During that particular era, that same boyfriend had “best friends”, who I again was trying to impress and attempted to make lasagne. Living in an old shared house, we had one of those old fashioned gas cookers from the 50’s.
In the late 70’s & early 80’s I moved to Deniliquin. Deni, now famous these days for its ute muster, was an interesting place for a girl from Melbourne …now there are a lot of stories there, but not now. I never drank beer until I lived in Deni. I went to my first “B & S” ball in Deni. Also wrecked a few taffeta frocks at a Peppin or D & R ball!!!
Anyway, back to where I am heading …. What this blog is actually about is two things that have significantly influenced my interest in cooking and food.
Back in those early days of developing an interest in cooking, Vogue Entertaining was a major glossy food mag that I aspired to be able to cook from, (being the hoarder I am, I still have many of those early editions). I also started going to cooking classes and one of the very first was The French Kitchen in Armadale with Diane Holuigue, and one of the first guest presenters I learnt from was a Maggie Beer class. I still have those original recipes I received in that class and still use some of them, to this day.
However, being the type “A” personality I am, of course I always set such a high bar for myself. If someone served two courses, I always felt that I needed to serve five! I was always so critical of my own food/cooking, but others seemed to enjoy those “classy” dinner parties. The list of names that have attended is quite extensive and many of those people are still friends to this day, (Ruth & Russell, Jo & Rodger, Deidre, Jane, Ingrid, Myles, Mark and the list goes on!!......).
During this era began my collecting of cookbooks – which today, is quite a few …one memorable book ; in fact, THE No. 1 influencer of my cooking attitude was a book called “The Slutz Cookbook”. Now I have no idea who wrote it and sadly, my copy is no longer around. (Boy, how I would love to get a copy of it again!!)
HOWEVER, the most valuable lesson I learnt from this book was that if the cooking was not going to plan, give the guests plenty to drink (in fact, get them drunk was advocated), dim the lights/light candles – add plenty of curry powder and they will never know the difference!!!! Now, I am not suggesting that we don’t abide by responsible service of alcohol guidelines, but I think the underlying message was that all situations can be salvaged if you can relax about it, not be so harsh on yourself and see the humour in the situation !!!
Toward the end of the 80’s and into the 90’s I moved very much into my “nurturing of life” phase. My time as a practicing midwife and being involved with so many wonderful people becoming mums and dads and the beautiful babies they had, was definitely the most rewarding aspect of my career from an emotional and spiritual level. But, not only did it introduce me to a new era of addresses in my Filo Fax – (Shazza, Leonie, Jackie, Janine…to name a few, so many more should be mentioned) it also made me enjoy cooking as a more wholesome and down to earth activity. I definitely moved into an era of being more comfortable and comforted by food, rather than needing to impress with it.
In the 90’s I met a woman who ran a health clinic in Russia – I cannot remember her name but I can see her face, hear her laugh and remember her zest for life. I recall her telling me a story one day how she loves to have her grandchildren come and stay over and she always liked to stir up her kids by saying to the grandchildren, “come stay with Granma and we will get naked and dance in the kitchen, while we cook dinner”. I am assured she did not literally get naked, but what she did do was put on comfy clothes, relax with the grandkids and include them in the activity in the kitchen so that the preparation, serving and eating of food was all about sharing her love for them, with them.
It always struck me that a good way to show and share love is to bring everyone together to participate in the ritual of preparing food and then sharing the meal. After all, in many cultures it is such a binding and ritualistic process that keeps communities strong. How else can family stories, folklore and history be handed down, if we don’t all come together?
In our house Tez loves the “Sunday roast” more than any other meal. Not because he is an Aussie bloke, for him, it is all about bringing people together for the art of conviviality. The actual “excellence” of the food is secondary to the shared love, shared stories and shared table.
So, if you do start dancing naked in the kitchen, I do suggest an apron when you throw the curry powder into the fry-pan.