I’ve been living in Sydney on and off for three years now. I believe that in order to really feel at home in a new country, you need to make an effort to explore and understand its history and culture. Australia has a rich and complex narrative which is currently still a patchwork of non-chronological events floating around in my head. In an effort to get me on side, my husband has recommended The Fatal Shore, a historical account of the United Kingdom’s settlement of Australia. It’s certainly on the list, but with the Steve Jobs biography and everything ever written by Jonathan Sacks on the bedside table for the foreseeable future, it’s not likely to get a shoe-in until next year . . .
As a compromise, I’ve been reading up about one of Australia’s most significant historical events – ANZAC Day – which is now a public holiday and celebrated across the country. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. The Anzac forces landed in Gallipoli on 25 April in a bold attempt to knock Turkey out of the war. However a stalemate ensued and over a period of eight months over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed. Every year on April 25, Australians gather in RSLs and at Anzac memorials to commemorate the event. It is also a day set aside to remember all the brave Australian and New Zealand soldiers who have fought in wars, especially the fallen. The most moving part of Anzac Day are the dawn services that are held all over the country.
In commemoration of the day, I will be visiting a local Anzac memorial to pay my respects. I’ve also decided to join thousands of other domestically-inclined Australians by making my own Anzac cookies. These sweet biscuits were sent by wives to their soldier husbands during the war. It is said that they were popular because they did not spoil easily and kept well during naval transportation. Today Anzac biscuits are manufactured commercially and sold in supermarkets and delis to mark the day. I’ve illustrated a recipe with evidence of my own home-made batch. Given that the only other baked good I have ever made is banana bread – another Aussie classic – these turned out reasonably well and according to my family, tasted just like the “real thing”. Looks like I’ve started my own Anzac Day tradition.