While most children have fond memories of sitting around the table with their family enjoying a home-cooked meal prepared by their mother, I do not. I’ve heard stories about those special Sunday meals that everyone looked forward to and how they miss them today, as families are scattered all over the globe, but I can’t relate. My mother’s ‘special talent’ for cooking was that her food was so very bland.
Growing up, we ate mince with peas and mashed potatoes. If there was money leftover we would add tomato sauce. I remember my mother would make spaghetti with chicken, but her tomato sauce was so bland. Some nights she would make hamburgers. This was not good. They were served on bread with tomato and lettuce, but there was no flavour!
One thing I am grateful for though is that she did cook. There are plenty of children today whose mothers don’t. My mother worked and she looked after us.
Naturally, Sundays were roast days — beef, chicken or lamb. On Fridays she would prepare fish and chips, or fish and salad. I remember the day my father happened to ask why Mum’s cooking didn’t taste like her mother’s. Yikes! It resulted in a huge argument and there were a few broken plates in the kitchen.
My nan used dripping in her cooking and the dripping fat got so hot that it crisped up the lamb and the potatoes. My two siblings and I couldn’t wait for the food to be ready. We were too hungry. My nan didn’t work and was able to prepare food a bit earlier, but mum couldn’t really do anything until she got home.
Mum brought a family pie home from the food court at David Jones one night. We had it with mash potato and peas. It was delicious, but we only got one piece each. It definitely wasn’t enough for two adults and three kids. In fact, it always felt like there was never enough food to go around, but Mum would always say that that was how she had been taught to shop and cook. She would shop everyday for the fresh vegetables, red meat or chicken. If we were still hungry after eating then she’d tell us to eat a piece of fruit. On the rare occasions we had dessert, it was ice-cream and fruit or a couple of biscuits.
It wasn’t until I was older and had started working myself that I discovered the flavours of Italy and India. My mouth waters when I think about cous cous and tabouli and garlic prawns. I would save recipes and take them home with me, hopefully cooking them in the way I had tasted. My family seemed to enjoy my cooking, even my mother was satisfied, and there was always enough to go around.