This is a story about a family and what meal times meant to them over the years. About how important it was to them to have people at the table who were happy. To them, meal times presented opportunities to engage, to exchange ideas, news and views, to have conversation, to bond — and to enjoy one of life’s great pleasures — food. To this family, meal times were truly regarded as their comfort zone.
Rod is Jen’s older brother. Rod is a chef and, as much as Jen loved all things ‘foodie’, she trained as a nurse. Growing up, Rod and Jen were incredibly close. In fact, when they were younger they travelled together to Britain and that’s where Jen met her husband, Philip. Jen and Philip married and he emigrated to Australia, and they had one son named Peter. No matter how far they had to travel, this small family would all get together every Christmas at Rod and Jen’s family home. However, after Rod and Jen’s dad died in 2004 and their mum in 2008, Rod and Jen found that they didn’t get together as much. Whilst Philip’s parents visited Australia twice to join these Christmas gatherings and the whole family enjoyed a momentous family gathering in the UK in 2002, the following year Philip’s parents died within six weeks of each other. The family was suddenly smaller and at times they felt as if they were all orphaned, adrift, devoid of that solid base.
I initially wrote the first draft of this story just after Christmas and I am now writing this post-Easter when only the memories of times together are all that remain. Everything changes but we still celebrate our significant mealtime gatherings with the same gusto, the same conviviality, the same stories— and, happily, new ones too.
All over the world, people celebrate Christmas and Easter differently and, of course, some countries and religions do not observe these times at all. Even within Australia, there are many different approaches to observing Christmas and Easter. However celebrated, it is generally a time to catch up with family and friends, share a meal, exchange pleasantries, have a myriad of conversations, reflect, reminisce and recall.
So, what was your festive season like? How was Christmas, how was the Easter break? What was your last meal like? Who did you share it with? How did it rate?
Gary Campbell, EN