This morning as I was driving to the shops to buy my weekly groceries, at 8.30am I spotted an overweight man carrying an UberEats bag looking down at his mobile device and opening the door to his car.
“There’s UberEats for breakfast?” I thought to myself.
My urban garden, Northlands shopping centre, juxterposed with the evolution of Generation Z’s notion of survival – UberEats! I was reflecting on my recent trip to Mildura.
I just spent three days in Mildura with Giuseppina, my Mum.
My sister Carmel also joined us for a day of gluttonous fun.
We harvested, cooked and processed food from mother’s garden.
Everything we could need or want was on the threshold, just open the door, pick it, cook it and eat it fresh harvest.
I entered the bakehouse (drooling), her cooking space, creative place, like that of a craftsman’s shed, only it’s full of food. Rows and rows of preserved antipasto, chilli paste, passata sauce, spices, pots and pans. Discarded bread crusts, abandoned for better appetite pleasers. What might be dust are crumbs, left for the mice, the bugs, there’s enough for all creatures.
On the table a cloth laden with walnuts, that Giuseppe, dad, had meticulously shelled by hand and a hammer. Mum had to sort them, the sun had burnt them this year and the black ones were not the best to eat. Dad’s frugal nature wastes nothing, the burnt nuts mixed in with the others will blend in and you would not know the difference. He’s not one for selection of the finer things in life, it’s food, and it can be eaten. In reincarnation he would come back as a rat, scavenging and finding deliciousness in discarded morsels.
At 11am, he appeared, after leaving the house at 6am, pensava che era ura u mangio (I thought it was time to eat) and then explained that the sun is his clock and that he has no need for a watch, nor any other device to illicit time, so he had one hour to swig at his bottle of wine, no need to dirty a glass, straight down the gullet spiking the appetite for mangiare awaiting 12 noon, lunch time. In the mean time he reads Veronica Wants to Die by Paulo Coelho and scoffs at all the “bullshitti that one finds in books”.
I came with three days to spare, and the desire to collect stories, recipes and ideas. I expressed the desire to look through cupboards and boxes, seeking to discover. Sparking the desire in my parents to remember, stuff. Instead I stuff my face.
They have already become indoctrinated by the inertia of old age. It’s this preconceived notion of what it means to be old. And yet when I look at them, I see them as I saw them when I was a little girl. As they move around, a little bit slower though, they are like the caterpillar making the cocoon and transformed to the butterfly. What they do and what they make shines with the colours of abundance.
The garden is blooming with summer, autumn produce of avocados, chestnuts, figs, grapes, walnuts, olives and chillies. There is food galore, a paradise of flavours waiting for the lunch-time table.
On another table laden with chestnuts, dad had removed the prickly shell. His metal gloves are used for this work and also picking the prickly pears. On this day Peppa lit the wood fired oven to roast the chestnuts, all 20 odd kilograms, so they are ready to eat. I take photos as she works.
As time passes the thought to prepare some thing for lunch, removing the hot coals from the oven into the drum on one wheel, purposefully built for discarded hot coals from the wood fired oven, with a grate over the top becomes a second cooking vessel and picked peppers sandwiched into the grill, sizzle explosively and the juices ooze out of the browning skin, turned over to cook on the other side. Soon the metal trays also hold the eggplant and a salad of smoked peppers and eggplant is prepared, drizzled with oil, garlic and oregano, ready for lunch.