The glistening beads pop in your mouth. Melded with tomato and herbs they add sweetness and a firm texture. Little bursts. No one can quite believe the little red gems are as delicious as they are. They are an ancient fruit. They seem the kind of thing you might search for in the desert. The saviour that you stumble upon when, blistered and thirsty, you finally make it to the oasis. They come from a hard-shelled case. Of course it is fiction that each and every pomegranate holds the exact same number of seeds. But still, imagine. Its brittle matte surface defies the beauty underneath. It is a fruit I remember from my childhood garden too. Sometimes we cracked one on the red cement path, or used a tool from the many hanging on the wall in the garage – when Mum wouldn’t let us inside because she was vacuuming, or mopping or just because. And so we were outside and we were hungry. We could eat Gooseberries too – cocooned in their lacy lantern. The kind of fruit you don’t buy. Like lemons and figs and passionfruit – every good garden needs to supply its own.
In the Kitchen Garden it is time to cook. Long crusty baguettes are sliced on an angle and toasted in a frying pan. Then they are rubbed with a crushed garlic clove. Five times is the agreed number of rubs for each slice. The zucchini is sliced and cooked in a little extra virgin olive oil till it takes on some colour. Each crispy piece of bread is spread with the mixture of cream cheese and sheep feta cheese (our budget version of goat’s cheese). The zucchini slices are laid on, like fish scales, and topped with a sprinkle of diced preserved lemon rind and a crumbling of crisp sage leaves cooked in butter.
Our tasty main is Risotto with leek and yellow capsicum. A fearless mother takes on the task – despite it being the Death Dish on Masterchef. She’s unfazed. She gets her students in a preparatory huddle – they will make the best Risotto ever! It is a winner. A truck load of parmesan. Very cheesy. When not enough jobs remain the students find ways to garnish the dish with slices of radish.
At the communal table a child seeks my permission to lay his healing hands on my broken spine. He has the class reputation for healing headaches. Why not? Give it a whirl, I say.
When all the dishes and washing up is done – there are biscuits with raisins squirrelled back to the playground – turning to blur and dust in a pocket when a game of soccer rounders seems more pressing.
These days the year 6/7 group move around the kitchen with precision and speed. They know their work space. They have yet to work out the ovens, but either have I. Mostly they know where stuff is, although there is always a contingent of boys who need to ask for the item right before their eyes. Today I am about the clumsiest in our group as I nearly lose my grip on a slippery bottle of olive oil and send it to the floor. I save it in the nick of time. Kids are beginning to be confident around sharp knives and have mastered the skills meal-making requires. They no longer avoid the messy or tedious jobs. Well mostly. They work as a team to get the food on the table. Then they enjoy it mixed with conversation and pride. They know there is cleaning up to be done. They know the scraps need to be recycled and sent to the compost. If only we had some chooks. There are girls so keen on tomatoes that they scoop up the leftovers. The kitchen is ready for the next group. There might even be time for a cup of tea between classes. Funny how they think the tea towels might dry in a wet pile…