Simply Living Journal

People & Places

Elizabeth Maskiell

Elizabeth’s raw harvest takes care of nutritional and dietary needs

Elizabeth Maskiell

Elizabeth Maskiell is a nutritionist with a passion for healthy food. She is the founder of Raw Harvest, an online enterprise that provides nutritionally-designed, deliciously simple snacks, treats and meals fulfilling all types of dietary requirements and using only the best, local and organic produce. She then added another arm to her business by opening the Raw Harvest Café in Newborough in Regional Victoria and said the response has since been incredibly positive.

“The first week was crazy,” Elizabeth said, “We had quite a strong online presence; particularly in social media, which really helped it take off. Letting people know we were opening reached 25,000 people overnight on Facebook, which was amazing. The first few days were a little overwhelming because we didn’t really know how many to prepare for but it’s all worked out perfectly. I think I was running on about two to three hours sleep a night for the first week but I still turned up loving it every day.”

Elizabeth loves sharing the food she creates with the community and catering for dietary requirements and nutrition. She likes to see people who genuinely suffer food intolerances or people who haven’t made choices not to be able to eat something, come out and enjoy eating in a safe environment with their family. “We do a lot of celebration cakes for the same reason,” she said.

The entrepreneurial nutritionist is herself celiac and lactose intolerant. She comes from a family with autoimmune issues where there have always been some food intolerances, which she said was what drove her to becoming a nutritionist. “I have worked with clients who struggle to go out and enjoy their food due to the need for specialised requirements and I do think it socially isolates people.”

Seeing the need to cater for specific nutritional requirements and a gap in the market, Elizabeth set up her online business in 2014 and has operated it successfully since.  She supplies other Gippsland cafes with healthy alternative treats and provides pre-pared meals. “The meals are a bit like ‘Light and Easy’ sort of thing but made using local organic produce,” she said. “We focus on local as much as we can so we use Gippsland Jersey Milk, Hope Farm Bakery Bread and other locally produced items.” Another focus in the business is hiring staff that have either been unemployed for a while or are wanting to upskill with more training.

Raw Harvest Cafe

Elizabeth purchased the pre-existing café business in the building she now leases and rebranded it to fit into the present Raw Harvest business. “It was a café with lots of bright punchy colours,” she said, “but I wanted to bring in the more mellow tones. The idea was to make it a space where people could mindfully relax and enjoy social time with their friends and family, and I think we’ve created a space that does that.”

She said many people have questioned why she chose an out of the way place like Newborough but it’s where she grew up and where she now lives. “It’s also only a few minutes off the highway and it’s central to Traralgon and Warragul making it a reasonable distance either way for customers collecting our wholesale products. People are also leaving five minutes earlier in the morning to come into Newborough to pick up their morning coffee and lunches from the cafe.”

Elizabeth gained a degree in nutrition at Latrobe University and for a while afterwards, she worked for Latrobe Community Health Service as a nutritionist. Later she took a break from the industry and worked in other areas in Gippsland and for a few years she worked in Darwin. She said now its Raw Harvest and it’s worked out perfectly for her. “I love it.”

The café is open five days a week. Elizabeth also works 16 hours a week for ‘ReActivate’ a not-for-profit organisation in the Latrobe Valley and through it, she runs two 50 Mile farmers markets a month and is part of the ‘Get Stuffed Project’, a new Latrobe Valley food network. “Through the organisation we are showing people with job losses and income insecurity that they can grow things in their back yard, produce goods or sell produce on and bring in an income through local food networks. We work a lot with farmers and food producers both primary and secondary.”

The food for every part of the Raw Harvest business is cooked in the new café. The wholesale treats are delivered to cafes throughout Gippsland on Tuesdays and Fridays and the pre-prepared meals are collected from the café on Tuesday evenings. “Some are distributed to a few local fitness clubs as well and collected by their members,” she said. “It’s an arrangement that brings a bit of business both ways and it’s really nice to be able to collaborate with other like-minded people.”

Raw Harvest

Nick is the café barista and someone Elizabeth has known for a long time. “We went to school together,” she said. “Dillon also works in the café and the other gentleman is my dad James who hasn’t been working for a while. It’s nice to have him helping out and he does most of my deliveries.”

