My partner is an amazing cook. I can honestly say that I didn’t fully appreciate garlic, tomatoes or oregano before we met, let alone those things I’d never heard of like porcini mushrooms, balsamic vinegar or quince paste. But as much of a fantasy as that amazing Italian heritage is, I think the food I grew up with can stand its own ground. And when the two combine, it makes me smile that little smile people get when they think about their More-Than-Just-Friends.
One day, not too long after we started living together, we decided that some little treat was in order. Now, I’m not sure how familiar you may be with the cupboards of a Uni student, but let’s just say Old Mother Hubbard probably wouldn’t see much unusual there. What’s that though to stop two creative, educated young people such as ourselves?
I immediately latched on to half a jar of honey as a starting point. I was brought up on sweets that are, well, sweet. And honey always reminds me of the primary school handyman Mr Blatch. He was always a bully-free zone on the playground, he told interesting stories, and he kept beehives that he moved on the back of his ute. His joints and back and bones and such are all a bit much now for maintenance work at the school, but he still sells his honey so far as I know.
There was flour too. My Nan always has big tubs of flour in her cupboards (great sources of amusement they were, growing up). And one of the things that she and my mother said I should always keep in my cupboard when I moved out was flour. So, with these two chunks of nostalgia in my hands, I looked to see what J had found.
Olive oil. What kind of thing has olive oil in it, I thought. Certainly not any dessert I’ve ever made. After I tasted the oil as instructed I was even more skeptical, even though that was meant to convince me. But we were upbeat and having fun, keen to experiment. And J knows a lot more ways to put food together than I do.
On went my red and white polka dot apron. Out came the new silicon mini-cupcake pan my Mum gave me, a whisk and a mixing bowl, and we were away. There was mixing and tasting, and hmmm-ing and maaaaybe-ing, and getting little pinches of salt, or sloshes of water. Okay, there wasn’t that much of all that, cupcakes being remarkably easy things to make, but when I look back it feels like one of those cooking montages you get in romantic movies.
And when they came out of the oven they were amazing! Sweet, with that sort of earthy, vanilla-ry taste of the honey and the fruity olive oil being subtle in the background. And they were so light. We put little dobs of honey on top to be icing and ate reams of them.
And it was ours. It was unique to us, and it tasted like happiness. In the fifteen or twenty minutes it took from scrounging through the cupboards to out of the oven, silly as it may sound, I felt so much closer to J.