Lifelong assistance

Lifelong partnerships come in many and varied forms. Generally, somewhere in that public declaration of intention to hang out with one person for a really long time there is something about helping each other in all sorts of circumstances. It is usually anticipated that such help will be gratefully received.

The other night I was in the garage doing some garage-type jobs. Without warning I was grabbed from behind. I whipped around, arms flailing. To the untrained eye, this may have looked like senseless flapping. What I discovered was an extraordinary ability to protect myself. My mind recalled ninja moves I did not know I possessed. Such was the adrenalin pumping through my veins I felt confident of my ability to defend myself such that my assailant would have no idea the attack was coming.

A rather startled chief recipe tester stood before me as I turned to attack. In his hand was my mobile phone, line open. Like me, he was mute, and flapping somewhat wildly for me to speak into the phone.

This week the chief recipe tester and I will celebrate ten years of wedded bliss. I am glad to report our union did not end in the garage when I killed him with a ninja chop I had not previously rehearsed.

In a bid to facilitate my communication he had answered my phone before it rang out. He then ran it (quietly) to me so I could seamlessly speak into the phone as if I had answered it. The plan was somewhat thwarted by my gladiatorial response to his assistance.

I am grateful for his assistance. I am relieved that my pause reflexes are more developed than my mercenary ones.

If you find yourself under attack this week, may I suggest next week's menu? Next week will be our last delivery before we take a short break. Look out for the next menu in a couple of weeks.

As always, please contact me with queries, for lists of ingredients or for recipes.

Order by Friday night for dinners delivered the following Tuesday.

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Cinderella had the same trouble...

The senior recipe tester and I at the ball

Once upon a time in a land not far from here at all, there lived a maiden not as young as she liked to think. In fact, she was less maiden and more matron... but that's the start of another story.

She did not spend hours sweeping out chimneys and emptying the ashes. In fact, rather than having to while away the hours yearning for a ticket, she was invited to the ball. Prince Charming had turned up many years before, had assumed the role of Senior Recipe Tester and added Junior Recipe Testers to the tribe as well.

But, given that the prince was still cute as ever, she decided to take him along.

It was a friend, rather than a fairy godmother, who loaned her a gown to wear. As for shoes, they looked like they did indeed belong to poor Cinderella (before the fairy godmother showed up). Some of the straps were rather flapping in the breeze and required repair. The local cobbler made assurances that he could sort this out in plenty of time for the event.

Her locks, were not particularly Cinderella-esque: being neither blonde nor curly. Again, in the absence of a nearby fairy godmother, she went to see the hairdresser, to have her tresses tamed.

On the way home from the hairdresser, there was just enough time to call in to the cobbler to retrieve the golden (rather than glass) slippers she was to wear that evening. Congratulating herself on a) finding a handy parking spot and b) her speed and agility getting through the crowded shopping centre, without ruining her hair, Cinderella raced back to her chariot.  (the one with the car seat in the back seat).

The golden slippers were something to behold, once mended. She thanked the cobbler kindly, knowing they would suit the gown perfectly, and raced back to the chariot in the handy parking spot.

On the turn of the key, the chariot made a peculiar noise. Cinderella tried again. It made less noise. On the third try the chariot was completely silent.

In the land far away, it is hard to say how a pumpkin chariot would be remediated if the horses refused to pull it. In the land of quite near here, the NRMA battery service appeared to be the best option. She also phoned Prince Charming.

Because he really is, Prince Charming offered to come and wait with the chariot so that Cinderella could go home for a pre-ball snooze. For this she was exceedingly grateful, even if it did mean she had to sleep on her face for fear of ruining her recently combed tresses.

Many hours passed. Eventually Prince Charming appeared, now somewhat thin on patience. He arrived not on a steed, but in the chariot. The one with the car seat in the back and the new battery in the front. 

In record time, they made it to the ball.

I'm sure Cinderella was dropped at the door of the ball, the footmen rushing to assist her from her carriage. My Prince Charming found a parking spot and we made our way to the function. It was a lovely evening.

The walk from the car was just far enough for the recently mended slipper to become completely detached from itself and disintegrate entirely. And so, like Cinderella, I left the ball with only one shoe.

The edges of love

Timber hearts

Love is a wonderful thing. The commitment of one human being to the wellbeing of another is surely to be cherished and encouraged. But you wouldn't want to take that sort of support for granted. Neither would you want to push that commitment too far. 

I perhaps might have.

