I used to be a really good cook!
My family heard this comment and promptly burst into raucous laughter!
“You were never a good cook, Gaye! You made a great mince dish, but that was it!”
I beg to differ. I used to make a mean spinach soup, and my casseroles were renowned! I certainly wasn’t Cordon Bleu, but I used to cook rather tasty meals. After my accident, that changed. Suddenly finding my right hand side incapacitated, I was in a real bind. Over the years my left hand became my right, but working with one and a bit hands limits you somewhat! I do use my right hand, but it is now incredibly clumsy. I will often turn to find this hand hovering blithely in the region of my ear. It has gone ‘walk about’ and has happily drifted upwards.
“Oy, you!” I remonstrate getting my hand down and shoving it into a pocket. Now I only wear clothes with pockets. Pockets are life savers or I should say: hand holders!
Twenty months after my fall, I turned thirty. Shirley Johnston, an acting friend of mine and her husband, Dave, decided that they would give me my thirtieth birthday party. I stayed with Shirley and Dave that weekend. I was going to help with the catering by making two lemon meringue pies. I was a great lemon meringue pie maker. Or rather, I used to be!
I bought two rolls of digestive biscuits which I emptied into a packet. I left that on the counter, while I went to double check the recipe. I needed to crush the biscuits until they were mere crumbs. Then empty them into a bowl and mix with melted butter. Yes, I remembered how to do this. I picked up the packet, made sure it was tightly shut and then swung it axe-like over my shoulder. Directing it onto the counter as hard as I could I ‘heard’ all the biscuits give out their rasps as they cracked into pieces. Shirley swung around from her lasagna making.
“Gaynor, what are you doing?”
I laughed at her bewildered countenance.
“This is the way I crush all the biscuits,” I said laughing at her expression. CRASH! Down came the bag once more.
“But, Gaye, are you sure that…”
CRASH! “I’ve never had one of those biscuit crushers. I actually have always preferred doing it this way.”
“Gaye, it doesn’t sound like….”
“I love doing this! You’ll see, Shirl, it works as well as a biscuit crusher and is much more fun.”
“But, Gaynor, are you sure that…”
CRASH! CRASH! CRASH!
“One more and the biscuits should be fine crumbs.”
“Whew, it’s exhausting. Okay, now look, Shirley,” I bent to open the packet, “the biscuits are all…”
I looked in the packet to see two dozen eggs dripping in a mangled mass. I had picked up the wrong packet. All my eggs were completely destroyed. The digestive biscuits grinned safely at me from their perch on the counter.
There was a muffled sound behind me. I turned to see Shirley doubled over clutching her stomach, tears of laughter sprang from her eyes.
“I…I tried to tell you…,” she spluttered.
It wasn’t only my hand that caused me problems with my cooking . My hearing and downright carelessness contributed to the condition. We had to buy another dozen eggs!!!
In spite of my Lemon Meringue calamity, that thirtieth birthday party was one of the happiest days I can remember!
But, oh, my cooking!!!
I love holding lunches or even more special, dinner parties. Woolworths is both a clothing and a food store. They sell magnificent soups. Butternut is my favourite. I often invite people round to lunch and the butternut soup, with cream and rolls appear regularly. When I was living in Durban, I invited my cousin and her husband round to lunch on the weekend .
“Great, Gaynor, I would love to come. Let me see if Jonathan is free. Darling,” she shouted, “are you free to pop around to Gaynor’s for butternut soup on Saturday?”
“How did you know I was serving butternut soup?” I asked astonished.
“Well…well, you always do!”
Uh, uh…I needed to change my cuisine, I thought.
I moved to George and became firm friends with B. B loves cooking. Whenever she invites friends around to dinner, my questions the next day is: “How was dinner?”
She then regales me in detail about every dish. When I had a dinner party and invited her, it definitely could not be – butternut soup!!!
I logged onto the internet and discovered this delicious looking recipe. And it appeared relatively easy. With my one and a bit hands, I thought that I just might be able to make a super deluxe meal! It was called: Chicken Parmigiana. I was sure to be able to create this marvellous looking dish. I invited B, my special friend, Jans and my golf teacher, Val Holland for Thursday night dinner. I had a golf lesson on Friday. Glory, a lot was riding on this recipe, I thought.
I looked at the ingredients:
2 large chicken breasts sliced through the middle and flattened.
2 beaten eggs
75g grated parmesan
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
half a 690ml jar Passata
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
half a 125g ball light mozzarella, torn
Okay, so I needed to double the recipe. I went to Red Barn Chicken Farm to buy my chicken. Their chicken is free range. I always feel easier eating those chickens. I picked six beautiful chicken breasts. After all, somebody might want seconds, I thought, grinning to myself. I then headed for the supermarket where I filled my basket with all the other interesting ingredients. I got home and placed everything on the counter. Okay, now to bash the breasts, I thought shuddering at the thought.
I got two pieces of cling film and put a chicken breast protectively in between. Then I looked for something hard with which to bash. I wished I had a rolling pin! My eyes fell on an antique wooden shoe mould that I had on my table in the lounge. It had a wonderful steel bottom. That would be perfect! So, apron on – all cooks wear aprons! – shoe mould in hand, I began to beat the hell out of the chicken breast. I was extremely disciplined in that I used my right non-working hand. This would give it some much needed exercise, I thought. When the breast was suitably bashed, thin and floppy, I removed it from the cling film. I then dipped it in beaten egg, rolled it in breadcrumbs, Parmesan and put it in the fridge. I got to work on the next. By the time I was on my fourth breast, I was exhausted. Breast bashing was no easy matter! I caved in and did the last two with my left hand! They joined their peers in the fridge. I looked at the six flattened, bashed in, bread and parmesan coated breasts.
“I’m really sorry I had to do that to you,” I muttered apologetically as I popped them into the hot oven, “but…well, the recipe called for it.”
Now for the sauce, I thought.
I heated the oil and then I added my crushed cloves of garlic. I sniffed appreciatively. I am mad about garlic. It’s just as well I am single, I thought. My partner would have to put up with a garlic reeking person at night. I thought with a smile of Perdita, my dog, and Spencer, the cockatiel who share a room with me. Tough luck, Chaps!
I added the Passata, oregano and sugar. Then I seasoned. I knew that Jans was not a great one for seasoning so I held back on the seasoning front. The rest of the dish went exactly according to plan. I poured the sauce over the cooked chicken, tossed on the torn mozzarella and browned the dish under the grill.
I had bought a salad from Woolworths, as well as their extremely more-ish cheese cake.
B is a superb cook and her opinion meant so much to me. She was simply blown away by my main course. Since then, that main course has featured at a luncheon for ten in Sheringham, England. It also proved to be just as successful for eight of my friends in our little cottage in the Cotswolds.
I am now not a fast mover in the kitchen. It took me ages to make the Chicken Parmigiana. It would have been far easier to heat up and serve Woolworths butternut soup. But I have realised something. By spending time and care on preparing a meal for people, I am actually saying: I care for all of you. This meal showed how much I care for you, my special Jans with the rainbow eyes. It showed how much I care for you, Val, my generous golf instructor and friend. And it showed how much I care for you, B, my soulmate!