This is becoming my favourite spot to sit and write: at my dining room table, listening to music, while the meal we will have later is cooking away in the kitchen to my left. No irises on the table tonight: but a row of eight curvy, silvery candlesticks, each with two white shabbat candles casting a low glow onto the table and where I type here. The music that I am listening to is a favourite Saturday night program on the radio: how retro to listen to the radio I think sometimes. To retro music: American songbook jazz, featuring different artists every week: this is the line-up tonight on The Saturday Bandstand.
Tonight I’m cooking a leg of lamb: very simply, rubbed with a mix of chopped rosemary, garlic, olive oil and lemon rind. A little leg of lamb, enough for three people. More than enough for three people I guess: like my mother, I always cook too much rather than too little. I remember how anxious she would get when she hosted big family get-togethers, or even Sunday lunches when we all descended on the farm where her and my father lived out the last 10 years of her life: she was always worried that there would not be enough food. And yet, there always used to be leftovers. We all went home with tupperware or tin-foiled parcels of portions, enough for a meal, of her wonderfully cooked dishes. She used to know just how to make a humble cut of beef into a gourmet dish. She did not really love cooking lamb. She did not like the smell of cooking lamb. Her worst was veal: she could not bear the thought of young cattle being slaughtered. An uncle of mine would tease her by singing an afrikaans song: ‘Die Kalfiewals’. She use to get really affected by that.
I know so little about my mother. Maybe that’s how it always is. That we know our mothers, our parents, only glancingly; and then often only in moments remembered. I do remember my mother mostly for her cooking: not that she was a gourmet cook: she was a simple, humble, housewife cook, feeding her family on a small budget, and much later expanding her culinary nous to catering for high school functions and the odd wedding in the small town they lived in before moving to a little farm close to the Waterberg. She was 52, my age now, when they moved there.
I’m not surprised that memories of my mother are coming up tonight. I am in mother mode at the moment. Just recently, two weeks ago, my youngest son arrived at my doorstep: to be clear, I fetched him to my doorstep after a horrific night of almost being assaulted at a club as a result of the breakdown of his, by now much regretted, marriage to an overseas women. She has two little daughters, both of whom had crept deep into my heart during the 10 months that the relationship lasted, well, maybe not even that long. The harbingers of heartache were noticeable more than three months ago, and although my mother’s heart ached watching the breakdown, I did not know how to help, other than relentlessly being there when my son eventually called. So what could I do but cook for him? And cry with him at the kitchen counter, cooking us a late steak and having too much wine with him, despite my previously stated intention of not drinking wine on a Wednesday(or any other week day, which I had been keeping to quite diligently).
Yes, so, my son is here tonight. That is what the three portions is about. Him, my beloved, and I. Soon we will have succulent leg of lamb, with creamed cauliflower, and baby marrow a la Husband; he has a special way of doing them. I claimed creative licence to write here while he bustles around in the kitchen at the moment, doing the veggies while I write. There’s almost a poem in it. Maybe I will write a poem about this night. Maybe this meal, and other meals that have I cooked for him will stay in my son’s memory as a segue into my soul. There’s always that.