A memory worth keeping …

I recently lost three maternal extended family members within a period of months.  The only surviving member of my mother’s family lives in Canada  She went to the USA in the early 1960s and after she graduated, moved to Canada.  I lived with her for a few years when I was in my teens and still keep in touch.

The passing that impacted me the most was an uncle by marriage.  He was the husband of a favourite aunt who I’ve written about in another post.  He was our rock in a large, loud, loving but somewhat dysfunctional family system that warred over a handsome legacy left by my grandfather.  My uncle died recently.  Right to the end, he was still cooking for family and visitors, still painting and still genteel in his grooming.  I miss him.  Last year I wrote him a letter for his birthday.  His preteen grandson read it to him while Uncle C was ironing his own shirt, in his nineties.  That’s the kind of man he was.

“I was four years old and a flower girl at Aunty N’s wedding. My dress was of pastel organza, my shoes were mary janes with flowers cut out in the leather across the foot. On my head a crown of tiny rose buds. My head in those days was encased in natural curls, which delighted adults. I remember how I felt more than what I wore. How I felt is a memory you generated and I have kept.

At the reception you were quietly busy with the setting up of the wedding cake. When it was time for the bridal couple to cut it, the lights were turned low and the guests hushed by anticipation. The cake, covered with iced pink roses and fronds of fresh fern lit up from hidden fairy lights. At eye level, to the four year old flower girl, it was a magic mountain. Your creativity is my earliest recollection of experiencing sheer joy.

Over the years, it is your presence that I remember most from afar. You were always well groomed, even when emerging from your bedroom in PJs. Your hair combed and slicked back. You always looked fresh, like you just shaved. Your clothes never had a wrinkle. Only those who have visited hot and humid Mumbai will appreciate how difficult this is! You spoke quietly and when it was necessary. Your pace always even, I have never seen you rushed. You were and still are, the epitome of good taste.  You were an executive in your professional life. Your skills in leadership were innate. You commanded and continue to command respect from others, by your quiet presence.

Your home, the old apartment, I remember like my own home, was a product of your sensibilities.

The loss of Aunty O has not diminished with time for those who loved her. The loss of your wife is, I’m sure, unquantifiable. You are dignified, even in the face of loss. She left you with love in your life, as your children and grandchildren walk beside you today. You are a role model to us in so many ways on how life goes on.

When we talk on the phone, we play a quick game of ‘hello, how are you’. I am never able to really talk to you because I feel so emotional. Today, I wanted you to know, the void left behind by Dad has been habitable, because of your presence in my life. I love you dearly.”

This memory has surfaced today because I remember the chaos of family weddings in India. When my sister got married we had 50+ ‘house’ guests who were put up at a nearby hotel with my parents picking up the tab.  They came over for their meals every day for over a week.  It was a frenetic time of love, laughter and fun with aunts, uncles and cousins.  The chef who cooked during that time had an interesting contract.  He brought an army of helpers, set a daily price that included a bottle of rum which he proceeded to drink as he cooked.

With my son’s wedding on the horizon, our experience is so different.  We are working to lists and keeping it simple.  So very unlike experiences reminiscent of early childhood.  Somehow I feel Uncle C would approve of our simple plans.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

Word of the Day Challenge:  reminiscent


The Chef’s granddaughter

My grandfather wrote the recipe book, The Chef.  I’ve written about this in another post.  I’m sure from him that I love to cook.

I find cooking relaxing.  Being in the kitchen is never a chore for me.  Chopping, dicing, slicing, stirring, tasting, all wonderful sensory experiences.  Nothing pleases me more than cooking up a feast and watching people enjoying their meal.

I have a library of recipe books.   My favourite and most frequently used ones are by Donna Hay, and some very old Women’s Weekly recipes, yes, a few over 30 years old.  I love cooking Italian influenced meals, for their vibrancy and flavours, so naturally I got Jamie Oliver’s latest book for Christmas as a gift.  I enjoy cooking his recipes too for the simplicity.  I have a few Nigella Lawson’s books but I dislike watching the contrived approach to cooking so much, I bake or cook from her books only occasionally.  My son, a teen at the time, finding me always in the kitchen, once told me I was the Nigella in the family “without the porn”!  I recently discovered Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes and love his approach too.  Yes, I am a hoarder of recipes.  If I lived another dozen lives, I still would not have gone through them all.  IMG_2956.jpgI even collect recipes when I’m in a plane!

