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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Being A Dad, How To Make A Roux And True Grit

In what might become something of a tradition in 2011, I've taken Saturday off once again. Last week I went with Lesley up to Warkworth. Today I went up to Newcastle to spend a couple of hours in the Lit & Phil - not doing any work but simply reading something and possibly having a chat...

Meanwhile inside the joint is jumping!

Bernard also happens to be in the house but is hard at work. I choose not to bother him at this point...

Instead I settled down with my sandwich and a book plucked entirely at random off the recent arrivals shelf...

Looking up I notice that someone sitting opposite happens to be reading something I wrote a while back...

It's the Northstars book. And well-thumbed it looks too...

Only last week I had cause to delve into the book and the chapter on David Coverdale in relation to a forthcoming magazine feature. I didn't mention my connection to said tome once the reader returned. I'm not that keen on the writing which was done in a blizzard of late nights and endless pots of Earl Grey for publisher Martin Ellis.

For an hour and a half I sat reading Michael Chabon's highly entertaining Manhood For Amateurs essays, which deals (amongst other things) with the qualities and experiences of fatherhood.

Afterwards, when the Lit & Phil closed, Bernard and I went for a cup of tea in a nearby cafe. We swapped our experiences of the whole fatherhood thing. Sweet and sour moments abound of course.

I tell Bernard how insanely proud I was that my son texted recently saying he was making a cheese sauce. "Can I use margarine or do I have to use butter to make a roux?" he asked.

I was proud because he wasn't just getting a sauce out of a packet and also because learning to make a roux was about times we shared in the kitchen together, father and son, passing on skills and swapping stories.

Cooking wasn't something our dads ever did really - although Bernard recalled the odd occasion when his father would cook the food and at those times the kitchen was firmly off limits.

It was my mother who taught me to cook when I was quite young although that didn't stop me from living out of cans (beefburgers, macaroni cheese, etc) when I first moved away from home.

For me Bernard is a bit of a renaissance dad. He could not only teach his kids how to make a roux but also how to use a spokeshave correctly or put a shelf up.

Given that I can barely wire a plug I often feel I've let my kids down a little. But, as Chabon discusses, that's also part of the territory when it comes to being a dad. I tell Bernard about my technique for putting up a pair of curtains. "Take a pair of curtains, a hammer and a supply of six inch nails"...

Afterwards, as Bernard heads off to the Central library to do some more work, I meet up with Debra and we wander into the Tyneside Cinema.

Not having ever seen the original film with John Wayne or read the book, I had no expectations about this one. My verdict? Not a classic Coen brothers movie (last Coen classic No Country For Old Men perhaps?) but a gentle and pleasant enough diversion with first rate performances from all of the principals.


steven said...

sid i learned to cook from both my mum and dad. my dad experimented with every meal by combining ingredients that on paper shouldn't be put in the same pot. he would tell me what he was doing on the condition that my mum wasn't to know. on the other hand my mum boiled everything. she would grimly prepare plates of boiled cauliflower, fish, potatoes, and peas with a sauce of greyish water gathered around their limp bodies. from that i was determined to find some way out of the nightmare of cookery. i cook every meal in our home. i love food and love to see my kids as they pile into whatever i'm learning to make or if it's an old standard no matter. it's such a gift to pass on sid!!! pure joy! steven

Sid Smith said...

Yes it was about time spent together trying different things out and in those moments, a certain closeness etc that carries over beyond making food.

Like you, I've probably cooked the bulk of the meals made in this house over the last few years and there's something intensely gratifying about it when folks tuck in and declare the dish a winner.

We also used to (and still do) talk about the cost of the food and how much the meal cost per head. This was done to demonstrate that cooking fresh food was ultimately what they should be doing when they are older simply because it's cheaper - a lesson which my son has ably grasped.


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