From Food And Drink To Life And Death – A Normal Everyday Journey

Tonight’s slow roast topside was delicious. Special beef from our friend’s farm, so tasty, done with a red wine jus. Lacking a serious red to accompany it (the wine for cooking was an older bottle left for cooking) we settled for a lovely méthode champenoise from Phillip Island, a gift from friends whose chickens we fed and plants we tended while they holidayed. It is as delicate and creamy as when we tasted that first bottle at their place. So good.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed a theme yet here on this blog but I think there’s a bit of discussion of food and alcohol. I must admit I do love eating and drinking. I also love smoking but that has been left by the wayside. It’s something I still miss every day. If my incessant prattle about what I’ve eaten and drank puts you off then you’d best go read another blog. What I eat and drink are as much part of my life as who I’ve seen or what little bit of self-knowledge I’ve gleaned this day.

You cannot separate this woman from her food and drink. We are intimately joined in a relationship that is healthy and necessary. I love to eat and food is made to be eaten. I love a wine (beer, gin, whiskey) and there’s so much lovely stuff to be drunk.

I used to worry that I might end up like my grandfather, an alcoholic, but a few years ago I gave up alcohol, to prove I could. I didn’t drink for three years. I barely missed it. The giving up wasn’t a trial or ordeal. The staying away from it wasn’t difficult or fraught. The hardest part was going to parties and having to refuse a drink offered.

Australia is still all about alcohol as a celebratory tool and my friends were no different. They’d look at me confusedly and, because I could laugh it off, not push it too much but the pressure to drink was strong. I hate to think how that pressure might have felt if I had given up because I was an alcoholic. I remember that feeling now when I’ve friends over or I’m having a party and, although it might seem like I’m a neglectful hostess, I leave each person to get their own drinks, no pressure here.

My grandfather’s alcoholism was a product of his immense grief. His wife (my grandmother) died when she was 51 of a heart attack. It devastated more than just him, there were seven children, my mother the eldest and the only one who had left home (as a married woman). My youngest uncle was eight years old. Nonetheless my grandad fell into a miasma of grief that revolved around his Woodbines (cigarettes) and his whiskey. He left his children to look after each other, interrupting only to exert his will, usually with a strap.

I never saw this side of him, I was too young and then I was in Australia and he was in England. He visited when I was about eight, my youngest uncle was 15 and came with him and so did his brother, 19 and as tall and gangly as their father was short and round. I remember fishing at the river with him and him making ‘cheese dreams’ (bread and cheese fried until the cheese melts – very healthy) for breakfast. He always smelt of whiskey and cigarettes, a smell I found quite pleasant.

He died when he was 68, many years after his wife (he was about 5 years younger than her) from a series of strokes, each leaving him more debilitated. His daughters looked after him. He came out to Australia one last time before he died, for my Aunt’s 40th birthday, about a year before he died. He still smoked and drank, refusing to abandon these addictions that were his undoing.

If I think about my family history, medically it’s not so good. My nearest ancestors haven’t lived very long lives. I hope that they lived happy ones, though. I think I’ll keep on living my life with joy and vigour. I hope I’ll last longer than my forebears.

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