It’s been a while. I’ve been rather slow out of the gates since lockdown in Sydney eased up and the fully vaccinated received some of their liberties back. As the day approached when some restrictions would be lifted I started to feel a little impatient, however as soon as we were able to venture out and about again I lost interest and I felt happy to stay at home.
What I craved most of all was connection, not to the outside world but meaningful connection to other people, and then came the realisation that the end of lockdown wasn’t necessarily going to provide that. I felt starved of deep connection with people before lockdown and that would continue regardless of whether I could physically reunite with the rest of the world beyond my four walls when the lights suddenly turned green again. Whilst many others excitedly planned picnics with close friends at parks in the suburbs where they lived, I had no such friends to picnic with and my days felt overcast and lonely, and later on when I was able to venture beyond the immediate boundaries further afield to greener pastures, I felt the same grey shadow cast over me.
During lockdown, for the most part I had been confined day after day to my bed, a consequence of physical limitations caused by a combination of misadventure and major abdominal surgery. Throughout this time, apart from with my significant other, I had little interaction with others, and more often than not on the rare occasion when I had some contact from a friend or extended family member, enquiring about me or my well-being was not part of the conversation. I felt sad and alone and to this day I continue to feel despondent and mostly unexcited about life. I look for ways to connect with people and writing this blog is part of that, however with little reader interaction, comes the realisation that I am writing these words predominantly for my own reading.
A walk along the promenade at Balmoral Beach
Today I finally left the coup and ventured out for a walk beside a pretty harbourside beach. Apart from a cool breeze coming off the water, the skies were blue and it felt like a pleasant summer’s day. As I walked slowly along the promenade I witnessed deeply tanned bodies resting under beach tents and umbrellas planted into the soft white sand, whilst others frolicked in the salty water beside the many anchored boats bobbing up and down. On the boardwalk enclosing the ocean pool, giggly girls gossiped as they reclined on their beach towels soaking up the sun. Large groups of people and extended families picnicked on tarps and blankets spread across the green grass beneath the shade of the giant Moreton Bay fig trees. Upbeat tunes blasted from boomboxes and competed with the excited chatter from the gatherings as the smell of salty fish and chips wafted through the air.
A lone paddle boarder weaved in and out between the boats on the deep blue waters. Once more I longed for the joy of connection so evident in my surroundings but so absent from my life. I wanted desperately to experience the same joie de vivre that I was witnessing, however I only felt envy and sadness.
My thoughts turned to my brother. I missed him a lot, but it was the absence of connection to him that aggrieved me the most. His family had excluded me when he was alive and that continued after his death. My desire to stay connected to his life was difficult as the lines of communication to his past were broken. My sole connection was to him and now he wasn’t here anymore, I felt at a loss.
Food and connection go hand in hand especially when it is prepared and shared with love. One of the things I missed most during lockdown was cooking and sharing meals with my family. Apart from my significant other who cared for me constantly during lockdown, my children were the ones I missed most and I longed to see again as soon as we were able to. My youngest called in and I cooked up a big plate of spicy Aloo Gobi veggies with leftovers to enjoy the next day in a tortilla wrap with hummus. When my daughter and son-in-law visited on a hot balmy evening I prepared a Spicy Thai Prawn and Mango Salad using a recipe I’d saved from @cookrepublic , and inspired by a podcast I’d recently listened to called Highly Enthused I made a delicious pissaladerie, the onions caramelised with fresh thyme, rapadura sugar and sweet balsamic vinegar and spread over a puff pastry base, then topped with anchovies and pitted black olives. It was the first time I had made this delectably delicious tart and I was proud of how it turned out, but most of all I was excited to be sharing a meal with my children again, which was something I had been looking forward to for so long.
Whilst still on the topic of food and connection I came across a recommendation in two newsletters I subscribe to for Stanley Tucci’s new memoir called Taste: My Life Through Food. Described as being ‘an intimate reflection of food and life’, it is a story about how food connects him to the people he loves. It’s about the stories behind the food he grew up eating, rich family traditions, from his Italian immigrant grandmother skinning a squirrel on the front porch, to the cloudy purple wine made by his grandfather who he adored, the memoir takes you on a journey through his life, the food he ate, but most importantly the people that he shared the food with who sat on the other side of the table. In a cruel twist of fate he also opens up about how in 2017 he was diagnosed with salivary tongue cancer and for six months had to pour food into his stomach through a feeding tube. The book also includes a handful of recipes including the meaty Tucci family ragu that already has me salivating.
I’ve been watching the Canadian TV series Transplant, a medical drama that follows the story of Bash, a Syrian refugee, as he navigates his way through the emergency department to resume his career as a doctor, and the new season of Celebrity MasterChef, where I’m impressed by the culinary skills of fashion designer Colette Dinnigan and former footballer Nick Riewoldt, who at the moment seem like the front runners to hold the trophy.
I’ve been listening to the delightful Emily Blunt describe her best-loved pasta recipe cacio e Pepe on the sixth episode of the podcast River Cafe Table 4. Table 4 is situated near The River Cafe’s open kitchen, close to the bright pink wood-fired oven where the owner Ruthie invites her guests to take a seat and join the conversation, to reminisce about family suppers, first dates, what they cook, restaurants they choose and what food they seek when they need comfort.
What is your favourite comfort food? I will always choose pasta, anything from bolognese to ragu, for me food is about my Italian heritage which defines me and who I want to be. Tonight's comfort food dinner is Sourdough Penne Pasta and Mushroom Ragu, both the ingredients purchased from Berkelo Sourdough Bakery, Manly.
The ultimate comfort food, sourdough penne, mushroom ragu and shaved Parmesan
One must always leave room for dessert. Tiramisu, which literally translates as ‘pick me up’ is arguably one of the most popular Italian desserts. This week, Ado Campeol, the man known as the father of tiramisu died at the age of 93. Over half a century ago, he and his wife Alba created what is undoubtedly one of the most famous confectionery successes desired by people all over the world. You can find the recipe for a Light Tiramisu from the Spring edition of Graziher magazine here.
Until next time, may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.