They came from the land down under

WWI Australian Enlistment Poster
Australian enlistment poster Image source: Tumblr

For days, Berliners prepared for the arrival of a group of touring Australian Cadets making their way through Canada and the US. They were part of their fledgling nation’s land defence, which required males aged 12-26 to take universal training, something onlookers at other stops noted and seemed to approve.

Thirty-four “clean-cut and business-like” Cadets arrived by train in Berlin on 7 January. After a rousing reception by the 118th Battalion, Khaki Club Committee and citizens, the boys marched down King Street to City Hall. Mayor Hett’s civic welcome noted how universal training made Australia “better prepared to send its soldiers to the battlefields,” and the Antipodeans’ heroism at Gallipoli. As is the custom of many politicians, he positioned the more than 125 factories as some of the “many interesting sights in our industrial city.” The boys were slated to visit many of them that afternoon.

After the Cadets’ commanding officer Lieutenant JJ Simmons spoke, his charges cheered the city. From The Berlin News-Record story, it’s easy to assume Berliners may have never heard anything quite like it before: “This is the weird cheer they turned loose—“Aus. Aus. Australia. Cooee, cooee, cooee, Berlin.” (though I suspect the “.”s and “,”s were probably “!”s).  Regardless, according to some, the “weird cheer” caught on as coo-ees rang throughout the city. As the visitors spoke at local schools about their native land, while local organizers scurried to cancel factory tours. Apparently when given their druthers, the young men chose to lace up skates instead of watching boots, leather goods and other things made. Their day ended with a special dinner, at which there was some mention of the Canadian love of pie.

Who wouldn’t be a soldier, eh?

Within days, The News-Record printed a chirpy letter from Private Albert Martin, stationed in Kent, England. He outlined a typical training day (12-15 mile route marches, bayonet work and physical exercise, visual training and musketry practice, noting the lads weren’t “worked too hard.”), and was quite enthusiastic about his signals course. The Canadian government recently issued its men black English-made military boots with tips at the heels and toes, hobnails and brads, and a ½”-thick sole, at a cost of $5 per pair ($100—see note about cost conversion). The meals were good—and better than what they had in London, Ontario: tea or coffee, porridge and either steak, bacon or fish for breakfast; beef or mutton “cooked in different ways,” two vegetables, and occasionally a plum duff for dinner. It wasn’t all training (and eating)–obtaining day and weekend passes seemed trivial.

The regiment’s Christmas Day started with carols by the band, breakfast, and a church parade. Christmas dinner seemed an ample affair—roast stuffed turkey, sausages, ham, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, Christmas pudding, mince pie, nuts, muscatel grapes, almonds, apples, oranges, a cigar, cigarettes and “a pint bottle of beer for those who liked it or soft drinks for the teetalers.” Before a three-hour concert, the Colonel wished them a Merry Christmas and read the King’s messages. [Martin noted year-round cost savings by not using government suppliers offset the cost for their Christmas meal .] “The only disagreeable thing we had was that it rained all day.”

From the front

Of course, all this happened against the backdrop of war. This week’s despatches brought back memories of the horrors at Ypres and Gallipoli: the former reset with artillery fire and asphyxiating gas; the latter the subject of a review and final withdrawal of Newfoundland’s troops. While Lord Kitchener recounted the daring capture of a flock of the Kaiser’s submarines in the North Sea, British politicians passed first and second readings of a compulsion bill (which forced Canada’s Militia Minister to reassure the nation no such plans would come to play out here). Rumours about the Kaiser being near death made front-page news.  

The day after Private Martin’s letter appeared The News-Record ran another letter, this time from Sergeant JJ Richardson of the 18th Battalion, recounting Jack Gerbig’s final battle. Gerbig was the first Berliner killed in the war. He died on the evening of 20 December 1915, hit by eight machine gun bullets; he died almost immediately. A priest laid him to rest in the Canadian cemetery behind the firing line [at the Ridge Wood Military Cemetery in Belgium]. “Old Jack was a dead game fellow and was afraid of nothing. It’s always the way, they take the best every time.”

