catsup?” Vince asked as I retrieved the nearly empty bottle from the refrigerator.
“Um, January 2013. It’s fine.”
He did not use catsup either.
Here is Vince’s meat pie after picture.
I am not sure whether or not he liked it. Maybe if I had put vegemite in it.
It’s been in the refrigerator several days now. Carol would not let things like this go to waste. She was a fabulous cook and so efficient. I don’t think Carol would ever substitute things in a recipe. I wonder if I will ever learn?
Have you ever experimented before, and been a little sorry about the results?