She also employs a few weekend staff who are wanting to train or have left school but haven’t found the jobs they want. “One of the girls we have working for us is studying to be a personal trainer so she is looking forward to learning more about nutrition and it’s nice to be able to share that knowledge with someone.”

On the wholesale side of the business Elizabeth employs one woman who works in the kitchen helping her on the days they cook the pre-prepared meals and treats. She said in the future she would like look at a few more collaborations with more artists and health conscious people.

pre prepared meals

Main Image: (Right to left) Nick, Elizabeth’s father James, Elizabeth and Dillon in the Raw Harvest Café.

http://rawharvestcafe.com

 

 

Barry Goldsmith

Be nice to snakes

Be nice to snakes

Barry Goldsmith, a Victorian snake catcher and conservationist, loves all Australian native animals, particularly snakes. For more than 30 years he has made it his business to rescue and relocate Australia’s venomous snakes while educating people to dispel the myths surrounding them and to reduce the fear many people have of what he believes are a beautiful and necessary part of our environment.

Like all Australian native animals, snakes are protected so it’s illegal to kill them. ”Almost every second person I talk to has a story about how they killed a snake and it’s just not necessary,” Barry said. “If they’ve got the time to go and grab a shovel, then their life is not in danger and they’ve got time to call a snake catcher to have it removed and taken to a safer environment. Killing a snake can attract a fine of more than $6000.”

He said trying to remove or kill a snake is very dangerous and it’s often when people are bitten. “Cutting off the snakes head is dangerous and really, really cruel because it doesn’t die straight away. It remains alive for about 15 minutes watching you. People then often bend down to pick up the severed head and are bitten.

“There is no evidence of a snake attacking anyone without a reason; dogs and humans are not on their menu as food items so they have no reason to attack anyone. They are easily scared and very scared of us. If you scare a snake the first thing it will do is quickly move away from you. If it’s cornered, it will attempt to bluff you by puffing out its neck to make it look larger. If you persist on engaging with it and the snake has no other means of escape, then it could be dangerous for whatever or whoever is involved.”

Copperhead snake

Snakes are protected because they are essential to the health of our natural environment. “If there were no snakes, the environment would suffer,” Barry said. “We would be completely overrun with rodents and other species they prey on. In many areas, they are an alpha predator and if you take an alpha predator out of the environment then you’d have a lot of ecological problems. Snakes are a sign the environment is healthy.”

He said some people try to keep snakes away from their house or garden using electronic devices or chemicals, which he believes are a scam. “They don’t work. Ideally you don’t want to give snakes too much cover. If you’ve got low lying shrubs in one area and a bit of rubbish in another area, the snake is going to go from one to the other. They don’t like to be out in the open because their main predators are large birds. Rubbish, long grass, standing water and rodents are very attractive to snakes. If you have pets though, it’s a good idea to have a place for a snake to hide so if it’s chased it has somewhere to go, which will save the life of the snake and the pet.

“I know for many people having short grass and only a few plants may not be practical because everyone enjoys having bushy or native gardens with water features to attract birdlife. They should have that, but they need to be aware that snakes are attracted to it too. In a dry area during a dry time of the year, snakes need to drink so they will also be attracted to swimming pools, water troughs and people watering plants and they are excellent swimmers. You won’t see a snake on a really hot day; they usually come out then early in the morning or late in the evening.

Copperhead snake

“There are some resident snakes. If they find a nice habitat with lots of food and water, shelter and they feel safe, they may hang around but nine times out of ten, they are just passing through, so if they are left alone, they will often just move on.

“Snakes don’t have ears, they are deaf so you can scream till the cows come home and it won’t make any difference to a snake nor does stomping the ground. You’d have to be a herd of cattle or horses to create enough vibration to chase away a snake. They have poor eyesight but can see over short distances and they can detect slow movement, which is how they catch their prey. If you keep perfectly still, they will have trouble focusing on you. They also have heat receptors and can pick up heat radiation.

“The only time you are likely to be bitten by a snake apart from engaging with it in some way, is if you actually step on it, but if you wear boots, long pants and watch where you walk you’ll never be bitten. If you are walking through long grass, grab a long stick and use it to part the grass before you put your foot down. That way you are giving the snake notice before you step giving him the chance to move along.”