Last weekend Dinner on the Table attended the Castle Hill UPmarket. Bright sunshine, friendly folk, good food and lovely, local gifts. Perfect. Especially for the occasion, we had a new setup, complete with a freezer from which market goers could purchase their dinner. Excellent.

The freezer lives in our big kitchen. I needed it at the market. We borrowed a trailer for the transportation efforts and all appeared to be well. At some point it did dawn on me that, even with my herculean strength, I was perhaps going to struggle to lift a commercial freezer into a trailer on my own.

I turned to the person I turn to most often on these occasions. The senior recipe tester, who not only possesses herculean strength, but titanic patience, agreed to help.

Because the market started early we had to dig the junior recipe testers out of bed on Sunday morning for the trip to the kitchen. Bleary-eyed and pyjama-clad they trudged to the car while I trilled merrily that it would not be long before Daddy could take them back home for breakfast.

Turns out it was very long.

Arriving at the kitchen we set about simply popping the freezer into the trailer and setting off. The trailer was not so far up off the road and we had a trolley. No problem.

We manoeuvred the freezer against the trailer tailgate and the senior climbed in. We reasoned we could tilt it back and simply heave it into the trailer. I pushed on the bottom, while the senior pulled from the top.

I thought we were making excellent progress. We were inches from having it aboard. I pushed some more until I heard an odd noise. I shouted instructions. No response. When I looked around the side of the load I realised the senior was wedged between the top of the freezer and the trailer cage. His face was red. He was unable to speak freely. He did not look best pleased.

I stopped pushing. We put the freezer back down on the road. We tried something else. And something else. The freezer remained resolutely out of the trailer. A couple of times a junior would emerge from the car to ask if we'd got the freezer on the trailer yet. By this time neither the senior nor I looked best pleased.

I'm always learning. Last weekend I learned how tricky it can be to get a large, cumbersome object to defy gravity, even if it only seems like a little bit. This week I will learn about lifting devices specifically designed for moving large objects off the ground.

And I have learned that love, the commitment of one human being to the wellbeing of another, might find its limits pinned under a large object and strained through a trailer cage.

The one that doesn't smell faintly of dinners.

Pale green handbag sitting amongst Autumn leavesWhen the situation calls for it, I like to think I am capable of holding my own in a professional forum. You know the type. The suited up kind. Brushed hair. High heels. That sort of thing.

And recently, the situation called for it. I dressed up. I dug out the fancy handbag, you know, the one that doesn't ever go into the kitchen. The one that doesn't smell faintly of your dinners.

On that morning, the senior recipe tester took our junior recipe testers to school because I had very important places to be. I kissed them all and left early for the bus stop. The commuter bus stop. To catch the bus. The bus that takes commuters into town. To do important things.

Important work is fuelled by coffee, so I filled my travel mug and put said cup in my handbag. I fancied that perhaps the junior recipe testers were vaguely impressed that I was heading out early to do important things...

As I walked out to the garage, I realised I had to drop a box off at the kitchen. The kitchen is near the bus stop, so I figured I could do both in the one trip. Tucking my handbag firmly under my arm, I leaned over to pick up the box.

Coffee poured into my armpit. 

It dribbled onto the box.

I resisted the urge to start yelling, but I did have to flap my shirt in an effort to rapidly cool the coffee down.

I walked back into the house.

"That was quick," commented the senior recipe tester. Now, it should be said that the senior is well used to my leaving several times in the morning, returning often more than once to retrieve the things I have forgotten on the first, second or third attempt at leaving.

On this particular occasion I may have given him a somewhat withering look. "I have coffee in my armpit," I quipped, trying to engender sympathy. "You wouldn't believe what just happened..."

"If it was anyone else, I probably wouldn't" was his truthful reply. He didn't bat an eyelid when I handed him my handbag and asked if he would please wipe it out while I went to change my clothes.

I did eventually get to my meeting. In town. With me, I had a handbag. The fancy one. That doesn't smell faintly of your dinners.

Yes. The one that smells strongly of coffee...

Therapeutic Gardens guest blog

Dinner on the Table team

It was my pleasure to write this week for the Therapeutics Garden blog, about what drives me and about our affiliation.

I first met Jo from Therapeutic Gardens a couple of years ago.  What inspired me about her was her intimate understanding and her passion for the power of gardens, of the natural environment, to promote health and well-being for people of all ages, abilities and needs.  Almost immediately we started talking about how we could work together to improve the health and well-being of some of Australia’s most vulnerable.

