Every Canberran knows our city is split into two camps: Northside and Southside, with Lake…
The 21st Century buzzword seems to be “convenience”.
With our frenetic lives we strive to make things faster, less complicated; we focus on things which are new and improved. But as we discover, there’s beauty in doing things “the old fashioned way”.
The Lindbeck family have been part of the Queanbeyan community since 1928 when brothers Jim and Tom Lindbeck both opened butcher shops on Monaro Street.
This was an era before the large supermarket chains hived off much of the humble butcher’s market share with their mass-produced and plastic- wrapped cuts. Rather, it was a time when shoppers sought out as a matter of course, top-quality meat products from the people who raised the livestock. For Jim and Tom, it wasn’t simply a supply and demand chain – but a multi-faceted industry, involving farming their own livestock, operating a piggery and slaughterhouse, and presenting the end product direct to customers.
Nephew Bill was the next generation of butcher in the Lindbeck family. But stepping into his uncles’ shoes wasn’t easy. After having his application for a business loan knocked back by the bank, Bill’s local branch manager took a chance on him—personally loaning him the money.
The loan covered everything except one small (but essential) thing – the float for the till! There was no EFTPOS in 1964, so before Bill could even open the doors on the butchery he resourcefully walked the streets of Queanbeyan, trading in empty glass soft drink bottles until he had enough money to see him through the first day of trading.
Bill’s son Peter is now the family’s fifth-generation butcher; following in his father’s footsteps and starting in the butchery 40 years ago when the shop moved to its current location on Cooma Street.
“Things have changed so much since those early days. Back when women predominately stayed at home, they used to walk down to the butcher during the day with their market baskets and buy a full side of lamb, have it cut up into three pieces and take it away. That just isn’t the way anymore.”
“Even though we still use traditional techniques and buy in full carcasses to dry age our beef in the cool room for two to three weeks, our customers’ needs have definitely changed. Life is busier, so we really focus on how we can accommodate the modern lifestyle without sacrificing traditional methods and the quality of our meat.”
The butchery trade has taken a big hit over the years and, like many bespoke food industries, is struggling for a foothold in a market dominated by the corporate food monoliths.
Although this has impacted the practices over the years, Peter continues his passion for the industry and is heavily involved in the trade apprentice program at the Canberra Insitute of Technology. He spends much of his time overseeing apprentices as they study in Canberra and as far afield as Jindabyne and Pambula.
Good “old-fashioned” customer service and traditional techniques are still the focus for Peter and his team.
“We’ve kept it all about our customers. We still soak our corned silverside in brine, we still use natural skins on our sausages and we are pretty famous for our crumbed chicken schnitzels!”
“I guess one of the biggest things I learnt from Dad is, customer service and quality will always be remembered over price, and that’s why the customers keep coming back.”
Like many trades in the food industry, the bakery scene has evolved and changed dramatically over the years. Punters are no longer content with just a humble cream bun at the local; now it’s all about custard-filled doughnuts and pastries with all the trimmings. But for Dean and Catherine Elliot of Spence Family Bakery, sticking to traditional products has been the key to their success.
Growing up in the small country town of Harden, Dean commenced his baking apprenticeship at Clarkies Bakery in 1978. Some 20 years—and his own Harden Hot Bake venture— later, he and wife Catherine packed up their four sons and made the moved to Canberra.
After a stint with Tip Top, the lure of running his own business again was too much for Dean to resist.
“After looking around for a while we came across Spence Bakery which had the same country feel as our bakery in Harden. It was very run down and since taking over we have made many improvements.”
But some things never change. While baking techniques remain much the same, Dean says today’s equipment is making things more efficient.
“The biggest change I’ve seen over the years would be the different varieties in bread. Back when I commenced my apprenticeship, white and wholemeal block loaves were the main offering. These days, there are so many varieties – rye, grains, sour, and other artisan breads.”
Today, Dean boasts his own signature sourdough. Unlike the mass-produced breads laden with additives and preservatives found in the supermarkets, Dean’s signature sourdough has a culture of over six years, a crunchy crust and a chewy centre, and is baked daily.
While new product lines abound these days, Dean and Catherine say some of their traditional items are still their best sellers.
“That’s what our clientele enjoy. We have come to realise that what sells in the city centre doesn’t necessarily sell in Spence.”
“Our best-selling products, in addition to our variety of breads and pies, would have to be the traditional lamington and vanilla slice. We
think these products sell well as the recipe doesn’t alter, people know the product and they are made fresh in store everyday.”
Dean and Catherine hope to see the “baking blood” continue in the family through their sons.
“Two of our sons have followed Dean in the food industry. Our eldest son Zac is currently working in a restaurant in London and our son Max is in his second year with us at the bakery.”
Sometimes, no matter how fast technology advances, there’s a reason for doing things the way they’ve always been done.
Owner of Collector Wines Alex McKay, can attest to this. A passionate adherent to winemaking techniques that most within the modern wine industry have now started to phase out, Alex’s relatively young winery is reaping the rewards of a focus on traditional techniques.
At last year’s National Wine Show of Australia, the Collector winery beat out strong competition to win the coveted Red Wine of Provenance trophy with its Marked Tree Red Shiraz – an award normally the province of larger and older producers.
Collector Wines first vintage in 2005 saw 700 dozen bottles produced; today it’s 3,000 dozen per annum, of which a small quantity is exported. And although their output has changed significantly, their methods have not.
“We want the wine to be in contact with the grapes and stalks because that is where the flavour, colour and tannin come from. To achieve this, the main technique we use is pigeage, or foot- stomping. Wearing a pair of fishing waders, we break up the ‘cap’ of grape skins and stalks, pushing them with our feet back under the wine surface,” says Alex.
“It’s quite a workout both physically and aerobically, and with the carbon dioxide floating around it’s comparable to training at altitude! It’s also a rough way to measure the vintage quality – the harder it is to push the cap back down (due to the amount of ‘extract’ in the grapes), the better the quality!”
The winery also embraces organic practices, eschewing herbicides, instead using only natural products, and relying on vineyard fowl to manure and keep the grass down.
“Using these methods, we’ve seen an uptick in the soil microflora and fauna, and there’s a flow-through to the vines and the wines – they have balance, and they shimmer and radiate life!”
Alex believes that retaining the brand’s original mark packaging is also emblematic of the consistency that has been achieved with their winemaking.
The butcher, the baker and the winemaker show that time-honoured techniques, respect for produce, and passion for their individual craft are still as relevant today as they ever were.
All photography by Tim Bean Photography
This article originally appeared in Magazine: Back to Basics for Autumn 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here.