BOOK: Jam Dreaming
AUTHOR: Jan Gross
Publisher: Sid Harta
THIS is an unusual and heart warming story which will entertain the reader.
It is at times confronting and at other times, amusing.
Fifteen-year-old Eileen has had a difficult and troubled upbringing, with very little schooling or proper mothering.
Her mother's recent death from alcoholic poisoning has left her bereft and unable to adequately mourn her mother's passing.
After his sister's death, Eileen's uncle, Tommo, has tried to provide her with the basics, by taking her to live in the squat he shares with an itinerant population of relatives.
There is little heating or food as most of the residents' income is spent on alcohol and cigarettes.
Eileen has begun to trawl the streets around St Kilda searching for warmth and it is during one of these forays when she first encounters Mama Jocsdi.
Mama arrived in Melbourne as a Jewish refugee in the aftermath of the Second World War and established an iconic cafe in which she serves her own sumptuous food to a dedicated band of customers.
When Mama begins to relate to Eileen her own history and to tell her abut her homeland, Eileen realises she would like to know more of her own history and culture.
Eileen convinces her uncle Tommo to allow her to accompany him to the local Koori Cultural Centre where she meets Aunty Lois, one of the local elders and archivist at the Koori Centre.
What follows is a journey of self-discovery as Eileen learns details of her own story and her indigenous culture.
Simultaneously, as she works alongside Mama Jocsdi, Eileen discovers the delights of food from Eastern Europe and creamy confections from 17th century Naples.
Aunty Lois and her sister Paris have their own indigenous culinary history to add to this mix.
This shared interest in food leads to a meeting between these unlikely characters and illustrates the ways in which food impacts on our lives and in all cultures.
This delightful narrative is sure to bring a smile to the reader's face, but some tears may also develop as the story progresses.