Dinner on the Table has always worked on the premise that having a good dinner cooked for you changes your daily life.  But how that dinner is produced changes lives too.

Read on to find out how we plan to work together.






When someone else does the cooking

Setting sun outside a restaurantThere is deep joy, I am convinced, in someone else cooking dinner for you. Someone else takes care of the shopping, the preparation, and, most importantly in my opinion, the dreaded washing up.

For Christmas we were given a voucher to a lovely local restaurant. The senior recipe tester and I quickly took the chance to have dinner on our own. But, given that there was money remaining on the voucher, we thought we would have a second intimate dinner. This time for five.

And so last weekend we set out for an evening of relaxation, good food and good conversation.

We had sat at the table for perhaps a minute and a half before the first drink went over. The junior recipe tester who spilled it is such a master at such feats that he now tends to either, try and hide the fact that he's had a spillage, or comment immediately upon the magnitude of spillage in an attempt to reduce the richter scale of exasperation that surely follows.

In this instance he commented immediately on magnitude. Not that much, in his considered opinion. However, given that we were in a restaurant and the drink was special, and filled with ice, he had to make a second admission: his "not very" wet shirt, chair, table and floor were freezing cold. He required assistance.

Assistance was delivered through gritted teeth, but determined not to ruin the evening, we took some deep breaths. Thankfully, at that point the meal arrived.

One soggy junior began to assert that there was a problem. The slow roasted, falling apart, meat sitting on his plate was "too crunchy". We politely suggested he was being ridiculous. No, he insisted, it was crunchy. And, what was more, his teeth were not strong enough to chew it.

I imagine one day we'll encounter this problem again. One day, 40 years from now, the senior recipe tester will sit opposite me at a restaurant. We will hope that the denture glue is steadfast. And I will gaze into his eyes and say, "My teeth are not strong enough to chew this..." 

Parenting thesis: Chapter One

Black and white image of a baby asleepWhen I commenced my parenting thesis, nine and a half years ago, I had not considered that it would take quite so long to hand it in. I had not banked on the required reading list being quite so long, nor the minimum skill set being quite so extensive. This graduation, of course, does not mark the end of the parenting journey. Merely, it signifies the end of the chapter entitled, "child-at-home-during-the-day-several-days-of-the-week".

At the completion of a thesis it is requisite that a paper be published from the work. Now that the junior recipe testers are all at school during the prescribed hours, save those times we are running late due to a flat bike tyre, lost car keys or a tantrum about whether or not sunscreen should be applied and by whom, I feel it incumbent upon me to write.

Parenting is oft described as one of life's most fulfilling pursuits. Although there is some conjecture amongst scholars, those critiquing this standpoint are often found to have no offspring of their own. Supporters of the notion of parenting fulfilment are quick to counter that critics should at least be grateful that their parents wanted to try it. Lest they would not have been born.

The early years, considered the time between birth and when the last child starts formal education, are generally considered stressful. Learning potential is heightened as well adjusted, sensible adults come to terms with the vagaries of newborn, toddler and child behaviour. Classes, taken prior to the birth of a first child, are a curious human endeavour, producing adults who feel accomplished at parenting but without any understanding of what the task of caring for an offspring actually entails.

Along with my fellow graduates of 2018, all of them titans of learning, the following minimum competency standards have been achieved.

Shoes are rarely found on the feet of junior recipe testers, particularly in those precious minutes before you need to get out the door. An hour before leaving home, said shoes will be on the appropriate feet. A minute before, not so much. Multiple strategies for dealing with lost shoes, including hopping, are both learned and rehearsed.

For the breastfeeding mother, the advent of an infant's teeth is a significant test of faith. The losing of teeth, however, may set forth a series of events that has to be witnessed to be believed. At this point one is expected to add an additional role to one's repetoire - that of tooth fairy - without any additional duties allowance. Any role performance issues are treated extremely seriously.

The teaching of tucking in a school shirt requires swift mastery concurrent with the starting of school. In most cases it involves at least four hands, belonging to up to three individuals, pushing slightly too long shirt tails into a slightly too loose waistband. Proficiency is achieved when the task can be accomplished while running along the footpath, undistracted by the sound of a bell ringing in the distance.

The graduation ceremony was held on Monday 5th February. The bell rang, the lines were drawn, the bags were placed on the appropriate hooks. The tissues were fetched and the long walk back to the car, my hands empty, began. 

Time to write chapter two.