I'm doing something a little bit different this flash Friday. Scottish Book Trust recently ran a competition for writing of under 1000 words with the prompt 'Nourish'. This could be interpreted any way the writer wanted; the only requirement was that the piece be somehow based on your own experience. The competition was only open to unpublished writers so I wasn't able to enter but I really liked the prompt. So, I decided to write a little bit of creative non-fiction for you. Here's my interpretation of 'Nourish'.
My eyes water from the sting of the onions I’m chopping and I try, without success, to avoid blinking. Garlic sizzles in the wok, the smell evoking memories of many happy meals. I throw the onions into the pan, give them a quick stir, and start chopping peppers.
‘What are you doing?’ asks my three-year-old.
‘Chopping peppers,’ I answer. ‘I have red, yellow and green. What’s your favourite colour of pepper?’
‘Yellow. What’s the pepper for?’ she asks.
‘I’m making stir fry for dinner.’
The front door opens to a chorus of ‘Daddy!’ and I am alone in the kitchen once more.
The peppers go into the pan and everything gets another stir. I throw in some mushrooms and cabbage that I chopped earlier and pause the podcast I had been listening to. My husband comes into the kitchen and kisses me.
‘Smells good, I can’t wait to eat,’ he says, then kisses me again and goes to see the kids. I listen to him play with the baby while changing his nappy and smile to myself.
‘Can I help?’ my eldest asks.
‘You could set the table, please.’
‘I want to set the table, that’s my job!’ the three-year-old protests.
‘OK, you set the table,’ I say, trying to keep the peace. I turn to my ten-year-old and say, ‘Would you like to get the plates out and pour water for everyone?’
Beef has been marinating all day. When I peel the film off the bowl, the smell fills the room and the kids come running for a sniff. The wok hisses and sizzles as the succulent meat hits the hot oil, the sound of home and happiness. Dinner will be ready soon. I tell the kids to go and play for ten minutes and finish listening to Writing Excuses, mentally cataloguing the advice and trying to apply it to my work in progress.
Trying to nourish my mind while I nourish my family.
An email comes through to my work account; I can tell by the sound of the alert. I look at the clock and briefly consider ignoring it. Only briefly. Writing means that I can’t afford to miss any opportunities. It’s an acceptance for a short story that I had sent out months ago – so long that I had forgotten about it.
I call my husband through and show him the email. He picks me up and swings me around the room as I laugh and cry all at once. I suddenly remember the stir fry and laughingly ask my husband to put me down. I feel his absence when he does.
I serve the food and we all gather around the table. My husband offers a toast to my good news and my children share in my joy.
While we eat, we play I-spy. It doesn’t take long before our three-year-old is making things up. She spies a butterfly, a unicorn and a princess. We play using colours as well as letters, learning and laughing together. We nourish our connections as a family by eating and playing together.
When the meal is over, we linger at the table, talking about our day. The ten-year-old went to basketball after the school, the three-year-old saw a snail on the way to nursery and the baby has been babbling and laughing all day. I’ve been blogging and cleaning and cooking. When the kids are in bed, I’ll settle down with my laptop and open up the book I’m working on. My husband tells us about seeing someone on the train reading a book he had recently enjoyed. He spent a few minutes trying to guess which part of the story they were at. We laugh over the idea that someday he might see people reading my book on the train. It seems like an impossible dream though we both know it is not.
We clear away the dishes and finish the housework for the day. I do some preparation for the next day’s meals, tubbing up leftovers for lunch and making homemade sausage for breakfast. Then it’s bedtime and story time for the kids.
Books are read, and enjoyed and discussed, lullabies are sung and children are tucked up safe and sound for the night.
We are all nourished by the life that we share and for that, I will be eternally grateful.