Monday, August 16, 2010

Love and Lasagna

In my family growing up we were never big on saying I love you. It wasn’t until I left home and my parents feared I may never come back that they started saying it more often. Even today sometimes my dad still throws it in very quickly between other pieces of conversation; “ok, talk to you next weekend, love you (cough), bye.” We were more of an “actions speak louder than words” family and a lot of the time we said, “I care” with food. One of the greatest lessons my mum taught me was a love and respect for good food. We never had chocolate, chips or lollies in the house and if we did it was a rare treat. I think the worst we got fed in our house was white bread as my father flatly refused to eat “bird seed.” As a kid I thought Mum was pretty mean but she set me up for a lifetime of healthy eating, and I have tried to do the same with my son (so far!).

Even when times were tough we always had 3 decent meals a day and still today there are foods I associate with certain times and celebrations. Carrot juice, always vile and swallowed in one gulp while pinching your nose, was to prevent a cold. When that didn’t work we were fed chicken and corn soup and a disgusting garlic, honey and lemon drink. I sometimes pretended I wasn’t sick to avoid the medicinal flavours of that particular concoction, but the thing was; it actually worked! The soup was also great for broken hearts and exam stress. There was minestrone on cold winter days, veal schnitzel and chips in front of the TV, and nothing says, “I missed you, welcome home” like a roast lamb with all the trimmings when I came home from uni on weekends. Sausages with tomato and onion gravy, mashed potato and peas is a dish of mum’s I still crave from time to time, it reminds me so much of home. When I was in high-school Mum worked in the evenings for a few years and Dad would do his best to feed us a home-cooked meal on those nights. Chops and vegies were pretty standard and for some reason the smell of a pot that’s boiled dry reminds me of those days. I think Dad was pretty pleased, as were we, when KFC opened up down the road!

The one dish that united us all, that everyone requested when the family got together was Mum’s lasagna. You could count on it being exactly the same every time and there was always enough to feed a dozen people, with leftovers. Mum would make a big batch of it and freeze it for me to take back to uni with me. I lived on it for weeks at a time. Whenever there was a new baby or someone was in hospital a lasagna would be delivered so they wouldn’t have to worry about dinner. My mum also taught me to cook, for which I will be forever grateful, and I have carried on the tradition of saying “I love you” with food. I think it’s the reason why I’m so obsessed with cooking for J. I don’t care if he throws his mushy peas and parsnip at me, or if I end up feeding him porridge for dinner, at the end of the day I prepared and pureed his meal with love, and it’s that principle that counts. My recipes might be a little different to Mum’s but the sentiment is the same.

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