Circumstance, and the school holidays, have seen me with somewhat of a full house of late. Visiting out of towners, a couple of short-term housemates from overseas, children and their friends filling their days with a lot of lazing about.
It's thrown me a little.
It's been more than four years now since my home became a single-person dwelling, albeit with 50 per cent of the kids, and there are times when I wonder if I will ever be able to live with someone again. Should fate deem that even a chance.
It's a good few years since I was wandering around the house fully naked, but I've had to check myself before I head off in my underwear to find something at the other end of the house.
I guess if I'm living with someone, in the full conjugal sense of the word, that might not be so much a problem, but when it's the parents of your son's rugby teammate, let alone said teammate, it's a tad more awkward.
But that's not it. I can curb those wanton moments. It's more about a change in routine, having, if I really break it down to its rawest form, to having to be considerate of other people.
What is wrong with me if I'm getting annoyed, no, that's too strong an emotion, but if I'm noticing things are being done differently. Not wrong, mind you, just differently to how I do them every day because I am the only one here to do things. Different pots and pans and washing powder and toilet paper, a different brand of milk in the fridge, there's even coffee in the pantry now, for the first time in more than a decade.
As much as I have loved, am loving, having everybody around, I have to admit it's thrown me a little bit.
I wonder if living alone is making me selfish ... no, that's not it, perhaps more set in my ways, more used to that routine, my routine? Or maybe it's just an aging thing, isn't becoming "set in your ways" often attributed to old people? Am I old? Or have I always been set in my ways, I suspect there's a little of that in play here too.
If anything the past few weeks have probably got me back into something of a routine. It's been more than lovely to be able to cook for people again, to sit around the big table and have conversations, to have someone else decide what to cook for dinner, or what we should do on a Sunday afternoon.
Or best of all to have someone cook dinner. Completely, from start to finish, without me even having to think about what we're having.
If you're even thinking about joining me in aforementioned conjugal state (surely someone out there must be, even if he doesn't know it yet) the way to my heart is to cook for me. Heck, at this point, make me a cup of tea and bring me a biscuit and I'm yours forever.
For me cooking is an act of love. Even on those nights where you're done with cooking, and meal planning, and grocery shopping, there's something to be said about handing over a plate of food that says this is for you.
And so, I wanted to hug, let's call him Steve, father of said teammate, dear husband to a dear new friend, who on the first night was more than happy to take control of the tongs and the butterflied leg of lamb I was serving everyone. And then, on night two, said let me do something, and prepared us all a lasagna in the slow cooker that fed everyone for about three nights.
I literally wanted to hug him. It's been a long time since I've had a man in the kitchen. Cooking anyway.
And I felt very grateful. I loved the way he properly handled the mis en place. How he was concerned that we'd mistimed everything given the times we needed to be on the sidelines supporting the boys. How he took pride in the end result and humbly accepted all the praise being showered upon him.
I just loved that it wasn't me.
I just loved that I had discovered you could do a lasagna in the slow cooker. Definitely be doing that again.
There's a recipe on taste.com.au (search for slow-cooker lasagna) that's pretty close. A white sauce from cream and eggs? Who would have thought.
It serves six, six people you love, with lots of leftovers.
Easy slow-cooker lasagna
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1kg pork and veal mince
90g tomato paste
125ml red wine
680g jar bolognese pasta sauce
250ml chicken stock
1 tbsp dried oregano leaves
250g packet dried lasagne sheets
600ml pouring cream
3 eggs, lightly whisked
300g coarsely grated three cheese mix
fresh parsley, to serve
1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Cook the mince, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps, for 10 minutes or until the mince changes colour. Add the tomato paste. Cook, stirring, for one minute to coat. Add the wine. Cook for one minute or until the wine evaporates. Add the pasta sauce, stock and oregano. Season. Simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced slightly.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the cream and eggs in a bowl until well combined. Season. Stir in two cups cheese.
3. Grease the insert of a slow cooker. Spread a thin layer of the mince mixture over the base of the insert. Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, breaking the sheets to fit, if necessary. Drizzle one-fifth of the cream mixture over the lasagne sheets and top with one-quarter of the remaining mince mixture. Continue layering with remaining lasagne sheets, cream mixture and mince mixture, finishing with a layer of cream mixture. Sprinkle with remaining one cup cheese.
4. Cook on low for three and a half to four hours or until the lasagne sheets are tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Carefully remove the insert from the slow cooker. Set aside, covered, for 10-15 minutes to rest. Sprinkle with parsley.