23 April 2013

#1 Don't Let the Sauce Do All the Work: and Other Lessons My Mum Taught Me About Cooking

Mum would be proud!

On Sunday mornings as a kid, I used to get up early, creep into the kitchen, pour some juice and watch.

My mum would be cooking.

One of the most interesting things in this world, is watching my mum cook. My dad and I both do it: we sort of sidle in and stand there, inching closer and closer to bubbling pots and sizzling pans, watching my mum literally zip around the kitchen with a dozen arms and legs, limbs flying in every direction while she prepares six or seven dishes at the same time.

If we were lucky, she'd banish us to the breakfast nook, and we'd get to stir things.

This particular honor was one of the highest a person could hope for in our household. I still thank my lucky stars that my siblings are older than me, and we didn't have to fight over it. The only remaining contender for it was my dad, and we had several unspoken agreements:

If he was doing the lawn, and therefore more work than me, he got it.

If he was up first, and I came down too late, he got it.

If I managed to be the first one in the kitchen when mum started cooking, no matter who was up first, I got it.

If he had to go out, I got it.

The reason for it was simple: if you got to stir, you got to eat. The two went hand in hand, except on holiday occasions when a massive breakfast was prepared for everyone, or in the rare case that mum was in a particularly good mood and both dad and I were able to benefit.

For the most part though, the person stirring got to eat: little bits of chicken fresh out of the frying pan, left over pasta and sauce that wouldn't fit into the baking tray, extra sausages, and so on.

There was no telling what or how much- it depended on the menu for the week, mum's mood, and how much would be left that wasn't enough to worry about sticking in the freezer for another time.

My mum was like an artisan, spooning, whipping, chopping and mixing, making up baking trays of different meals that would then go into the freezer to be taken out and eaten during the week.

The honor wasn't just in the eating, it was in being the one to label, and sometimes even put together a meal that the whole family would sit down to enjoy a few days later. I always got a thrill of pleasure when we'd take a tray out of the freezer and it would say "Chicken Parmesan" on the tin foil in my handwriting.

The pride in it was unmistakable, and mum would always tell us over dinner who the lucky party was that had helped prepare the meal. I'd sit there grinning like a cheshire cat every time.

Food brings people together, in so many little ways, and I'm proud when I think about how much I enjoy cooking and eating and sharing thanks to those busy Sunday mornings.

This is a multipart post, so look out for part 2 soon!

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