Black Rice & Passionfruit Salad

Morning finds her curled like a prawn
Around a stuffed blue Pegasus, or the smallest
Prawn-pink lion. Or else she’s barging
Into my room, and leaning in close so
It’s her hair I wake to — that coarse, dark
Heaven of knots and purple fluff.

She wants a movie, or maybe
Just the tussle of her will against mine,
That scrape and crack. Horn on rock. Rope
Relenting one fiber at a time. ‘I want that,’ she says,
Punctuating what she just said she wanted.

– from ‘4½’ by Tracy K. Smith

Neither of our children are four-and-a-half. T has only just turned four, and W is almost six. I remember when they were babies, both of them perpetually curled into me – their tiny hands and translucent half-moon fingernails. Everything smelt of breastmilk and sweat and the coconut oil that we rubbed onto their fat thighs and soft bellies. At night I would roll over and there was always a baby there, eyelids flickering, and what could they be dreaming of?  Continue reading “Black Rice & Passionfruit Salad”

Blistered Summer Salad

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Do you remember how great summer holidays were as a kid? A seemingly endless expanse of time when the daily routine of school-homework-weekends was suspended in a glut of play. I don’t remember the specifics of summer holidays but I do remember the rhythms. Cricket, of course – on the radio, on the television – accompanied by backyard cricket . We used an old wicker basket in place of stumps and stray balls routinely smashed the back windows. I wasn’t actually much of a player myself, so was regularly sent on runs up the bad-tempered neighbours driveway to rescue lost balls. Summer barbecues, swimming in friends’ pools, camping by the beach, icy poles, late nights.  Continue reading “Blistered Summer Salad”

Roasted Cauliflower & Beetroot Salad with Rosewater Dressing

I bend to it willingly, this patch
of earth and its green things, in their own world
(though I hold the title to it) hungry for life…”
– from ‘After’ by David Malouf

We planted daffodil bulbs yesterday, the kids and I. Fingers in dirt, carefully. Now we water, and wait for them to bloom, a slash of the brightest yellow across these winter skies. Continue reading “Roasted Cauliflower & Beetroot Salad with Rosewater Dressing”

Coconut Turmeric Noodles

“…balance of humors, coconut liquor thinned / by broth, sour pulp of tamarind / cut through by salt, set off by fragrant / galangal, ginger, basil, cilantro, mint, / the warp and woof of texture…”

– from ‘Hot’ by Craig Arnold

Lately, both kids have been climbing into our bed at various points through the night, so by the morning all four of us are squeezed in together. We’re not sure if it’s these cold winter nights that have them seeking extra body warmth, or just that natural childish desire to be close, but either way it is a habit that is equally parts endearing and exasperating (much like parenting more generally, in fact).  Continue reading “Coconut Turmeric Noodles”

Winter Borscht Salad

The beetroot is in my roots, borscht in my bloodline.

My great grandmother was Ukrainian. The story goes that during a pogrom in the early 1900s she stabbed a Russian solder who was attempting to rape her, then escaped with nothing but a pair of brass candlesticks. I can’t vouch for the truth of this story – it could be that my mind has simply embellished a snippet overheard in childhood – but I’m not too bothered either way. As a storyteller, I’m a fan of narrative embellishment. What is true is that my great grandmother eventually made her way to England where she married a Polish man and had four children, one of whom is my paternal grandmother.  Continue reading “Winter Borscht Salad”

Chia Bowl, 2 Ways

chia-seed-pudding

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

– from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Imagining the impossible is a wonderful thing to do. Children are, of course, experts at this. Ground down by reality, us adults need a little more practice. Cooking is, I find, the perfect conduit to the creative. In the same way that the paradoxical ‘going forward and standing still’ of train travel lets the imagination break free, so does the paradoxical ‘action and waiting’ of cooking. A flurry of cutting and slicing and chopping followed by a slow methodical stirring; sifting and stirring and kneading and then sitting by the oven, waiting. Plenty of time to imagine the impossible. Continue reading “Chia Bowl, 2 Ways”

Homemade Oat Milk + Stovetop Granola

oat-milk-granola-spoon

Given the refugee crisis engulfing Europe – and the world – at the moment, writing about milk and oats seems totally trivial. The first time the heartbreaking image of little Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach came up in my feed I couldn’t look away. There was something about the way he was lying that looked just like the way my daughter sleeps in her bed at night and I couldn’t stop thinking of how scared he must have been in the ocean, alone, at the end. Of how he deserved to be safe and warm in bed, just like my kids.

It only makes me all the more angry at Australia’s punitive and heartless refugee policies. This is the supposedly ‘lucky country’, and it has been transformed over the last century by immigrants from Europe, from Asia, from the Middle East, from Africa. Made a richer, and a better, place to live thanks to the diverse cultures and hard work of so many refugees and migrants. This is my personal history – my grandparents came over as refugees after World War II – but it is also our collective history, our collective culture. We shouldn’t stand by as cruelties are perpetrated in our name. We may not have voted for this government, but this is our shame. We need to demand better. Continue reading “Homemade Oat Milk + Stovetop Granola”