Single: unmarried (single BLESSEDNESS)
There were many and varied reasons for writing the Singles' Survival Guide.
Although in most cases we’re getting better at it (read life and its challenges), us singles, particularly blokes, still need all the help we can get, whether it be cooking, cleaning, shopping, gardening, buying a decent bottle of wine, grooming, even a bit of philosophy.
Hopefully, given the life lessons I’ve taken on board, I can help a bit, and make each reader a better, more capable, more giving person to be around. And to feel better about themselves.
There were a couple of epiphanies for me along the way that led to this blog.
The first was when my ex-wife and her new husband came to dinner (yep, we’re all good friends. Life’s to short not to be). They walked into the house, which was filled with the smell of dinner cooking.
“You’ll make someone a good wife one day,” my ex said, laughing. I took it as the compliment it was intended to be. Needless to say, the dinner was a great success.
Three courses – a salmon/smoked salmon, marscapone, capers and dill dip, chicken involtini and Italian-style potatoes cooked with tomatoes and onions, a salad and a lemon tart served with blueberries and thickened cream - each prepared and cooked from scratch. Some decent plonk didn’t hurt my chances of it being a successful dinner.
The second was at a Sunday afternoon party I was having for about 20 friends. A mate, Rod, and his wife, Mari, walked into the house and she asked Rod: “Which one is his wife or girlfriend?”
“He’s single,” said Rod.
Mari looked at Rod and said: “Shit, he’s certainly in touch with his feminine side.”
Again, I took it as the compliment it was intended to be. It was perhaps a reference to the vases of fresh flowers or the nicely set table of food that I’d prepared. Perhaps it was the seemingly endless collection of knick-knacks (I'm no minimalist) decorating various parts of the house. Maybe even just the fact that the place was clean and tidy and smelled OK.
Yep, I’ve made it a fair way since my early single days when cooking and housework were things that someone else generally did.
In my late 20s, I had bugger-all idea of what it took to put together a feed. Sure, I went to the market most Saturday mornings (after the Friday night hangover had given way to some semblance of the norm, and I bought lots of stuff. I would usually get home, put it all in the fridge and then go to the pub. Later that night, I’d try to produce something edible from the day’s market gathering, with very limited success, which often included a grilled steak, cooked to within an inch of its life.
Let’s just say that I didn’t starve. Nor did I star.
These market trips had little (OK, no) planning. I’d buy a bunch of leeks, tomatoes, spuds, onions, whatever looked OK, despite the fact that I had no idea about using it. I always bought leeks because I thought that the green tops hanging outside my shopping bag at least gave the impression that I knew what the hell I was doing. And maybe that would attract a girl. How wrong I was.
Then I’d venture to the meat section and buy a shitload of different cuts and, nearly always, sausages.
If I got two meals for the week from all the stuff I bought, I’d be doing well. The rest would be consigned to the bin the day the garbos were due.
It didn’t help that I didn’t own so much as one cookbook, something I’ve since rectified by about a hundred times.
I remember with absolutely no fondness the first time I tried to cook a casserole. It was winter and I thought it would get me through a few days.
I had some diced topside and a heap of vegies. That was it.
I plonked everything into a casserole dish, tipped in some water and jammed it in the oven. That’ll do nicely, I thought. Did I brown the meat? Nah. Season it? Nah. I left it in the oven for about three hours and went to the boozer.
I was hungry (and a bit the worse for wear) by the time I got home. Then the moment of truth: I spooned a big heap of what was effectively a very thin soup (not to mention a none-too-healthy load of scum floating about) into a bowl. This was a proud moment. My first casserole.
Pride went the way of the casserole. Down the gurgler. The meat was like leather, the veg just didn’t cut it. The water was, well, watery, with a just hint of flavour, but hardly likely to get me over the hunger hump.
The next day I thought, bugger it, and I bought my first cookbook, went home and had a bit of a read. Later that morning, after a quick trip to the supermarket, I baked two loaves of bread, one of which I delivered (still warm) to the ex (it was my first ex. I’ve had two cracks at the marriage thing).
It was for me a real defining moment. Sure, it wasn’t the best bread either of us had ever eaten (it was a bit on the heavy side although the crust was perfect), but it certainly wasn’t the worst by any stretch.
I had actually created something from scratch, something that wouldn’t see the bottom of the bin. I liked the feeling: I liked it a lot.
It’s a feeling that has stayed with me.
I graduated to making healthy breakfasts: lots of different grains, honey and milk.
I thought nothing of cooking sweet and sour scallops (yep, it was a while ago), or lamb koftas, big pots of steaming, well-seasoned and healthy vegetable soups, moussaka, curries, and of course, I kept up with the bread baking. The smell in the house was enough to warrant doing it. And I bought a barbie, so the snags always got as good workout.
It was also about the time I graduated into the joys of gardening and growing my own vegies. I also started collecting and restoring old furniture and bits and pieces that made the house a little more homely.
At the time I lived in an inner-city terrace, which had a decent plot out back. I grew tomatoes, dope (of course among the tomatoes to disguise its presence), eggplants, capsicums, onions, spuds, and a few other odds and sods, a few basic herbs such as parsley, rosemary and basil … and I started using them … and loving it. Not only was I getting decent, homegrown produce, but I was also saving a shitload of money. My market trips continued, but now I was buying only stuff I needed and used. My bank balance, while still a week-to-week proposition, made it easier to afford grog and cigarettes.
A feeling of pride in so many things started to kick in (OK, not in the smoking), especially in myself. I was developing my own style on so many levels and I reckon I became a more appealing person on many levels.
Let’s face it, fellas, most women really enjoy a bloke who looks after himself (and no, I’m not talking bulging biceps from three times a week at the gym), can handle himself in the kitchen, doesn’t mind buying flowers for the house, flat or whatever … a well-mannered bloke who’s not half bad to be around.
I've got to the point where I go to the supermarket about every six weeks ... yep, six weeks ... and that's just to buy butter, oil/s, toilet paper and the odd staples such as canned tomatoes and dried pasta. The South Melbourne Market is the source of all my food, soap, plastic bags, paper towels, serviettes, etc. It helps to be a regular at the various stalls. These days it takes me a couple of hours to shop because I always try to have a chat with my regular suppliers, a thing that pays dividends because they not only give me great service, but almost always a discount.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.