Recently Jill wrote her own food biography, 'a life in ten dishes' as she calls it. They don't have to be the ten best dishes you've ever had - she says they should just represent you at certain ages and stages. 'That's your entire life there, plate after plate.'
Read hers, read mine. Then write your own.
Coleslaw, chops and plain rice
I was a child in the seventies. It's not my fondest food memory but it's enduring - I remember being old enough to help cut the cabbage and grate the carrot. I was like most kids a little tricky to feed but wailed in protest if anyone called me fussy. I do remember fights over the minutest piece of onion and being forced to eat my carrots. Poor Mum, I do still hate raw onion and simply can't eat a carrot cut into discs.
Oh so Australian, at one stage this was declared the new national dish. It was the first thing I learnt to cook... after coleslaw faded out of fashion it was our family staple throughout my teens and I still love it. Mum made it the proper way, diced carrot and celery and herbs. I can almost smell it now bubbling away on her treasured St George stove. She went overseas for five weeks when I was about seventeen leaving me with Dad and my brother. I had her car to drive (oh joy) but was left in charge of the house... I don't think we did much cleaning and I'm pretty sure we lived on spag bol.
Boerewors on the Braai
I'm South African by birth so in my parents' house it was a braai. Charcoal, never gas and quite often boerewoers with gem squash from the garden grown from seeds carefully handed on from other migrant foodies. Now that Dad (like me) has learned to cook rather more than just spag bol he serves up rolled smoked lamb or char grilled quail and risotto with a grape jus. And I think he calls it a barbie these days...
I finally learned to cook and learned pretty quickly. I was 25 and running a small ski chalet in the French Alps for a season. I also learned all the french words for vegetables and meat but not much more! We had a week or so of training (how not to gas yourself with too many chemicals while cleaning a loo) and then were given a recipe book. First week Christmas dinner for ten! Boeuf B was always on the menu of course and the girl who ran the next door chalet was vegetarian so I'd make hers too. Never did nail the boiling of an egg at high altitude.
Roast Vegetable Lasagne
In London I had four flatmates in a lovely large family home near the All England Lawn Tennis Club. We'd often cook at home and host dinner at the drop of a hat. The crowd would quite quickly grow to a dozen or more around our large pine table. Red meat and I were not friends in the UK so it was always roast vegetable lasagne and mine was much, much better the more wine drank while making it.
Of course in London if you weren't at home you were at the pub. The sun always shines in an English pub... And if it was the day after the night before or even the day before the night before you would be eating bangers and mash. Good bangers and mash... cumbrian sausages and full-of-butter potatoes with an onion gravy.
Italy for countless holidays, quite a few in Cinque Terre. I discovered the simplicity of a very good hand bashed pesto with trofie. This only just beats the first moment I tried truffle in a tiny restaurant in Rome. Drop eggs with shaved truffle. Turns out drop eggs are scrambled eggs and I actually don't even like them but OH MY it was good. And I don't cook with truffles but I make my own pesto so it wins.
Roast chicken drowning in gravy
Something I would make even for just the two of us because I love it. Heavily influenced by Jamie Oliver's tips... tuck herbs under the skin, rub it with garlic and olive oil and shove a lemon into the nether regions. Always, always served with lashings of real gravy. No packets please. The family joke is to make me wait until last for the gravy and laugh at my discomfort.
Baked chicken with tomatoes, balsamic and capers
Now known rather unglamorously as midweek chicken because we have it so often... how life and work and children get in the way of cooking new things... but it is good and oh so simple for a Wednesday night.
How funny life is. One day this will be my son's enduring food memory and I will be cringing just as my mother is reading about chops, coleslaw and rice. I make him all sorts of more interesting dinners and it is just cheesy pasta he really wants. With white sauce, grated cheese and peas. I usually sneak some too. It is quite good but I wouldn't say that out loud.