Ferrones feast on difficult second serving on Further Back In Time For Dinner

OLD FASHIONED: The Ferrone family, from left, Carol, Sienna, Peter, Julian, Olivia with Further Back In Time For Dinner host Annabel Crabb.
OLD FASHIONED: The Ferrone family, from left, Carol, Sienna, Peter, Julian, Olivia with Further Back In Time For Dinner host Annabel Crabb.

CALF'S head soup, minced kidneys on toast, toilet paper made from newsprint, weekly baths, no electricity and outside dunnies - welcome to Australia circa 1900.

This was the world Sydney's Ferrone family stepped into when they filmed Further Back In Time For Dinner.

In 2018 Carol and Peter Ferrone and their children Julian, Sienna and Olivia starred in the Back In Time For Dinner, which focused on Australian households and their cuisine from the 1950s through to the 1990s.

The wide appeal of nostalgia, the Ferrone family's everyday likability and host Annabel Crabb's interesting and quirky history lessons, made the program uniquely entertaining in a saturated free-to-air market of mostly bland reality TV.

While Back In Time For Dinner challenged the Ferrones, it was a breeze compared to the culture shock of travelling through the first half of the 20th century from the Federation years to the Second War II-dominated 1940s.

"With this series you won't have as much of the 'oh my god, that's exactly like my nanna's lounge suite', but what you do have is this bird's eye view of what was happening in Australian households as these world wars and depression came and went," Crabb says.

"It shows you just how these huge events had a huge impact on what we eat and what we wear, and even what we have in our homes.

"That's amazing to watch. It's like a history lesson, but fun. The Ferrone family are such a talented group. They were up for anything and you can always see what's going on in their brains because it shows up on their faces."

The Ferrones definitely had to be up for anything. In the first episode Carol and Sienna are forced to prepare a mock turtle soup made from a calf's head. The dish was served at a banquet to celebrate Federation in 1901.

The sight of the calf's head, complete with eyes, teeth and tongue left the teenage Sienna distraught and ready to quit the show.

"I felt so sorry for her because it was quite confronting, and don't forget, the whole family is living in this house without running water or any kind of cooling," Crabb says.

"The ladies are wearing corsets and layers and layers of hot clothing and they're cooking in this kitchen with no ventilation and an open fire. So it was pretty full on.

"So to then unwrap a calf's head really tipped Sienna over the edge. To her great credit, she really rallied and came up and got back into it.

"I really admire that about the family. There was no denying that this time around was harder for them, they had to stay in the house 24-7, but they were pretty stoic about it."

The show was filmed between last December and March, with the Ferrone family spending 25 days living in a Federation-style house which was designed to mimic a typical Australian home across the first five decades of the 20th century.

Unlike the first season which saw living standards for average Australians, and especially women, improve each decade from the '50s to '90s, Crabb says the first half of the century was a disruptive period. It was dominated by two global conflicts, several plagues and the economic disaster of the Great Depression.

"In general one of the things that intrigued me was how quickly things changed between World War I and the 1920s and then the 1930s and World War II," she says. "It was such a yo-yo of hardship, then prosperity and then hardship again.

RESPECT: Carol Ferrone with Annabel Crabb in the Federation-style kitchen.

RESPECT: Carol Ferrone with Annabel Crabb in the Federation-style kitchen.

"The national mood went up and down and it was really clearly reflected in how people were decorating their houses, how they were entertaining, the clothes they were wearing, and the roles men and women had."

Crabb says the transformative nature of global events in the first-half of the 20th century, and the impact on families and households, was particularly fascinating given how the world is adjusting to COVID-19.

"One of the encouraging elements of going back to that period of history is seeing how resilient the human spirit is, both in responding to external economic misfortune or pandemics or global conflicts," she says.


Tuesday, 8.30pm on ABC

This story Second serve of history harder to swallow for Ferrone family first appeared on Newcastle Herald.