Want a bit more information?

The Recipe

 

I took my cue from the Australian visitors when I searched for this week’s recipe. While not authentic Aussie tucker, this mulligatawny soup appeared in an Australian newspaper in 1916, and if nothing else, is a glimpse into how foods travelled within the Empire. Mulligatawny (as with many other Anglo-Indian dishes) originated during the British Raj, by Indian cooks who adapted Indian cooking methods to appease British palates. The recipes and flavours travelled back to Great Britain and spread through the Empire.

There seem to be as many ways to prepare Mulligatawny soup as there are cooks who make it. It’s got a bit of a shady past, but early recipes appeared in the 18th Century. While some kept the fire and complexity of its ancestral milagu tannir, this timorous version (depending upon the ferocity of your curry powder) is somewhat reminiscent of a slightly more interesting canned cream of chicken soup. I would prefer this soup to be zippier and without the cream, but to each her own.

Mullagatawny Soup

(Original recipe from the Barrier Miner, Broken Hill, NSW dated 20 May 1916)

Take one rabbit or chicken, 2 quarts of stock, 1 onion, 1 apple, tablespoon curry powder, ½ pint of cream, 2oz butter or dripping, and a few drops of lemon juice. Cut the rabbit into joints and fry in butter. Remove and fry onion, apple, and curry power until quite tender. Put in the stock and meat; simmer till tender, remove the meat, and cut into neat pieces. Thicken the soup with flour (1oz to each pint). Boil well and rub through a sieve. Return to stewpan, and cream and meat and just before serving, the lemonjuice [sic]. Serve boiled rice with it.

Mulligatawny Soup (Modern equivalent)

Yield: ~2.5L

55g 62ml ¼ cup Butter or drippings
1.25kg 1.25kg 2-¾ lbs Bone-in, skin-on chicken or bone-in rabbit pieces
1 1 1 Onion, diced
1 1 1 Apple, roughly chopped
15ml 15ml 1 tablespoon Curry Powder
2.5L 2.5L 10 cups Chicken or vegetable stock
250ml 250ml 1 cup Heavy Cream (35%)
85g 140ml 9 tablespoons All-purpose flour
5ml 5ml 1 teaspoon Lemon juice
      Cooked rice, to serve

Melt the fat in a soup kettle and brown the meat (in batches, if you must)–you’re not looking to cook the meat, just render some of the fat and sear each side to develop a bit of a fond. Remove the meat and let it rest, being sure to collect any escaped juices. Soften the onion and the apple in the fat before adding the curry powder—give everything a good stir as the spices cook. Pour in the stock and scrape up the fond that developed at the bottom of the pot. Return the meat with whatever juices you’ve collected and boil for five minutes. Lower the flame and let the soup simmer for an hour, until the meat is tender

When done, remove the meat, discard the bones and skin. Pull apart or cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Make a slurry by whisking together the flour with two cups of hot broth until thoroughly combined. Whisk well as you slowly pour the mixture back into the pot. Boil for five minutes, occasionally stirring, so nothing catches on the bottom.

Strain the soup by pushing it through a sieve to extract as much of the onion and apple flavours as possible. Discard the solids and return the liquid to the pot. Stir in the cream and add the meat.

Before serving, stir in the lemon juice. Balance flavour to taste. 

Serve with rice.

Notes

  • As the apples are in the recipe for flavouring and will be seived out, there’s no need to peel or remove the pips.
  • What I’d do differently:
    • More spices: Add chilli-ginger-garlic paste with the curry powder, an ample dose of black pepper and/or a judicious dose of chilli pepper.  Make a temper (popped mustard seeds, fried onions ) to add before serving.
    • Skip the slurry:  Double the onions and apples. Peel, core and de-pip the apples, before frying with the onions.  After the meat is cooked and removed, whiz the apples and onions with the liquid.
    • Substitute: Use evaporated milk for the heavy cream (if using at all).

 

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