One of the hardest challenges for me being on the road so much is that I miss cooking my own meals and when home, there’s hardly enough time.  The upside, of course is, I do get to enjoy some lovely meals while travelling and will share a few with you that I’ve enjoyed around the State.  thumb_IMG_3871_1024.jpgPoached egg with salmon on potato rosti with Hollandaise sauce and caper berry.  Best breakfast ever enjoyed at The Pumphouse, Kununurra, far north of Perth.  It is my favourite restaurant in this region that sits on the site of the old Ord Pump Station on the Ord River.  The dinner with a magnificent sunset, is pretty amazing too and I’ve shared pictures of this in another post.thumb_IMG_1029_1024.jpgThe most memorable breakfast I’ve ever eaten was by the banks of the King River, after sleeping under stars in outback Kimberley.  Bread toasted over an open fire, the smell of eggs and bacon frying and a side of freshly caught barramundi with nothing but salt and pepper to season it.  It set the bar high.thumb_IMG_1616_1024.jpgA far cry from eating out is the paleo inspired breakfast I cook for the family on a Sunday with a glass of freshly squeezed apple, celery, lime and ginger juice.thumb_IMG_0831_1024.jpgOr for lunch, one of the family’s favourite curries is a recipe from Donna Hay (Lemon Lime Coconut Chicken).   A Thai inspired curry that is absolutely delicious and takes barely 15 minutes to make.  thumb_IMG_0808_1024.jpgMy children have never been to India so when they were younger whatever I cooked up and presented as Indian food, got me by.  They were my biggest fans, my version of a biryani being a favourite.  (It’s not really a biryani, more of a pilaf!).  I’m not good at cooking Indian food.  I know this.  I know the taste and what it should be.  I never seem to get it right.  Now that Perth has a proliferation of Indian restaurants serving more authentic food, I’ve noticed my children prefer to eat out when I offer to cook Indian!  Hmmmm

I recently stayed at a B&B in Collie, a lovely property owned by an elderly couple.  Being out of town on an evening when the weather was atrocious, she offered to cook me dinner.  I sat alone downstairs enjoying this delicious meal that was set out all fancy with real silver cutlery, linen napkins and all.  I think I paid $20 for this.  The apple pie with the crusty coconut, demerara sugar and vanilla topping was sublime.  A far cry from a hasty grab of something from a petrol station bain marie in the Wheatbelt.  So naturally, I took a picture to send my son.  “Enjoying dinner”, I texted him.  The fancy setting did not escape his eye.  He responded, “Dinner date with Dracula?”

As I said before I love cooking Italian.  I love the vibrancy and taste of various regions.  I enjoyed watching the show when it was on TV and cooking the late Antonio Carluccio’s recipes.  And more recently I’ve developed a love for Silvia Collaca’s recipes and show.  My Italian cooking leaves a lot to be desired.  I tend never to stick to a recipe but that’s the joy of cooking for me.  A recipe is just a place to start and the deviations are fun.thumb_IMG_1443_1024.jpgItalian sausages cooked with capcicums, chillies and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar with crusty bread is a quick and delicious meal to take to a pot luck dinner with friends.thumb_IMG_0961_1024.jpgMy go to comfort food is an Indian beef stew with vegetables and pasta, a recipe that evokes childhood, with nothing else to season it but salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamon, slow cooked, of course.  I’m not sure where the recipe came from but I recall our cook making this.  I used to yearn for it and one day, closed my eyes and evoked the memory of it.  Without a written recipe, and with the cook and my mother long passed, I knew exactly what went into the stew and it is as authentic as it came from the kitchen in my family home.thumb_IMG_0177_1024.jpgThen there’s the best time of year.  Christmas.  Where all my dreams come true.  I love to experiment.  This was a little shot of peppermint candy cane milkshake I made a couple of years ago.thumb_IMG_1302_1024.jpgBut I’m not as creative as others in making up recipes, like this one I found in 2016 somewhere along my travels!

All this food is making me hungry, but it’s just green tea today for me.  Oh why! did the word prompt come up with this on a detox weekend!

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird







The dancer


The words voluminous, ethereal, clouds remind me of her.  She was my father’s youngest sister, her memory, forever synonymous with ballroom dancing.  My earliest memories are of a black and white photograph with her seated on the floor leaning on a chair, a cloud of dress around her, her profile framed in the hairstyle of the late 1940s.  Rita Hayworth comes to mind.

My father always danced across the room in ballroom strides with an invisible partner, when he talked about her.  How light she was in step.  How beautifully she moved.  Grace on air, he would say.  He admired her dancing with unabashed pride.  She and her husband were the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of their day.  They toured dancing tournaments in Asia and won numerous prizes.  I believe they also owned a dancing studio.

I met her only a few times in my lifetime.  She was petite, birdlike.  A champion ballroom dancer.  I know little else about her.

What I do know from my father is that she was a living cloud, who floated across our family horizon with brio.

I did not inherit her agility, her grace, or her posture, so I keep my two left feet firmly on the floor, and let my fingers tap to the music of her memory.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird