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Fruit salad or Irish stew?



Each week I do certain things, visit my old ladies, catch up with friends over coffee, do some housework, some gardening, maybe have some time reading in the sun. Officially I have days off from the church work Monday and Wednesday but that really is a fallacy. We are trying to set up a lunch group on Fridays to follow the Coffee Morning, a soup and a roll lunch for some of our church people but also people who come to us for welfare. So three Wednesdays in a row I have attended one of those meetings. Of course there is a roster and looks like my name was all over it...sigh. But then it is an outreach program to our community and I can see the benefits of those. The community around the church neighbourhood is a working class community but many are poorly paid and in the position of paying off a house or paying rent so their level of income often leaves a short fall as far as buying food goes, so we do a food handout on Fridays. A bag of food which is probably enough just to tide a family over for the weekend, nothing more.


It has got me thinking about the significance of food in our lives. When I was doing my Lifeline training (Lifeline is a Suicide Counselling Service) as a telephone counselor as part of the training course we had to describe ourselves in various ways. What would you be if you were a flower, or a dog or a house. That sort of thing. Our answers and descriptions told the trainers a lot about how we saw ourselves. It seemed odd at the time but the 80s were like that, we were supposed to be conscious of how we appeared to others. I was thinking about that today as I talked to a friend who asked: “How do you see yourself now?” I think I mumbled something about being a senior citizen, a widow, a church worker etc. If I had to write down now what I would describe myself as as a food I would have to toss up between a fruit salad and an Irish stew.


Why am I a fruit salad?  Because a fruit salad is a mixture of fruits, sweet and sour, fresh and bright and nourishing.  My life is like that sometimes, a bit of everything but hopefully nurturing and refreshing and bringing something enjoyable into people's lives. Instead of sugar and spice and all things nice I think we do need a bit of tartness in our lives too, the zing of lemon and the lingering aftertaste of passion fruit, and I can be both of those. I guess because I am English as well as Australian I am polite and people pleasing but also truthful and honest and that can be seen as sharp sometimes, like that touch of lemon you find as a contrast to the sweetness of strawberries and peaches. Anyway that is why I think I am like a fruit salad.


 I did a bit of pastoral counselling this afternoon.  I met an old couple from church ( he is also in my Lions Club) and she is going through a bad patch with many small ills that the doctor's say are beyond anything they can do something about.  She is very depressed about the way that is impacting on her life. I guess it is a build up of many small breakdowns of bodily organs, illnesses she has been able to  overcome before but her body is not coping now. She was almost in tears as she told me about them. I hate to see my good older friends deteriorate but it is inevitable.  This lady has given a lot to the community through one of our leading Women's organisations and it is sad she can no longer contribute in the way she had previously. She is helping to run a convention for the organisation locally and says she is overtiring herself. Of course I do see myself in that situation in the future. At the end of our chat she told me how glad she was that we had met today.


Why do i think I am like an Irish stew?  Well an Irish stew is what my mother would serve up in the days when we were poor.  We were poor because we came to Australia from England with very little, were paying off a block of land and trying to build a house on it at the same time.  Dad had some savings and with that he built the house to lock up stage so we moved into a house without internal walls, just sheets spread around for privacy.  Mum grew vegetables and Dad worked and they bought cheap cuts of meat and a sack of locally grown potatoes and with those two as the main ingredients Mum made an Irish stew.  It was warm and nourishing and filled us up. Of course my ancestors were Irish on my Dad's side so I guess we loved that traditional Irish dish. It was something that reminded Dad of his own childhood.  I think those connections are what made me as I am, all the people who influenced me for the sake of good over many generations.  So I relate to the Irish stew as being an ancestral dish and a part of my heritage.


