A few weeks before Christmas, John’s dad told us about a discussion he’d had with his table mates at the nursing home. He dines with Maureen, Phil and Ruth and they have lively conversations about deep subjects every evening while enjoying a glass of wine. Before Maureen joined the table she made it clear that she would only sit with them if they talked about interesting subjects.
The discussion they’d had was about the quality of food in their 5-star accommodation at Arcare in Maroochydore. While their rooms are really well done and the building is brand new and beautiful, the oldies who are ‘with it’ intellectually are less than impressed with the food. Rob laughs when he tells us that the menus are posted with fancy French names for each dish and “Really, Maureen, it’s either stew or quiche.”
After the phone call I said to John that we should invite the oldies over for a meal and before you knew it, they’d been invited for an Australian Christmas lunch on the 23rd. It took two cars to get the four of them here with their walkers but it was so worth it. While I finished putting the meal on the table, they sat outside in the sun by the water and enjoyed a glass of wine.
Rob was a perfect host and watching him made me realize how much people give up when they move from their own home to an aged care facility. He loved to entertain when he had his own home and that’s just not possible when you’re not in your own place. I thought I was giving him a nice gift by inviting his friends.
Well, that’s how I felt until I sat down with these four. I was in stitches laughing the whole time. In the photo above from left to right is Phil a former captain of a boat that ferried boat pilots to the big ships on their way to and from Brisbane. He’s a fairly new friend and Rob has great discussions with him. Next is Maureen and she and her husband owned a news agency which means she knew everyone in town she lived in. Then there’s Rob, my father-in-law, former physics lecturer and host with the most. Next to Rob is Ruth and she and her former husband ran prawn trawlers in northern New South Wales. On the other side is John’s sister Cathy who lives in Melbourne and came up to have Christmas with her parents.
First we did the Christmas crackers and everyone wore their crowns, read the jokes and swapped their trinkets. Maureen really takes charge of the men and they seem to love it. The more she talked the more I wished she were MY mother. She’s such a funny person. They were all delightful to be with.
We served fresh prawns, a glazed ham with Charlie Louie’s cherry chutney, grilled pineapple, carrots with grapes, potato salad and a spinach salad. We had a small mountains of prawns and there were only 2-3 left. There was no complaining about the food at this table and they all went back for seconds.
Cathy and I cleared the table and then it was time for dessert. Rob loves mango and I’ve been bringing a bowl of cut mango over for the four of them since mango season started so it was a must that mango was a part of dessert. I served mango ice cream with crushed up meringues, fresh mango and whipped cream. I wasn’t sure anyone would have room for it after the meal they ate but not a bit was left on any plate.
They really liked this spinach salad with roast pumpkin and feta.
- 1 large bag fresh baby spinach leaves
- ½ butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ pomegranate (optional)
- 1 small block Danish feta cheese (could use goats cheese)
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- ½ (scant) teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Add all ingredients to a bottle and shake to combine.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the butternut and place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 180C/350F for 20 minutes or until lightly caramelized. Leave to cool
- In a dry skillet, toast pine nuts until golden brown and set aside to cool.
- Wash the baby spinach leaves and place in a large bowl.
- Add cooled pumpkin, pine nuts and cubed feta cheese and toss with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Place in serving bowl.
- If using, bash a few pomegranate seeds (arils) over the salad.