Friday was market day in my childhood household.
Mum and Dad would pack the “carrello” (those old-fashioned shopping trolleys that are now back in vogue) into the boot of the red Simca (a little French car similar to the Hillman) and head off to Footscray Market.
During school holidays, they’d already left by the time I woke. Getting to the market early was a must for two reasons: parking was at a premium and, according to Mum and Dad, the early shopper always got the best produce.
None of that prodded-and-cast-aside fruit and veg for us. It had to be the best quality on offer and post-9am, apparently it would be gone.
Friday was also fish and chip day. Not the takeaway kind I so hankered for. Home made, by Mum. So the other good reason Friday was market day was to buy fresh fish for the evening’s “Aussie” meal.
By mid morning, the “parentals” would return with a bursting carrello full of the freshest “marketta” (a modified English/Italian word) produce available to the early bird.
I would always help unpack the shopping cart. I wasn’t just being good; I had an ulterior motive. It wasn’t the ripest cherries or the freshest ricotta I was after. There would always, always be a treat brought home by Mum and Dad for me and my two sisters.
It was a bag of doughnuts. Not just any doughnuts. Hot Olympic Doughnuts.
There were six in the bag. Two each for the siblings. They’d cooled a bit on the car trip from Footscray to our home in Yarraville. But no matter, they tasted so good.
I would eat my two doughnuts slowly to make them last longer. When I’d finished, I would regularly make the request of Mamma to buy more next time. But it was always six. And they were always from the Greek man in the battered Olympic Doughnuts van at the foot of the stairs at Footscray railway station.
On hearing the sad news this week that OIympic Doughnuts had closed its shutters permanently due to the ill-health of the master doughnut maker, Nick Tsiligiris, I reminisced with my mother about that Friday ritual.
We laughed about the dolphin-shaped jam dispenser, about the way Nick was meticulous in how he turned those frying balls of dough, about how, as he was about to drop them in sugar, my mother would say “No sugar please”, they were sweet enough.
Back then, Mamma Cafagna remembers, a bag of six cost 60¢. Cheap as!
In adulthood I kept up the Olympic Doughnuts tradition, on the way to uni on the train, or just driving through Footscray. It didn’t need to be a Friday. I could eat six at a time. I reckon I still could today.
I often bought dozens of them as treats to bring back to the office. I wanted to share that nostalgic flavour with my friends.
I’ve also been known to buy a tray of cannoli, to share among work colleagues, from that other Footscray food institution, the Cavallaro Pasticceria (Italian cake and coffee shop), just up the road from the Olympic Doughnuts van.
The Cavallaro sons continue to make their father’s delicious Italian sweets, cakes and coffee, which is just as well. This westie couldn’t cope with the disappearance of another local gastronomic icon.
So, farewell Olympic Doughnuts. Thanks for the yummy memories.
I feel privileged to have grown up with such Footscray foodie treasures, long before trendy was even a word. I have loved eating the best of the west.
Correction … the best of Melbourne.
Josephine Cafagna is a media and communications consultant. And a westie.