This morning my sister sent a message on Messenger.

‘Are you up yet?’

‘Not quite, just having a cuppa in bed’

‘Can I Facetime in 10 minutes?’

‘No, being hassled to go for a run … dogs!’

‘How about now? Briefly.’

It’s about mum. I know. Lyn, living so far away and not able to help out on a day to day basis, has ordered a meal to be delivered each week. A great gesture but not well received.

When I called in last week the food had just arrived. There were two meals, one meat loaf and vegetables and the other smoked cod and white sauce. Both came in easy to reheat containers and had lots of fresh well cooked vegetables. There was a separate container of pumpkin soup, a generous serve of apple crumble and a vanilla slice. Dad was quietly pleased (and nervous – he knew what was in store for him) and mum was furious.

‘How dare she! I can make pumpkin and potato soup! I am not eating any of it! I love cooking. It’s all I can do’, she raged and threw the order form that had come with the delivery onto the floor and stamped petulantly on it.

Mum struggles with her cooking, especially main dishes. She has forgotten how to fry meat and sausages, make casseroles, and put a roast in the oven. When she cooks vegetables she puts them in water and boils them for hours. It appears that dad is now doing most of the cooking. My sisters and I worry that the food they eat has little of nutritional value in it, far too much sugar  and could cause them to become ill. We caught her putting the eggy breadcrumbs that she used to crumb sausages, back into the container of fresh breadcrumbs that live in the cupboard. Eggs, unrefrigerated are a major cause of salmonella poisoning. Neither mum nor dad could cope with a bout of food poisoning.

Mum still makes sweet things ‘though. Last time I called in she had made meringues and a pavlova and a chocolate slice. She had whipped cream and smoothed it over the chocolate slice. They were all sitting, covered, on the bench. She forgets to put things in the fridge. I disturbed her making shortbread. She asked me to go away because I was distracting her. She was making rounds, and instead of scoring them into triangles she was cutting right through and the problem she encountered was when she tried to place the triangles on the baking tray. I didn’t have the heart to tell her to just score the round and put the whole lot on the tray then cut them into triangles once they came out of the oven … as she once did.

Instead I went outside and found dad pottering in the garden.

In all of the old cookbooks I collected, the sweets pages have the most marginalia. From this I gathered that these were the most cooked things in cookbooks. I wondered at the time if it was because women could make meaty dishes without checking ingredients and measurements but cakes and biscuits required more accurate measuring. Meat dishes call for a few basic techniques and ingredients. Logically from this, it should be the meat dishes that mum continues to make and not the more complex cakes and biscuits. Once again I have to applaud her creativity and her capacity to stay as functional as she possibly can.

I think mum will get used the the meals my sister has arranged. But I so admire her pluck and fight.