Make happy those near and those far will come.
That one message out of a fortune cookie at Lee’s Fortuna Court hung out in my wallet for months before I finally released it back to the universe. The message continued to haunt me. I wasn’t sure if I was making those near happy. Those far, as in actual clients, were not flocking to my copywriting business.
What the hell was wrong? I often wondered. I was an inclusionist, respectful, humanist writer whose values were clear as crystals? Wasn’t I?
It took me a while (well, at least til last week) to figure out that I was on a psycho path of dictatorship in forcing would-be-writers to self-publish an anthology merely because I thought that would be the way I’d become a published author. In many ways I was no different than my two-year-old who insists on getting her own way. We just laugh at her. How come no one was laughing at me? Or was I too busy to notice?
The point of today’s Artful Friday isn’t to beat myself up. That wouldn’t be in the spirit of King Arthur after all.
I am hopeful, even after slipping into the dark side in the name of King Arthur all those years ago, that his light is shining on me. And my own past bullshit? Well, let’s just say that’s fertiliser for my personal growth.
My salvation happened in my own kitchen. When I say my, it is “our” kitchen these days. With mum visiting from Istanbul, we suddenly have too many chefs and it’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s brought our household nutritious and delicious foods we can keep in the freezer to save me from cooking a new meal every night and pondering “what to do for dinner tonight?”.
Let me give you the backstory.
Mum’s visits have always caused a little tension in our household. Being my mum, and mothers know best, she’d take over the household. My partner, a budding weekend chef, whose Australian tastes don’t always welcome the Turkish cuisine, would find the take-over a little hard to palate. He wouldn’t say anything to mum because Australians are subtle. They don’t like to spell anything out that they think might upset another person (unless of course, that other person is me. Apparently I give the impression that I’m tough as nails and can take anything).
So I set up a system so everyone knew who was cooking what and when.
Knowing the competitive nature of my partner and mum (I’m a recovering competitive psycho. These days I have the awareness that I’m a writer. As such all my battles are fought with keyboards and pens. The only competition is my own past writing) I set up a cook-off between the three of us.
Mum brought some amazing dishes to the table changing my opinion of how bad her cooking was. She’d never poured love into her cooking as she was preoccupied with making baked goods to sell to strangers at farmers’ markets. We were lucky to get some of those pastries but the family food, in general, wasn’t great. I remember growing up with her sometimes undercooked, sometimes burnt, unloved and hurried dishes.
My partner, inspired by mum’s efforts, brought even better dishes, entree, side vegetables, dessert and all, to the table. His strength was the speed and the perfect layout of the plates. He is one organised perfectionist and his food definitely reflected his personality.
Mum’s dishes were heavy in heart and flavour but influenced by my partner she also started following a structure, adding entrees and deserts.
As for my dishes?
Let’s just say they all had stories which accompanied them. Cooking to perfection and presentation on the plate were not my strengths. The food I brought to the table definitely told the story that I was a writer and not a chef. Regardless, I got high marks for staying true to my gift.
The sharing of the kitchen in an orderly manner and setting up a situation where everyone was allowed an opportunity to share their talents, food and culture was when I felt King Arthur’s benign presence in my kitchen.
However, King Arthur made a full appearance on the day I messed up big time. We were having guests over for lunch and it was agreed that mum was going to make her famous Turkish pizza, or lahmacun. My partner also insisted on Turkish spring rolls and mum agreed to the menu the day before. I was to make the salad and the dessert, mango and passionfruit vanilla ice cream.
Then on the day of the lunch, mum found out that not one but three people were coming for a visit. I thought I’d communicated that a day before, but whoops! mum clearly hadn’t gotten the memo.
She started freaking out.
An hour and a half before (!) lunchtime, I went to the local Wooly’s to pick up the ingredients. which we’d ordered a night in advance. Wouldn’t you know it? The order was nowhere in sight. The guy at Wooly’s had no idea where it was and he couldn’t find it on the app.
I called my partner and he said just to shop for the items. There was an hour left before the lunch guests were due to arrive. I could feel mum stressing out. I insisted Wooly’s staff find the order and miraculously they did. I ran home and turned out they’d messed up the order and we were missing a key ingredient – the minced meat. Yikes!
Only fifty minutes on the clock, I called our guests and let them know not to hurry. They were happy to oblige and have another beer at the pub.
I jumped in the kitchen to start chopping up mango for the dessert as my partner went back to Wooly’s to get the mince. I chopped a mango in half and whoops! cut my finger. I was bleeding everywhere.
Mum now had the dessert to prepare, the salad, spring rolls and the pizza. She was about to have a heart attack then my partner stepped in as he’d just looked up the recipe and prep for the Turkish spring rolls and he took charge. I insisted on chopping up more stuff despite bleeding all over fruits and veg as the pesky cut finger wouldn’t stop bleeding.
Mum pushed me out of the kitchen and I obliged.
I let everyone just get on with it. They didn’t need me to bleed all over the food and I was no help to them trying to do any sort of work. So I watched.
I took care of the girls. Did I mention that with all the mess in the kitchen, my two year old got into the nappy cream and smeared it all over the walls and in her hair? Yeah, that happened too.
I was needed to just be present and allow everyone to create their masterpieces in the kitchen and they did.
When our guests arrived, I had them change a nappy as I was still bleeding like a mofo. Our guests were family after all.
And we made it to lunch on a beautiful summer day. We were all together despite a few burnt crusts on the Turkish pizza, a cut finger and a child with nappy cream in her hair.
King Arthur was smiling.
We’d come together around our kitchen table and we’d all brought our presence to the table.
What more could anyone ask for?
Maybe now that those near are happy those far, even as far as Washington, DC, or even further away emotionally, having forgotten that despite how we all turned out we’ve done the best we could for ourselves and for each other, will come.