There are times when I sit back and wonder how I managed to survive growing up in the States. I was addicted to processed food, the Easy Mac queen, and the microwave was my best friend. Crisps and cheese dip from a can were the regular additions to movie nights. I rarely drank water, instead opting for some power drink or soda.
I drank a lot of milk, though. At least there is that.
I loved my fish fingers and my microwave soup. Cheese from a spray can was always fun, loading up a single Ritz cracker with a mountain of the orange stuff. It’s hard to believe I had any standards, but I never could get used to scalloped potatoes from a box.
Last night as I cooked chicken souvlaki with fresh garlic, onion and chicken fillets from the butcher, I felt sad that I couldn’t have made something a little more elaborate for dinner. More flavours, perhaps, or a little more variety in the meal than just a souvlaki.
‘Just’ a souvlaki.
I caught myself mid-thought and gave myself a hearty mental slap. Just a souvlaki? When I lived in the US, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a souvlaki was, much less actually make you one. It’s as if, in that moment, my standards for myself had flown through the roof and I’d forgotten how much I’ve grown over the past nearly four years.
Since moving to Australia and, without transition, converting my diet to fresh food and heaps of water (and experiencing what I call ‘The Great Australian Detox’ for it), my world has changed. Food has become my art and my passion. Creating a beautiful meal is like the thrill of creating a new world of fiction for a novel. For me, a meal is a combination of not just flavours but also of colour, arrangement, texture and the love I put into it.
A lot has changed since spray cheese in a can.
I work with a handicap as well. I have only one functional sinus and a very lacking sense of smell because of it. But I have never let that stop me from pursuing my passion.
Call it a higher power, fate or simply good luck, but I believe I was meant to come to Melbourne. The café culture and amazing assortment of international cuisines waiting to be tasted inspire me in a way nothing else can. I proudly bear the label of foodie and have even become a little bit of a food snob, to be honest. I have a rule to try everything once and have found it to be a good way to live life as well as experience food.
Food fascinates me and Melbourne is my new playground. Margaret Fulton is my main teacher through her encyclopaedia of cookery, but the city is filled with many mentors. I’ve done my native born Australian friends proud by making ANZAC bikkies like gram used to make, lovely lamingtons and even a mint slice or two. I think I’ll always be known for my brownies, though.
Recently a friend and I had a brief chat about how far I have come in the short time I have been here, and how I’ll have a great autobiography to write some decades down the road. Honestly, I think I will, too. For now, though, I will be enjoying being the equivalent of a four year old in the Melbourne food world with everything new, fresh and exciting.
And I’ll stop being so hard on myself about the souvlaki.