This is a long time coming. A whole year has passed since I was here. So I’m unsure of which story to give a voice to first because there are simply so many, all in one way or another connected to food. Like the night I invited all the girls over to our new home and made a whole roast cauliflower with tahini, black olives and currants. I could’ve made four! Or the picture perfect wedding I catered at the Little Black Shack and my quest for the perfect pizza dough to bake in the wood fired oven there. Or the day we made a huge fire pit and cooked a Cinderella size pumpkin in the glowing coals, eaten with sharp Cheddar, sour cream and crunchy jalapeños. Yet the one tale that I feel more compelled to tell than any other, and the thing that has had the most profound effect on my life in the last 12 months, is about surfing. It’s not connected to any one dish in particular. Beyond that, it’s become an intrinsic part of the way I cook and who I am. To tell this story though, I need some starlight motivation in the form of a surfing mums bonfire story night, complete with a giant pan of three bean chilli nachos. And I need to start from the beginning.
Newquay is England’s surfing mecca and it’s where I repeatedly went on childhood holidays. If I close my eyes, the memories of the place and those days are sparkling clear. The alarm clock squarks of seagulls, fluorescent buckets and spades strung from shop doors, Mr. Whippy ice creams crowned with sticky chocolate sauce, bamboo handled fishing nets and hunting for crabs, newspaper parcels of hot chips spiked with malt vinegar, castles and moats dug in the sand. Most enduring though is my connection with the ocean. The salt, fresh and clean hanging in the air, the waves forever beating the land, the mineral rich taste in my mouth and the sandpaper feel of briny water dried on my skin. The sense of freedom and excitement jumping in the swell. Crashing, splashing, falling with abandon. Immersing my little body in the energy of the waves, reveling as they lifted me up and down. It was only when I was blue with cold that would return to my mum and dad and the comfort of a warm towel. That pull of the sea has remained with me. And it’s there now more than any other time in my life. I give you this snapshot into my early years because those times, playing with the rhythm of the ocean is where I now see that my desire to surf was born.
Fast forward to my thirty ninth year, and given the opportunity I will still remain in the ocean until I’m either too cold or too tired to continue. Now though instead of jumping waves, I’m trying to ride them. Arriving in Australia fourteen years ago I intended to make my childhood dream of learning to surf come true. However, it’s a hard sport to master, or even begin to master. There are so many constantly changing factors involved. I just thought I would get around to it one day. At least I was now in the right place and had a board. The rest would happen. But other ambitions ensued like owning a cafe, running a marathon and having children. In fact it took until Thea was born and I found out about Surfing Mums that I actually committed to surfing once a week. I’m confident in the water and was always happy to paddle out the back. On some days that was an achievement in itself. Yet actually catching waves eluded me. I was excited to be forming new friendships with inspirational and like minded people though, all of whom loved the ocean too, while at the same time making small steps towards my dream. Then a tree fell on our house.
That gum tree was blessing. For two and a half years we lived away from the ocean while our house was rebuilt. And what that did is make me realise what is vitally important to me. That I love the sea. I have always known this. During a French speaking class at school we were asked to tell everyone a sentence about ourselves. Mine was “je voudrais habiter toujours pres de la mer” ( I wish always to live close to the sea). Now though, I know with absoluteness. There is something within me that craves the ocean and feels better for being close to it. Time away from the beach also taught me not to take where I live for granted and to seize the opportunity that I have to make this want in my heart that is to learn to surf a reality. Because when you do lock on to a wave and take that drop, it’s an incredible one of a kind feeling. It’s grinning from ear to ear with elation pounding in your chest. It’s a radiant glow. A sparkle in your eye. It’s energising. Restorative. Calming. Uplifting. Life affirming. It’s an addiction that I’m very proud to have. And there is a fire burning so bright inside of me right now to give everything that I have to achieve my dream.
The thing with me is that I’m fiercely determined. I also expect a lot from myself. And I love a challenge. This combination has seen many tears and much frustration this past year in my surfing crusade. Board breaks that have seen me sobbing in the sand and left me in deep, black holes. The emotional levels I’ve had to work through each time I’ve taken a knock have staggered me. Events from my past that I thought I had dealt with reared, but they’re now tamed and my time in the water is so much lighter. That yarn is for another time though! Then come the highs, so skyscraper tall that that the bad times fade away. I finally feel that I’m making progress. I can see that I am. I’ve gone from being unable to stand up to now being able to pop up with ease and surf directionally on a wave. I can even turn. And on a shorter board. My little girl’s wish is becoming my adult reality. What has surprised is the domino effect that surfing is having on my life in general. It’s making me more confident and assertive as I push myself to paddle for waves alongside others, calmer and patient as I learn to quieten the disruptive little voice in my head. And not even a powder day during my ski seasons, made me hop out of bed quite like I now do for a dawn surf!
The friendships that I have formed through Avalon Surfing Mums are the cherry and rainbow sprinkles on top. Wonderful people who are open and welcoming, who encourage, support, nurture and look out for each other. People who are just as stoked when you catch a wave as when they do and are always there to offer advice, or a shoulder should you need it. I’ve needed a few. A network to whom this post is dedicated. You are all rockstars who make the world a better pace. May we share many more waves, post surf beers, glasses of wine, skinny dips, road trips, bear hugs and belly laughs. And of course paella picnics, birthday bacon and egg rolls, girls trip Indian feasts and fireside three bean chilli nachos! Thank you for inspiring me. For eating my food and for looking after my kids. I feel overwhelmingly lucky to not only be living my dream, but to be able to do so surrounded by so many incredible souls.
Three bean chilli nachos
An original recipe
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 stick celery
1 red capsicum
1 yellow capsicum
1 sweet potato
1 bunch parsley
2 400g cans mixed beans (I used these)
2 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 generous tbsp tomato paste
2-4 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp chilli (or more to your liking)
Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, capsicums and sweet potato and parsley stalks and all to the bowl of a food processor and whizz until everything is finely chopped. The reason for this is I wanted the chilli to be somewhat smooth so it is easy to scoop up with corn chips. You could always chop everything by hand too. The chilli will just be a bit more chunky.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the processed ingredients. Cover the pot with a lid (or foil) and cook over a low heat until everything is soft, 20-30 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and cook uncovered for an hour or so until the mixture is slightly reduced. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary; add more salt or chilli.
Enjoy with rice/quinoa/corn chips/tacos, pico de gallo, guacamole (I love the Pioneer Woman’s recipes for these), sour cream and cheese.
If you liked this three bean chilli nachos recipe than you may also like classic spaghetti and meatballs