Baby snake

Barry said many people believe baby or juvenile snakes are more dangerous than adults. “The juvenile snake has the exact same toxic venom as its parents but it has small fangs and venom glands so it’s dangerous, but less dangerous than an adult. Some people believe adult snakes will only give them a dry bite. While both adult and young snakes do sometimes give dry bites, it’s not something anyone can rely on.

“Also when some people see a young snake, they believe the mother is close by but most snakes are live bearers and as soon as black snakes, copperhead snakes or tiger snakes are born, they all go in different directions. Snakes don’t have any maternal instincts. Eastern brown snakes lay eggs but leave afterwards.

“People will often say ‘I have blue tongue lizards so I won’t have any snakes’, which is a common myth. I quite often find blue tongue lizards with snakes. Another myth is that snakes are attracted to milk and some people think they can’t cross kerosene or oil but they can.

“I have also often heard people say that a snake chased them, but snakes don’t chase humans or dogs. A snake that feels threatened will have a couple of lunges at you to get you moving and while you are running away, it will turn around and make it’s retreat.

Tiger snake

“Red-bellied black snakes are very gentle. I once had a black snake swim over to me while I was floating down a river on a rubber tyre. It rested its head on my leg for a while and then kept on going. Copperheads are very shy and gentle. They always stay low to the ground and they eat tiger snakes. Tiger snakes have a bad reputation for being aggressive but they aren’t. They do prey on birds and can sometimes be seen in trees.

“The Eastern brown snake is considered the most dangerous snake in Australia simply because its main prey is rodents and wherever you have humans you have mice and rats. The eastern brown snake is not as shy and it will follow the scent of its prey and not really care about what is going on around it. They are very common out in the bush and a lot of people try to kill them, which is often how they get bitten. They are the most common snake to be killed and it’s why they are responsible for the most deaths.

“In Northern Australia we have coastal taipans, which have caused very few deaths and in South Australia and Queensland there are inland taipans, which are the most venomous snake in the world but they have never killed anyone.”

Barry said there are many things to be more wary of in Australia than snakes. “Many snake fatalities are caused by people not looking where they are walking and stepping on them and not knowing the first aid needed when they have been bitten. If you run around screaming after you’ve been bitten by a snake you’ll work the venom though your body much faster than if you remain still. Don’t wash or clean the bite, apply a compression bandage and call an ambulance. If you have the compression bandage on properly it will instantly give you approximately eight extra hours.

“Very few snake bites result in a fatality. In Australia each year an average of 3000 people are bitten and of those only one or two are fatalities. Many of them could have been avoided with the right education and first aid.”

Barry has been catching venomous snakes for around forty years and in all that time he has never been bitten by any of them. “Pretty much everything else has bitten me,” he said, “koalas, wombats, possums and sea birds. I’ve been bitten many times by pythons and I’ve been bitten by a white lipped snake and a little whipped snake but their bite is like a bee sting. Unless someone has an allergic reaction to their bite, it just becomes itchy.”

Baby snake 2

Barry removes and relocates several hundred snakes back into the wild each year. When he catches a snake, he grabs it by the tail and uses a hook to keep the other end away from his body and places it in a special bag. He doesn’t recommend that anyone copy him and try to do the same. “In the early days we didn’t need to have licenses and insurance and I did it then for the love of it. Someone would call me up and say they had a snake, so I’d call around to collect it and they would give me a cup of tea or a beer and that was it.”

He said fear of snakes is a problem. “If people could get over their fear of snakes then that’s half of my job done. I spend most of my days trying to educate people that snakes are not out to get them, they are not evil killing machines. I show people the snake when I’ve caught it and sometimes by the time I leave they’ll say it’s a beautiful animal. Quite often people contact me after watching my videos on my Facebook page and say it has changed their attitude totally and they’re not scared any more.

“I want people to respect them. This is Australia and it doesn’t matter where you are, even if you are in the middle of the city, there’s a chance you’ll see a venomous snake. They are beautiful, but they are deadly animals so never interact with them. Never touch them and if you do see one just take a few steps back. If a snake sees you stepping back, he’s not going to come forward.”

For more information
call Barry on: 0408 067 062 or visit http://snakecatchervictoria.com.au/

 

Holly Kendall

Young entrepreneur Holly Kendall and her organic enterprise

In 2015, Holly Kendall flew solo establishing an amazing scalable online business that provides families throughout Victoria with easy access to fresh, seasonal certified organic produce.

