Tori Haschka is a Sydney based author, food writer and mum of two. Her articles have featured in Grazia, The Times, the Guardian, Mammamia and the Sydney Morning Herald and her blog eatori.com was ranked by Saveur as one of the five best food and travel blogs in the world (Simon and Schuster, n.d.). Her newest book “A Recipe For Family” hit the shelves earlier this year.
Perfect for fans of Meg Mason and Sally Hepworth; “A Recipe For Family” is a powerful and heart-rending story about how food connects us and assumptions divide us – and how true family can come from where you least expect it.
Exclusively for QBD blog readers, Tori talks to us about writing for food and female friendships. Let’s dive in!
Food is how I meter my life. A good day has a bleeding yolk-start, with toast and avocado. A sad one, soggy cereal. Celebrations are marked with long seafood lunches and I know it’s a hard night if I resort to picking at the dregs of children’s plates (or eating a fistful of shredded cheese straight from the fridge).
Food has also become the key ingredient in so many of my female friendships. It’s in the Tupperware of bolognaise left by a mate on the doorstep when you’re felled with the flu – hers has mushroom and zucchini blended into the tomato sauce. It’s in evenings gossiping while pressing out pizza dough and spooning on sauce, picking toppings from a buffet of little bowls and eating the spoils on picnic rugs outside under lavender skies. It’s instinctively cutting three apples for the morning snack boxes because you know your best friends’ offspring will always reach for something from a container that’s not theirs. It’s remembering she hates kiwi fruit (it’s a texture thing) and that Pad See Ew with beef is her default take away when a day has made her stoop. It’s shown in ‘I made the cake dairy free, because I know her daughter is allergic’ and a tray of cupcakes sent to the workplace when harsh deadlines are met. It’s links sent to the recipes for meatball and frittatas that didn’t get hurled from high chairs.
Food is the imagery I lean on when I write – in chapter headings and recipes as post-scripts – and in the metaphors I use – the feeling of early motherhood is baveuse- the culinary term used to describe a just-set omelette, when everything is a little damp, fragile and wobbles. An angry baby’s face will always pucker like a roasted cherry tomato.
I once tried to describe in my first novel; ‘Grace Under Pressure’ what the taste of motherhood was.
Here were some attempts to pin it down; the sudsy mint of Rennies, while your stowaway kicks hard. Double shot lattes, with a side of guilt because you forgot your Keep Cup again. Licks of strawberry ice cream to dam the tide while it drips down dimpled hands. I suggested it was probably ‘Cold Tea’. (I hadn’t slept in a long time. Things were grim for a while there.)
Nobody warned me how much of motherhood was being a prep-chef for the most demanding of customers. (One child will now eat carrot, but not cucumber, or celery and he will never, ever eat a capsicum – it apparently tastes like metal). Nobody told me how important food would be for morale when the nights are long and dark. Food is not just fuel – it can be medicine. I will never again doubt the restorative capacity of a cheese and ham toastie shared with a friend after a night spent in the Emergency Room with a hacking child.
On a good day, food is a space for creativity and connection. Some of my best friendships were formed pushing toddlers in prams around a local fruit barn, debating what to cook for dinner, whether Parmesan cheese really was better in wedge or pre grated in a bag (always get the wedge and then put the rind into the bolognaise or minestrone for extra flavour). Food was how my friends and I invoked the memories of our own mothers; how we started laying down traditions of our own; Friday pizza, first day of term pancakes, the defiant, essential ‘oat sprinkle’ from small pudgy hands over the top of every batch of muffins before they bake.
These were some of the things I took with me into writing this latest book. I have a sense now after finishing ‘A Recipe for Family’ that the taste of friendship is much warmer. It’s closer to oats and brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger. It’s butter and paprika and sour cream. It’s schnitzel and noodles. It’s dumplings, made by the dozen.
I default to writing about food and female friendships because they are two things that give me great joy. And they are sources of comfort when the edges of life are barbed. (And life for all of us over the last few years has been hard.) But the bright sparks have been days spent in kitchens with friends. The afternoons I spent cooking and talking with our children around us always included more mess than we intended. We usually had a vision for how things would end up. Sometimes we tried to ape the efforts of Instagram influencers. It wasn’t always the case. Eggs got dropped. Milk was spilled. Sometimes people cried. But more often they smiled.
In the right light, a kitchen can be a haven. The women I have spent time with barefoot, pregnant and sharing the job of feeding our families were doctors and lawyers, journalists, marketing managers, nurses, firefighters and writers before they were mothers. We came from all corners of the world. Coming together to cook and share was one of the smartest things we did. Nobody is meant to mother alone. It helped to turn chores into something to cherish.
What united us was this sticky phase of life, our need to fill the days and mouths of our children. And also our hunger – both for connection and consolation. Together over piles of dirty dishes, our chaotic children and the smells of melting butter, we found comfort and friendship, through all of the mess.
Cook together. I promise it helps.