When I was a little girl and up until late in high school, each ANZAC Day the family would all get up early and Mum would pin a piece of fresh rosemary to our collars – for remembrance*. We’d all catch the train into town and I remember the eerie but strangely comforting clinking sound of all the medals echoing through the underground walkway from Town Hall Station. Up on George Street we’d secure a pozzie and watch and clap and wave and wait excitedly until we saw ‘the banner with the horse’, and marching proudly but seriously at the front of his battalion, the most handsome soldier of all. My Pop. Who, for as long as he was physically able, marched proudly with his buddies in the 1st Australian Mountain Battery until he became too frail. Most of the time he’d see us in the crowd and give us a little smile never wavering too far from his perfect marching, sometimes he wouldn’t see us. But thinking back I can’t really think of a more proud feeling as seeing him march by.
Somewhere along the line my little brother, Tim with his sax and pith helmet was thrown into the mix along with his school marching band who marched round in loops for the whole 4 hours of the march playing cheery tunes and keeping a good marching beat. My big-sister-pride and genuine love of the marching songs saw me running along side them up and down George Street like a dorky groupie.
As I got older, and started pondering more about what it all meant, the novelty and pride of seeing my Pop in the march was surpassed by an overwhelming mix of feelings which means that now, as an adult, I find ANZAC Day really emotional.
The last time I attended the Sydney March was 10 years ago (2012). I woke up early to a stunning crisp Autumn morning and decided to jump on the bus into town from my little flat in Annandale. On the way I stopped off to visit my friend, Jen, who was in the early stages of labour with bub # 2 and I thought a coffee and pastry might be a nice little distraction for her. I remember the bus ride after into town feeling nervous and excited – nervous for Jen about what she was about to go through, and excited that the next time I’d hear from her would be with joyous news. Once in town and under the shelter of sunglasses, I stood with a lump in my throat amongst the crowd on the corner of George and Bathurst streets in the brilliant sunshine for 2 hours with strangers, not talking, just clapping and discreetly crying out all my big emotions and thoughts:
- Missing Pop.
- Thinking about the few elderly men and women from WWII who are still alive; wondering about each of their experiences; and a different kind of appreciation that I’ll never know or understand what they went through.
- Respect for and all the kids and grandkids marching with medals on the right side of their chests, in place of their relatives.
- Wondering how many people were here to pay respect to relatives they’d never met because they never made it back from war.
- Comfort in the realisation of the strangers standing with me, also wiping their cheeks in silence. And wondering who they’re missing and remembering.
- The strange mix of emotions seeing so many of the young Aussie men and women who are currently actively involved in wars on behalf of us. And at the same time, feeling an overwhelming pride to be Australian and so thankful to live in this peaceful country.
Pop has since passed away, but my ANZAC Day ritual still starts with pinning rosemary to my collar. Since moving away from Sydney, and now living in regional Victoria, on ANZAC Day I wander up to town for the dawn service. Then I walk home, and make a batch of ANZAC cookies.
This recipe came about when I was invited to Harry’s first birthday party (the bub mentioned above, born on ANZAC Day and therefore gets a public holiday for his birthday every year!) Gluten Free and Dairy Free was in order for the party, so I decided to change up a few other ingredients too. I added rosemary for remembrance, and the sweet-tart pomegranate syrup as a little ‘nod’ to Turkey being the accidental grave site for so many of our WWI soldiers. While these aren’t as sweet as your traditional (much loved!) ANZAC cookies, they have a nice little sentimental twist its now the recipe I make every ANZAC Day.
- 1 cup rolled oats (or quinoa flakes for GF)
- 2/3 cup of coconut flakes
- 1 cup plain flour (GF works too)
- 2/3 cup coconut sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 5 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 Tbsp boiling water
- 1 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 170° C.
- In a large bowl combine dry ingredients except for bi-carb.
- Gently heat the coconut oil and pomegranate molasses in a medium saucepan, and once the coconut oil has melted into a liquid add the boiling water and bi carb, stir quickly (it will bubble up) then pour into the dry mix.
- Mix with a wooden spoon until well combined
- Roll heaped tablespoons of the mixture into slightly flat balls and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then take out and gently push each ball down with the back of a spoon (this will compact the mixture and ensure it stays a little ‘tacky’ in the middle, which I like)
- Return to the oven for a further 5 mins or so, or longer if you like them really crunchy.
- Cool on wire rack (they will harden as they cool)
These will store in airtight jars / containers / tins for up to a month.
* The significance of rosemary for ANZAC Day is 2-fold. Firstly, the herb has aromatic properties which stimulate the memory; and secondly, rosemary was (and perhaps still is?) growing wild on the slopes of Gallipoli (the failed invasion of Gallopoli, in Turkey in WWI was where many Australian & New Zealand soldiers were killed).