The intelligent and thoroughly charming young business woman based in Melbourne is also a healthy lifestyle advocate and a qualified nutritional therapist.

Holly Kendall at a community market

Her business Crisp Organics, now known as Holly Kendall Organics, is an online organic produce store with a daily delivery service that operates throughout Victoria. Customers can order all their fresh organic produce online and have it delivered straight to their door or community Co-hub.

She said after launching the business, it gained a lot of traction very quickly. “It’s an industry that is growing and people are becoming more aware of the benefits. I’ve found as people learn more about me, why I do it and the experience I have, a certain level of trust and reassurance has developed. I think being a nutritional therapist is something that reassures people as well because it’s all about promoting balance in the body and really supporting it naturally using healthy food. “

All the produce is certified organic and sourced from Australian farms where it is grown free of chemicals or pesticides and hasn’t been subjected to any long term storage. “I look for quality and I’m very strict on certification,” she said, “so I don’t take home grown or organically grown, it has to be certified so that both I and my customers have an assurance that it is legitimately organic.”

Holly tries to source the produce as locally as she can to reduce food miles so most of her suppliers are in Victoria. However, to avoid limiting the availability, she also sources some foods like bananas, sweet potatoes and foods that are out of season in Victoria from growers in Western Australia and Queensland. “A lot of my produce comes from the Mornington Peninsula, Thorpdale, Kooweerup and the Yarra Ranges. Some also comes from growers in Northern Victoria.”

She said basing the business online was an obvious choice. Her customers are able to obtain all the fresh, high quality produce they want and deserve for themselves and their families in the one place. It saves them time, money and the inconvenience of traipsing from one organic store to another and coming away feeling frustrated or disappointed. “Being an online shop and delivery service enables me to help many more people gain easy access to fresh, high quality food.”

Holly once did all the home deliveries herself but she now outsources it to a refrigerated courier company, which has opened the business to the whole state. She still does deliveries in her own inner suburban area and picks up from farms and suppliers.

Another arm to Holly’s business is selling her organic produce at weekend community markets. She has also started operating pop up shops, which she said is a bit like roadside trading. She has linked up with Parks Victoria for a site at Westerfolds Park in Templestowe. “I take my van and an insulated trailer (that will soon be refrigerated) to a designated place and set up for roughly four to six hours in one location. It’s to make it easy for people to grab an organic option as a snack while they are in the park or something for dinner on the way home.”

Holly also plans to become certified organic herself, which she said will give customers that extra reassurance and she’s growing some of her own organic produce (all heirloom, non-hybrid varieties from certified seed) that she will sell as well. “There are a few certification bodies around but mine will be with NASSA because I’m growing in my backyard and they have a domestic certification. I’ll then be able to go to Farmer’s Markets. The requirement for Victorian Farmers Markets is to either be the grower or be working directly from the farm so there are a few technicalities that prevent me from currently going there but once I’m selling what I’m growing then that will open up for me.”

Prior to finding her passion and operating her business, Holly had tried many things. Initially she completed the first year of a hairdressing apprenticeship before realising it wasn’t for her and decided someone else should have that opportunity. She then did factory work packing fruit and kitchen goods and became a courier. She left for a while and completed a few different courses including one in civil construction to get her heavy machinery tickets, a truck licence and learn transport logistics, which she said has helped her with organising deliveries. She then went back to factory work while deciding what she wanted to do with everything.

She said one thing sort of led to another. She’d eaten organic foods since her late teens because she had digestive disorders and someone she worked with had told her about organics and the research on what chemicals were doing to people’s bodies. After eating organic food she said her digestive disorders started to fall away and she felt so much better. Her anxiety reduced and her skin was much nicer. “There were so many benefits, I felt more balanced physically, emotionally and my thinking was clearer and I don’t get sick at all. I haven’t been sick for years.

“I started meeting people in organics and going out to farms and one day I thought while I’m doing this for me I could give other people the same opportunity to have access to amazing, tasty, nutritious organic food, it was a no brainer.

“Both the organic health community and business community are cooperative rather than competitive so they’re very supportive. It’s a very down to earth community with beautiful people who want the best for others and the older generation are particularly supportive of younger ones coming in.”

