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  • Sudha

Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Tea bags

It was dinner time today and I was in a rush to cook dinner to feed our forever-starving teens. Decided to cook a simple dhal, cabbage fry and roti. I needed 3 tomatoes and realised I didn't have any. A quick phone call to Clare next door didn't result in anything and I had to resort to tinned tomatoes.

It got me thinking. When was the last time I bought tomatoes? It used to be a staple item in our weekly shopping list. When did I stop adding it to my weekly shopping list? What else have I stopped buying regularly?

Paul loved salad - rabbit food is what I called it. He would dice cabbage, carrots, celery, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes and add a bit of cheese and peanuts. He would fill a 1L Pyrex measuring jug with this and have it for dinner some days. He would sometimes make this for all of us to have with soup and bread on Sundays.

The boys don't care for tomatoes and I can take it or leave it. Which probably explains why I stopped buying tomatoes. In the early days, they probably sat in the back of the fridge slowly going soft and rotting.

Being a staunch (almost) life-long vegetarian, Paul loved mushrooms - a good source of protein he would say. He loved a hearty veggie English breakfast with scrambled eggs and mushrooms. Once every few weeks, I would make a mushroom risotto for dinner. Harry and Andrew would moan every time I made it but ate it as they had no choice. I made the risotto because Paul liked it.

I haven't bought mushrooms in more than a year. I have no reason to. The one person in our family who enjoyed them isn't here to enjoy them anymore.

I opened the cupboards while looking for the tinned tomatoes and I found 2 packets of carnaroli risotto rice sitting at the back. I stood there looking at them with an ache in my heart I can't explain. When was the last time I made risotto for Paul? Why can't I remember? What else have I forgotten?

Although I have never enjoyed 'daily' cooking, I cooked most dinners and Paul would happily step in if I was on a night out or just needed a break from chores. What made my daily cooking a little less 'chore'y was that Paul never complained or moaned about my cooking. I knew the dishes he loved and the ones he ate because he didn't have a choice 😊. If there was a meal that was a bit 'meh', the 3 boys would usually gang up together and giggle away my annoyance.

I am sure there are many things we have stopped doing because Paul was the protagonist, but the biggest yet simplest of all is making a cup of tea. The very quintessentially British beverage. Oh, how he loved a cuppa ❤. I can hear him come in to the kitchen from the garden with a cheeky smile and dirty hands going 'cuppa teeeeeeeee??' and head back out quickly before I could show him a cheeky middle finger. Of course, I swiftly followed him with a cup of tea for him and a cup of coffee for me and we would both sit on the garden bench chatting.

There is no one to ask me for a cheeky cuppa anymore. There is no one to remind me to ONLY buy Fairtrade and organic CLIPPER tea bags anymore. There is no one to sit down and chat to anymore - about the boys, about the garden, about our future, about how we will grow old together. It is empty all around me. It is silent. And the silence is truly deafening. It is so deafening I can't hear my own thoughts. The silence is like a lead weight tied around my shoulders and it is slowly drowning me.

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