Posted on May 23, 2016
It happens without fail each time that I make spanakopita. My thoughts drift to the man who I used to prepare it with in the room off our tiny kitchen in Northcote, he who taught and later gave me the recipe. Side by side we built the dish together at the red laminex table, though he was the captain of that ship. Falling in love with him at the age of 18, and staying with him until I was 25, I never learned to cook, there seemed no need. It was about the same time that the Naked Chef AKA a very young Jamie Oliver emerged, and parallels were drawn, between looks, lisps and cooking abilities.
He cooked curries from scratch, and was as happy cooking African as Italian, which was as well for me, as happy to eat his Indian dishes as his Two Fat Ladies fare.
On the occasions that we made spanakopita, we would wash the masses of gritty English spinach in the sink as a pair, and afterwards he would gently sauté the onion and spinach while I mixed the ricotta with the eggs, before gently crumbling in the feta, adding the mint leaves and sifting a fine layer of nutmeg and black pepper on top. Finally we combined the elements, turning to the fast, buttery work between the sheets of filo and finishing it with a sprinkle of paprika. It was without fail a satisfying repast.
As the last of our mutual friends departed the state or the country and we were left finally to face each other’s company, hairline cracks widened rapidly into chasms. He wanted to party like it was 1999, which seems fair in hindsight, as it was in fact 1999. I preferred a quieter life. The headlong fall out of love and into the outer was swift and inexorable. The end, when it came was a brutal excision, though amicable enough beyond the night of the actual break up. We saw each other a month later, and then again three years afterwards, twice in a few months, then nothing. We stayed in touch sporadically. I even almost invited him and his new partner to my wedding. Then Facebook came along and there was another fall out, twelve or thirteen years after the first.
I curse my brain for summoning the errant memory of him during the motions of making spanakopita, silver beet because it was on special at Aldi, eggs, nutmeg, cheats puff pastry because I can’t be bothered with the fuss of the filo. It happens that we live not far from each other now, N- and I, and there are some parallels in our lives, but not many. I wonder what it is that prompts me to look back, and I think that the people in our past are a little like the dead, full of the possibilities of our own making, without any substance to prop them up, beyond memory or myth making that is akin to the reality of what we remember, a facsimile of another memory, layered into infinity.
linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT