Coffee. Potatoes. French Brie. Oranges.
Recently I attended a creative writing workshop and we were encouraged to write a six word memoir. The brevity of this task forced me to concentrate, distill, focus.
We were warned that the task could be emotionally confronting or cathartic depending on how we viewed the world. When I finally squeezed my six words from my soul and etched them onto paper I found that I was firmly in the “cathartic camp.”
I also found that I was suddenly leaking from my eyes which precluded me from being able to share my six words of brilliance with the group. Sharing is greatly encouraged in a writing workshop which was going to take a little bit of getting used to as at that stage all my writing was private. I was yet to summon the sharing diva.
So instead, I distracted myself with silliness and came up with “my life in food- in six words.”
Coffee, potatoes, french brie and oranges.
For the Psychologists playing along at home yes I am emotionally repressed and yes my childhood is full of formative experiences where I distracted with humour. “Look! I spilled my juice on my new dress!”
But the task did indeed get me thinking about how I really could link a lot of the formative experiences in my life to food.
When my Dad was dying of cancer my husband in his wisdom, gifted me a box of Hillier’s devonshire caramel chocolates. As I juggled my devastation and grief with my overwhelming real life obligations I found myself generally overwhelmed.
One night after a particularly awful day, I retreated to the quiet of my bedroom, sat atop the blankets with the door firmly closed to my two little children, unwrapped a chocolate from its crackling gold wrapper and ate it. Or rather, devoured it.
Such sweetness, such silken creamy goodness. I relished each slow bite sitting there on my bed staring quietly out the window thinking about what I was losing. Taking a quiet moment, enjoying something sweet in the midst of devastating sadness. Then I placed the box carefully back into the bedside table and picked myself up and re-entered my life. Nurtured by chocolate. It sounds strange but it was true.
Likewise when I had my first child and the sleepless nights, the exhaustion, the overwhelming cluelessness, was suddenly compounded by flu or sickness (how dare it) I longed for nothing more than my Mother’s chicken soup. And her Mother in law’s before her.
Nutrient dense, simple, liquid goodness passed down through generations all the way from the Netherlands to my own small kitchen. One mother caring for her children, to another and then another.
A little bowl of hot, healthy nurturance supped quietly in my kitchen. A reminder that I was cared for and that I could care for others, no matter how hard it felt.
Frangelico on ice (Oh, sophisticated lady)
And how could I forget the night I met my husband. Black dress, sore feet, non stop talking, a terrifying taxi ride, dancing with friends and then a handsome smile from across the room. Three simple words eventually followed and I was smitten! impressed!
You won’t believe they worked, but they did (this was back in the day). Frangelico. On. Ice.
I know, your laughing. So am I. But when he offered to buy me a drink and then suggested I try something new I was impressed. Amazed. Enthralled. How urbane. What sophistication! But in one drink I farewelled the boys of my teenage years with their Bundy’s and coke and their cheap pots at the pub. I didn’t really like the drink to be honest, but I liked him for buying me the drink.
The list could easily go on. Goat’s cheese souffle from Donovan’s on one of my most memorable first dates, fresh oranges on the roadside in Mildura from a road-trip to remember, vegetable filled lasagna brought by a friend when I was grieving, Nanna’s roast potatoes cooked in dripping, a white bread and ham sandwich in my poverty stricken university days.
Lifetime memories made sharp through food. Simple, memorable, pleasurable food.
Coffee. Potatoes. French Brie. Oranges.
As for why I chose those particular food’s to describe myself?
I was brought up on meat and three veg. A meal was not a meal unless it included the humble potatoe, in any form. I am still trying to break the starchy potatoe addiction so many years later. But the potatoe speaks to me of sustenance, comfort, country, family.
French Brie came to me a little later. It brought with it a whole new world of possibility and depth of experience. It speaks to me of other places, other people, new experiences. It is also food for sharing with friends or family and sometimes even children.
Oranges are a more simple pleasure. They sustain and strengthen with their juicy sweet simplicity.
And coffee. Coffee has been with me through late night studies, early morning babies, precious friendships and quiet moments with my loved one. Coffee provides a moment of quiet and a cup of connection.
Coffee, potatoes, french brie and oranges. I wonder how you would describe yourself in food?