Robin’s main professional career was as a statistician, in particular, lecturing at Deakin University and writing statistical software. For 25 years he talked about having a restaurant: but the dream would not come true. His love for food comes from his parents and, once university was over and he was out in the workforce, he soon took to cooking. He completed several cooking courses that ‘changed his life’ and lead him to be more daring, to experiment, to create and to write about food. He had several articles published in Epicure in the Melbourne Age, including some that made the front page of the supplement. He and Rhonda wrote the food section for a colour magazine for ten years, often introducing food via travel experiences and including some of Rhonda’s travel shots. His technique for home-made vinegar made it into one of Stephanie Alexander’s books. Robin is the main writer for the blog, especially the recipes.
Rhonda’s main professional career was with the Victorian Public Service as an environmental and strategic planner. She spent 25 years trying to talk Robin out of having a restaurant – with both now agreeing that it would not have been a wise move! She and her two sisters developed an interest in food and entertaining quite independently as adults, often stimulated by travel experiences. Rhonda became an early expert in Southeast Asian cuisine, one sister and her husband ran Poff’s restaurant in Red Hill, while the other sister and husband ran Main Ridge Estate winery (which had an extensive vegetable garden) on the Mornington Peninsula. As a keen bushwalker Rhonda has explored many wilderness areas in Tasmania. She is the main photographer for the blog, especially the travel shots. In recent years she has been a keen proponent of the availability of alternatively sized keyboards for the piano and is one of the world’s leading researchers on the issue.
Robin was born in Tasmania, when the family lived at Hillwood on the East Tamar. The family later moved to Swan Bay, a little closer to Launceston, and then to Windermere, closer still to Launceston. He completed his degree in economics and mathematics at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. As a cadet with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, he moved to Canberra to begin his working life. Rhonda was born in Adelaide though her school years were spent in Geelong. She completed her degree in science (majoring in geophysics) at the University of Melbourne. She two was a cadet with the Commonwealth Government, though with the Bureau of Mineral Resources. She moved to begin her working life in Canberra on the exact same day as Robin did. However, they would not meet each other until some months later. Married within three years, they settled in Melbourne to pursue further postgraduate studies and to begin their next careers. They soon moved to the Bayside suburb of Hampton and have no intention of moving anywhere else.
Robin’s five sisters still live in the Launceston and Tamar regions, as do most of their children and grandchildren. All generations have fond memories of George and Olive and their home at Windermere. Once they had passed on it was hoped the property could stay ‘in the family’ and Robin and Rhonda became the eventual owners. They decided to set up the property as stylish self-contained accommodation. All the renovation work was done by their two nephews, Stephen and Todd. Olive’s Cottage has been operating since 2004 and has received many hundreds of visitors from around Australia and the world. Robin and Rhonda get to visit several times a year enabling them to keep in touch with their family and Tassie friends. They know Tasmania well and, despite having visited many parts of the world, they never tire of what the state has to offer and consider it to more than match any tourist destination on earth.
Tracy, who does such a wonderful job of managing Olive’s Cottage for us.
Warwick, who keeps the cottage gardens in great shape. Di, for help with the logo and design matters.
Michael and Sameer and their colleagues from iiNet Hosting, for invaluable assistance, especially with WordPress.
Richard, who for many years has kept us well supplied with excellent recipe clippings. And, of course, many thanks to numerous family members.
Olive and George had an interest in food way ahead of their time. In the 1960s they were using ingredients and growing fruit and vegetables that were ‘unheard of’ then but which we all take for granted now. Life on the Tamar was far from easy, especially with a large family, so a large degree of self-sustenance was essential. Local fruit orchards, the paddocks, the bush and the river itself were other important food sources. While the family diet included standard dishes of the time, it also included food quite different to other households. On the blog we will recall some of this history. For a map of the Tamar Valley see: Map
We enjoy anything delicious and our interests in eating cover most types of cuisines (from France to Vietnam to Peru) from simple or moderate preparation to challenging creations, from savoury to sweet, and from street food to cafes to starred restaurants. We have entertained a great deal over many years and we have a diary of every dinner party or function at our home or at the cottage. While generally cooking for just the two of us, we are also happy to take on a crowd, with a dinner party for 30 our record at home and 18 at the cottage. In the blog we will include many recipes that we love and are always happy to cook time and time again.
How does one face up to the extraordinary range of delicious and convenient foods available to us today? How does one eat interesting and healthy food after a busy day’s work, household chores, multiple other commitments …? What can be done to minimise time spent on shopping, preparation, cooking and cleaning up? The task for parents must be so much harder. Fortunately, we have generally managed to eat (and drink) sensibly throughout our adult lives with little change in weights or waistlines since university days. Our experiences at Olive’s Cottage give us some clues about pragmatic cooking, where we often want to produce a meal that is special as well as balanced but we have limited time to shop and cook, and we need to minimise mess, wastage and clean-up time. Most of the recipes we present on this site will fit within these constraints.
Our recipes reflect our lives now and the lives we have lead, trying to eat well, balanced against the need for a healthy diet and inevitable time and lifestyle constraints. The recipes could be old family favourites or our own creations or come from friends. Others will be from cookbooks, magazines and other media or be our adaptations thereof. Sources will be acknowledged whether by a friend, great food writer or famous chef. You can treat many of the recipes as being methods pointing to variations and experimentation. Try them once as presented, then use your own creativity to vary them or to develop similar methods. Not every recipe will be healthy, but in our daily lives we integrate the less-healthy dishes with healthy options.
As well as ingredients and method, indications are given about the degree of difficulty and the time involved. The introduction to each dish and the extra notes and variations given at the end shouldn’t be overlooked. Generally recipes will be available for download and printing in pdf format. Many will be just a single page, but occasionally a recipe might require more space.
Thus some posts on the blog may be about restaurants, wine, travel, keeping fit and healthy or leading a fulfilling lifestyle. There may be some humourous postings – life on the Tamar for a large, impoverished family, was far from easy and humour was an important part of coping with life’s challenges. The family home was not only a place of good food but also of intense debate and discussion, thus we might use our own statistical and other expertise to examine issues facing people today – there seem to be almost daily reports about good and bad foods, new diets, new ways of exercising…
To find all the recipes posted in this blog to-date, click on the ‘The Recipes’ link at left. There you will find a range of search tags to help, including type of cuisine, degree of difficulty and course or mealtime.
For posts on other topics, click on the ‘Search & Sort’ link.
Most recipes have a pdf version, which is convenient for printing or saving on your computer: check a blog post for the link to the pdf. Occasionally a pdf version is not necessary, with the recipe incorporated into the post itself: in that case use the Print button at the bottom of a blog post to print a hardcopy or to generate a pdf.
Behind The Scenes
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We hope that friends and acquaintances will contribute to the posts on the blog, and that eventually we will have contributions from other readers. If you have a topic that you feel fits the broad thrust of the blog, please be in touch. We would be interested in short written articles on topics we cover in the blog, and recipes whether family, your own creations or just great recipes from another source. Quality photos may be important. We won’t want copyright, but we have to reserve the right to rewrite or reshape a submission to fit into the broad blog guidelines.
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