Hello! Guess who? You’ll never guess! Ok, it’s me. You were right….
For those who are reading who aren’t familiar, ANZAC Day (always on the 25th April) is one of Australia’s most important national occasions as it marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I. ANZAC stands for the ‘Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’ and soldiers in those forces quickly became known as the ANZACs. There was and is a tremendous amount of pride in the name.
When WWI broke out in 1914, Australia had only been a federal commonwealth for 13 years and our new government was eager to establish Australia among the other nations of the world. In 1915 the ANZAC soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles (which is a narrow strait that lies between the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara) to the allied navies.
The ANZAC forces landed on the shores at Gallipoli on the 25th of April with the main objective to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), and were met with a horrific resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders (you can read more of it here – http://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/ww1.asp).
After a campaign lasting 8 months, the allied forces were evacuated and both sides had lost thousands of men – by that stage over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. Of the 1500 ANZACs who waded ashore that first day, 755 remained in active service at the end of the day.
When news of the devastating actions at Gallipoli reached those in Australia, the 25th April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war and wars to come.
Our first ANZAC Day away from Australia will be very quiet. Since my family moved to Canberra in 1999, we have rarely missed a Dawn Service and since meeting Ryanie, who is a current serving member of the Australian Defence Force, the day has become a little bit more special.
We would usually get up ridiculously early (about 4am) to get to the Dawn Service on time and, depending on where we are going/where we are, Ryanie will usually take part in a ‘shotgun breakfast’ (fruitcake and coffee with a shot of rum in it) at the RSL or mess before we make our way to the War Memorial. When we lived in Newcastle, we would meet at Stockton RSL and, depending on the weather, march (Ryanie, not me) to the memorial in the centre of town and have the service there. You would stay there until the sun rises and head back to the RSL for a schooner and some savoury mince cooked by the lovely ladies who volunteered with the RSL. One year, it was freezing and rainy so there were approx. 200 or 300 people stuffed into the tiny hall. That was probably one of the best ones though.
Living in Canberra, which is a town chocka block full of current and ex-service members as well as the Defence Academy, ANZAC Day is pretty full on. The Australian War Memorial in Canberra is one of the best places to go for a Dawn Service. It is always full of people (from babies to the elderly), school kids, ADFA students, literally every kind of person of every age and the beautiful building make it surreal. Being the middle of autumn, it’s freezing so you’re rugged up nearly beyond recognition and standing on the damp ground for ages makes your legs ache. There’s always native birds such as cockatoos screeching (and I mean *screeching*) and the forlorn sound of ‘The Last Post’ makes your heart ache and a knot to form in your stomach. There’s reading of poems such as ‘In Flanders Fields’ and first hand accounts written by men who were no older than some of the students there. It’s a morning of solemn reflection and when you stand in a crowd of thousands of people, all of whom know to be completely silent, it’s all worth it. People who never even knew you, never even knew you existed died for you so you could have that life in Australia, one of peace and freedom. It’s pretty mind blowing.
Once the sun comes up, you line up with everyone else to walk through the huge doors and past ‘The Roll of Honour’ and into ‘The Hall of Memory’ where the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’ is. People who have been quietly talking through the ‘The Roll of Honour’ know to close their mouths when you walk into ‘The Hall of Memory’. There are few things more creepy than a huge group of people being totally silent.
Once all of your official duties are done, you usually, head back to wherever to have some breakfast (we always stop at Macca’s. The only time of year it tastes any good!) and then head to the march/mess/RSL for some beers, war stories (literally and figuratively! Those Diggers can really tell a story) and some Two Up (for official rules on Two Up, go here – http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/two_up/howto.asp)
ANZAC Day is really a day of reflection and taking some time to say thank you and appreciate how good it is to live in Australia. Services and the day out aren’t for everyone but celebrating in your own way is just as important.
We don’t have any services near us so I’ve decided to have our own ANZAC Day with food (really, did you expect anything else?) so I’ve made meat pies, Wagon Wheel slice and ANZAC biscuits.
America has some great food but we are Aussies to the core and have been missing traditional Australian fare such as meat pies. You can get just about any kind of sweet pie here but tell someone you’re making a savoury beef pie, and they look at you like you’re deranged (when I asked one of the workers at the supermarket if the pre made pie crust could be used for savoury, he looked at me and made a face like someone had farted. I certainly hadn’t so I assume the meat pie suggestion grossed him out) It’s an Australian thing! And it’s delicious. *And!* Urban Dictionary can verify that claim too; “2. MEAT PIE
The best damn food there is. It’s basically ground beef mixed with a dark gravy, all covered in pie pastry.”
I used a recipe from taste.com.au (http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/7772/meat+pies) and it turned out great! I didn’t bother with the basic mince recipe, I just chopped an onion and some mushrooms and fried that up with 500gms of beef mince and some garlic and S+P before adding the rest of the ingredients. This would be really good to have as savory mince (just leave out the cornflour and add a few more veggies) on a baked potato or rice on a cold night (being from hearty English stock, we like our food hot and stodgy!).
ANZAC biscuits (NOT cookies! Never cookies.) are an Australian tradition dating back to WWI and it’s generally believed that the biscuits were sent by wives to soldiers overseas because the ingredients do not spoil easily and were able to be made with the few ingredients that were available due to rationing. I got this recipe from one of my most favourite cook books ever, the ‘Blue Ribbon Recipes: Prize-winning Recipes from the Sydney Royal Easter Show’ by Pam Casselas which Mum and Dad bought for me a few years ago. It really is the best for old school food like biscuits, cakes, slices and breads. The lemon butter recipe is unreal.
ANZAC biscuits are ridiculously easy and taste so yummy. I have included the recipe below if you want to try.
1 cup plain flour
1cup rolled oats
1 cup sugar (if you want chewier biscuits, change it to brown sugar)
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
125gm of butter
2 tablespoons of golden syrup (I couldn’t find golden syrup so I used molasses instead. It wasn’t too bad but it made the mixture stickier and darker and I think that’s why my biccies were thin)
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons of boiling water
(This recipe called for 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla but I left that out because that’s too much fucking about with a recipe that’s been working fine for 100 years! Deep breath and continue.)
Preheat your oven to 160 Celsius and grease/line an oven tray.
In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, salt and coconut. It will look like delicious brown powder once it’s mixed.
Melt the butter and golden syrup/molasses in the microwave (I stick it in a microwave safe bowl and heat it for 30 seconds at a time until the butter is melted. So much easier than a saucepan and you get the same result.) and add the bicarb soda and boiling water, which fizzes up delightfully.
Pour that over your dry mixture and stir until everything is coated and smells amazing and like home and your Mum and grandmother. Try not to cry. Resume mixing when feelings pass.
Plop decent size spoonfuls onto your tray and bake for 10 minutes or until they are done to your liking.
I found I had to add another cup of flour as the dough spread out and became very thin so if you want thicker biccies, just add flour until it seems right. You really can’t go too wrong with ANZAC biscuit recipes, they are usually all super simple.
Note: This recipe tastes ridiculously good raw. Like, almost better than the cooked biscuits. This also is a great start for crumble on an apple crumble. Mama gave me her recipe and it’s the tits. Mix your flour, oats, brown sugar together and add melted butter until it has a crumbly texture. Pour over stewed apples and bake until the edges are toasty and browned. Eat until it’s gone. Repeat until diabetes sets in. It will be worth it. What do the kids say these days? YOLO? Do they still say that?
I’ll be keeping an eye on the Australian news websites for videos of the march and services. Lest We Forget.