The day was wet – just your typical Waitakere wet, with everything glistening around you full of raindrops, but nothing actually falling from the sky. We entered Dave and Barbara’s property and drove down the long driveway – the beginning of a day that was dominated by wood, warmth and wonderful people.
The first sight was of Dave and Barbara in the kitchen. Beyond them, through the stained glass window, a beautiful crab apple tree bereft of leaves, but still with large hanging red fruit. We left the mingling aromas of chicken, fennel and coriander and moved through the dining room into the ‘red lounge’ where the fireplace featured as the focal point and every one gathered as Dave gave us a wonderful insight into life in the 1940’s and 1950’s in Waitakere and in particular his mother’s Town and Country Roadhouse.
The family names of the people in Dave’s life were all names we remembered – the Gardners, the Bethells, the Parr family and the Clark’s who, to this day, mean the roots of west Auckland.But the queen of the Town and Country Roadhouse was Marge Harre, Dave’s mother. In the 1940’s she was considered by all a frail woman recovering from tuberculosis. The last thing anyone expected was that she would run a highly successful dining establishment in Oratia, but with the help of family and friends and motivated by debt left by her husband who suffered badly after the ravages of WWII, Marge did exactly that and Slow Food Waitakere were privileged to experienced a taste of it this midwinter afternoon in Oratia.
We began with chunks of freshly baked bread, topped with brie and fresh rocket while still admiring this fabulously restored home full of reminders of days gone by. Then as everyone seated themselves we were served a beautiful platter of chicken breast stuffed with brie, lemon and yam then baked wrapped in flax and served on a bed of freshly picked fennel and rice accompanied by a creamy mushroom sauce. Dessert was steamed pudding and a self-saucing chocolate pudding. Delicious!