One of the things I miss most when I’m on the road is spending time in the kitchen with Mum. For me, cooking with Mum is one of the ‘constants’ linking my infancy to adolescence, and my teens to early adulthood. It sustained me when I was low, and relaxed me when I was taut enough to snap. It gave Mum and I the opportunity to talk things over: with hands busily chopping and whipping our mouths could speak our minds, and before we knew it we were pulling freshly baked ideas and perspectives out of the oven.
My first memory of cooking with Mum is being allowed to lick cake batter from the wooden spoon – chocolate cake was my favourite. Mum was never fussy about hygiene. Fingers had as much of a place in the mixing bowl as whisks, forks and spoons. As long as you helped clean up afterwards you could make as much mess as you wanted.
From beating cake batter it progressed to poking cloves into sandy-coloured batches of kourambiethes and collecting fistfuls of mint and parsley from the garden for tabbouleh. Fiddly repetitive jobs were my favourite. Helping to peel and core apples for stewing, and chopping walnuts for Mum’s coveted baclava were two of my favourite jobs.
Later I became adept at more complicated tasks like judging the correct amount of nutmeg to incorporate into the sienna cake, and ascertaining when the bechamel sauce was adequately thickened.
Nothing was ever measured in my mother’s kitchen. We had a set of measuring cups and spoons that lived at the back of the cupboard where they were rarely, if ever, thought about let alone used. Instead, Mum preferred to use a heavy squat ceramic mug to do her measuring. Trust Mum to invent her own standard measure!
Richie and I have been known to attempt rash and zany things, especially whilst on the road. A whiff of adventure, a challenge, a dare, and we’re off, scheming of ways to reach B from A; testing the mettle of our spirits and the imperviousness of the soles of our hiking boots.
If they were made for walking, what’s the point in standing still?
It was during a particularly low moment during our stay in Barcelona that we decided to intercept Richie’s parents on their 18-day cruise of the Mediterranean. We were lonely and could do with a merry rendezvous. On the 14th of April Kay and Steve would be disembarking the Queen Victoria in Venice. Why not surprise them there, and spend a memorable 6 hours walking the streets; lagoon water lapping at our toes and the taste of gelato in our mouths.
Reaching Venice on the 14th left us with a window of 4 nights to get from Figueres (in the northeast Spain). We considered flying, then thought better of it. Why not hitch?