Labourer's Hands - Part 3


Labourer's Hands - Part 3
by Temporary Bride

When I returned to Canada at the end of the year my mother - who had imagined that I’d subsisted on spaghetti and tuna fish - was shocked to see that I’d gained two kilos onto my tall, skinny figure. Instead of being shunted from the kitchen I now took a rightful place beside her forming a partnership as tender and sturdy as the fingerprints we pressed into the chestnut flour dumplings that we scattered on soft tea towels. She taught me my favourite childhood recipes - crisp, pencil-thin schnitzel, fat egg noodles with blackened fried onions, a savoury summer concoction that as children we'd dubbed 'bean mush' thanks to my father's penchant for long-simmering vegetables - and in return I taught her gazpacho, seared tuna and spinach with chilies and mustard seeds.

Through our collaboration we both remedied our ill-defined mother-daughterhood and declared culinary war on my father (he was thrown steaks almost nightly that summer before I left again for university). Sometimes, perhaps regretful that I had once been chased away from the space I now inhabited with such confidence, my mother would smile wistfully and touch my cheek with her floury, sweet-smelling hands. In between visits we spoke on the phone almost daily and our first question to each other was always the same: “What are you having for dinner tonight?”

Throughout university in Montreal I continued to cook, discovering markets, fishmongers, and the fascinating, musty shops of Chinatown. Braving the long six month winters and regular -35 (without a windchill) temperatures, I trudged through the snow to buy still-warm baguettes and shop for ‘fromage speciale’ which was defiantly unpasteurised by rogue Quebecois farmers. My surrogate kitchen parents: Alice Waters, Hugh Carpenter, and Biba Caggiano nudged me into the culinary wilderness of fresh fish, fennel, mussels and coriander and in between lectures I made Shanghai noodles with black beans and clams, mesclun greens with toasted goat’s cheese and fresh ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and mustard fruits.

Moving to Britain was sudden and unexpected. I’d been out walking my dog when he asked me for directions. He was from New Zealand, in town for a conference. We had a cup of coffee that lasted three days. Four months later we were on a plane to Glasgow with work visas stamped in our passports. It was rash and spontaneous and my parents were furious. They hadn’t immigrated to the New World, they insisted, only for their children to turn and go back to the old one. But I was young and romantic and believed in the promises of life, and the rewards for taking a chance. My romance fizzled, but I stayed on, landing my first real job, in the IT department of a large investment bank in London.


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by Flying Solo on

Mouth watering and so wholesome.  


Facinating background

by Monda on

I'll patiently wait to read on. Thank you for sharing.  Any inclincation to share your favorite recipes?  So far we have Waters in common and your empathy for Vahid :o)