My Grandma Sydney was born on the 4th of July and, this year, our family celebrated her 81st birthday by dining at Flint in the Vines, the new restaurant at Shaw Valley Vineyards. I know my American friends were busy celebrating Independence Day on July 4 but, as Australians, we were far more interested in celebrating my grandma. In that spirit, here are several facts about the lovely lady, interspersed with several of the day’s eats.
1. My brother and I have always called my mother’s parents Grandma and Grandpa Sydney. Why? Well, because they used to live in Sydney. Never mind the fact that they’ve lived in Canberra for over a decade; they will always be Grandma and Grandpa Sydney to us. I mean, seriously, would you let go of such an utterly creative nickname? My brother and I are GENIUSES. (Genii?) To further illustrate our ingenuity, my dad’s parents were/are known as Grandpa Bat’n’Ball (because he played cricket with my brother) and Grandma Mickey (I honestly have no idea of the origin or meaning of that one. It just fits).
The tuna component of this was amazing. Absolutely melt-in-the-mouth, while the pepper-crust zinged nicely. I did baulk at asparagus appearing in the dead of winter, but at least it tasted nice and fresh. My mother and I were both a bit disappointed in the dressing, as the soy component was aggressively salty and overwhelmed the truffle.
2. Grandma Sydney has edited dictionaries and has an amazing grasp of language and grammar. I dare you to confuse “fewer than” with “less than” in her presence, or to pronounce ceremony as “cere-moan-y” instead of “cere-mun-y”. She also has no qualms about playing a seven-letter word as her first move in Scrabble, even – nay, particularly – if you are eight years old and silently think you ought to be “allowed” to win. However, this means that on the rare occasions you do beat her, it means more, because you know it was an honest win.
I seem to be irresistibly drawn to soufflés in fancy restaurants. I couldn’t help myself this time because I’d never eaten a savoury soufflé, and I do love me some goat’s cheese. The soufflé itself was lacking in flavour (it tasted mostly of egg), but the pumpkin veloute was rich and sweet and the dabs of goat’s cheese in the veloute were scrumdiddlyumptious. I’m glad I tried it.
3. When I was little and visited the Sydneys in Sydney with my brother, my Grandma would take me on “girls only” trips to see pantomimes. I remember feeling proud as punch to be out with her, and I also remember getting Zappo’s sour candies to eat at intermission. I loved everything about those trips.
4. Grandma Sydney may be 81, but she’s adept at using the Internet and writes me incredibly funny emails whenever I go travelling. Actually, we also write to each other when we’re both in Canberra… technology is fabulous sometimes.
5. Grandma Sydney makes a killer muesli, which I used to love eating on holidays as a kid. (She also made good brawn, but it’s the muesli I remember best.) She once made a batch for me that I served to friends for breakfast at a sleepover. I took a bite and exclaimed “This tastes like Grandma!” It took me months to figure out why my friends replied to that with snorts of laughter.
My dad ordered the dessert special, which was Chocolate Caramel Slice. I think this was the biggest sadness of the day, as it tasted nothing like the sweet, rich, unctuous heaven that is a proper chocolate caramel slice. The “caramel” was a bland gelatinous custard and the thick chocolate layer on top wasn’t special. However, one part was absolutely delicious: the pistachio toffee served on the side. You know how, sometimes, there are moments that make you feel truly loved? For me, one such moment was when I “mmmed” over the toffee and, thirty seconds later, my dad gave me all of it. Wonderment.
6. My Grandma is one of the people in this world who always makes me feel (as with the toffee-story above) loved and safe and worth something. I can only hope that she knows I feel the same about her, and that I can’t wait to celebrate her awesomeness again in the near future.