Category — How She (or he) Does It

Pregnant Woman Keeps Working 3

January 24, 2018

Well now, that’s hardly a headline is it? How many millions of pregnant women are working at this very moment? You might have done it yourself; you might be doing it right now. But what if that pregnant woman is the leader of an entire nation?

 

image via http://www.labour.org.nz/

 

Last week Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, announced her pregnancy in a post featuring a photograph of three fishhooks, including a tiny baby fishhook curled into a larger Mama fishhook (her partner, Clarke Gayford, is known for his love of fishing). Ardern explained on Twitter and Instagram:

 

And we thought 2017 was a big year! Clarke and I are really excited that in June our team will expand from two to three, and that we’ll be joining the many parents out there who wear two hats. I’ll be Prime Minister AND a mum, and Clarke will be “first man of fishing” and stay at home dad. I think it’s fair to say that this will be a wee one that a village will raise, but we couldn’t be more excited. I know there will be lots of questions, and we’ll answer all of them (I can assure you we have a plan all ready to go!) But for now, bring on 2018.”

 

And just like that, in the age of politicians making casual social media announcements, Jacinda Ardern is set to take her place in an exclusive club of heads of government who have had babies while in office. The only other Prime Minister in this club being Benazir Bhutto, who, in 1990, gave birth to her daughter, Bakhtawar, while serving as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

 

Of course, not everyone is a fan of Jacinda Ardern. She is a politician after all, it’s an occupational hazard. Some voters were terrified this is exactly what would happen if we allowed a woman of a “child-bearing age” to lead the country. In fact, Ardern was only chosen to lead her party, Labour (oh, the puns will be great!), only 54 days out from the national election. Then, during the election, Ardern’s party did not receive the majority of votes, they went to the incumbent National party. Talk about being behind the eight ball. Following the election Jacinda managed to form a coalition with smaller parties, New Zealand First and the Green party, which made it possible for Ardern to become Prime Minister of New Zealand on the 26th October 2017. In the space of less than one year Ardern will have become leader of her political party, Prime Minister of New Zealand and first time Mum. Did I mention that Ardern is the world’s youngest female head of government, having taken office at age 37?

 

I’ll admit it – I had tears in my eyes when I read Ardern’s baby announcement. Various personal politics aside, I know many women who reacted exactly the same way. Clearly there’s nothing new or unique about pregnancy, but this declaration felt special. Special and important. A Prime Minister is saying to the world it’s possible to be a leader and a woman, a leader and a Mum, that we can (and will) do these things despite resistance or in the absence of precedent. Ardern’s example, with her partner Clarke Gayford, demonstrates so many things: that ambition and family are not mutually exclusive, that fathers can parent well and equally and that it’s high time for old gender stereotypes to be shattered.

 

While writing this my three children (all daughters) have interrupted me approximately forty-five times. It’s summer school holidays and the weather is bad, the tensions running high. One daughter is currently wearing a winter hat and a swimsuit with a jammy muesli bar stuck on her index finger. When I explained to them what I was writing about (and why I had tears in my eyes) my eldest daughter, age seven, simply shrugged. She was completely unfazed by the news that the leader of our country is going to have a baby. Her attitude said it all – “who cares?” I briefly felt a bit sad about her apathy. But then I realised – this is exactly the point. A pregnant woman is just doing her job. This is no big deal. This is my daughter’s normal. And isn’t that just the best thing about it?

 

Love,
Hannah

In: From Hannah, How She (or he) Does It, Writing

Look Back, Step Forward 4

December 20, 2017

In keeping with the end of old things and start of new, we have an announcement here at Fork & Fiction. After almost six years of collaboration, inspiration and fun, our team of two will soon be one. Ria is stepping away from her part of the blog to focus on her writing, career and other mystery projects. It’s the end of an era and we’re both very sad, but also excited for what 2018 holds for both of us, and for Fork & Fiction. So here’s Ria with one last collection of thoughts to round out an eventful year and a beautiful, powerful partnership in words.

