Stories of Christmases passed and a wish for the future
For me, family is everything, and it always has been. My favourite family memories revolve around food, and I think that’s where my culinary passions come from too.
When I was a little girl, I used to love our family trips to Pizza Hut. We’d have the all you can eat buffet and even to this day, I remember what drinks we would order. Crafts of wine were very cool back in the late 80s and early 90s and mum would order one of those. My brother would always get either creaming soda or Fanta – and dad would order a coke – with no ice. He always said the postmix drinks were watery to start with, made even worse with ice added. That, and he believed it was a rip off to get a glass full of ice, and very little drink. He’d flip if the waiter made a mistake and would send his glass back promptly to be rectified.
As for me – I was at totally opposite ends of the scale. As strange as it may be, I adored ice. I also fancied Tom Cruise and would order a glass of ice water every time we went out for our special dinner at Pizza Hut. That’s what Maverick ordered in one of the last scenes of Top Gun. I don’t know what it was about that movie, but I was instantly fascinated by it when my dad sprinted down to the family room one evening when I was about seven years old to crank the TV up as loud as it would go, and the theme song for this movie came billowing out. My dad would never do such things normally – but he loved this movie and ever since I saw his passion for it – I have watched it more times than I care to remember. I’ve even got the soundtrack on my iPod – I love listening to it on long trips – very loud. Just like dad used to.
When it comes down to it – even at a young age, I knew Pizza Hut wasn’t all that fancy – but I loved how we all put on our best clothes and headed out, as a family.
As I got older, and we started to grow up into young teenagers – my mum and dad would take us out to work with them. They worked for different companies which sold products in large supermarkets. We lived in Darwin and almost every Saturday morning mum would get us up out of bed and take us to work with her to fill up the snack food aisles of the local shops. I have to admit, I didn’t love the early mornings – but what I did love was coming home and cooking breakfast for all four of us on a barbecue my dad made. We’d have eggs, bacon, tomatoes, mushroom, onions – the works!
Christmas was a hugely busy time for mum and dad and so they worked even longer hours to ensure the stores were stocked and looking perfect – ready for all the families to buy their snacks for Christmas and New Year. We worked alongside them – and always on Christmas Eve. One year our whole family of four were stacking shelves as the hours got later and later on the night before Christmas. My brother still tells the story about how our parents got told by the store manager to take us home.
Despite the long hours of working – mum and I would sit in the pool together and she would pour me a tiny port glass of Baillies, coupled with a single ice cube – and we’d watch Christmas carols on the tiny TV perched on the fridge in the patio. My brother would splash around the pool like a lunatic while mum and I talked about the year gone and the year ahead.
My brother and I continued to grow up and with mum and dad still working long hours, Dave had his chores, like feeding the cat and cleaning the outside areas – and I would cook. Every night, almost without fail, we would sit outside, together as a family, and we would eat whatever weird dish I had come up with. I also loved to cook Christmas lunch. I’m only 28 years old and I estimate that I have either single-handedly, or with some help, made at least 15 Christmas lunches in my time. It was the grandest meal of the year with every roast meat, seafood, salad, roast vegetable you could imagine. My dad absolutely loved this seafood sauce my mum used to make. So, I mastered it, getting the delicate balance of cream, tomato, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces just right – and never forgetting the salt and pepper. As I made it, mum and dad would come and sit at the breakfast bar ready to sample the famous sauce and tell me what alterations were needed, if any. I always felt so proud when I was told it was just right. In fact, I’ll be making it again today. It’s just not Christmas without the seafood sauce!
Finally, mum and dad parted ways, and Christmases just weren’t the same. They became complicated and my brother and I always felt guilty that one parent would always miss out on having us at their Christmas table. It was heartbreaking for us all.
However, years passed and mum and dad got to a point where we could enjoy Christmas as a family again. More than a decade on, they are friends and my dad is even my mum’s landlord. Talk about complicated – but it works!
However, despite everything, these three wonderful people have always been there for me. Yes, sometimes we say mean things, sometimes we do things we regret – but at the end of the day – we are family.
Over the last two years, many things have changed. My dad and my brother have a new business, an amazing business – and I am so incredibly proud of what they are achieving, My mum is very much a part of this business – working there every weekend, and sometimes more often. However, as selfish as this is going to sound, I have been struggling with the fact that food no longer brings us together like it used to. There were no family dinners as the shop needs constant attention. I was feeling jealous, lost and sad, to say the least.
So, I thought, family tea has to make a comeback – and so it will. And, it did. I made a lovely apricot chicken tagine – and took it to the shop. Not everyone was able to make it on the first occasion, but I’m determined to make this a fortnightly occurrence.
I’m also super excited that we will all come together for Christmas lunch at my brother’s house this year. Christmas Day is one of two days when the shop is closed – and I’m bursting with excitement about spending it with the people I love. It’s also so wonderful to be accepted into the home of my finacee’s family as well. I feel like I have more family then I ever have before – especially seeing as Matt and I will be visiting my extended family in Adelaide between Christmas and new year. That includes my 86-year-old nanna, as well as uncles and aunties. Can’t wait!
My wish for Christmas is that people stop and have a think about the things that are important in life. Christmas shouldn’t be about running around like a mad person buying presents, or holding a grudge about issues that have passed. It’s about spending time with the people you love – whether that be your friends, your family – whoever. Surround yourself with the people you love because while we spend our lives working our knuckles to the bone – we need to remember that without the people close to us – it doesn’t really mean anything at all.
You only get one shot at life – make sure you take the time to tell the people who you love how you feel about them. Give them the most important and precious gift you can this festive season – your time. And, don’t pick a fight on Christmas day over something trivial. Remember the important things, and let the negative wash over you.
Merry Christmas everyone. May you and your family enjoy fabulous food, plenty of happy moments and look forward to a safe and happy new year. Nothing makes me happier to have my family and Matt’s family by my side this Christmas.
Finally dad – although this isn’t a Christmas Carol – this song always makes me think of you. Hope you enjoy it 🙂
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