Cooking with loved ones

Cooking with loved ones – Blanche Whitefish

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“Got to teach them Jen. I would so love to inspire one or all of the ‘grandies’ that food is a fabulous way to get people together.’ –a quote from my cousin who wrote this on Facebook after posting a photo of her grandchild holding some muffins she had made.

Food is about sharing and it does bring people together. We have known this forever. One of the best things in the world is to cook up a feast to share with friends and family, or to make a cake and share with work colleagues. It doesn’t matter what you do, if you cook it is such a great feeling to share the food with someone.

There are times we get take-a-way food, albeit good food like reputable Indian food, but it never quite feels the same. Something is missing in the process. It is almost like when we cook there is a magic ingredient (love) that we add while making the food and it is missing when we simply ring for take-a-way. Some nights even when I am tired I will still cook rather than have food delivered. There are many simple nutritious dishes to make leaving you with the satisfaction you have created something to share. It is even better when some of the ingredients come from your garden. When you cook your own meals you can be sure of the nutritious value, the level of salt, sugar and fat that is included and of course spice to your personal taste. Nothing is left to chance.

I know a lot of people who live alone and don’t cook just for themselves and I think it is largely due to not having anyone with whom to share the food. Sticking to a salad and boiled egg is probably easier. My advice to people who live alone is to cook a massive quantity, share some of it and freeze portion sizes to have later. In that way you get to share a meal and ensure you have a nutritious meal throughout the week.

I travel out bush a lot for work and I ensure I have enough little pre-packed frozen home cooked meals to enjoy when I am away. Some of them have been in the freezer for a while and as I am eating them I cast my mind back to the time when it was cooked and what we were doing as a family.

My son and my husband love to cook and, to be honest, our son does most of the cooking. He is a strict vegetarian so some days I have to cook up some goat or kanga on the side. The majority of the food we eat is vegetarian and I can go weeks without eating any meat which is fine but I do enjoy meat and fish from time to time. It is all about balance really. I love beans and legumes so the bulk of our main dishes are variations around beans and lentils. I do a pretty mean chickpea pattie too.

Christmas Eve is a favourite time of mine. I spend weeks preparing and cooking for the rather large group of people we gather to share our Christmas meal. I love being able to have a variety of different foods and sweets and enjoy watching people being sated. I never let anyone assist with cooking, just bring your own alcohol, and never ever let anyone help clean up at the end of the night. If you come to my house for dinner, I just want you to enjoy eating, drinking, listening to music and talking. You are not there to work, you are there to relax, it is the rule. Another fun dinner party idea is the shared food. Each guest brings a dish of their own specialty. It is indeed ‘Pot Luck’ and most certainly a great conversation starter and sharing of recipes.

Another way to enjoy getting together with people over food is to join in voluntary groups who serve food to the poor. In the past we have enjoyed going to St Vincent de Paul’s to assist with Christmas lunch. The homeless come to the shelter and the volunteers serve them the food. It is so much fun and Father Christmas comes to visit too. There is such a sense of community and peace in doing something like that. You get to talk to people that are often ignored on the street on a day to day basis. Of course, all year round St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army look after the homeless by feeding them and providing shelter.

People and food go hand in hand. Sharing time with loved ones or strangers over a meal is a satisfying experience especially if you have taken time to prepare a meal for them. Taking the time to grow some of the produce, taking the time to cook a meal, set the table and create the ambiance is extremely gratifying.

My cousin is quite wise to teach her grandchildren to cook. It is a great idea to have your children in the kitchen with you so they learn the art and enjoyment of cooking from an early age. When I was growing up mum would often let us spend a Saturday afternoon cooking cakes, biscuits and slices in the kitchen. We would only bother her if we had any difficulties we could not work out for ourselves. Our son used to sit on our kitchen bench as a baby and have a stir, or break an egg. (You need patience and be prepared to clean up a mess, take egg shells out of the bowl and the like but worth it because it is fun)  I think society is moving back to growing their own, farmer’s markets and home cooking but we do need to start teaching them young. Sharing and teaching your children and grandchildren is so pleasurable and fulfilling.

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