"Georgia, what are we going to eat there?" Tom asked worriedly.
"They're vegetarian too, aren't they?"
"Yeah. I don't know what we'll eat. They did say that they'll feed us. I'm sure we'll survive the next 10 days."
I only found out about this conversation that my friends had before coming here, towards the close of their visit.
When they arrived their fears were quickly dispelled. Their second meal here, was lunch. Georgia, Mum and I prepared it together. Georgia washed the potatoes, Mum put them through the slicer, another peeled the onions, and I mixed it all up. It was popped into the oven and soon the aroma of potato and coconut wafted through the house. Our visitors were keen to try it. A salad was tossed and the table set. We had made two trays. Wise choice. The first tray was scraped out in minutes. Most of us had to stop ourselves from eating too much. I guessed that the Scalloped Potatoes were a hit. I didn't realize how much though!
That evening, we explained to our visitors what we normally do for tea.
"We usually don't have much for our evening meal, if anything. Generally just fruit. But, feel free to eat anyway. What would you like?"
"The potato dish from lunch!" Tom piped up.
Hmm, wow! He really liked it!
The morning meal of the next day was sago cooked with apple and pineapple juice.
"This tastes so much better than sugar-water sago!" Tom stated after chewing and swallowing a mouthful of it with our goat's milk.
We laughed. I'd never heard of making water sago!
Haystacks was on the menu for lunch.
"Haystack?!" Georgia asked incredulously.
"Oh, yeah. Layers of different things. Corn chips. Beans. Lettuce. Onion. Carrot. Cucumber. Tomato. And dressing. Get the idea?"
"Well, it's a great way to have lots of fresh with legumes." Mum explained.
When it came time to make lunch, we again did it all together. Even Tom helped and cut up the tomatoes. He enjoyed that.
And when it came to eating the haystacks, Tom's stack of the tomatoes was the biggest and was repeatedly topped up.
"It's great! You can custom make your own haystack!" he grinned.
The days came and went, but not without being used up to the full. And filling up our stomachs amply too! One day, we were late with making lunch as some chores had taken longer to do. Mum made a quick vermicelli stir-fry with onions and tempeh. After we all finished our meal, Tom had some more of it and especially the tempeh.
"What's this stuff called? It's really yummy! It tastes like meat!"
"It's tempeh (pron. tem-pay)," I answered.
"What's it made out of?" he asked.
The siblings gasped. "What?!"
"Well, it's like miso. Have you ever had that?"
"No! What's that?"
"Oh, never mind. Hmm... you're bound to have had soy sauce. It's fermented too."
"Yes, we have."
"Well, tempeh is far better than soy sauce. And don't worry, it's not mouldy!"
They smiled, relieved. And Tom ate another piece.
In the days that followed, my friends tasted many new things. In fact, I did too! On the day, that we planned to have Shepherd's Pie, but Mum decided to do something we'd never had before as well. She had soaked some lima beans overnight, and needed to use them. I was nervous of her doing something that wasn't "tried and true", but that didn't bother her.
After all, she got it out of her faithful and favorite (albeit falling-apart), 30-year-old cookbook, Ten Talents. She picked two recipes, the Lima Bean Casserole and Lima Bean Loaf and used both of them, excluding the tomato puree, for Dad who can't eat tomatoes.
We came in for lunch very late that day.
We had been up and away exploring and doing photo shoots on the property. We heaped our plates and sat outside on the veranda, to eat. Mum had already eaten, so it was just us three 'children'.
"Mm! This lima bean dish is not too bad." I admitted.
"It's so tasty!" Georgia added.
They had tamale (polenta) pie. Carrot and rice loaf. Corn bread. Banana bread. Carob cake. Oh, yes that carob cake. Georgia made it. It was delicious! We adapted the recipe to suit us and be more healthy. Georgia re-wrote it out for us for future use. At the end she added, "Gobble with pleasure." Indeed, we all did. Couldn't help it!
They tried our Carob Balls too.
"These taste just like the chocolate balls we make with biscuits and well, not as healthy stuff," Tom said.
Mum wasn't sure if that was a compliment. I had to re-assure her it was.
They liked all the meals. Liked? Let's make that "really, really liked" them! Because they did. And those first-mentioned scalloped potatoes? When we asked Tom and Georgia which were their favourite savoury meals, Tom voted that dish was the best.
"Oh, that's just because you've forgotten what the lima bean dish tastes like!" Georgia insisted.
"It was good too, but I think you should make that potato dish again," he told me.
"And the lima bean dish!" Georgia added chirpily.
So we did. And once again, the trays were scraped out in moments. Only the second time I made the Scalloped Potatoes, I sprinkled a little too much cayenne pepper on the top (to keep it from browning).
Tom had the first bite of all of us. I was still inside getting something extra for the meal. He came running inside to the water filter and gulped down some water.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Argh! You put too much salt in it this time!"
"Oh no! I tasted it, before I put it in the oven and it seemed fine."
"I must of just gotten a clump of it," he grimaced.
Embarrasment washed over me. I tried to salt it right! I was happy to notice that he kept eating his food though. None of the rest of us thought it was too salty. Then it hit me.
"Oh, Tom. I think you more like got a clump of cayenne pepper!"
We all laughed. That would make sense. We enjoyed our meal. After all, it wasn't too salty. It was perfect.
On Sabbath, we again had sago, this time with corn bread. Tom going by the previous week, accepted a big serve. He liked it a lot! However, it turned out his eyes were bigger than his stomach, as he was last to finish, I mean not finish. He just couldn't fit it all. Even though he would've happily!
They're back home now. I miss them. We had a wonderful time together. Georgia liked the food so much that she has asked me for the recipes of the dishes to make for her family. 'Specially their favourites. (Bet you can guess what they are!)
I learned many things from their visit. One of those things being, you can feed (non-vegetarian) visitors healthfully (and gluten-free!) And they'll love it.
*through his stomach.