Living with a chaotic person was not a concept I had ever entertained. I have fortunately lived with neat folk until now, and then on my own in the blissful sanctuary that was, was, the Lady Pad. Sadly, the Lady Pad and I parted ways a couple of months ago. My goods have been scrutinised for their practicality and promptly pared down into what can safely fit into the abode of an eccentric Italian and his even more eccentric dog. Living quarters are tight here. The TV crackles and hisses at me, most saddening on a Thursday night when I love to indulge in the only programs I can commit to, back-to-back cooking shows. And when it rains, even just a slight mist of rain that barely kisses the rooftop antenna, Ainsley Harriott’s face distorts and then freezes right at the point where he is showing us how to whip up a delectable wasabi mayonnaise in an izakaya in Osaka. If not for SBS On Demand, I may never have known the dramatic ending to that climactic moment.
Then there is the washing situation, which warrants its own moment in the sun.
On moving into the delightful Italian shoe box, a washing issue presented itself to me rather quickly. The Italian didn’t actually own a machine of the modern age that washed clothing, linen and the like. He hadn’t even attended the local coin laundry for the pleasure of washing his goods en masse. No – he had washed them in the bathtub, one piece at a time, like an Italian mamma of the 19th century splashing about in the Tiber; soaking, kneading, wringing, and then slapping said piece about to expel the excess water and bad juju. A wooden spoon was then used to stir the clothes around the bath like a witch on crack. His method, you might argue, was that of a purist, and of someone who really liked their clothes clean. To me, it was plain mad. Everything had been washed in that bath tub – clothes, bed linen, the dog.
Before you question what kind of fresh hell this shoe box is, I will say that the bathroom does contain washing machine taps, fortunatamente. However, the space available for such a machine is laughable. It requires a Thumbelina-sized washing machine solution. I had considered making a little wheeled trolley for my own washing machine, tucking it into some other corner of the shoe box and then wheeling it into the bathroom each time I needed to do washing.But alas, it would not fit through the bathroom door, and is now stored away in a box in a warehouse god knows where.
Faced with the tiny space and a growing pile of dirty clothes, I spoke with The Italian about the dire situation. Actually, I pretty much told him, that no matter what size, we were going to find a washing machine for that damned space. I hadn’t given up my number to wash clothes like a mamma in the bath tub with the dog next to me for company.
And so, after much research and deliberation, The Italian rode his bike home from work one day and protruding from the doggy-cart attached to his bike, sat a boxed washing machine – a macchina perfect for the caravanning family.
The Italian proudly installed the washing facility he had brought home and affixed instructional signage to the wall … turn the tap this way, don’t leave the power on, make sure the hose is securely placed in the toilet at a safe distance from the toilet water. Washing in the modern era, it seemed, was a complex operation for this odd, odd fellow.
Sadly, during Week 2 in the life of RV Macchina, The Italian hadn’t followed his own instructions too well and we had a crisis. The hose, not so securely fastened, took on a life force of its own and attacked The Italian like a desert snake. He screamed out for help, the high-pitched wail of someone in great pain, and when I found him he had taken a hold of the hose and was standing in a flood of water. I swiftly got to work, throwing towels down on the floor while he contained the bathroom situation, and all was OK fairly quickly.
Half an hour later, another wail. There was more pain in this one. The hose attacked The Italian again. Water was everywhere. Towels were thrown on the already soaked carpet. ‘How are we going to wash all of these when we can only wash one towel at a time?’, he asked, dismayed.
The RV Macchina has slaved away for us ever since that day, one towel (plus some undergarments, if we’re lucky) at a time. With my high-tech ladder solution, that hose hasn’t moved an inch since. Clothes are washed almost daily. The shoe box smells permanently of washing detergent and dog. The oversized clothes horse is part of the décor and our weekly routine can almost be mapped to the never-ending cycle of washing. Despite feeling as though I am camping in a shoe box in the very well-to-do area we live in, the constant hum of water flushing into the toilet while we dine one metre away is somehow soothing. But how I miss the Lady Pad, where there was order, space and a full-sized washing machine that had nothing to do with the toilet.
So I give to you, with bittersweet feelings, one of the last meals I cooked in that heavenly place, my roast pumpkin, feta and pomegranate seed salad à la Lady Pad.
800g – pumpkin (butternut or Kent are good options)
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
extra virgin olive oil + 1/3 cup for the dressing
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ripe pomegranate
200 g feta (Danish is my pick)
120 g rocket salad
handful fresh mint and/or parsley, finely chopped
approx. 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
sea salt and black pepper
Preheat your oven to . Prepare the pumpkin by removing the skin, removing the seeds and straggly bits, and then chopping it into chunks (about 2.5 x ). Place the pumpkin on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, being careful not to flood the tray. Season well and add the cumin, then sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Bake in the hot oven for about 40 minutes, or until cooked and a little jammy and darkened around the edges. Set aside until cooled to room temperature.
In a large, lovely bowl, add the washed rocket salad, pumpkin and feta, broken into chunks and scattered over the pumpkin.
On a chopping board, preferably plastic due to stainage, cut the pomegranate in half. Using a teaspoon, gently pull the seeds away from the flesh, being careful not to squirt yourself in the eye (I have done this). It’s also not a bad idea to use gloves if you’re using an overly ripe pomegranate. Scatter the seeds and juices over the salad. I would use about ½ to ¾ of the seeds, but the quantity is purely up to you.
To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, vinegar, honey and herbs, and season to taste. Whisk well to dissolve the honey. Pour over the salad just before serving and enjoy, with or without the company of a sturdy washing machine.