14 February 2014

Valentine's Day: Wild flowers and Friendship Cake

I met recently with a friend from Australia who I hadn’t seen for many years. She brought me a wonderful gift: a book of pressed wild flowers from the 1920s. The names of the flowers were carefully penned next to the brittle petals, and inside the front cover she’d slipped a handwritten recipe for German Friendship Cake.

Wild flowers and friendship… It got me thinking about the iconic Australian film Picnic at Hanging Rock. Based on the book by Joan Lindsey, the film begins on Valentine’s Day in 1900, at an all-girls boarding school in the Australian countryside. Girls in ribbons and corsets make cards, press flowers and write odes to St Valentine in celebration of friendship and love. The atmosphere is mesmerising, the landscape reminiscent of the impressionist paintings of Arthur Streeton: it’s romantic, but not sweet. Growing up in Australia, this is what Valentine’s Day meant to me – not hearts or red roses, but friendship, simplicity, and the romance of white dresses and washed-out light.

Here's that recipe for German Friendship Cake: simple and not too sweet. Happy Valentine's Day.