 

 

I’m going to miss you all so much. Working on the blog, creating posts, thinking about things by writing them down here, has been a blessing and a joy. We’ve had babies, bought/sold houses, moved to new cities and countries and written and published numerous books, all while recording it here. That’s no small thing.

So I thought I’d take a look back at a few of the posts I most enjoyed, whether it’s for the writing, photos, event that inspired it, or the conversation it sparked. Those are the things that matter to me most, and the things that I will carry with me forever.

Lavender Honeycake. This was such a pleasure in all ways—I was alone in the house (can’t recall why), the summer air was hot and sweet, I made this delicious cake and got to enjoy it before everyone else came home. Luxury. I can’t wait to make it again next summer.

To Life. I admit, I love an excuse to take pictures of piggies. And caterpillars. But this one was also unexpectedly sobering (which I think comes across in the post). It was that great balance of bittersweet that DH and I love so much. Which is just the way life is, right? And there were some thoughtful comments and conversations afterward that really made me think. Love that too.

Our whole How She/He Does It series was so much fun, but I especially enjoyed interviewing Hannah. It was back at the start, when we were just figuring out what we were doing (or have we ever??) and it was a way to introduce ourselves and also learn more about the other. And reading it now is also a trip because we’ve changed! Our families and locations have changed! Life has really moved on, but the foundation, the truest parts of us, are still the same. And what a great way to go forward into 2018, with a look back and an understanding of where we’ve come from.

So with that I want to send out the HUGEST hug to my fantastic collaborator and wonderful friend, Hannah, with whom I’ve been so honoured to create this blog. I know you’ll do amazing and creative things with it in the coming months and years and I look forward to seeing it evolve.

As for me, I’m off to do some scheming and planning for a new website and finish the lovely labour of my latest novel, out in 2019. I can always be found on twitter and Instagram as @riavoros and for now, through my soon-to-be-replaced website www.riavoros.com . Thank YOU, our readers, for giving us your time and thoughts and good energy. It’s been wonderful connecting with so many of you.

 

With much love and hope for 2018,

Ria

 

 

In: Food, From Ria, How She (or he) Does It, Includes a recipe!, Interviews, Kids and Parenting, Seasonal, Writing

(Happy Fathers Day to) Our Guy. 7

September 2, 2017

I am not a grown-up. Surely I can’t be a grown-up if I sulk at having to fold the laundry or stack the dishwasher. I can’t be a grown-up if I still don’t quite understand the stock market. I mustn’t be a grown-up if I can’t change a car tyre or properly control my own heating system and regularly go about with odd socks on. Right?? And yet, here I am, grown. And with three whole, smallish, growing humans I am responsible for. Ahem. Co-responsible for.

 

 

Matt and I met when we were even less grown-up than the faux (hahaha no way, really?) grown-up we are now. We met, we married, we made a family. I became a mother and he became a father and we fell neck-deep into impersonating adults. Parenting is an insane thing to share with another person I’ve discovered. It’s terrifying, exposing and incredible. It’s an experience of love so elevating mixed with fear so searing and banality so deathly dull it cannot adequately be described. It certainly cannot be prepared for. Through parenting Matt and I have never been more tested. Parenting has torn us apart and soldered us back together, a scrappy, patched-up mess. Our marriage, our grown up-ness, if you could see it, probably looks like something ungraceful and tattered, made stronger from its tears and scars, robust and delicate, worn and hopeful. At this point, almost ten years in and with three madcap daughters in tow, the love and laughter we share is earned and hard won. Magic and luck has run low and hard graft has had to make up for the shortfall.

 

 

As parents Matt and I are utterly imperfect. I shout too much and lose my cool too quickly. We are often on our phones when we should be paying attention. We say and do the wrong things, all the time. Except, of course, when we manage to the right thing, which does happen too. Before I had kids I thought that loving them would be enough and that loving them would see us through everything. I had complete blind faith in loving as the clear and simple answer to absolutely everything. Now I know that loving isn’t always enough. There are things that loving cannot miraculously, instantly fix. But it is something. It’s a big something.