Holly has even more projects lined up. One area of interest is speaking and education – teaching children about fresh food, what it is, where it comes from and how it supports their growth.” I’d like them to take their knowledge home and grow and use fresh food with their families so they have a healthy way of doing things and a fun way of doing it.  There’s so much information on the internet about what is or isn’t good for you yet there’s such a disconnection. I’d like people to understand that when their food is natural they can trust it and even more so if they’ve grown it themselves.”

Holly Kendall’s business Crisp Organics is now known as Holly Kendall’s Organics, which she operates with the help of her family, from her small organic farm in the hills of Wandong, Victoria.

http://www.hollykendallsorganics.com.au

Christmas in Australia

Does Santa Claus really exist?

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon who lived in Manhattan asked her father if Santa Claus really existed. He suggested she write to ‘The Sun’, which was a prominent New York newspaper at the time and ask them, while assuring her that “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so”.

Her letter appeared in ‘The Sun’ newspaper on September 21, 1887 and was answered by reporter Francis Pharcellus Church.

Now more than a century later the famous reply “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”, has become an indelible part of popular Christmas folklore and is the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper in the English language.

VIRGINIA’S LETTER:
“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
“VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Francis-Pharcellus-Church

Francis Pharcellus Church, author of the famous editorial

Francis Church was a war correspondent during the American Civil War who saw great suffering and a corresponding lack of hope and faith in much of society.

Virginia-OHanlon

Virginia O’Hanlon 1895

Virginia O’Hanlon married Edward Douglas in 1910. He left her shortly before their daughter Laura was born and they were divorced in 1930.

She received a Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College in 1910, a Master’s degree in education from Columbia University in 1912 and a Doctorate from Fordham University. She was then a school teacher in the New York City ISD. She became a junior principal in 1935 and retired in 1959. She died in 1971 and was buried at the Chatham Cemetery in New York.

Throughout her life Virginia received a steady stream of mail about the letter she wrote and she included a copy of the editorial in her replies.

Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy, safe and prosperous New Year!

Wendy Morriss

Sweet-Betsy-at-a-market

Sweet Betsy’s journey to becoming a delightful mobile café

A few years ago, twin sisters April and Kirsty along with their close friend Lindy, embarked on a journey to follow their long-held desire to own and operate a mobile café. They found an old vintage Franklin caravan and transformed it into an adorably cute mobile café and named her ‘Sweet Betsy’.

Original-state-of-Sweet-Betsy

The three partners tow her to three markets each month and attend annual events throughout the year selling coffee, tea, spiced chais, vanilla chais, iced coffees, iced chocolate, soft drink, juices and water. To sweeten the experience they offer old-fashioned home-made muffins, cakes and slices including a few gluten free varieties. They also sell packs of baked treats and a large variety of bottled jams, pickles and chutneys to take home.

“The idea was a dream that for a long time didn’t come to fruition because I was living interstate,” Kirsty said. “After I came home, we decided to give it a go.  We put an advertisement on a buy swap and sell Facebook page and a lovely couple answered it. We found Betsy as we called her, camped out in a paddock and we towed her to our parent’s house.”

The three friends then pulled out the old furniture and April and Kirsty’s parents helped them renovate. “Mum did all the interior decorating while Dad did all the grunt work and he remodelled the servery,” April said. “Then Lindy’s wonderful cousin donated our beautiful timber bench tops.”

Kirsty-Lindy-and-April

April, Kirsty and Lindy all love to bake, which brought them together. Kirsty and Lindy met each other while working together many years ago in hospitality. Kirsty now also works at a bank, Lindy makes special occasion cakes from home and April runs her own driving school. They all grew up in the country and they now all have young families.

April said originally the dream was to have the business operating full time but they have come to the conclusion that it’s not realistic while they have young children. “Setting up a coffee van somewhere at six in the morning with young children at school logistically at this time is difficult to do. Ideally it would be a lovely goal to aim towards.”

The small business, after operating part time for one financial year, managed to cover initial expenses, which were substantial and make a profit. Among the initial capital expenses was a coffee machine costing $4000, a grinder costing another two and a large fridge. “Another expense was the learning curve,” April said. “We started from scratch without any real business plan. We didn’t know anything about setting up websites and we had no idea how to label our jars, which are inspected by the council. We didn’t know what coffee brand to use or what cups to buy. Knowing how much food to bake and bring was another big learning curve. Initially there was a lot of waste.”

