Posts Tagged ‘Burma’

Love lost.

July 23, 2014
Lost love

Lost love

“I am so sorry to hear about your loss, Bettina”. “Ah, don’t be.” “Thank God he is gone, the miserable man”. And with that, the Bettina with the massive battle ship chin dismissed the passing of her husband of over forty years. Sometimes, people hide their grief with putting up a brave front. I don’t think she was in that category, having known both of them for over twenty years.

Sometime during the seventies both Bettina and husband Bob in their wild and impetuous youth travelled Europe in a left hand drive large bus converted to a camper wagon. You now see them everywhere, sometimes with bicycles or even a boat strapped at the back or on the roof. I saw a camper wagon recently that even towed a small car to buzz about in. And no doubt used, through the help of a GPS satellite system, to guide the happy travellers to the nearest Aldi or Woolworth emporium, to stock up on the essentials, including butter and lamb chops with continental parsley.

Bettina and husband Bob, (while in their youth) travelled overland back to Australia where they lived in a large house near the water. It must have been quite an adventure when Afghanistan and Burma were hardly on the well trodden traveller’s route. You would often see Bob and wife with their large grey converted left hand drive vehicle driving around the place with Bob never missing a friendly wave.

He used to regale their travel adventures to us but his Bettina would butt in ‘ oh, nonsense Bob, it wasn’t like that’ and than impose her version of it. He just used to smile and let her do the talking. He did love her, or at least allowed her the freedom to dominate him in conversations.

While on their return journey, they had filled their bus up with Afghan tapestries and carpets which they sold to anyone keen on a bargain. It were the days of so many young couples with children setting up camp in the inner city of Sydney. A true beginning of city living instead of the mind boggling boring but well promoted ‘dream’ of living in the suburbs.

As the years went by, as they seem to so relentlessly, Bob became profoundly deaf and conversations became stilted and awry. A great pity. He was always the friendly giving man and his wife the shouting over the top with such a large chin to accept (in a round-a-bout way). In any case, a long standing marriage were both no doubt had found their levels of comfort and acceptance of each other. True love?

I sometimes thought of Bob waking up and turning towards his Bettina and see the familiar large chin jutting above the sheets. He loved her, that’s for sure, and accepted her as lovingly as any caring husband would. Millions of couple all over the world do this. Hundreds of millions more likely.

And then, Bob died suddenly. Towards the last few years he had a long white beard and often stood silently next to his beloved Bettina. He was now as deaf as a bucket of sand and could not converse as before even though he would sometimes still break out and, while still smiling, mention bits about Afghanistan. Bettina now mostly had the full attention of the audience.

“Thank God he is gone” is what she said. (after forty years)

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Pancakes ( Our diabolical regression in the Art of cooking)

January 30, 2013

Of course, our eating habits have changed. Who would have thought mums now buy a plastic bottle with the advice ‘just shake it’? The ‘just shake it’ seems to be a prepared kind of pancake mix. I would imagine the intending cook fills up the empty space in the plastic bottle with milk and then ‘just shake’ it, with mixture ready for pancake making. It probably makes about five or six pancakes and at $ 1.85 works out at the outrageous price of 30cents a pancake, not including the golden syrup or jam on top. Perhaps the ‘just shake it’ has been embedded from a latent subliminal message from eager husbands pestering tired wives late at night. A clever use of product enhancement.

It must be back-breaking work to put flour in a bowl, and then add some milk, a couple of eggs and whisk the lot together and get the old fashioned pan-cake mixture for a quarter of the cost. Walking slowly past the supermarket’s shelves there were other similar products. A cheese in a tube, some powder that turns into instant mashed potato, but the most irksome of them all, and H is so sick of me commenting on them, are…simmering sauces. My eyes forever keeping guard on our dietary habits, I even spotted a kind of meat-spread in a tube. It was called, I think, devilish spread which came in mild and spicy.

Yet, again, I switched on the telly and it’s almost obligatory now to find and watch a cooking show. No matter what time, there is someone with eyes turned heavenly upwards, saying ‘oh, how yum’ or ‘wow’. Fresh ingredients are tossed together; fish, meat, snails, frogs are being infused, thrown about and cooked almost to the point of a kind of Le Mans’ car race.

It’s all very confusing. There are options in watching French, Italian; Spanish cooks either cooking away in their own country or in top restaurants in Britain. They seem so enthusiastic, you wonder if they have mattresses tucked behind those huge gleaming stainless steel stoves and just take quick naps in between the stacking of delicious looking char-grilled hearts of goats and noodles with infused ginger and deep fried shreds and strips of celeriac with chanterelle-shiitake mushrooms on giant plates.

Then there are culinary delights shown in Vietnam, Indonesia, Burma, even Thailand. Fresh fish swimming, frogs are croaking and eels or snakes still slithering about. Within minutes it is all cooked and on the table with huge smiling families feasting away.

If pancake making is the only thing my grandkids will remember me by; so be it. It would be nice to have an epitaph on my pebble crete slab; “here lies the greatest pancake- maker” (but keep off the grass).

Cooking needs to be an act of love. You can never cook something in total indifference. When the kids are over, pancake making has almost religious overtones. Their own parents’ pancakes seem to lack ‘crispy edges’, I was told by Max who is the youngest of the three grandsons, adding, ‘they are alright though’, not wanting to dob in his parents.

It is not as if I swoon over every pancake but I do hand mix the dough adding water and pinch of salt. I use real butter and cook on two cast iron solid pans on high heat. When I gently lower the mixture into the pan, the edges frizzle and sizzle out into the much desired golden crispy and crunchy edging. While hot, I rush them over to the kids seated at the round table, fork and knife in hand and at the ready. I squeeze some lime juice and sprinkle a light dusting of sugar.

I leave the rest to them.