As we roll into the new year I am filled with the desire to feel hope.
To make this desire real I know I have to BELIEVE I have hope, rather than just hope. As such, faith may come into play.
I’m reminded of this each year by speeches from people like the Pope, Sco Mo, the administrators of Australian cricket. “Hang in there,” they say. “Keep trying.” “Learn how to bat.” But it can be difficult to process in the broader picture until a personal moment arrives.
For me it was Christmas Eve dinner in the backyard this year (well, last actually) when we flame-grilled duck on the barby. An unfamiliar field of culinary combat for our protagonists.
Normally we do duck in the oven, where it spits to its hearts content and leaves the house scented with duck grease for days. This year, we determined to do it “in the field” so we could avoid all the fuss. Lol.
Being an unfamiliar field of culinary combat, debate raged immediately as to the method. And inevitably through the method, we found madness. It was Christmas after all. Duck is indeed a combustible bird, best treated cautiously around naked flame, particularly when butterflied to incinerate faster.
Duck is indeed a combustible bird, best treated cautiously around naked flame, particularly when butterflied to incinerate faster.
Pretty quickly benchmarks for charcoal chicken were surpassed as fat rendered into the flames, creating an emotional cauldron to match the rising inferno. Even more quickly the question emerged: should we keep a lid on it? Not the emotions, because they were already raging, as was the bird; but rather the flames, so they could be extinguished. For any chef, it’s the darkest hour – dinner on the brink – the only light coming off the glowing barby.
As other members of the family dispersed to less hectic emotional areas – cupboards, under the house – I paused to gulp my beverage and take a 1000-yard stare at the concept of hope. If not for the new year, then certainly this blazing duck. The drip tray was now alight independently of the gas burners, seriously threatening the integrity of the meal and definitely the barby. Laments about how the drip tray should have been changed last year only heightened the sense that time had stood still – since the Hindenburg. Oh the humanity.
As so often occurs in defining conflagrations like these, the desire to feel hope was forged. You’ve gotta believe you can retrieve this situation, because a) you’re hungry, and b) you may never live it down. To achieve that belief, though, you have to suspend it. Thus enters faith.
Suitably motivated I put the beer down and waded back into the fray; suppressing doubts, but more importantly fire coming out of the hood. Depriving oxygen first to the flames, then to the hysteria.
Slowly, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, or more accurately, a butterflied duck scraped off the char grill, hope and faith morphed into delusion. I mean belief.
Belief that the skin was a close enough version of piri piri to pass human consumption. Belief that we could come out of the cupboard or from under the house and gather for Christmas Eve dinner after all. Belief that beyond the seared duck epidermis, the flesh was not raw, unlike the memories of cooking it. For ultimately if the duck was not cooked then the goose would be.
Which brings us back to that desire to feel hope. Hope that you were not the goose that “cooked” the raw duck, and faith we could roll into the new year with good food, good times and perhaps yet another rerun of Love Actually after dinner.