I belong to a wonderful womens group which does a major project each year. This year we’re working with local fibre artist Ann McMahon, who asked us to bring along to our last session a piece of writing and a container that were meaningful to us.
I took one of my woks (a 12″ flat bottomed one) and this extract from Marion Halligan’s book Eat my Words:
Children like being around adults who are busy with their hands, because they know their minds are available whenever they want them. Mine would sit at the kitchen table drawing or colouring in, or make train tracks down the hall, or build Lego castles, or do their homework, while I made gateaux of pancakes with two different fillings and a sauce, or stuffed frozen orange shells with sorbet, or boned chickens to make galantines, and we were all busy and contented. They made desultory conversation, but didn’t always bother; the companionship was enough. Whereas if I’d sat down to read a book or write a novel they’d have been clamouring to talk to me because they’d have known my mind was somewhere else.
I look back on the days of my complicated culinary activities as a kind of golden age because it was nice practising these skills with my children about me. Happy families, with comfortable aproned mother pottering around in the kitchen, as children’s books these days aren’t supposed to show lest they reinforce stereotypes.
We were supposed to talk about why it was meaningful to us. I cried a little bit, but kept on talking.