I've been looking forward to writing this post ever since the Easter parcel from my in-laws arrived. First off you need to know - if you didn't already - that my in-laws are Australian. Second of all you need to know that they are devout Catholics. And, finally, you need to know that the animator, like all other men, has a keen sense of longing for his mother's cooking, in particular her chicken curry.
Once upon a time...
Our story starts long, long ago when we were first dating. 'My mother is a genius cook. She fed all five of us kids really simple meals from her own recipes and they were always delicious. Her chicken curry is amazing and her cheesecake is really great too, A [TA's brother] sent home for the cheesecake recipe. God was it good. Hmmm...chicken curry.' At this point TA drifted off into a reverie. Honestly, Proust's madelaines were nothing in comparison to this chicken curry. And don't get me started on the purported wonders of TA's mum's marshmallow pudding, just don't. These scenes of starved reminiscence have been repeated regularly throughout our three-year relationship.
After the animator and I had been together - and living together - nine months or so we went to Australia to attend his friend's wedding. We were there for two weeks and I met all his friends and family. The first week was taken up with wedding preparations as the animator was best man. We still got some time to see his parents, but not much. The second week was planned to be a holiday - off doing touristy things together. Unfortunately it wasn't to be. The day we were supposed to go and see the animator's grandmother, the very morning of that day, she died. Obviously, the second week of our visit was completely given over to supporting TA's parents, me supporting TA and arrangements for the funeral. I hoped that during this painful time perhaps some good would come in terms of me bonding with TA's parents. Although we'd not been together all that long we both knew that it was for keeps and it was obvious to those around us that we would marry eventually.
I went to the funeral with the animator's family. TA's parents introduced me to various cousins, aunts, the grandmother's nextdoor neighbours... 'This is Lisa, the animator's friend.' At first I was shocked and then I was hurt. They deliberately kept me at arm's length, TA felt unable to ever tell them that we were living together, our relationship was always glossed over - all because we weren't married. In hindsight, I expected too much and clearly our relationship wasn't all that important right then, they had much bigger concerns, but when we were preparing to get married it did worry me. I hardly knew these people and soon we were going to be family - marriage is always about more than just two people. There were some minor bumps in the road, they wrote to us expressing how sad they were that I wasn't Catholic, but what can you do - you have to marry the person who is right for you, not the one who is right for your family.
Nearly now and now...
Since we got married TA's parents have gone out of their way to try to connect to me - not easy over such a long distance. There have been sweet birthday and Christmas gifts, they phone on my birthday and always want to talk to me when the animator calls them. To let them know how much I appreciate this, I wrote to them after Christmas thanking them for making me feel that we are family even though it's a long getting-to-know-you process. As a postscript I asked if perhaps they could email me the famous recipe for chicken curry as, although I had made TA chicken curry, the animator really missed it and often spoke at great length about its glories.
The animator's dad emailed me and said that M (TA's Mum) was putting together a parcel of Easter chocs for the animator and that the recipe would be included. When the parcel arrived as well as easter chocs it contained: curry powder, tomato relish and marshmallows. There were two handwritten recipes - one for chicken curry the other for marshmallow pudding - and a note explaining that the recipe's success was dependent on these key ingredients.
Tonight I am going to cook chicken curry. I'll post the two recipes later.