 

 

Matt loves our girls and me; he loves us like crazy. Sometimes, when he’s staring at one of our daughters, I can see the love in his face, in his eyes; love so fierce and explosive he could spontaneously combust. Into rainbows. He is perpetually cuddly and steadfastly protective of us. He is probably more optimistic than I am, more likely to think that things are fine even when they are a bit not-fine. He works doggedly and in earnest, with unfailing integrity. He believes in us all madly; is completely convinced we are the best people on the planet. Even when he comes home grumpy or distracted he can still make us laugh, can still act like a huge, charming (somewhat irritating) toddler and have us in stitches. He looks at us like we are the most beautiful beings he has ever seen. He is, undoubtedly, a good Dad.

 

Matt wasn’t very keen on being interviewed but I persevered and eventually he paused the Netflix. That’s right, take note, he paused the Netflix for you guys. So you’d better read his answers and comment and make him feel good, or you might never hear from him again…

 

Hi Matt. So, who are you (other than what you do for a job)?

 

I’m a man who loves his family, who wants to enjoy life to the fullest and see amazing places and watch my children grow with my wife beside me.

 

What are some of your favourite things?

 

The ocean, the snow, my children, my family, markets, farms, meat, barbecue, soup… I have this idea lately of cooking heaps of onions and making a French onion soup.

 

What are some of your least favourite things?

 

Selfishness, egos, judgmental people, balloons, wind, Auckland winters – being hot one minute and cold the next.

 

What’s the best thing about your kids?

 

They are thoughtful with each other. They respect each other. They are kind people.

 

What do you wish for?

 

To see my children’s children, with my wife by my side. To travel places with my wife by my side. For my wife to take up skiing and love it.*

 

How did you meet Hannah?

 

She worked with me in my first job in NZ. She came into my office and I remember thinking “Wow.”

 

Tell us something funny about your love story…

 

Something funny about it? I’m not sure it’s really funny but we did snog at a Christmas party. I shared with her that I’d had lightening bolts about her. That seemed to do the trick. We got married two years later.

 

Describe your marriage in three words

 

Love, laughter and gratitude.

 

Anything else you’d like to say

 

I believe you get one life and you should live it how you want to, don’t listen to anyone else. Be nice to people. Be polite. Love a lot.

 

 

Thank you, Matt. You are a good Dad and bloody decent grown up. We love you a lot. Happy Fathers Day to all the great Dads out there, being imperfect, being great.

 

Hannah x x x

 

* Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! No.

In: From Hannah, How She (or he) Does It, Interviews, Kids and Parenting

What I know at 38 4

July 19, 2017

 

I turned 38 on Monday. On learning it was my birthday several people asked me if it was a “big one”. I’m assuming they weren’t guessing I was turning 30. Hmmmm.

 

The last years of a decade are weird. It’s not an elegant way to describe it, I know, but it’s the way a friend of mine and I have agreed is the best way to describe it. In a couple of years I’ll be looking okay for my forties, for now I’m looking pretty average for my thirties (in my personal and skewed opinion). Then there’s the laundry list of must-do’s before the clock ticks over into the next decade. It’s worse than rushing to snag a drunken snog before midnight on New Year’s Eve. By forty I MUST have accomplished this, I MUST be like this, I MUST have ditched this habit, run this marathon, published this (phenomenal, lauded) book, produced this many offspring, collected this much money, bought this, this and this and I MUST look just like that…*she points to someone airbrushed to the smoothness of a newborn. It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?

 

At any rate, the clock ticked over to 38 and, just like the computers at the turn of the millennium – remember that?! – nothing changed. I was just the same. Same number of silver hairs, same number of mauve stretch marks and same number of kids, all of whom had managed to wet their beds; including ours. That’s a whole other story. The fact that nothing changed gave me a strong sense of relief. It’s okay, Hannah, you’re really haven’t super-throttled that much closer to old age and death. Everything’s going to be alright, Bob Marley said so. You don’t look so bad. Besides, stop dwelling on it, you don’t have time. You’ve got sheets to wash.

