By Bec H
For many, ‘living in the country’ sounds romantic, even idyllic. Having done it now, full-time, for just over 3 years, I can say that for the most part it actually is. But there are some things you need to know … in case you’re contemplating a sea or tree change … I’m afraid you need to hear the hard truths. Some things don’t change even though you leave the city and move to the wide open spaces of rural Australia:
- You still need to clean your house (in some cases more often, with the dust or the mud, the myriad insects and animals)
- You still need to do the grocery shopping (and in the country this often involves a longer car trip, and frustration at not being able to get all the ingredients on your shopping list for the curry you’re going to make, for example, galangal. This is so hard to get, I’ve decided to try and grow it myself. Anything that says ‘available from specialist / asian / indian grocery stores’.. forget it).
- You still need to cook (damn it).
It’s only been in the last few years I have come to terms with the fact that i don’t enjoy cooking. I can even say it out loud now, confidently. In an era where the Celebrity Chefs and MasterChef rule, cooking is de rigueur and I used to feel a sense of pressure to channel Nigella Lawson in our kitchen. But I just don’t like it. And besides I’m only a B cup.
Hubs spends a fair bit of time away for work and on those nights when I’m on my own, I find it a particular struggle to muster the energy to produce a meal. When Hubs is home, he does most of the cooking and wow can he make a beautiful meal. Thank goodness, for both of us. On my own though, I figure, why spend an hour chopping, frying, blending, slicing and baking when you can simply reach for a box of cereal?
A rather memorable low-point which illustrates my inability to cook a decent meal when flying solo was when I was still in Sydney. Living near the city, working in North Sydney. I’d worked late, got home to an empty apartment, too exhausted to even open a recipe book or pick up my phone to dial the local Thai take-away. So instead I slapped some cheese on a wooden cutting board, opened up a packet of crackers and poured myself a big glass of red. Slothing on the couch, I ate an ENTIRE WHEEL of white castello cheese and drank too much red wine. The next day I felt sick.
As part of our renovations last year, we put in a new kitchen and it is beautiful, although possibly a little wasted on someone who doesn’t love cooking. Had ‘a chef’ been an optional extra with the kitchen I think I would have said, let’s hang the expense and get one. Unfortunately it wasn’t listed on the kitchen specifications checklist so I’ve had to learn to use the oven and stove top.
Over Christmas and New Year when we had a full house of guests for a few weeks in a row, I adopted a deliberate strategy of out-sourcing the cooking to visitors in order to cope with the crowds. Why stress yourself out over a meal when you’ve got willing and able guests at hand? I give them a recipe book and show them the fridge and the pantry and then leave them to it. I can highly recommend it as a way of entertaining. In fact we’ve just had two lots of guests stay with us over the Easter holidays and we’ve eaten like Kings. And all I had to do was top up the wine glasses.
When you watch someone who loves to cook, it’s like watching art being created. I have a particular friend who comes to stay and she oozes happiness in the kitchen. She chats as she chops and slices as she laughs. She is relaxed and full of joy as she lovingly cooks us a meal. I, on the other hand, would be running around like a stressed-out chook. I’m much happier sitting at the kitchen bench chatting with the cook. Give me a job, I’m happy cutting up the carrots, but not so at ease orchestrating the whole business.
Of course, I have come to realise that there is good reason to prepare a healthy meal even when it’s just for myself, and so now I try to make an effort. Here’s one of my recent ‘dinner’s for one’ that you might like to try this week if you’re stuck for ideas. It was quick, easy and required little thinking, which after a long day when you’re exhausted is welcome.
I picked a bunch of basil leaves from the veggie patch, shoved them into my little food processor and added the other pesto ingredients (see below). I cooked enough angel hair pasta for me, then put 3 big spoonfuls of the pesto on top, drizzled on more olive oil, shaved some parmesan cheese, ground some pepper, and hey pesto! there it was, a healthy (although carby) dinner, which sure beat 300g of white castello cheese sitting in my stomach.
Basil Pesto Recipe
1 cup of basil leaves (squash them into the cup so it’s nice and full)
2 cloves of garlic (just take the papery skin off)
125g parmesan cheese (cut into chunky pieces)
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in your blender and whizz until they look like the picture below.
(I’m afraid I can’t credit the author of the recipe as it’s scrawled in my recipe notebook).