Wednesday, 13 May 2015

on food & friendship

I started writing this blog post many months ago, in the Winter of 2014. When I was sorting through my draft posts, I found this one, and I think the only reason I hadn't hit 'publish' was because I didn't have any photos to accompany the post. For the most part, you could read this and have no idea I wrote it over six months ago, except for the paragraph where I talk about Ruby and our morning routine involving clementines. Six months on, and clementines are no longer in season. Instead, our breakfast routine involves porridge for Ruby as soon was we come downstairs, followed by toast and coffee (for the adults only, of course). I wanted to leave that paragraph as part of the original post, as a little glimpse back to what our mornings used to look like. 

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I have this memory from nine years ago while I was at university, of sitting against our rugged, well-worn sofa, reading Tessa Kiros' recipe book, Apples for Jam. I had stumbled across Tessa Kiros as a result of doing a Google search for lemon bars. After baking these incredibly delicious citrus treats, I promptly bought Apples for Jam. If the lemon bars were anything to go by, I wanted to bake every single recipe in this book. I had very little money in those days, and buying a brand new recipe book felt slightly frivilous, but I am so glad I did, for so many reasons.

As I sat against my well-worn sofa in the student flat that I shared with three friends, I read through my brand new recipe book, and revelled in the discovery that Apples for Jam was so much more than a recipe book. It was filled with stories from Tessa Kiros' own childhood, and the stories of foods that she made for her own daughters, that were shaping their memories of childhood. I loved the way this book was so much more than just recipes. I felt a great excitement at the prospect of baking food and making memories for my friends, and hopefully a family of my own one day.
It was around this time that I realised how much I loved just doing life together with friends, eating together and sharing the simple stories that shape our lives. At university, I found a friend who loved to share the details in retelling the stories of our days as much as I did. She and I could talk for ten hours without a need for silence, just telling stories back and forth, sharing the beauty and humour in our lives together as we baked and cooked and ate together. I realised just how life-giving those friendships are, and how important it is to share life with others who understand us.

Nine years later, and I am curled up under a quilt, reading my brand new copy of The Kinfolk Table, while my husband and daughter read together. As I read the stories of sharing food together with family and friends, of building beautiful traditions out of the simplicity and love for good food, I get that same feeling that I had when I read Apples for Jam for the first time, and I realise how my love for making and enjoying food with friends has very much remained the same, through all of the changes in my life over the last nine years.

It makes my heart incredibly happy to be in that place that I dreamed of all those years ago - of having a family of my own to enjoy food with. I love that our daughter is at the stage where she is discovering so many new foods and flavours. This Winter, a simple morning routine has evolved around our mutual love for clementines. We make our way downstairs in our pyjamas, slightly bleary eyed depending on how eventful the night has been, and I sit Ruby on the working surface between the Kenwood Chef and the fruit bowl. As soon as she spots the mountain of clementines, she kicks her feet with excitement, picks one up and starts chewing on the peel, while I prepare one for us to share. There's nothing quite like the smell of clementines to make me think of Christmas and to bring refreshment to my slightly sleep deprived brain.

When I think about what our lives might look like in the years to come, I have this hope and a dream that hospitality will always play a big part. Everybody needs to eat every day, and sharing food together has this beautiful way of building community and expressing love for people. I recently heard a woman describe her childhood memory of her mother's kitchen. She said, quite simply, 'my mother showed she loved us with food. There were constant offerings of the things we loved to eat.' I hope that my children feel the same way, and that there will always be room for one more at our table.

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