I’m not sure anyone at all will read this, given the fact that I’ve been absent for so long. Illness and catching up on work have definitely got in my way. Travel tales will have to wait. Then there’s dealing with loss. I recently travelled to Sydney for Mum’s consecration. Jewish mourners wait a year before the headstone goes on the grave, though it can be a shorter period. It gives folks the chance to recover form their grief and join together to celebrate the life of their loved one.
Like any secular Jewish family the food was the most important thing. I spent the previous evening making Mum’s sausage rolls. Rolling out the pastry in a kitchen no bigger than my Mum’s tiny kitchen with the radio blaring maudlin hits from the 70s. I got a little reflective. Observant Jewish women bake challah bread on Fridays and the kneading and rolling provides the rhythm for serious meditation. Mum never baked challah though it was always on the Shabbath table warm from the oven.
My mother spent the war years ‘on the land’ as she put it. Here she is pretty as picture growing food for the nation. Of course I have been watching Home fires.
My paternal Grandmother is known to have said “It just isn’t a simcha (celebration) without smoked salmon”. And there was smoked salmon. But it wasn’t a party without Mum’s sausage rolls, so I made them. Lisa baked the richest chocolate brownies I have ever encountered and Sam continued her “I am Zumbo” trajectory with a chocolate and hazelnut cake as big as the centrepoint tower. Well retro theme. And it tasted as good as it looked. I even learned how you slice these darlings, thank you Shirley Smith!
Of course food is at the centre of most celebrations and certainly for Jewish families, and Chinese, Italian, Greek…and on it goes. But food is crucial here because of who Sheila was. She was an archetypal Jewish mother who cooked Shabbath dinner every Friday night. Prayers were minimal but the table heaved with favourite dishes of her children and then grandchildren. Mac cheese and soya Chicken? Why not?
I’ve written a great deal about the way grandmother’s go on feeding their families after their demise .. family recipes? Hence the demand for her sausage rolls, her matzo balls and more. But in my garden I have a miracle, a final gift from Mum. In my last house we had a massive mulberry tree I was sorry to leave. A baby tree had grown next to it and Mum had potted it. I took that one with me when we moved and after an extended period of neglect I finall planted it. It grew and grew as trees do and each year more berries turned up on it. But they were all small. This year the tree is full of mulberries and they are properly sized and sweet, though just beginning. I like to think it’s the Consecration miracle but dynamic lifter should take more credit.
My Mum is still feeding me.