Just this week my mum was rostered on to do the Meals on Wheels rounds in our little town, and I went along with her. The experience was eye opening.
The volunteers drive to their local hospital where they are given pre-packed meals – the kind you would imagine people eating in space - which they then deliver to the seniors living around town. Those struggling and vulnerable, who are often bed or housebound – and who may not have any other company for the entire week.
Our first stop was to visit Ken and Sylvie. We crossed the abandoned train tracks that marked the start of their driveway and meandered through some dank puddles up to the house, where Ken was waving from the porch. I’m not sure whether Ken was purposefully leaning against the doorway, or if it was more a necessity. Either way, with his cheeky grin and swagger, he very much looked like an outback Jack Sparrow. When I got out of the car with the basket of food, he laughed and called out to my mum, “I see you’ve brought the muscle along today!”
The next destination was a brick retirement complex where a few elderly people lived – fifty shades of beige, and lacking in character. One shabby man lay sprawled on a couch listening to an old wireless radio – his ballooned tummy rising and falling as he followed along with the cricket score. The man’s eyebrows were so bushy it was hard to tell whether he was awake or not and his stained white singlet left little to the imagination. His tiny house was a mess, and the musty amber-coloured light revealed dust particles summersaulting through the air. The kitchen table was covered in prescription drugs and a jar of strawberry and cream lollies – about the only food source I could see in the house. He barely looked up as we placed his meal on the table. Mum told me later that this guy was a secret millionaire.
My favourite stop on the whole journey was at Mrs Schaffer’s house. At first we didn’t think she was home. We knocked and knocked at the front door, calling out. “Hello! Meals on Wheels!” Silence. Before giving up, we decided to check the back door. Inside the car shed to the side of the cottage were all these half-finished intricate European-style model houses. They were all covered in dust – as if their creator had one day just dropped the chisel and given up. We passed through a white lattice sliding door. It opened into a fairy tale garden with vibrant flowers all vying for the sun’s attention. A path ran in a circle around the centrepiece – which was designed to look like an alpine village – complete with buildings, shops, people and a model train on tracks. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, and still so perfectly manicured. I was immediately transported back to one of my favourite holidays in Lauterbrunnen. Mrs Schaffer came shuffling out at this point, interrupting my daydreaming. She was wearing a roaring forties style dress in a bright floral pattern that nearly disguised her frail frame in the garden. She looked up at us through her thick oversized spectacles, s smiling. “I’m 87!” she declared.
Despite doing a good deed that morning, I was feeling very deflated and melancholy on our way home. And I realised, that aside from that iconic old people talcum powder and medicine smell, all of these people had one glaring factor in common. They were all shut up in their dark houses all day – together in their loneliness.
I felt both sadness, and overwhelming gratitude, for my blessed life filled with beautiful friends and a loving family.
Just like this broad bean & feta hummus with za’atar spiked flatbreads, life is undoubtedly better when it’s shared.
- 2 cups broad beans
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons unhulled tahini
- 1 tablespoon mint sauce
- ½ cup Danish feta cheese
- ¼ cup olive oil x 2
- Salt + pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 ½ cups wholemeal flour
- 3 tablespoons za’atar dukkah
- Yeast sachet prepared in half cup of warm water
- In a food processor, combine beans, garlic, tahini, mint, feta, ¼ cup olive oil, salt + pepper, cumin and lemon juice until smooth.
- For the flatbreads, prepare yeast as per instructions, but with only half a cup of water.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, za’atar, yeast and remaining olive oil into a dough. Kneed on a floured surface until it comes together.
- Roll into a log and cut into about five pieces. On the floured surface, roll these out thinly with a rolling pin and fry in a non-stick pan until golden brown on either side.