 

But things have changed…over time. Not over night the way I was fretting it might, but gently and gradually, in the same way that wrinkles find their way onto your face and gravity starts to work it’s dark magic on the bit under your chin. I have learned some things over the years, it turns out. Things I’d love to have known at a younger age but which only slap you in the face much later. Like….

 

 

1. Your path will be hard.

You know when your Mum / Dad / guidance counselor / teacher warns you off a job or life path because it will be hard? Well, in my opinion, that’s true of ALL life paths. Someone needs to scratch out the “Easy” on the “Easy Path” sign because it’s a complete misnomer. Sitting in an office, feeling your soul leeching from your very bones, deciding how to cut labour costs – NOT easy. I can vouch for that. We all want easy, but it’s impossible to find and, trust me, boring can be just as bad as awful. If the sign says “Easy Path” I’d caution against taking it. You’re likely to have to double back anyway, once your soul is sad and wonky, and no-one great, successful or wonderfully happy ever proclaimed about their life choices – “I simply chose the least burdensome route!” As Ria Voros might say – You just gotta suck up the suck and I would add “Because it will suck.”

 

2. You’re probably going to need glasses at some point.

I found this so surprising! But it’s true. I had 20/20 vision for so long and now I do not. Very naively, I never imagined a time when I would need to dye my hair, get glasses or be really sure about my health insurance policy and what it covers. Your body is going to falter and fail. Young people really have no idea. How do I know? Because I was one and I was blinded. Until I was actually a bit blinded. Irony.

 

3. You will find the people in your batch.

Thankfully, as you get older it becomes much easier to find friends. You know yourself better, other people know themselves better, there is much, much less mucking around wondering if this person likes you or not, if this person is your kind of person; you just know. Friend-forming becomes so very easy and there’s no more of that playground bullshit. I love this. Added bonus, there’s so many ways – physically and online – to makes connections and form a community. A new friend of mine, Tom, has a theory that people come in batches. “Like cookies?” I asked him. “Yup.” He replied like it was obvious. Tom and I are different genders, different ages and have different beliefs, but we are friends. Anne Shirley Cuthbert was right about “kindred spirits” and it becomes easier to find yours as you get older. I accept the dark magic, chin sagging thing as exchange for this.

 

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In: From Hannah, How She (or he) Does It

How She Does It: Sara Alexander 0

May 3, 2017

Welcome back to our ongoing author series, How She (or He) Does It, wherein we explore the fascinating (and often delicious) lives of creative people we love and admire. Here and here are a few of our faves if you want more of a taste.

Today we bring you the delights and musings of Sara Alexander, a British-Sardinian author whose new novel, Under a Sardinian Sky is all about the things we love best here at Fork & Fiction: food, adventure, love, seductive places, food… Sara has been kind enough to answer a few of our questions and then she’s given us a glimpse into her kitchen and the kinds of things she’d cook for a languorous, aromatic Sardinian meal.

 

 

Welcome, Sara! It’s so nice to have you here on the blog. Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a little about yourself–your background and family.

My husband, two children (10 & 4), my parents and I all live together in a house in a London suburb. I’m a born and bred North West Londoner. I’ve been acting since I was a child and hovering in a make-believe world since I can remember. I’m a passionate foodie and love nothing more than a house full of folks, friends and family feasting together. I’m a descendant of some culinary wizards with a reverence for superstitions and a keen tinkering of magic….(the digestible kind, of course).

That sounds like a flavourful life! What part of the writing process brings you the most joy?

Fleeing to another time and space, the mutability of floating between characters’ outlooks, passions, desires, thoughts.

 

 

 

What do you enjoy least about writing a novel?

