Jane McLean, Billinudgel
In these times of loss – loss of credible leaders, trees for koalas, loss of time, community and even a habitable planet, today marked yet another woeful loss. The Country Women’s Association (CWA) has stopped serving scones at the Mullumbimby Show.
The familiar corner of the handicrafts pavilion, with its checked tablecloths, CWA monogrammed cups and saucers, and church-hall chairs, was nowhere to be seen at this year’s Mullum Show. No sign of the urn with its welcome curl of steam, and the mountain of scones, baked in Mullumbimby ovens in the early morning before the show gates opened.
‘We’re too old. We’ve died off. We don’t have the people or the energy to do it now,’ we were told by one of the remaining CWA members, chatting behind the cake and pickles stall. Between sentences, they were sampling wedges of the competition cakes, evidently cut and judged some days prior, if the desiccated morsels and the tasters’ grimaces were anything to go by.
‘Besides,’ she said, defiant under blue eye-shadowed lids, ‘our current president is NOT a scone lover.’ Aghast, we asked why she hadn’t been voted out. ‘You can stand if you like,’ said a woman under a stiff gauze hat, behind a tray of glad-wrapped peanut biscuits. ‘I’d be glad to be relieved of the position. We need people desperately… and by the way, although I don’t care to eat them, I did bake eight dozen last year.’
Last year. It was the last year. No fanfare. No farewell.
Disappointed, we left the pavilion. We didn’t want peanut biscuits or chocolate cake, we didn’t want paper-cup tea. We wanted the delight and certainty of tradition. Spaghetti Circus was the other drawcard, so we headed to the shed for our tickets.
Passing the food pavilion we noticed a small sign advertising carrot cake, tea, and hallelujah, scones with jam and cream. Hospitality students from Mullumbimby High School had whipped up dozens of lemonade scones (and even disclosed their recipe: self-raising flour, lemonade and cream) and were serving them as part of their course work. Did they find it in a Country Women’s Association Cookbook? Quite possibly. These scones, baked by a new generation of country women and men, were excellent – four little cumulus clouds on the plate with strawberry jam and whipped cream, served with Twining’s tea in a delicate floral cup. The tradition lives on!