(This post will make more sense if you have read my previous post, Hangi Time).
So the neighbours with the six children and the dirt bikes and the chickens and the rooster and the cigarettes and the long-neck bottles of beer and the bricks, tiles and concrete and the offensive language that landed one of them in prison, sold the house and moved on. We wondered who had bought it because with walls of chocolate clinker brick and shiny, slippery tiles and raw brick feature walls and brick archways and windows of orange bottle-glass we couldn’t imagine what sort of people would find this home appealing.
With the previous owners being a family of eight, the new owners were a couple whose two boys were all grown up and had left home. I spied on the couple from my side of the fence and then thought I’d speed up the introductions by throwing over a ball, jumping across the fence and telling them about the ‘accident’ with the ball and ‘Would it be okay for me to collect it?’
And they gave me a very welcoming smile and asked, ‘Do you like biscuits?’ I certainly did. The man went into the house and came out with an enormous tin filled with assorted cream biscuits – all the biscuits my mother wouldn’t buy because she said they were bad for us! So I took one and they said I could have another and then he said I could keep the whole tin and take them home.
The new neighbours in the ugly house were a stroke of good luck. That is because the man was the CEO of a company that made biscuits, Easter Eggs and lollies. He traveled frequently (first class) and collected all those goodies the fortunate few up the front are given, and brought them back for me. Worthless items but to me they were treasure – eye patches, slippers, toothbrushes, tiny tubes of toothpaste, after-dinner mints and toiletry bags.
His company was always looking to expand its range so one day my sisters and I were asked if we would mind trying happy-face shortbread biscuits filled with raspberry jam and let him know what we thought of them. Another time they were looking at buying the rights to Tic Tacks and we were given trays of them and asked to give him our opinion. Another time it was chewing gum. We would hardly have been giving him an informative opinion however as we thought everything we had to taste-test was utterly incredible.
They dug up some of the concrete in the backyard and planted a large vegetable garden. I used to spend my afternoons helping in the garden pulling up carrots and picking ears of corn and harvesting ice-berg lettuce and picking beans and shelling peas. In the garage they didn’t keep chickens and roosters, they kept bottles of fizzy drink (another product my mother wouldn’t buy), that would be opened when I’d finished ‘helping’ in the vegetable patch.
With their grandchildren living overseas they ‘adopted’ us as their own. They took great pleasure in celebrating our birthdays and on my 10th birthday I woke up and looked out my bedroom window to see an enormous sign saying ‘Happy 10th Birthday’ and it was surrounded by balloons. When my older sister turned 13 they gave her a pink lipstick telling her that now she was a teenager she would be allowed to start wearing lipstick. They were greatly involved in our interests and abilities and came to watch us perform in concerts and swim in races and run around ovals.
It was very sad when we had to farewell our wonderful neighbours, Neil and Lesley, when we left New Zealand for Australia. We did keep in touch with phone calls and that old fashioned mode of correspondence called letter writing but it wasn’t quite the same. Years went by and Lesley became a widow, a few more years passed and I heard Lesley had cancer. I sent her a letter telling her what a wonderful person she was and shared with her all the precious memories I had from being their neighbour. She wrote a letter back saying those days were equally as precious to her. She passed away a few days later.
Good neighbours are a great blessing.
The biscuit company also made crackers. Here are two dip recipes I make to serve with crackers.
Green Olive Dip and White Bean Dip
Makes: About 1 1/2 cups each
Degree of Difficulty: 1/5 – if you have a food processor or blender
Cost: On Friday night I had an impromptu dinner party. At 5pm with the guests arriving at seven, I rushed off to Harris Farm and bought two dips for $8.50 each. Lovely dips but if you make your own you can produce four times the volume for a quarter of the price.
Green Olive Dip:
- 2 cups pitted green olives (I use the ones in the jars stuffed with pimentos)
- 1 red chilli, deseeded
- 2 cloves of garlic
- small handful of parsley
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and blend. Pour in olive oil in a slow, steady stream and continue processing until olive oil is incorporated.
White Bean Dip:
- 2 cans cannelini beans (800g) rinsed and drained
- 2 cloves garlic
- handful fresh thyme
- splash of olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a medium-sized frying pan heat the splash of oil, add beans, garlic and thyme and gently heat until garlic is fragrant. Transfer to a food processor, add lemon juice and blend. Pour in olive oil in a slow, steady stream and continue processing until olive oil is incorporated.
Place in containers and serve with dips. Also can be used as a base in a pasta sauce.
And…I’ve been nominated in the Sydney Writer’s Group award, Best Blog 2012. There is also a People’s Choice Award. If you could take the time to vote for me I’ll be your best friend!
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