Friday, July 15, 2011

What's Cooking?

Standing over a saucepan of sauce for lasagne, concentrating, as you do, so that it doesn't stick and burn, I thought back over the years of cooking and the things I've learned from dear friends - mustard in the sauce for cauliflower cheese, thank you Chris; a cupful of water in with the butter and flour to start before the milk goes in, thank you someone now forgotten. So it went on through every step of putting it all together. Food memories, life memories interwoven through everything that matters.
Many people who cook would have learned from their mothers or fathers or another family member and it makes me sad to think how hopeless Mum's cooking was; sometimes inedible, always unappetising because it was a chore, for which she had no enthusiasm whatsoever.She was creative in other ways which absorbed her far more than turning out a nice meal. I never felt comfortable with it and what a relief it was to visit the homes of school friends or relatives, where food was wholesome, enjoyed, celebrated.
I've just spent a relaxing afternoon with a piece of chicklit, in which cooking and food feature almost as another character. Italian food and cooking! The aromas, the variety, the richness and the comfort of it all, so well described you could taste it. I am lucky to have Italian neighbours and to buy most of my vegetables and olive oil from their relatives, who garden professionally a stone's throw away. How I would love to have been brought up in that atmosphere where a love and respect for food runs through everything!
You adoptees can probably guess what's coming! After reunion with both sides of the family, I discovered all were cooks, some professional, some enthusiastic amateurs. Two of my sisters cooked on an oilrig for riggers and enjoyed themselves immensely. My father cooked for every family celebration until he got too old and infirm to do it...the boy who had starved at the hands of the Christian Brothers and considered himself lucky to get a job in the gardens, so he could surreptitiously eat the produce. He keep poultry and grew vegetables, just as I do, although his ducks were for eating, my geese are for beauty.
The thread that runs through my heritage, both sides, is in me, has found it's place and explains one of the things that caused me to be the piece of the jigsaw that didn't fit in to the space alloted for me as an adoptee. Part of me came home when I discovered not just one family, but both, had skills, enthusiasm and a love for food and cooking. As Davis Suzuki says, "our food is our medicine" and my discovery was certainly a big tonic!