Labourer's Hands - Part 2


Labourer's Hands - Part 2
by Temporary Bride



Our humble family ceremonies  - eating salamis hung in the woodshed by my father, roasting slabs of bacon on sticks over the coals of the fireplace, cooking goulash in summer in rusty pot hung from a chain became distant memory and I pined for the times when we’d sit, my mother, father, sister and me on cheap folding chairs in the garden, my father’s gypsy music on the portable cassette player, my mother’s chickens scratching for worms on the lawn and saying little, we weren’t an emotional family, we ate, complimented the meal, the warm evening, the good fortune of owning land and the property around us.

I took my revenge by leaving home as early as possible, at 16. I was desperate to taste life outside of our industrial, Ontario city dominated by the smokestacks of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors and my parents - at this stage used to my Machiavellian tendencies - figured that I knew what I was doing. Financed by my father and mother and fueled by my own sheer nerve, I enrolled myself in a Swiss boarding school and eventually, feeling too old for its rules and restrictions, into a tiny, private school in Dublin. I took a cheap apartment in a Georgian terrace on the south side of the city, overlooking Dublin Bay, and there I found the love of my life; I began to teach myself to cook.

As a 17 year old away from her parents, living alone, going to a school full of O'Connells and Donnellys, I was an anomaly, probably even illegal -  but thanks to a headmaster greedy for my school fees we pretended not to notice. I studied Joyce, Yeats, calculus and German against a backdrop of whispered theories about my orphaned exile and I compensated any loneliness by attempting meals from my first cookbook. It was a hardcover edition called ‘Foods of the World’ that I’d pulled from a £3 bargain bin during a trip to London. I became engrossed in its descriptions of foods I’d never heard of or tasted: Iraqi Polo, Szechuan Hot-Pot, fish roasted in banana leaves. In my primitive kitchen with its scratched linoleum floor and two ring stove, I made Irish approximations using whatever ingredients I could find. I shelled prawns and boiled rice, chopped parsley and aubergines. I became fond of pasta with garlic, chili and oil and Moroccan lamb and chickpea stew. By the end of the school year I'd both established my culinary foothold and lost my virginity; the latter with one of my classmates, made possible by a visit to the ‘Well Woman clinic’ and its doctor who weighed me and shoved me back into the street with a paper bag of illegal (in Ireland) birth control pills.


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