Memories Bring Back You

Nostalgia has been my companion these past couple of days. I’m so excited because my Goddaughter Katherine Lynne from New Zealand is coming for a visit. Her mother, Jean, was one of my best friends and sadly passed away in 2011. I wrote about her in Thinking About Jean.

We had lots of dinner parties back in the day – tons of people and tons of food. Many of my memories are of times spent around a big table, groaning with amazing food.

I’ve singled out some people here because they influenced my cooking style, and my love of particular food. Some will likely be surprised that they had such an impact on me, though they shouldn’t be!

When I think about the dinners and the parties, I think about everyone AT the table too. With much love and affection, and miss-age. Such times! Trevor, Callie, Kimmie, Nigel, Bas, Donna, Kerry, Tim, Lyn, Danny, H and Gabe, Jim & Vicki, Gary and Vicki…we did a lot of eating!

When I cook Thai food [at least once a week] I think of my dear friend Greg Johnson and the sensational Tom Yum at our favorite little Thai Restaurant – staggering distance from his house on Vine Street where we had so many amazing dinners and barbecues. Greg is a fellow foodie, a great cook, and one of the handful of people I’m happy to share a kitchen with.

Most people think “Maxine” or “Words” when they hear Sharon O’Neil’s name. But for me, every time I make Tomato Sauce from scratch I think of Sharon and Alan Mansfield in their Sydney home. Alan’s Italian heritage comes through in his insanely good pasta sauce.

I cooked poached eggs most mornings when I had my B&B, and I always think of Mrs Morris – another foodie that I love cooking with. Sheryl and I dreamed of starting a little beachside cafe called The Fork’n Spoon. Secretly, it’s still a dream…

Rocket (arugula) salad is my favorite, and every time I make it I HEAR Cindy Mitchener. Her “Bible” at the time was “The Australian Womens Weekly Dinner Party Cookbook” (Volume 1) which I still use. Many recipes in that book I know by heart.

Chrissie Lahood is with me WHATEVER I cook, or bake. We can share a kitchen any day – any time. She taught me how to make choux pastry. She was “Cookbook Girl”: there are still dishes she turned me onto which I still make. Chrissie is the founder and owner of the highly successful Big Fig in Wanaka and Queenstown.

Lindy Robinson is an amazing cook and she and Steve were fabulous hosts – they threw FEASTS, not dinner parties. My love of Indian food and serving “family style” traces back to that time. I love this wedding picture of them (they haven’t changed a bit)

Gnocchi and Chutney. (I can hear her hooting with laughter). Sue is the only person I know with more condiments in her fridge than me. When she told me she’d learnt to make gnocchi, I did too! Sue is a wonderful, eclectic and adventurous cook – eating Chez Alexander is always a treat.

Risotto reminds me of Vicki my aunt/big sister in England. She makes a fabulous smoked fish risotto. I think of Sarah Oxley too -another great cook . I watched her making it (in Herne Bay I think) and it was the first time I’d ever tried it – so good!

In Dublin our gang got together at least once a week. We’d take turns hosting, but the most frequent venue was Shay and DeeDee Healy’s place. You’d never know what famous musician or celebrity you’d be rubbing shoulders with [or listening to]. My beautiful and insanely talented friend Kara is an amazing hostess and cook. Her “productions” & “presentations” are literally, THE Best.

My friends: thank you for the nights and the all-nighters. Thanks for the great food and the great company. Thanks for the music, the sing-a-longs and the jam sessions. Thank you for your friendship and the memories.

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