Friday, March 19, 2010

A Glimpse of Yesterday

During our anniversary getaway last week, John and I took the ferry from Phillip Island to the neighboring French Island. In contrast to Phillip Island's hum, French Island is a quick escape for those wishing to experience a quiet eco friendly day in the bush by the sea. After a short bus tour we stopped at the historical Bayview Chicory Kiln where our hosts offered a delicious Devonshire morning tea. Homemade scones with jam and cream were served with chicory drinks in the remains of the building which once housed a thriving chicory business.

Chicory is a blue flowered plant, with a tuber that grows under the ground like the tap-root of a dandelion. It was first grown in the area in the 1870s as a coffee substitute and favored as an additional crop and enterprise by many Gippsland dairy farmers.
Does chicory feature in my novel set on Phillip Island in the 1870s? Yes indeed! Another fun reason to keep going back for more research.

To make use of chicory it must be dried soon after harvesting. This is why many dilapidated chicory kilns dot the landscape of Phillip Island. In the late 1800s the labor intensive process required the chicory to be washed, sliced and dried over a 24 hour period. It was then bagged and sent to coffee merchants who roasted and added it to their blends. Chicory is still used in many products today as it is cheaper than coffee and caffeine free.

At the Bayview Chicory Kiln on French Island, a mini museum of all things colonial and chicory, we spied an interesting object which begged the question, What am I?
Made of glass it has an opening at the top and another larger opening underneath.  (In this photo it looks like the hole is on the outside, but it is centered right underneath.) After some deliberating with our fellow tourists we correctly worked out the function of this clever historical devise. And now it's your turn.

Do you recognize this functional item from the 1890s? No home should be without one. A good clue is the shallow lip that runs along the base and the large opening. Let me know what you think...