HUMOUR: Amanda Blair’s family food fight
When the clan rejects the monotonous reappearance of lasagna, something more “exotic” is called for.
Husband said he couldn’t take it anymore – something had to change, he was absolutely sick of it. I questioned why he hadn’t spoken up earlier, before it got to boiling point? I was happy for him to take control of the situation as I had no intention of changing my ways.
“Fair enough” he said. “Then let’s make the kids decide.” Like Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman in the legendary divorce lm Kramer vs. Kramer, we stood on opposite sides of the kitchen, kids in the middle. If they agreed they were to go with their dad. If they didn’t, they came to me. I swallowed hard, slightly nervous at the possible outcome. Bravely I asked, “Are you sick of me serving lasagne on a weekly, sometimes bi-weekly basis?”
I’m sure your family has that one staple meal that’s served up week after week, year after year. They’re cheap, easy to prepare and freeze well, so you can defrostheat-n-serve in between chauffeuring everybody around to dance classes, sporting events, parties and podiatrists. Sure, I’d love to spend my days gently preparing tasty casseroles and cakes for my clan. I’d also love to spend my days sailing around Sardinia on a yacht with a topless drinks waiter called Sven. But neither of these can happen because like most Aussie mums I’m out there working hard for the money, which means that time and menu choices are regularly compromised.
My stay-at-home grandmother’s go-to dish was the “exotic” (her words) chow mein. Almost every time I visited there’d be a pot of it simmering away on the stovetop, the heady aroma of mince meat, Keen’s Curry Powder and cabbage mixed with Ciara perfume becoming a signature scent. When
I was “of age” 12, she sat me down at the orange Laminex table and ceremoniously gave me a handwritten copy of her master recipe. She told me to “tuck it away, because one day you’ll need to know how to cook”.
I’m still not sure the process of chopping, heating, opening packets and adding water is what they call “cooking” at Le Cordon Bleu.
For the purposes of this column I got down on my hands and knees and ri ed through the boxes stored under my bed, knowing I hadn’t chucked this recipe out. I found it in a scrapbook along with two other favourites she’d passed down before she died – curry chicken and shepherd’s pie. In all three dishes she recommended boiling the beans and carrots before placing in a pot, which explained why the vegetables in Nan’s cooking were always colourless and tasteless. In all three dishes she’d also suggested adding a packet of “chicken noodle soup” to “spice” them up, which may explain my grandparents’ hypertension. She’d also written that for a more “fancy” meal or for “special guests”, add curly parsley.
Tonight my family had a leave pass from the lasagne and were saying ciao to the chow. I rushed to the shops and gathered all supplies. When chopping back home, I noticed I’d overlooked an ingredient missing from most of my cooking recently. Written at the bottom of the page was Nan’s secret that made all her food taste good, no matter how many times she served it to me “Always cook with love in your heart. I love you.”
And she did. Wish she was coming for dinner tonight. I’d use extra curly parsley.