Sunday, 28 March 2010
communal cooking is fast becoming a lost art. The ritual of tomato day (as seen in the seminal Australian film, "Looking for Alibrandi"), is something that only seems to happen these days in ethnic enclaves, like the wine making or olive pressing days of the Greek community in Dromana. Tomato Day is that wonderful women's ritual, when all the female members of a family all get together, usually in Nonna's kitchen, to boil, bottle, can, cook, puree, peel and preserve the last of the season's tomatoes, ready to keep the family in passata and sugo for the rest of the year.
When Mater Beige and the Hobbit married, a Fowlers Vacola kit was de rigeur as a wedding present. The art of canning, or preserving and laying down fruits and vegetables was considered just another part of running a house.
While I am grateful I don't have to use a mangle to wash my family's clothing, and I love my new steam iron, I do mourn for the lost arts of communal cooking.
It's easy to grab a can of SPC peaches out of season, and there is a real place in my kitchen for frozen veggies. What I mourn for most is the women's mysteries of Tomato Day. When recipes and tips and secrets and gossip brewed and bubbled along side the pounds of tomatoes.
Cooking feeds my soul, and sharing cooking knowledge and cooking space is, to me, a very intimate experience. The process of cooking is how I nurture those I love. And to do it with other women is a profoundly spiritual and moving thing, for me. There's something about being together weighing and measuring and tasting that I find deeply soothing.
So to this end I was both chuffed and honoured when my darling friend Georgie suggested we get together to turn her box of end-of-season tomatoes into sauce and passata. We poured a glass of wine, poured over some cookbooks and sliced and diced and cooked and baked and measured and pored and laughed and sighed and bitched and moaned and nurtured both one another and our families.
More soul-fulfilling than a coven meeting, more bonding than a chick-flick, more fun than a night out on the tear (and cheaper!), the art of turning whole produce into a rich, thick sauce is almost alchemic. And the secret of this magical process? Passion and laughter.
off to turn those bags of yumions into caramelised onion jam.