The sticky middle where you doubt whether you should ever have begun in the first place. That sparse blank page. The nagging voices of negativity I’m forced to work through, be it the university lecturer who told me I suffered from written constipation or an off-hand remark from a well-meaning friend about a blog post being over-written a decade ago. That sort of thing.

Oh, the sticky middle is the worst, isn’t it? Those ugly voices always shout in the quagmire. Can you tell us which books made the biggest impact on your life and why?

I adored trailing through Chaucer at school and Jane Austen because our teachers were phenomenal – they passed on their passion in spades. I also adore Isabel Allende, Joanne Harris and Tracy Chevalier for the worlds they float me to, their fierce attention to detail, their reverence for feisty and sensitive female protagonists.

Who would be on your dream dinner party guest list and why?

What a wonderful question! I think I would need to balance some literary genius with a robust amount of gregarious personalities; Cleopatra beside the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. Audrey Hepburn for elegant conversation. Grace Kelly to spin me on the dance floor after dinner. Marcus Aurelius to lead some philosophical meanderings, perhaps Buster Keaton to liven up proceedings and Amelia Earhart for stimulating descriptions of adventures to keep us all entertained.

Oooh, a dinner to remember. Perhaps a new, experimental novel idea?? We’d love to hear the conversations around that table!

Can you describe the best meal of your life? (We know it’s hard for foodies to pick just one, so a compound answer is just fine.)

That’s a toughie! Amongst the top ten is a Brazilian feast we ate at a churrascaria in San Francisco. The meats were phenomenal and the salad bar was strewn with dishes prepared with such passion and care, you could taste the attention poured over them back in the kitchen. A close second is the fish feast we have annually at my favourite restaurant L’Artista, in San Teodoro, Sardinia. The freshest seafood, cooked simply, with high quality ingredients accompanied by excellent wine – heaven.

 

 

What is always in your fridge or pantry?

Coconut milk. A dairy’s worth of parmesan and pecorino. Pasta and lentils of any colour. Monsooned Malabar coffee beans.

Why are you drawn to write about food?

Food is a language. It’s expressive. It describes the feelings of the cook, the state of mind they were in during prep. It’s laced with messages about the care the cook feels for the people they prepare for, and, for themselves. It’s an act of vulnerability and creativity. It’s the magic of alchemy. When I’m having a bad day I take the making of a broth very seriously and show myself a little love. For my Sardinian family, who are of few words, this is how they express their deepest feelings.

 

 

We couldn’t agree more (and couldn’t be more charmed by your Sardinian family)! Can you describe how you feel about the intersection between food and writing? Perhaps share some cooking tips or a recipe?

My favourite part of the writing process for Under a Sardinia Sky was delving deeply into the descriptions and acts of preparing food. It is important to me that food, much like sex, should not appear in a story for it’s own sake but because it reveals something deeper about the character and their personal journey. Food is an incredibly sensual way to explore character and story. I love trying new things, creating dishes and growing our own produce. Food is a portal to other lands, and, sometimes as close to time travel as you can get without drawing on the complexities of Quantum.

If I prepare gnochetti and fresh sauce to perfection I am in my grandma’s kitchen aged 6. To summon the spirits of Sardinia: Tip a couple of fists full of dried gnochetti (do not confuse with potato gnocchi) per person into plenty of salted simmering water. Whilst they’re cooking heat a smushed clove of garlic gently until it begins to soften in two tablespoons of olive oil. Add a bottle of passata, season well, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir in a little sugar or nub of dark chocolate and, when it’s cooked through (20 mins or so), tip in several fresh basil leaves, immediately turning off the heat. Allow to infuse. When the gnochetti are cooked, drain and stir them into the sauce pan, coating every little nub with the sweet tomato. Be generous with some more grated pecorino.

Delicious. Thank you, Sara. We’ll be scouring the internet for the next flight to Sardinia. All the best with your beautiful novel, and may the gnochetti-eating commence.

Ria and Hannah

XO

In: Books & Reading, Food, From Hannah, From Ria, How She (or he) Does It, Includes a recipe!, Interviews, Travel, Writing