I remember reading an article written by an American journalist who gave birth in a hotel room, alone, to a very premature baby while she was traveling in Mongolia. She managed to get a photo on her phone of the tiny baby in her hand, all breathing, new and slimy, before he died. In the months after, drowning in her private pool of grief back at home, she would find herself showing strangers - shopkeepers - that photo of her tiny baby. Telling them how he died, completely freaking them out. But so great was her grief she had to say the words out loud. It was crucial to her that people understood she had given birth, "however briefly", to another human being.
Grief is such a powerful force and while I have never experienced it in that magnitude, the watered down versions in my world can still take my breath away, can still surprise me with their strength.
We are moving in a few weeks, from a town we have lived in for seven years, leaving behind family and friends, a big beautiful house and some of the most intense memories of my life. A time punctuated with the ups and downs of a fresh marriage where the image of what you thought married life would be converges with the reality, (not necessarily a bad thing, but something that often requires some readjustments don't you think), the joy and horror and complete bamboozlement of our first baby and then two other babies, the fun and the parties, the sleepless nights and swings and parks and takeaway coffees, that year where I cried every day and Ed wondered what his life had become. The waiting for rain, wanting rain, not wanting rain, breastfeeding with not enough milk in the thumping heat of summer or on the side of the road on the way to somewhere, watching tiny bottoms waddle on the lawn in the cool of the sprinklers. Praying for it to be 7pm time-for-bed, dancing with the kids in the kitchen to Blurred Lines again and again screeching with joy, discovering surprise baby chics in an old pile of grass clippings left in the shed and a mother hen who we thought had been eaten by a fox. Re-falling in love and sleeping more and laughing together again. So much joy and frustration and laughter and loneliness all mixed into the one pot.
Now that there is an official full stop to our time in Moree, I feel very sentimental and sad. I have ugly-cried on two people's shoulders, one was at the supermarket on an older woman who I don't really know. I also broke down, although I wouldn't put it in the ugly crying category, at a birthday lunch, not my own. The wave of grief that washes up from in my tummy somewhere and then spews out my throat and mouth is at times unstoppable. I have caught myself telling people about it, people who don't even know where Moree is, let alone Bonshaw where we are moving. People who really don't need to know where I live at all. There was one person who may have not even known my name.
But better out than in and as with all grown-up decisions, nothing is ever perfect. So with our choice for a simpler life where Ed can wake up and be at work rather than face those long, lonely commutes, where the kids can run free and where we can watch our pecan trees grow and look after them together as a family, also comes the sadness at leaving what we've got here in Moree. People, you know who you are.
And at times of sadness, it's no good turning to potato chips and heavy desserts and hundreds of bottles of red, tempting though they are. They just make you feel worse the next day. Instead it's a time for, as it turns out, flower arranging - silently and slowly - and for food that lifts my spirits, not food that drags me down. And I think this Jerk Chicken from Kitchen by Mike might be the perfect fit.
1 x chicken
1 x 375 ml can beer, XXXX Gold is a fitting tribute for Moree
lime wedges and coriander leaves, to serve
JERK CHICKEN MARINADE
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 bunch coriander, washed and roughly chopped (leaves, stems and roots)
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
1–2 long red chillies, roughly chopped
2 cm knob ginger, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon muscovado sugar or brown sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
pinch of salt flakes
125 ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
To make the jerk chicken marinade, blend all the ingredients to a paste in a food processor.
Stir half the beer into the marinade and rub all over the chicken (save the rest of the beer – and the can – for later), then leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.
The next day, preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the half-full beer can in the middle of a roasting tin, then up-end the chicken over the can, so the chicken stands upright. Roast the chicken for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C and cook for a further 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door ajar, then leave the chicken to rest in the oven for 15 minutes.
Joint the chicken, then serve with lime wedges and a good scattering of coriander leaves.
To go along side, look no further than another of Kitchen By Mike's recipes, his red rice, basil and quinoa salad to which I added some chopped pecans. This is gold. It is so delicious, healthy and keeps very well in the fridge ready to be picked away at with the door proped open for days to come.
RED RICE WITH WHITE QUINOA, BASIL AND PEAS
150g red rice, 150g white quinoa, 400g frozen peas, 1 bunch of spring onions white parts only thinly sliced, 1 bunch of basil picked and torn and a generous handful of chopped pecans.
Cook the rice in lightly salted water for about 20 minutes then drain. Meanwhile cook the quinoa in a saucepan of lightly salted water for 14 minutes then drain well. Then cook the peas in simmering water until they are tender, then drain. Then put all the elements in a big bowl and mix together with a few tablespoons of basil oil.
To make the basil oil, slowly heat one bunch of basil with 250mls of grapeseed or vegetable oil and a pinch of salt flakes. Don't boil but gradually heat to 80 degrees celsius. Then blitz with an upright blender for a couple of minutes. Strain the basil oil and store in a jar. It will keep for weeks in the fridge.