memoir – green cabbage

Dear friends

There were so many things I thought to tell you about this past week: FISH!; the cull (redundancies); buildings that look like ships; the weather (very wet); winter coat – parka v. duffle. Finally I’ve settled for a childhood memoir, prompted by the fact that we’re having savoy cabbage this evening.

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I was only sick (I mean actually vomit sick) once at school. In fact I only remember being sick twice as a child – the tale I’m going to tell now and an incident involving tinned burgers. (Imagine my horror at the nausea and vomiting accompanying all four of our beautiful children!)

So, I was about 7 or 8, in Mr Fairhall’s class – he had to be the tallest teacher ever, and one of the strictest in the school; we were addressed by surname only and never allowed to toilet during lesson time.  School dinners (lunch) included a healthy portion of green cabbage – I’ve always supposed it was cabbage! – it was green, watery and really did not look good. I’m fairly certain that I was in the habit of ducking out of the green stuff either by withdrawing my plate or discretely leaving it to the end and on my plate.  However, this lunchtime a dinner lady made certain I ate the green stuff.  Yukkk!!!

Later that afternoon, after play, sitting at my table I began to feel distinctly unwell.  Could I do it? Could I raise my hand and ask to go toiletdinnereven if I managed to ask would Mr Fairhall let me go?  I was desperately uncomfortable so asked.

You do look a little pale, Simmons. You can go.

Pale, I thought to myself, and since then. What hue had come across by brown skin?  What shade was I turning? And I headed down the corridor. I had just turned the corner, by the staff room, when I knew why I wasn’t feeling comfortable and why Mr Fairhall described my appearance as pale.

Once I was done, I sheepishly knocked on the staff room door where the school admin lady opened it, looked at the floor, then looked at me as if to say, “you could have made it another few doors to the toilets!!” All I could see was undigested green stuff.  And at home time, there remained a pile of sand, to mark the spot.  And I never ate green cabbage again, until a few years ago I began making stir fries for the family.

It’s cottage pie with savoy cabbage this evening – little bit of olive oil, yumm!!

I really don’t know how school dinner cabbage in the 70’s looked the way it did.  My theory.  I actually think it was spring greens. I think the dinner ladies told us it was cabbage. So spring greens – however cheap they are – will not land in my shopping trolley – they look too much like the green stuff.

food talk

Dear friends

I confess food and cooking is my biggest weakness.   I’ve tried to work on them,  and I have improved – though this evening my husband and children may feel differently.

A couple of things I learnt this week: 1. baking powder is not a substitute for flour in bechemel sauce if you’re avoiding wheat and 2. sugar, oil and syrup heated too long becomes toffee when cooled (that was Daur1 but I didn’t know the consequences when she asked,  do you think the sugar has melted now?  So we had rather dark fish tonight – Son1 confirmed there must have been a chemical reaction with the fish! – and yesterday, very crunchy flapjacks in the packed lunches!! 😉 Daur2 lost a bit of tooth was the claim!

Dont misunderstand me, I’m not a terrible cook; I can do jollof rice, rice and peas, chicken & rice – you see the connection?  🙂 And I generally cook from scratch – none of us like the taste of preservatives (does anyone?).  And our children are healthy.  (It’s only recently that Daur1 is trying a wheat free diet).  But it takes effort, and I know my limitations – sweet/ dessert stuff,  I must follow a recipe – I cannot throw things into a bowl and produce a palatable cake!! I have a small repertoire of meals and recipes which has kept our family going for 17 years – it’s when something changes (e.g. wheat free meals) that I have to start again!

The bottom line is that I’m not really into food and never have been – I could probably live off granola, fruit juice and mackerel fillets in sunflower oil!!  I do not have a refined palette.  My dear husband feels I’ve definitely lost touch with my African roots when it comes to food!!

outnumbered: days 8 to 10

Dear friends

I am writing this retrospectively, things got busy!

Day 8 – finished clearing out the garage, well, one big card board box left and the single wardrobe occupying the middle zone – we were all pleased with our efforts; my Mum offered to buy us dinner – so that was chicken and chips again – the defrosting meat was put in the fridge 😉  I missed Costco so a quick supermarket shop picking up baguette & melon for the church munch and mingle the next day.  The children asked but no, I haven’t told your father about taking up the hall carpet!

Day 9 – a bit of rain in the morning but we swung into the car park at church with 5 mins to go; inside the chapel was full of cooking smells!!  It was testimony meeting – we have a conference next week – and we filed into one of the back pews in front of a couple of elderly sisters, overhearing their comments on the testimonies shared… who’s he?…I can’t hear what she’s saying… Then our youth class where as we began I noticed one of the class members looking behind me, focused on the wall; within seconds the other class members were looking and one said, is that a really big… SPIDER! I turned to be faced with a large, but slow moving spider. I leapt across the room but amid cries of ‘kill it’, I did rescue it after we got a large bowl by throwing it outside.  Finally back home and I cooked – rice & chicken (yes, we love chicken), cheesy bread rolls, banana bread. Still nothing said about the hall carpet.

Day 10 – I track flight 652 during the day – my last check in places it north Africa having crossed the Sahara desert – 2 hours to touchdown.  A trip to the music store, three books bought, flute-piano-piano, one on order; I resist buying the latest easy Disney and flute Les Miserables.  Back home, I clean the kitchen floor; and all troops are mobilised into positive action.  Children are starting to get nervous about Dad’s reaction to no carpet in the hall. 
It’s raining, windy and cold, when my dear husband arrived back in town – I even turned the heating on for him!  Entering the house, the carpet, it’s great is his response – and I exchanged knowing glances with our children. 

