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It is all about connection

This week has been blissfully quiet which has been truly wonderful. I am a homebody at heart and take delight in nothing more than my own company and to have some down time to do the things I enjoy….be it listening to podcasts, reading books and blogs, cooking, catching up with close family and friends, and my daily walks around the neighbourhood. When my beautician messaged me to say she’d had a cancellation and would I be interested in having a facial, I said YES! Why not, I thought. I was feeling tired that day and it was just the pick me up I needed. As the therapist caressed my face with her healing hands I fell into the most joyful slumber as she danced her fingers over my head and through my hair. When a gentle bell sounded to bring me back to a semi conscious state, I eased my eyes open. I felt like I’d been on a little holiday, my skin dewy and rejuvenated and my spirits uplifted. It was exactly what my body had needed. Later in the week I had a hit of tennis and a giggle with some girlfriends and caught up on what had been happening in their lives over the previous months. It was fun and uplifting. My cup that had been verging on empty earlier in the week was slowly filling up again.

Perusing the socials, I came across an author and food writer, Emiko Davies, who has just released a new cookbook, Cinnamon and Salt: Cicchetti in Venice. When Emiko writes about a recipe she thinks about how a dish has a story to tell, the history and traditions behind the dish, whether it is a family recipe and what makes it a family recipe. Who is the custodian of the recipe, where is the person from and where you can taste it? Emiko also believes that you should give a place to recipes that you know will be unpopular. This got me thinking back to some of the dishes my father cooked for me when I was growing up. My father learnt to cook out of necessity rather than desire when his mother died when he was only thirteen years old and he had to leave school to take care of his siblings. Residing in the Bari region in Southern Italy, his family did not have a lot of money, however they were rich in love. They predominantly ate whatever food they could get their hands on, and most dishes were in the ilk of ‘peasant style food.’ Nose to tail eating was commonplace and the offal of animals was often the protein source for many a meal. When dad moved to Australia in the late fifties in search of a better life, he carried on cooking the traditional dishes he had grown up on, and one of these dishes that we often ate was honeycomb tripe, which comes from the stomach lining of a cow. Prepared and cooked in the right way with onion, garlic, tomatoes, herbs and potatoes, it was a comforting and hearty stew that we all enjoyed. As Emiko rightly points out, food often has an emotional connection to people and place and every time I think of this dish I think of my father and the way he prepared it. Whilst many people might not enjoy eating tripe or any form of offal, it is important to give a place to recipes that may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Sadly I did not write down my fathers recipe before he passed away. I’ve only once eaten tripe made in the same way as my father made it at an Italian restaurant in Rome, La Matriciana, just down the cobbled laneway from the Spanish Steps. Hearing Emiko's story has inspired me to seek out this recipe and carry on the tradition of cooking it in the way of my father.

In the past weeks I’ve also set aside some time aside to read. The Space Between the Stars, is a beautiful and inspiring book about how the connection to nature can offer a powerful form of healing. It is a story about how the author Indira Naidoo turned to the urban landscape around Sydney Harbour and with a posse of urban guides explores the healing power of the nature after the unexpected suicide of her younger sister, whom she affectionately calls Stargirl. In the depths of her grief, Indira discovers a magical Moreton Bay fig tree overlooking Sydney Harbour where she goes daily to sit and think. A connection builds between the two and Indira begins to discover how nature (from urban green pockets to sprawling forests) can heal heartbreak and calm an anxious mind. This book is like a hand held out to anyone who needs help to get back on their feet after loss. After reading Indira's story and still grieving after the sudden death of my much loved younger brother, I felt compelled to visit this spiritual tree of comfort and healing. I felt protected by its large canopy and healed by its milky sap. To be entwined in her buttress like roots, bestowed with her whispers of great wisdom and comforted by her warm embrace, I experienced a stillness, a sense of calm and connectedness to something bigger than myself.