Ray was a meat and potato person too for  some of the same reasons but he had a step father who was a fisherman so he was definitely fish and mashed potatoes. He also worked in the Fish Market as a Fisheries Inspector so he was a good fish cook as the Inspectors at the Fish Markets would cook their lunch in a small kitchenette and teach each other new recipes.  Funny how you think of things like that sometimes.  He actually taught me to cook fish in a lot of different ways, and make gourmet meals of calamari and lobster and crabs which he bought when they were cheap at the Markets.  Being on my own I hardly cook these days but fish and a sauce is easy to prepare so still features in my weekly diet. I loved oysters and his last district was an oyster district so got my fill of them there.  Ray often took me with him when visiting oyster farmers and I would "taste" their oysters and hazard a guess at where they came from. I was pretty accurate (well I knew where they had leases) and got a reputation as somewhat of an expert. So maybe I am a bit like oyster soup too.


Sometimes it helps to sit down and think of who we are, what our purpose is in life is at this stage of our lives and whether we think we are using what we have in the right way.  I know here there are many calls about charity, I get my share of those, and I would love to give money to every charity that rings me but I can't.  Through Lions I help to raise money with our BBQs and Christmas Stocking and other fund raisers.  In my church I help out in many ways.  With my other commitments I do the same, not always as much as I would like to do but what I can.  I know as I age I will not be able to do all I do now, talking to my old friend today was a warning to me.  I know some who read this will be mourning the life that was, the skills they have lost and be wondering what they can do now.  I want to say a smile can make a difference to someone's day and a kind word can ease someone's pain and if that is all I can do later on in my life it will have to be enough.




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Sue, that was so heartwarming and beautiful to read!   I don't read all of your blogs, but every one that I come across, I'm so carried away by the way you write.  You're blessed with being such a great story teller.  Do you ever think about placing your stories in a book or recording them to give to your grandchildren.  They may not value it now, it's hard to say, but with certainty they'd value it in the future!


You're truly amazing!  You are a parent and grandparent, you spent so much of your time being a caregiver to your late husband, you've worked so much on this site giving support to caregivers as well as stroke survivors, an out reach program for low-income people, suicide couselling, pastoral counselling, anything else??  You are truly a giver!


I do volunteer work, but not to the extent that you do.  Each time that I go grocery shopping, I always buy some extras to give to the food bank in the small town I live in (it's actually the capital city of my province, but very small), and make donations to the soup kitchen.  The saying "There but for the grace of God, go I" always flashes through my mind.


How did you answer the questions about being a flower, a dog, or a house.  For me, flower was easy.  I immediately thought I'd be a daisy (definitely not because it supposedly symbolizes purity, lol), simply because it's a wildflower.  The dog and house questions really have me stumped!


And the food, hmm, I'd definitely go for the fruit salad for the same reasons as you.  Instead of Irish stew, for me it would be lobster or any type of seafood.   Lobster is very expensive now, but when I was a child, the poor kids took lobster sandwiches to school!  My dad wasn't a fisherman, he was a carpenter.  But like everyone else of his generation in our area, people traded food for food, work for work.  


When he did carpentry work on a farmer's home on Saturdays, he was often paid with meat.  If it was an electrician's home (who weren't paid the high amount they charge today), his work was rewarded with electrical work on our home.  He always planted a huge vegetable garden in the summer, and after he was assured that we had enough vegetables in storage to get us through the winter, he'd let neighbors know that everything was there for them to pick.


Today's world seems so complicated....quite often, I wish I had lived back in the older days!  Food banks and soup kitchens weren't needed; the communities always made certain that every one's basic needs were met.


Thanks again for the delightful story.  Lin  :hug:

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Your Dad's generation were the true givers.  I just get so mad when I think of all the food dumped these days, we would never need to have handouts when everyone could have what others did not need.  I had old friends who belonged to a rural church where that kind of sharing happened and often we were the luck receivers of a big sack bag of corn on the cob after the main crop had been harvested.  I still remember preparing all of that for the freezer and making pickles with some of it.  It is so good when  everyone is provided for.


