South Australia’s CWA is 85 years old – and they really know their scones!
It’s Royal Adelaide Show time at the end of the week and if you think herding a gaggle of kids through a show day without getting covered in vomit, mediating show bag disputes, coping with major melt-downs or losing the odd child is hard work, then spare a thought for the tireless dynamos behind the scenes at that haven of rural hospitality , The CWA Country Cafe. The Country Cafe is where many of us head when we’ve had enough of the, noise, crowds, frenzied sideshows and stomach-churning rides and find ourselves in need of a restorative cup of tea and perhaps one or two home made scones with jam and cream.
The South Australian Country Womens Association is celebrating it’s 85th birthday this year and has been providing relief for the wearied show attendee for almost that long, too. However, in the course of that 85 years the steadfast and committed women behind this organisation have contributed much more than scones and tea to this state.
The CWA can claim a proud history of rural support from it’s earliest day – support that included feeding the WW II troops as they passed through Quorn on their way north, providing 600 hot meals twice daily, seven days a week for the men, making lambswool vest for airmen, baking and sending fruit cakes to soldiers and being the official producers of army camouflage nets. They established regional rest rooms, provided relief to rural families during the Depression and droughts, helped in the creation of the Baby Health Train which provided infant health services to remote areas, established a circulating library and provided broad support in times of natural emergencies.
The important role of the CWA is of no less significance today as they grow and continue to foster and nurture communities through their skill sharing, leadership workshops and volunteering. The organisation offers aid in times of bushfires, supports rural students and, through shrewd financial management and fundraising, has amassed a portfolio of their own properties – halls and meeting rooms in which to continue their work.
But – back to The Show. By the time the first thrill-seekers step foot in the showgrounds, the CWA task-force has already been hard at work for almost two weeks feeding the workers, tradesmen and producers who spend at least that long getting the whole event set up and ready for the firing gun. The 300-350 Country Cafe volunteers start at 7.00am and finish at 8.00pm and are rostered over two shifts a day, overseen by a committee of 11, for the duration. During that time they will produce a range of hot dinners, salad plates (the cold collations of my youth), soups, sandwiches, cakes and desserts. And, most importantly for some, scones.
When it comes to these scones, the heat is really on. The CWA has built a formidable reputation on the quality of it’s food, with baking ranking right up there. When the punters are queuing out the door at the Royal Show Country Cafe it is often scones that they have in their sights and their expectations are generally high.The pressure is on Lorraine, the scone queen, and the possibility of running out is simply not an option.
Once upon a time all of the scone-making here, including the melting of the butter and all of the mixing, was done by hand – no easy task when you’re talking hundreds and hundreds a day. These days the grunt has been taken out of the job by an industrial strength mixer which can produce 60-65 scones per batch, and the logistics have been simplified by some clever work on the part of South Australian flour millers, Lauckes, with the introduction of their delicious and reliable scone mix.
The jams, plum and apricot, are made on the premises with seasonal fruit which is collected and frozen until March or April, when the workers get together and start production. This year they knocked out 125 kgs of apricot jam and 119 kgs of plum jam to go with the 12,000 scones which they will produce.
I was pretty impressed with myself after what I considered a respectable effort with my Date, Orange and Sour Cream Scones for the food blog International Scone Week a few posts back, but the thought of producing 12,000 scones at a cracking pace makes me feel quite light-headed. I’m one of the many who queue for the delicious CWA scones and am pleased to know that I can now easily replicate them at home, thanks to Lauckes – and if that’s good enough for the South Australian CWA, I’m damn sure it’s good enough for me.