Magical Moreton Bay Tree, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

Love Stories by Trent Dalton was recommended on a blog I follow and I was drawn to it. Have you ever sat on a seat in the street or at an airport and people watched whilst wondering what people's connection to place or each other might be? Trent Dalton was left a 1960’s sky blue Olivetti Studio 44 typewriter by a friend's mum when she passed away, and being a writer he wanted to do something special with it to honour her and the love this beautiful woman gave to the world each day. So he decided to sit on the corner of Adelaide and Albert streets in the centre of Brisbane with the typewriter and ask 150 passers by to tell him a love story. The stories he collected are raw. A blind man yearns to see the face of his wife after thirty years, a girl writes her last letter to the man she loved, then sets it on fire, a lady who says she will tell Trent a love story, but the story can only last as long as it takes to smoke her last Windfield Blue, and Magda who came to Australia to escape the war in her home country of Sudan. Love stories about people, family, partners, children, friends, places and one off encounters. Love is recognising the things and people that are most important to you. We all have a different love story to tell. Maybe we just need to be asked.

The Way from Here by Jane Cockram is also a tale of sisterly love. When Susie the youngest Anderson sister dies suddenly from a fall when hanging a string of lights for her fortieth birthday party, her sister Mills receives a bundle of mysterious letters from her to be read in the event of her death. Each letter instructs Mills to visit places special to Susie which leads her on a journey from Australia to the idyllic French coastal town of Ile de Clair, where she discovers some truths hidden by Susie, and also to the unravelling of secrets about their mother Margaret. I was captivated by this story from beginning to end.

During the weekend we connected with old friends over a meal at The Fenwick located next to the ferry wharf in East Balmain. Bruce and Tracey are both previous work colleagues of my significant other and long time friends united again through the common grief of one losing a partner to Ovarian Cancer after caring for her over a period of fourteen years, and the other, now living in London and caring for a partner who is a quadriplegic after a fall during a charity bike ride in France, and more recently the death of her mother. Back in Australia to finalise the will of her deceased mother, the bereaved pair came together and are about to embark on a holiday together in Europe and off the tourist trail along the Albanian Riviera. We enjoyed a meal together, a slow cooked lamb shoulder and spuds whilst reminiscing about the past and enjoying great views from the window of the restaurant over Barangaroo, the lights of the city and the beautifully lit Sydney Harbour Bridge.

View from The Fenwick, East Balmain

On Sunday, we celebrated love, connecting with family over delicious food and banter at LPs Quality Meats in Chippendale. My daughter's husband Manab shares the same love of food that I do and knows all the best foodie places to eat in town. He was delighted to see the owner of the restaurant, Luke Powell, dining in the house with his own family occupying a large table nearby and next to the cooled room where the white mould saucisson were hanging up to cure. We enjoyed the finest Manning River Aged Ribeye slow cooked over hot coals, duck that was to die for smoked with honey, lavender and rosemary, and smoked potatoes, following an appetiser of retro style devilled eggs topped with caviar, dill and black sesame, and sourdough with smoked butter that was so good it was a talking point for the rest of the afternoon. What a delicious and love filled day to celebrate the privilege of motherhood and connection to family.

Devilled Eggs by LPs Quality Meats, Chippendale

This week I’ve discovered some great recipes to share from the Interweb including

- a Whipped Carrot Dip @vegan.planvn

- Honey Tahini Cookies @mounthenryhoney

- Little cakes with Lemon Curd Custard @taste_team

- Polenta Chips @princesspantry

- Creamy Mushroom and Couscous Soup @_mustlovegarlic_

- A Rhubarb, Hazelnut and Ricotta Cake @womensweeklymag and

- Cheese and Corn Polenta Loaf @bhgaus and @karen_martini

On Binge, I am watching the new drama about Julia Child. Her name is synonymous with food and she was responsible for bringing French cuisine to America in her pioneering 1963 cooking series, The French Chef. Each episode is hung on a single French dish including the humble omelette, coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon to chocolate soufflé. Her near-falsetto voice is hard to forget.

I’ve also started watching the new TV drama The Staircase which is inspired by the true story of Michael Peterson whose life is put under a microscope after he claimed his wife's death was caused by her accidentally falling down the stairs. Was it an accident or was it murder?

Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.


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