As in every home, the kitchen is the meeting place at Mary’s House. It’s expansive and there is plenty of window light. The House has been generously equipped with a fine stove and cook top, a microwave, dishwashers and ample fridge space.
These are appreciated. But it is the bowls of fruit and other supplies on benchtops and the natural camaraderie of a kitchen that makes it special. Many of the House residents are fine cooks and, at times, we have enjoyed the aromas of fresh muffins, spicy Asian curries and Mediterranean vegetable dishes.
So, it was a surprise to learn that one such lady in the house did not have any culinary experience. On my afternoon shifts at the House, I would see her return after 3pm and immediately tuck into hot takeaway food. I thought this was simply hunger but as we chatted she told me she’d never learned to cook. We agreed it was time she made a start. She was keen and, after checking the pantry, I sent her off to the nearest supermarket for fresh mince steak and dried Italian herbs.
We set to cooking as soon as she returned. She watched with interest, as I chopped an onion. We put a large pan on the cooktop; oil was added; the onion and then, the mince. We had bought such a large quantity of meat that browning it without spilling any was a delicate operation. We took turns at it. With the meat browned, we added canned tomato and the Italian herbs.
While these were cooking, I had her put on a big pot of water. When it boiled, she added spaghetti and we watched carefully for it to become ‘al dente’. By then the meat was ready. And yes, you’ve guessed it. We made the Aussie version of Ragu Bolognese or, as we used to call it at my place, Spag Bol.
It’s moments like these that we realise Mary’s House is so much more than just ‘crisis accommodation’. It gives a glimpse into the support these women are provided and the different ways in which we help to give their independence back, some days this can be simply teaching new skills.