In Australia, Sunday, 9th May is Mother's Day.
No matter how many times my brother and I tried to pull the wool over our mother’s eyes...and those of our grandmother...we failed miserably every time!
As I’ve written previously, my brother and I were raised by two persuasive women, with no father on the scene. Both women were always a step or two, sometimes many more, ahead of us, proving they were smarter than we were.
It took my brother and me a long while to come to the realisation both ladies were cleverer, more street, and home-smart than we were. However, until the light bulb moment hit each of us, Graham and I kept pushing their buttons, just in case we had the fun, good fortune of striking it lucky. One should never give up hope must have been our mantra. Our endless, fruitless efforts caused both Mum and Nana much amusement, I imagine.
It’s been 47 years since I said farewell to my mother, who passed away too soon at the age of 54. 45 years have passed since I bid a sad “Goodbye” to my grandmother who was 81 years of age. The verbal farewells may have been uttered many years ago, but not a day...barely an hour...goes by I don’t think of my mother and my Nana. Myriad memories remain – the good, the bad; the happy, the sad.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche succinctly summed up family relationships when he said: “Family love is messy, clinging, and of an annoying repetitive pattern, like bad wallpaper”.
No family is perfect. Harsh words can be exchanged; misunderstandings occur. Paraphrasing, our Nana very often told us to...”Never let the sun go down on your anger”....
Often Mum was an easy target because, like the many fish she caught, frequently, she took the bait. In the games, my brother was the angler, the prime, innocuous antagonist. He learned his fishing skills from Mum, and enjoyed stirring the waters. Upon the realisation she’d been wound up, or in, our mother would give a huff and a puff, toss her auburn hair with a haughty flick, as her blue eyes twinkled, and a smile eventually teasing at the corner of her mouth. Project successful!
I never tired of going through my mother’s jewellery box. It was a wooden, approximately 30cm square, with sliding top, Red Cross first aid box...of 1940’s vintage. To me the box was filled with mystery and glamour.
My mother’s jewellery wasn’t of the expensive kind, matching that of royalty, but it was an intriguing, beautiful assortment of costume jewellery. The bright, colourful array of earrings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, etc...captured my childish imagination and interest. I was forever fascinated by the box’s contents.
Mum and Nana instilled in my brother and me, both from early ages forward, the love of reading, and of books. They also introduced us to the wonderful world of music...in all its forms, from classical through to modern; to appreciate singers...from opera through to pop, ballads and the like; and all forms of dance; they taught us the appreciation of art, and, of course, films.
They encouraged our interests in many varied aspects of life.
Nana, in particular, was also a wonderful story-teller. Her tales never failed to hold the attention of my brother and me. We could never get our fill of her wealth of stories, all of which, no matter often repeated, we listened to in awe.
Nana and Mum scolded us when we erred in our ways, but they never struck us. The threat was often threatened, but never carried through. The verbal warning was enough for us to pull our heads in.
So many memories...memories I shall treasure more than the treasures in the jewellery box as long as I’m on this mortal coil.
Happy Mother’s Day! Hold your loved ones close. Make memories; cherish those memories in your heart forever more. Have a sleep-in, Mum! Allow someone else prepare a leisurely Mum’s Day brunch for you. After an enjoyable brunch, sit back, and allow them to clean up the mess!
Bacon-Sausage Casserole: Slice 1x60cm day or so old baguette into 2cm thick slices; place in a baking dish. Whisk 7 eggs and 1.5c milk together. Pour 2/3 of the egg mixture over bread. Turn the bread to make sure both sides of every piece is soaked in egg mixture. Set aside to soak while you cook 300g roughly-chopped bacon and 500g sausages, removed from their cases (either quality beef or pork). Heat skillet over high heat; add bacon; cook until very lightly cooked; remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off excess fat from pan; add sausage meat; cook, breaking it up as you go, until lightly browned. Remove from skillet; drain on paper towels. Cook 300g potatoes, diced into 1.2cm cubes in water for 2 mins). Preheat oven 180C. Have 1c grated tasty cheddar on hand. Heat skillet over high heat; add bacon. By now, most of the egg mixture should be soaked up by the bread. Stand the bread upright in the baking dish. Distribute half the potato between the bread, then top with half the sausage, half the bacon and half the cheese. Repeat with remaining potato, sausage, bacon and cheese (finish with cheese). Pour remaining egg mixture over everything. Cover loosely with foil; bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and drizzle 1tbs melted butter over the bread. Bake for a further 10 minutes until the bread is golden.
Asparagus-Brie Puffs with Thyme Honey: Preheat oven 190C. Line baking tray. Toss 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed in 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. On floured surface roll out 2 thawed sheets of puff pastry; cut into 8 squares. Cut 240g brie into 8 pieces; place a piece on each square; add asparagus spears to each square. Take 2 corners of pastry; wrap up and over filling. Transfer to baking tray. Brush each pastry with beaten egg; bake 20-25mins, or until golden. In small saucepan, over low heat, melt 1/4c honey, 2tsp butter and 1tbs fresh thyme leaves. Serve pastries warm, drizzled with thyme honey.
Mum’s Crust-less Quiche Lorraine: In 8-inch oven-proof non-stick pan, heat 1tsp x-virgin olive oil on med-heat. Add 3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped and 1thinly-sliced shallot; cook 6mins. Whisk 6 large eggs, 1/4c milk, salt and pepper; stir in 1c shredded Gruyère cheese; add to pan; cook 3mins, stirring occasionally to form curds, and allow runny egg to flow to bottom of pan. Bake at 190C for 8mins, or until top is set. Serve with green salad.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes: Whisk together 1-1/2c plain flour, 2tsp baking powder, 1/2tsp bicarb soda, 1/2tsp salt and 1/4c sugar. In another bowl, whisk 3/4c milk, 1c ricotta, 3 large eggs, 1tsp vanilla, zest from 1 lemon and 1/4c fresh lemon juice. Combine wet and dry ingredients; mix until just combined, leaving it a bit lumpy. Coat pan with butter, or spray. Pour 1/3c of batter for each pancake; cook 2-3mins per side. Serve with maple syrup, berries, lemon slices, or dotted with butter.