I grew up in a family that loves food.
We weren’t ‘foodies’ by any stretch of the imagination, but we always had fresh, home-cooked, handmade, delicious food on our table. My Dad has long been recognised as being the world’s biggest sweet tooth: this man could eat Willy Wonka under the table where confectionary is concerned. My Mum is one of those gorgeous European women who only uses real butter, believes in the power of the potato, and makes the best scones – ever (even according to my farm-raised father).
My sister and I had a childhood filled with happy food memories. We always had homemade birthday cakes; poor Mum has been asked to do many things including, but not limited to, butterflies, witches, and The Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz (that one was mine!). Treats tucked into lunchboxes were made in our family kitchen, and to this day there is nothing better than my Mum’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies (I’ve adapted it so I can eat it too…) or my Dad’s recipe for melting moments (this one is a gluten free work in progress).
We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always ate well. Vegetables every night for dinner, carrot sticks and fruit for snacks, and no sugary breakfast cereals. Going out for dinner was a treat, and my sister and I would get all dolled-up when Mum and Dad took us to the local KFC or Pizza Hut for dinner ‘out’. It might seem funny to other people that we considered these restaurants an occasion to dress for, but when I was a little girl I knew that those were splurges for our family, and so proper attention and care should be paid.
This is a lesson that I have carried through my life. When I go out to dinner, I enjoy the ritual of planning a proper outfit, putting on make-up and perfume, and showing respect for the time I get to spend with my dining companion/s.
I was a chubby child. Once I hit about eight my height didn’t quite keep up with my weight and so I grew into what I call a ‘pleasingly plump’ child: pure genetics at this point. Until I hit about fourteen it didn’t really bother me overly much. I just accepted that I was larger than my (still) fairy-sized sister, and that all the kids at my school came in different shapes, colours, and sizes. Although there were some at school who would tease me, I was okay. I spent many of my lunchtimes buried in a book anyway. The characters went on adventures where no one cared what brand of clothes I wore, or that I couldn’t play sport, or that I was the child known as ‘teacher’s pet’. King Arthur, the knights at his round table, and I went swashbuckling across England to defend Camelot; Tamora Pierce’s characters showed me worlds unknown; Terry Deary entranced me into non-fiction wonder with Horrible Histories; and, Amy, Jo, Meg, and Beth were female role models when I was looking at what sort of lady my parents would want me to be.
I digress. Up until early high school food was just something yummy. Something I didn’t give much thought to except that I was okay with eating Vegemite sandwiches for lunch everyday, that I liked red apples not green ones, and that I was the chocolate flavoured anything and Jess was caramel.
Food was family meal times, and love packed in a lunch box.