When we were young Ray was a real friend to our neighbourhood and he would rehang a door or fix a window and come home with beans or onions or lettuces for the help he gave. At one stage we swapped our excess eggs for a variety of goods and services including babysitting. As you say it was a different community back then.  I wish everyone had family close by now, then there wouldn't be so many lonely people in the world and everyone would have the support they needed. Maybe we are too prosperous or too proud to share in that same way now.

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Our school lunch programs in California .....joke....they toss more than feed kids and the kids dump the rest. staff will not even eat it free. I wonder if you could give it away. the food here is same.  so how can food be sooooo bad hungry folks do not want it.  ok not starving ones

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I came across where a school bus driver here in ND got in trouble for taking his busload of kids to treat them a Dairy Queen treat. An enraged mother took it took the school board. it was done for all the kids. and is kinda a tradition. But all good things die..... now what I wrote had nothing to do with poor Sues blog , but wanted to share.Our mentality is changing- some good some bad -- some both.

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Nancy , no worries - what you write comes out of the comment I made about dumping food, a big topic in some places right now. No school lunches here as such we have canteens ( like a shop run by mothers or volunteers) where kids can buy lunches but there are government guidelines as to what can be sold.  It is the supermarkets who are the main instigators in throwing food away as they will only take perfect fruit and vegetables and the rest goes to landfill rather than to feed the poor. Sad really.

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Sue you do amazing work for us here and in community. It can be hard to be alone but you have truly amazing memories. No wonder Ray is hard act to follow. You are our heroine. thank you.:bravo:

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We have a thing called "meals on wheels" focused mainly on seniors, but disabled can also qualify. It brings lunch to them daily. From what I have seen they are decent meals. That program here is subsidized by the government and mostly volunteers deliver.

 But I was visiting with a friend of mine that has kids who own a local tavern. On tuesdays she makes up a casserole and brings it to the tavern. First come first get. I and my sister make a point to go. She loves to feed people. She grew up in MT ( Montana) one state over but is probably more rural in many ways. Her mom used to cook and she had her own meals on wheels thing going on. It was not subsidized by the government. She simply bought, cooked and took to a church for like 25 plus years. When her mother died and they were reviewing her accounts they said she had spent 3,000.00 a month of her own money every month. She made those meals for her community right up to the day she died. She did what she loved. What generous soul. As is her daughter, my friend, Mavis. I have brought in a meal for all now and then to tavern. ( colleen) = ( sting 67 would LOVE it.) Cuz sometimes a gal has got to cook..lol.........Yes we have those same supermarkets here. Throw it, don't feed it to nobody. I would feel better if they owned a hog farm and fed the appropriate things to them, rather than throw.

With Dan in the nursing home I see a lot of meals - nothing is homemade, ever. It is all hospital food. I feel bad for him, but our school kids are getting the same food as well. I basically eat whatever my sister throws together. 

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Hi everyone, it's Linnie again.  It's nice to meet you, Nancy. 


On 5/25/2017 at 3:32 AM, HostSue said:

Maybe we are too prosperous or too proud to share in that same way now.


Sue, I really think that in the older days, people had more time for each other.  Today everyone is busy with their employment, and their time off is spent using social media.  I feel fortunate that I live in an area where we all know our neighbors; I think a lot of places don't have that anymore.


Talking about social media.....Canada's TV program called Marketplace, which is a consumers' advocacy organization, looked into the problem of food waste last year.  They mainly focused on Canada (around 31 billion dollars worth of food waste each year!), but looked into the same situation in the States.


As far as supermarkets throwing away a lot of good food days before the "Best Before" date, Marketplace was told that it's less expensive to throw it away than to give it to food banks or shelters (So Ridiculous!).  Marketplace also looked into the amount of food thrown away by people who had purchased it; extremely high amount as well.


I was going to give you the link to watch this specific episode of the program (30 minutes), but found that it's also on YouTube (22 minutes>no commercials) so I'll give you that one:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLqkV8cP4xs  Definitely a problem, people not caring that others (including children) are hungry!


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