It has been one whole year since Greg died. That seems absurd, ridiculous. Sometimes in my everyday living I can almost forget that this ever happened. I didn’t live with Greg normally; he didn’t come to work with me; I didn’t speak to him every day; he didn’t socialise with my friends. I can go about my life in much the same way as I did before, for the most part. I seem to be able to compartmentalise quite well. But on the anniversary of Greg’s death, as with Christmas and New Year, I am forced to recognise consciously that this did happen and Greg is dead.
What do you do on such occasions? My Dad said he thought about looking through photo albums but decided against it as that should be a positive activity – a celebration of Greg’s life. This anniversary is not a day for celebration; it is a day for mourning. It is a day I wish I could forget about – that it would rush past me in a blur of dates and work and commitments and I’d realise weeks later, astonished, it passed me by and I didn’t even notice. But that is unlikely to ever happen.
In the lead up to the anniversary my anxiety increased. Anticipation sat heavy on my stomach and my heart fluttered uncomfortably. My dreams became more vivid and distressing. I’d booked the day itself off in advance but decided I couldn’t go into work the day before either. I’d woken in a cold sweat after a night spent thrashing around in a half-asleep state, hitting out at people that weren’t there and accusations made by nobody but myself.
We lit a candle and spent the day quietly being together. It was just a day to get through. And getting through it was made easier by several events we had coming up – a family gathering at our house, and a rugby memorial match organised for Greg and another young man, Tom, by some of their old teammates. This gave us something to think about, focus on, plan and organise, and something to look forward to – some way of celebrating Greg, of doing something for him, and of remembering him with others.
Grief is more bearable when it is shared. Coming together with other people who loved Greg and miss him just as painfully as I do, whether that be family or friends, is always, always helpful. The memorial match for Greg and Tom was a fantastic success and, for us, was also a way of coping with a terrible day in our calendar.
The Cooking – Jamie’s Sicilian squash and chickpea stew
For the family event mentioned above I took on the responsibility of feeding the vegetarians and choose to make this ‘Sicilian squash and chickpea stew’ from Jamie Oliver’s book ‘Save with Jamie’. I realised when making it that it’s also vegan friendly! So one to have in the back-pocket for dietary inclusive dinner parties.
I hardly ever cook with butternut squash – for some reason I perceived it to be incredibly difficult to chop. I don’t know if I’ve been doing it wrong or if I was in fact thinking of a different vegetable (swede..?), but I managed to get into this squash very easily. Jamie directs you to peel the squash before cutting it – maybe that’s the secret.
All in all this is a very easy recipe. An unusual element (to my knowledge) was simmering the raisins, spices and onions together for a significant period of time. The sugar from the raisins sort of caramelised the onions and created a sticky, sugary, spiced juice that worked as the base of the meal. I managed to burn the stew at this point as there’s not much in the pan to absorb the heat – so I’d recommend constant vigilance! The squash is cooked in both the oven and the pan, which is (according to Jamie) what gives the dish such ‘depth of flavour’. Everything else is simply added to the pot once the raisins have finished caramelising.
There was only one vegetarian at the event in the end so I felt a little silly making enough stew for 12 people, but thankfully most people added a small portion to their plate. And it went down very well! Some people informed me they went back specifically for ‘Sicilian stew’ seconds. I seemed to get away with the small lapse of attention and consequent burning. There is a definite sweetness to the dish which gives it a Moroccan feel, and the textures of the soft squash and firm chickpeas work very well together. If you are someone who does not enjoy the mixture of sweet and savoury on one plate you won’t like this, but then you won’t like a lot of things because I maintain wholeheartedly that the proper enjoyment of food completely revolves around this tension. Just watch Ratatouille and you will see what I mean.
Didn’t manage to get a good photo before people started tucking in, but you get the idea. It’s an orangey looking stew.