Baking for the business is carried out in Lindy’s registered kitchen where they all get together and bake whenever they need to.

Sweet-Betsy-at-a-market

Lindy said their Sweet Betsy is heavy weighing around two tons. “Kirsty usually tows,” April said, “she’s the only one with a car strong enough but Lindy can borrow her parent’s Pajero and they are now really good at reversing and getting into tiny spots.”

The original affordable petrol generator they used was noisy so they have since invested in the best one on the market, one that is almost silent and moderates the power so it’s much more economical. The van also has an 80 litre water tank and a waste water storage tank making her completely self-sufficient so they can park anywhere.

“We love it, we all really enjoy it,” Kirsty said. “The events are great, we’re out interacting with people and everyone’s really nice but behind the scenes preparation while managing our time around kids and working other jobs can be challenging.”

April said what she likes the most is getting to know the other stall holders. “Most are like-minded small business owners and people who work from home that just want to get out and make their hobby more than it is. It’s a really lovely welcoming community.”

Elsa's life in Egypt during second world war

Elsa’s life in Egypt during the second world war

Elsa's life in Egypt during second world war

Elsa was eight years old and living with her Italian family in the city of Port Said in Egypt when England declared war against Germany. It was Sunday, September 3rd, 1939, a day forever etched in her memory and one that changed the course of her life.

She said the morning air was warm and still. She walked with her mother Evelina, her 10-year-old brother Pino and 18-year-old half-brother Teddy to the Port Said Catholic Church for Mass. When they returned, they found her father, who had been too unwell to attend Mass, had suffered a fatal stroke. He was Jennaro Croce, an engineer and a well-loved, simple man who had come to Egypt like many Italian men to work on the Suez Canal.

Later in the afternoon, the British and Egyptian Police arrived at the house to arrest her brother Teddy because he was German. He was taken away to a concentration camp in the town of Ismailia where he stayed for a year before being moved to ‘Fayed Camp’ in the desert for the duration of the war. That night, her distraught and grief stricken mother collapsed and during the days that followed, she became ill. She was later taken to a hospital in Cairo where after one escorted visit from her son Teddy, she died, forty days after the death of her husband.

Elsa's lif in Egypt during the second world war

Left orphaned, Elsa and her brother Pino were sent to live with their aunt and uncle on the third floor of the family apartment house and continued to attend the French catholic school in Port Said. From then on, her childhood was filled with dramatic events and the horrors of war. She said during the many air raids, her family and neighbours sheltered under the apartment house. “One night a bomb was dropped on the bazaar, which was close by. When everything started to shake and all the lights in the shelter went out, we all thought we’d been hit and entombed. Everyone in the shelter who were Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic or Protestant, went down on their knees and prayed to the same God. That’s when I decided there is only one God. After the raid was over we all came out of the shelter to find the bazaar and a lot of houses close to us had been blown up and many people had been killed. The next morning, my brother and I walked around the streets looking for pieces of shrapnel and bombs. We used to collect the pieces and take them in big bags to school to compare them with what other children had.”

Elsa's life in Egypt during the second world war

Things became worse in June 1940, when Italy joined in the conflict against England. All the Italian men in the city including Elsa’s remaining uncles and cousins were arrested and taken to a concentration camp. She said after that their neighbours turned against them. “It was brother against brother and every night the newspaper boy used to scream in the street, announcing victory or defeat.”

When the war was over, Elsa’s brother and other family members returned. She continued to live with her aunt and uncle until she was 18 years old when she married a British subject. She then became a British citizen and came with her husband to live in Australia.

Her working life in a new country began in Myer Melbourne where with limited English, she worked doing clothing alterations. After 10 years of marriage, her husband left her, but she later remarried and had two children.

While her children were still young, she followed her lifelong passion for cooking and after completing a Cordon Bleu Cookery Course under the direction of Madame De Stoop, she turned her extraordinary culinary skills into a successful catering business and French Cooking Classes.

Elsa, who is now elderly, is interesting and thoroughly engaging. She is a self-funded retiree, a widow and a grandmother living near the Australian coast and she shares her love of food at home with her adult children and four grandchildren.

Wendy Morriss