Delicious, flaky, less than perfect looking Cornish pasties are a benchmark of my progress.
I’ve acquired a new outlook. I’m less concerned about the small things. I’ve stopped busting my balls to achieve perfection in all I do. I have learnt the power of emptying your mind.
But I didn’t choose this to happen. Life thrust it upon me. In hindsight, it is a blessing in disguise.
I’ve been unwell for a long time. I have a rare congenital illness not known to have a cure. It’s been building up silently within. Eventually I received a diagnosis. But the treatment rapidly accelerated my decline.
In my decline this sickness took away my physical strength and robbed me of my intellect, my memory and both physical and mental stamina. It emptied my head, scrubbed the hard drive of cognitive ability. At times recently I have been critically ill and felt as if I might die.
So in recovery, I begin again. Now unconcerned by some things that once held me back. Which brings me to these Cornish pasties.
I made them in one go, for the first time not needing breaks in order to rest along the way. I didn’t cook sitting down, as I have for months. I didn’t use the food processor. I was strong enough to roll the pastry myself. And I did it based on visual memory. It pushed my heart rate through the roof but it was worth it.
With trembling hands I did drop a few pasties on the floor but took it in my stride, unconcerned. Quite unlike the self-admonishing old me.
Cooking has been my occupational therapy. A month ago I couldn’t read a recipe in one go. Now I can.
Until now it would take me hours to write a post here but cooking is helping me recover stamina, dexterity, word skills and mental agility.
I was able to make these using recollections of Nana’s pastry: 8oz flour, massage in about 50g of Myrtleford butter, then same for Greenvale Farm lard. Salt. Water until it felt right, then rolled it out.
I chopped small dice of heirloom turnip, carrot, parsnip and potato. Added minced Warialda Beef and Gypsy Pig pork, seasoned with lashings of pepper, some salt and homegrown dried parsley. All by sight, not by the perfect exactitude of measurement. And it worked.
Baked fifteen minutes on high and half an hour turned down low, they were the best pasties I’d eaten since childhood.
The pastry was firm enough to support the filling yet rich and flaky in mouth. I could clearly taste each of the root vegetables in the filling yet it was delicate and lacked the flaccid tang of some commercial pasties I’ve had.
I was so keen to tuck in that I burnt my tongue on the steaming hot filling. It was none the less a delicious achievement. A mark of my progress.