AS A GIFTED COUNTRY COOK AND KEEN CARD PLAYER, ETTIE TAYLOR HELD HER RECIPES — AND HER HANDS — CLOSE TO HER CHEST.
Ettie ‘Mim’ Taylor’s hand during cards was a well-kept secret, as was her famous date slice recipe.
WHEN MENSWEAR MERCHANT Harry Taylor invited commercial travellers home for dinner, they knew they would be treated to a generous meal, followed by a lively game of solo or bridge. But it wasn’t Harry they looked forward to playing, it was his wife Ettie. “After dinner they always wanted a game of cards with my grandmother, because they said she was such a good player,” explains Lesley Giles, 73. Born in 1894, Ettie — known as Mim to her family — was also a “ferocious” golfer, which Lesley attributes to growing up with three sports-loving brothers (and a sister) at Dyrabba, a sheep property on the Turon River, 10 kilometres from Sofala in the NSW Central West. In 1917 Ettie married Harry Taylor, whose family owned the Sofala general store, which flourished during the town’s gold rush heydays. By then the gold frenzy had fizzled, so the couple moved to nearby Kandos, which had opened new cement works. “My grandfather built two shops with residences attached. He set up his menswear business in one and rented out the other. Mim only worked in the store when he went to Sydney to buy stock, but the local men weren’t keen on buying their singlets and pants from a woman, so they never did much business on those days,” Lesley says with a laugh. When she wasn’t caring for their three daughters or her beloved garden, Ettie (pictured) supported the local Anglican church, while Harry was the town’s honorary coroner and acting magistrate. Ettie also honed her culinary skills by hosting regular cocktail parties. “She only had a small fridge and a meat safe, but somehow she managed,” Lesley recalls. “But she certainly didn’t give her recipes away. When people asked for them she’d say, ‘Oh yes, that’s fine,’ and then pretend she’d forgotten.” Cinnamon apple pies, tomato relish and this date slice were among Ettie’s signature recipes that Lesley cherishes today (next of kin being exempt from the recipe ban). “The date slice was always ready for us when we visited during school holidays,” Lesley says. “Mim was a fantastic grandmother and had endless patience to play dress-ups and hilarious games of sardines. I’m sure she would forgive me for sharing this recipe, which is a great favourite with all the family.”