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Festivities, an ode to my dad and his home town

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

The past week has been a week of celebrations, non-celebrations and remembering.

On Sunday my younger sister clocked up another lap around the sun and the day passed unnoticed by her immediate family. She spent the day feeling sad and worthless and wondering why it was that her partner and children didn’t feel the need to acknowledge her special day.

A couple of days later another dear friend's birthday came and went and when I inquired about how she spent her ‘special’ day, she said that she stayed in bed and her significant other of many years didn’t even mention it. We decided that later in the week we would celebrate and enjoy a meal out together at Loulou, a new French bistro in Milsons Point. On a wet and cold Sydney day it was hard to go past the Caramelised French Onion Soup en Croute, a hearty soup served with buttery puff pastry on top, a nod to the famous dish cooked by chef Monsieur Paul Bocuse for the French president in 1975. The recipe for this dish can be found here.

French Onion Soup “en croûte", Loulou, Sydney

My dear friend shares the same birthdate as my dad who would’ve been turning ninety four years old had he still been alive today. Sadly he passed away at a young age after a life of hard work and sacrifice. I thought a lot about my dad this week, most of all about all the things I’d wished I’d known about his childhood. My dad left his hometown of Brindisi in Southern Italy after it was badly bombed during the Second World War and after boarding a large ship and agreeing to pay his way by doing the cooking, migrated to Australia.

It was a happy coincidence that my niece was visiting Brindisi this week on dads birthday and was kind enough to share her thoughts and a few photographs. She said it was the best place she had visited in her travels in Italy so far, being far less chaotic, dirty and overrun with tourists than Rome, the people warm and friendly, in spite of the fact that few of them spoke English, beautiful Baroque churches, and wide boulevards and seafront promenades lined with palm trees. Its beauty was enhanced by its simplicity and its serenity captured in the snaps she shared with me.

The quiet streets of Brindisi, Italy

When he was alive my dad loved to go fishing in the sugar cane choked rivers near Ballina, whilst sinking crab pots over the side of the rickety old wooden bridge close by, and also when time permitted travelling to the southern side of the river to slurp oysters fresh from the rocks. This was his idea of a perfect day out with the family and a day we always enjoyed together.

One of the other activities my dad loved to partake in was a game of bocce at the Italo Australian club. Played by rolling small Bakelite balls across synthetic sandy greens, bocce is a game he watched elders playing in village laneways when he was growing up in Italy. He used to describe the game as being like throwing a rock to see how close you can get it to the little white ball, but really he just enjoyed going to pass the time, share a glass of vino and have a laugh with his friends and banter about soccer, and remember the carefree spirit from his youth.

Bocce, a fun pastime in Italy and at the Italo-Australian Club

On Saturday I was invited to celebrate the birthday of another dear friend I had met when our sons shared violin lessons together in infants school. In the convivial atmosphere and warmth of Marina’s home we enjoyed an afternoon of fun and frivolity and a delicious lunch of chicken legs with sweet tomatoes and cannellini beans. Marina was kind enough to share the recipe of Jamie Oliver’s One Pot Wonder here and I couldn’t wait to share the dish with my own family.

Tuscan chicken with sweet tomatoes and rosemary

Meanwhile, residing on the lounge back home, my son who had just returned from his adventures in Canada and California was eagerly waiting to share many happy stories and pics with us from his recent travels.

It was a delightful week of fun and friendship.

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


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