Last week I was one of a group of lucky few people that got to share in the latest Jacobs Creek ‘Our Table’ event, celebrating the most recent release of the “Made By” film series starring tennis great, Novak Djokovic. The film series and the evening itself, focused on the idea of what makes us, well… US; the people, the experiences, the memories and the passion that ignites us and shapes who we are as people.
The more I thought about Djokovic and his unwavering passion for his sport, and the influence of the people around him, the more I found it quite easy to recognize what my passion is and how it has influenced my life, relationships, experiences and memories.
You guessed it: Food!
As we sat around the absolutely stunning dinner table in one of Melbournes’ hidden venue gems, The Glasshaus Nursery in Cremorne, sipping on Jacobs Creek award-winning wines and consuming delicious food, it struck me how easy it was to talk to strangers about the memories evoked by food. Essentially, food is something unites us all and that we can bond over, no matter how simple or gourmet our palates might be.
The conversation around the table demonstrated the power of food and memory.
One of the unique parts of this evening was that three other bloggers and myself, along with Novak also, shared recipes that held importance to us and these dishes were served to the 40 guests at the event. I read through the descriptions on the menu and thought about my own thought process when choosing my dish, and found the other recipe choices also showed the power of food and the memories that so often coincide with food. From shopping at the markets in Japan and learning how to cook simply like nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill, Billy Laws’ life changing Masterchef dessert entry, Paula Joyes’ pavlova taught with love by her Grandmother, to my choice of dish, the Chilli Mussels I used to cook for my late Dad on Fathers Day; all the recipes presented at this evening were described fondly with love, pride and passion, each speaker returning to special memories as they verbally shared these with the guests around them.
Personally, all of my favourite memories are surrounded by food.
The Christmas table so very full of joy, happiness and of course food on the very last Christmas that all of my family were together before we lost my Grandfather, my Nan, and then a few years later, my own Dad. Cooking shortbread with my beloved Nanna, and her patient instructions, the room filled with the aroma of her perfume, baked goods and glazed cherries. Fish and Chips at my childhood beach house, every Good Friday, no exceptions, my Grandfather the head of the table.
The first dinner party I ever held, at the age of eight, making Peter Russell-Clarks’ Chicken and Mushroom Crepes from the good old Kraft Cookbook for my whole family, and succeeding. Eating sea urchins pulled straight out of the water on a boat in Vietnam, ravenous after learning to scuba dive. My very first gelato in Italy, whilst wandering through cobblestone streets in Venice. Slippery, Pad Thai noodles amongst the humid mountains of Chiang Mai.
Lunch in the kitchen of an adorable Greek’ Yia Yia’ in Crete on the trip of a lifetime with my Mum, where we broke through the language barrier and enjoyed the best moussaka I will ever eat. Beignets in New Orleans, swaying to jazz music as the icing sugar landed all over my clothes. And of course, my Dads’ Mussels, the only dish I could cook him that wasn’t considered too ‘yuppy’ for him, and the very last dish I cooked him before he sadly passed away.
The most important part of my food memories is that along with the food, I remember so much more. The loved ones I was with, their facial expressions, snippets of conversation we had, the feeling of awe and excitement and pure joy as I explored new places, new cultures, or lapped up the comfort of places and people that were so familiar and so important to me and who I am.
Whilst my passion may never put me on the same international playing field as Novaks’ does, I cherish the memories it provides me with, the opportunities that will undoubtedly arise from my love for food and I genuinely look forward to all the meals that are yet to come in my life and all the very special people I will get to share them with.
Thank you to Jacobs Creek for such a perfect evening celebrating all that is special in our lives, and for letting me share a recipe and story that means so much to me. If you would like to cook my Chilli Mussels, the recipe is provided below.
To learn more about the “Made By” campaign and see what makes Novak Djokovic, click the link here.
Mussels in Chilli Sauce
1 chopped brown onion
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 red chillies, chopped (deseed if you want less heat)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 x cans of chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 cup of dry white wine
1.5 kgs of fresh mussels (beards removed)
Large handful of parsley, chopped
Crusty bread, to serve
Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a very large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chilli and saute for 3-4 mins. Add tomato paste and cook for another minute or so. Add tomato and wine to saucepan and stir to combine, then bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 mins.
Add the mussels to the saucepan and cover. Stir every minute to ensure all mussels are cooked and shells open. Discard any unopened shells. The mussels should only take 3-4 minutes to cook. Ladle mussels and sauce into bowls, and serve with crusty bread.
Please note: This article is sponsored by Jacobs Creek, but all opinions (and memories!) are genuine.
Photography care of Jacobs Creek.