Anyone growing up in rural Tasmania in the old days would be aware of the lunch basket, often taken out to the paddock by small children. And if a piece of cake or a biscuit disappeared on the way….well who could blame them?

My farmer’s wife mother used wicker baskets. Often they began life as her shopping basket, before being relegated to  paddock duty. Here is Mum snapped in Reiby Strret, Ulverstone. I suspect that is silverside in the paper parcel.

My mother Myra in Reiby Street Ulverstone, The wicker basket was later relegated to paddock duty,

The following photo is from a few decades earlier. The ladies are providing lunch to thirsty harvesters at Preston, not far from Ulverstone. Note the billy of tea in the foreground.

Women providing lunch to harvesters at Preston, Tasmania,

At some point thermos flasks replaced the billy of what soon became cold tea.

Vintage thormos flask
Do not drop!

That thermos flask brings back an uncomfortable memory for me. As I left to take lunch out to my father one day  my mother called  out, ‘Now don’t ride your bike or you’ll break the thermos, sure as eggs.’  As soon as she went inside  I slipped the basket over the handle bars and hopped on. Of course the thermos  slipped straight out, and the fragile interior smashed on the gravel. Oh good grief! Had to revert to the billy that day.

I think the lunch in the following photo might have been provided by our next door neighbour, Avis Dobson. That’s her husband Ralph sitting among rows of…… I’m not quite sure what, maybe canning peas? My brother Laurie is behind him.

My brother Laurie Sharing lunch from a wicker basket with our neighbour in the 1950's.

A generation later Laurie’s son Rick (now in his 50s) could recall some of what was in the baskets filled by my mother;

‘I have fond memories of……Grandma’s chocolate cake in a green tin. (I think with orange flowers on it.’‘)

The cake was a family favourite. Here is the recipe;


3 dessertspoons butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup S.R. flour

2 level tablespoons cocoa

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

Few drops of vanilla essence

METHOD – Sift flour, sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Break eggs on top. Melt butter, add to mix with vanilla and beat all together until smooth. Place in a ring tin and bake in a moderate oven for 35 minutes. Ice with chocolate icing and decorate with crushed walnuts or split and fill with whipped cream.

Store in a green tin with orange flowers. Haha.

What else might be in there with the egg or ham sandwiches? Anzac biscuits, date and walnut cake, date scones with mixed spice, melting moments, etc etc….


The Ulverstone district was a big bean growing area in the 1960s, when all the picking was still done by hand. Lunch was a time to talk and laugh and ease those aching backs.

Bean picking.

Look, there is yet another wicker basket on view! For many women, bean picking was a welcome escape from the house, and a chance to earn some ‘pin money’.

Lunch time for the bean picking gang. Note the thermos flasks and wicker basket
Lunch time for bean pickers  in northern Tasmania (courtesy Marge Foley)

Such wonderful memories of a past era.

  1. Good ideas, S.

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