I’ve lived far away from my family for almost half my life now. It’s never easy. When something bad happens and I need a hug, there’s 1000 kilometres between me and my mum, thousands more between me and my dad.
When I first moved away, Mum gave me one of the best presents I have ever received. It was an exercise book full of recipes we used to cook at home all the time, nothing fancy or special, just the family classics.
Growing up living with Mum and my Nan, cooking and food were central to our upbringing. And some of my most beloved meals are the old school favourites they used to cook for us.
Pumpkin soup, roast beef with crispy potatoes and so much gravy, spaghetti Bolognese Nan style (she used French onion soup powder and a can of tomato soup. I know, it sounds terrible but it tastes just like home), or a pot of stew that simmered in the oven on low all day while we were at school.
There are so many hits.
So many hits. Image: iStock.
The pikelets my brother and I would shovel into our mouths after hours of playing Marco Polo in the backyard pool.
The light-as-air sponge cakes baked in heart-shaped tins filled with raspberry jam and dusted with icing sugar. The very same cake for every grandchild’s birthday every year. I would peek in the mixing bowl while she whisked the egg whites, but I was never allowed to help.
“Your first sponge, it’s very personal, you have to do it yourself, it’s the only way to learn,” she would tell me, before giving me the bowl to lick.
When I was six she taught me how to make scrambled eggs and toast so I would stop waking her up to make breakfast on Mother’s Day (because it was her Mother’s Day too).
"When I was six, she taught me how to make scrambled eggs." Image: iStock.
Nan’s cooking was at the heart of our family get-togethers. It wasn’t Christmas without her chocolate caramel slices. For birthday dinners she’d make me pumpkin soup, then crumbed chicken and mash, and an apple pie for dessert. (My brother would always pick roast beef and jam tart for his birthday.)