Last Christmas, two hearty friends of mine surprised me with a present. It was a drinks coaster with a 1950s-style image of an apron-wearing woman holding a toaster with the caption, “If it fits in a toaster, I can cook it!” On its own, it would give most good folks a chuckle, yet, for me, it held a story.
In the early days of updating my status to separated parent, I discovered that the flat-plate toaster sandwich press was weirdly practical for cooking up many culinary marvels. I loved that my meals cooked quickly and there was very little washing up.
I experimented and discovered that zucchini, sweet potato, mushroom, pumpkin and onion could all cook up well in the sandwich press toaster with a sprinkle of salt. Combined with some bite-size chunks of meat, I could put together my version of a healthy souvlaki.
I even resorted to using it to cook frozen dim-sims cut in half-length ways! It was hardly a life of indulgent privilege but was practical and convenient. At that topsy-turvy time, the toaster sandwich press was ideal.
That was over four years ago. At that time, anything more complicated than a screw-top lid was causing my head to hurt. It wasn’t a fun time. I would clean around the Man Cave and discover the vacuum cleaner inhaling broken shards of my sense of humour.
The complexity of my separation and post-separation angst that went with it meant that “simple, simple, simple” became my mantra. Cooking in a sandwich press met all three of those criteria.
My dear friends stuck around as I recounted stories of how the sandwich press provided cooking sustenance. I must have been light on for conversation or, more likely, I didn’t want to bother them with the accounts of sparring lawyers.
If they thought it weird that I kept my washing up to one fork, knife and plate night after night, they didn’t show it. Instead, they smiled and patiently, lovingly stuck around while I found my way.
Four years later and I am partway through my own “Divorced Dad’s Cookbook”, having learned to disguise my children’s most feared vegetables into the best homemade sausage rolls and delight them with a Saturday morning pancakes ritual and a variety of curry yumminess.
The Christmas present coaster delivered a solid laugh because it took me back to a time when I was actually serious about cooking, mostly using a toaster sandwich press. I wouldn’t have seen the funny side of that coaster back then. Right now, however, it is a hilarious reminder of evolving from kitchen novice to modest cook.
It is also a reminder that good people helped me get there. Dunc and Martina are the good people type. Post-separation healing is definitely not something to attempt solo. If you are separated, you need to draw these good people types to you.
Good people are wholesome. They don’t hold themselves up to be flawless but embrace you with care. They laugh gently with you in the early days and tenderly poke fun when the healing is just about done. Hence, the coaster.
A lot of my healing is through, and in their sublime way of caring, Dunc and Martina reminded me of four years earlier, which prompted my realisation of how much ground I have covered. I have had four years of soul-soothing comfort from the kindest of friends.
The wrapping-up irony of this story is that I was recently prompted to go back to the sandwich press…
Spread a flatbread on the base of the sandwich press toaster. Sprinkle a generous portion of ‘fresh from the cob’ corn kernels. Grate some strong-flavoured cheese over the top. Thin slices of chorizo also make a spicy addition. Put a flatbread on top and close the sandwich press to cook. My children love it!
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