I am grateful to have my dear husband back.  The last week or so has been a great learning time for us all. From Doctrine and Covenants section 122:

If thou art called to pass through tribulation… and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son [my daughter], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

outnumbered: days 6 to 7

Dear friends

Day 6 – Much to say about everything today. A refreshing start with a solo run – our eldest daughter has caught a cold from her sister who caught it from their dear father who began suffering days before travelling. Solo was fine – it was a beautiful, sunny morning – a time for thought and prayer.

Back home, after my shower, the children began to wake. Our eldest son has maths revision class in school today, leaving our eldest daughter to baby sit.  I could foresee the day – much Dragons (Cressida Cowell), DC comics films, some homework and cheesy tuna pasta for lunch.  But the younger two will be happy!!  I came back yesterday to find our youngest daughter with partially straightened hair – our eldest daughter having used my old tongs we found in the garage – and a burnt ear! That’s when they stopped 😉

A completely hectic day at work… 2 meetings plus site visit which came to 4 hours on site; engineers not attending when they’re meant to; explaining why lime (not cement) render was specified; an architect off sick with feasibility study due; work placement student in on Monday (fortunately I don’t have to look after them this time); and no proper lunch = I grabbed a cookie and a cereal bar – no bread to pack a sandwich = expecting to buy something more substantial but no time for that.

Fortunately, there was enough chicken sauce from last night for a second dinner of chicken and rice. I should have added vegetables to the rice as a variation!!  I must ensure we don’t appear malnourished when my dear husband arrives back home!

Day 7 – Dedicated but slack mum continues!  Brunch (cereal & toast), milkshakes while out, pizza and ice cream back home, hot chocolate and cheese on toast…; no need for me to wonder why there’s never any bread!  A few years back and I used to make our bread, rolls by hand, loaves in the breadmaker. But gradually I got out of the habit, the breadmaker broke, the children got older, we earned a little more so could afford to buy sliced bread. But I bought bread flour today so I might do some this weekend – it always tastes so good and we never ate so much – it must be healthier.

I dropped round some photocopying at my Dad’s this evening – he is well enough and appreciated me attending the funeral of our cousin last week. He had dropped by in the middle of the week when I was at work with some paperwork to copy and met the children home, alone, in the garden trampolining and inside (our eldest son is 16 so there’s no babysitting issue). Dad then asked me, with a pitying look, this evening,  how I was coping.  With what,  I thought, so I said, what do you mean?  “How do you cope with the children, I mean, the little ones don’t speak.”  I laughed, Oh, they do, just a bit shy around some people.  I know they shouldn’t be around family but they are and you can’t force anyone,  they’ve got to choose.  I didn’t say that last sentence but as I left, I thought on how ‘coping’ sounds like I’m dealing with something final or long lasting, not temporary.  I know our children and they know me and their father; we love and understand each other and that intimacy in our family is something that only we understand.  I think that’s the same in most families.  I’ve never lived with my father,  I grew up with my mother; nothing is going to change that now and however much I love and care for my father,  I feel we will never have that closeness that I enjoy with my mother, and in some way, which I never intended, that has affected the grandfather/ grandchild relationship.

We watched Epic this evening:

many leaves, one tree

I like that phrase.  Some of us are simply far apart on those branches but we’re still there for each other 🙂

intolerant love

Dear friends, it’s Valentine’s Day and there’s much red, pink, hearts, chocolate, flowers etc. in the air. Love goes beyond the romantic (Eros) love to embrace all types of love, which is great because love is very important. So, today our family decided to do something different and it was unanimous, lunch and a browse through our local IKEA. We don’t really eat out so this was a treat for the children and me – my dear husband always preferring to eat homemade food, but today he treated us. 🙂
Main meal, drinks and dessert – I love cream. The latter was my downfall 😦  The chocolate truffle slice with a little container, almost thimble size, of whipped cream. And I thought, ooh, that is such a small amount of cream, I’ll be safe… I even finished my husband’s Swedish apple cake.  That was probably my mistake – the cake (which looked like a pie) most likely was made with butter.  By the time we headed out the store my stomach was cramping, bloating, toilets, arriving home feeling very drained – it’s hard to explain.  I’ve struggled trying to work out this intolerance.  It is clearly dairy related but I can’t quite work it out.
As a child I loathed milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter (I did like cream, but I suspect it was more the pie it was with that I enjoyed!).  At school I watched my friends play outside as I was made to drink ALL of my small bottle of milk that all first school children were given; my friends downed it in seconds; me, I sucked it through that straw as slowly as possible, hoping my teacher would eventually give up and let me go – that rarely happened!!  My milk intake was through breakfast cereals.  And that’s the way it continued until my student days when I developed a taste for melted cheese – cheese on toast, macaroni cheese, pizza (what student doesn’t!?) – but I still only liked mild cheese and never drank milk, except with cereals.  When I returned from serving a full time mission (mid 20s) and began working I noticed the stomach cramps and visited the doctor who suggested it was diet related – by trial and error I narrowed it down to the cheese sandwiches I made for lunch.  Since that time, maybe 20 years ago, I’ve noticed the affects getting worse, especially the last 2/3 years, and it’s getting harder to work out the precise cause.  I’ve read that cheese is made differently now compared to decades ago so most cheese doesn’t affect me. A friend has suggested the fat content of butter & cream may be the issue.  Any thoughts?  I can tolerate Greek yoghurt (which I’ve been substituting for cream the past few months) but a pro biotic one left me exhausted!  (I’ve only tried it once!) And cream, I still love but some months ago I realised it was an offender when we went through a phase of apple strudel (yum!) but today’s reaction leaves me thinking I’m going to have to give up my love!  😦 
I really must take care of my body – we only get one! – clearly mine is not going to tolerate cream abuse for any longer.  (Sigh) I suppose I’ll have to wait for the resurrection and a restored body to really enjoy Swedish apple cake and cream!!