I hate winter with a passion. In fact I hate winter more than sex.
Without wanting to sound too Monty Pythonesque, you have no idea how tough it was growing up in the UK climate, in the days before helicopter mums to drive us to school in their SUVs, or Uber at our disposal. In fact, I blame much of my current anxiety issues on the trials of surviving the UK winters.
We had ‘frost’, too.
Let me educate you southern hemisphere lucksters about ‘frost’. Jack Frost is a bitch to deal with in the morning when you’re already running late. I could never have coped with it myself as a mother. There’s that whole laborious process of scraping and pouring hot water on the windscreen – while keeping the engine running to avoid more frost forming – followed by that eery and potentially lethal drive to your destination, which is usually done blind due to the build-up of condensation on the inside of your window screen.
And that’s before you’ve even started your day.
I realize that perhaps it is the most embarrassing of first-world problems to moan about the Australian winter, when temperatures in Sydney only get as low as a finger-numbing eleven or twelve degrees in its depths, but it boils down to a question of acclimatisation. Twelve degrees with a chill breeze from the Harbour blowing right in your fucking face is probably akin to 3 degrees in the UK.
Whenever I’m asked if I’ll go back to the UK, my answer is a resounding ‘no,’ and I admit that my decision is based solely on the shallow reason of ‘climate’. Because although my family, my oldest friends, my heart and my history all still reside in Blighty, my body (and hence my mental well-being) like it here, in what is (save a few months) a beautifully temperate climate.
I’ve always despised the cold. At boarding school, groups of us girls would literally sit on the radiators while we listened to the radio and matron rant on and on about the risk of piles. I’d rather have piles than be cold, I remember thinking at the time… until I got piles when I was pregnant.
I truly believe I am one of those SAD people because I open up and blossom in the heat and my world becomes full of endless possibilities with the sun on my skin. Whereas my body shuts down in the winter. I’m not some stupid sun-worshipper, though – I slip, slop and slap all over, and the old man and I have become THAT middle-aged couple among the beautiful people on the beach, to reside permanently under our umbrella. Like a cat in front of the fire, I crave warmth at all times.
And I suffer from Cabin Fever, too, as winter drawers closer. With that first chill in the air, I can feel the symptoms of my body withdrawing from life begin to twitch, feel unsettled and become tetchy about my loss of freedom.
They would call me a ‘wuss’ in the UK if they knew how pathetic I’ve become. They build them tough over there and there is an endearing ‘we survived two wars’ approach to the harshness of the climate. When I visited at Easter, shoppers were drinking Champagne and eating Oysters in the streets around Chelsea Food Market, while I was trying to regain circulation in my fingers and toes. The Brits don’t understand the appeal of a warmer climate because they don’t know any different, and in fairness, there is nothing more beautiful than sitting in the garden of a British pub in the country on a sunny afternoon. The problem is, those blue-sky days are too few to count and when they do eventually turn up, no-one can cope.
So, the only great news about winter is ‘soup’.
Making and consuming vast quantities of soup gets me through these shorter, torturously grey days. I’m no cook, (as you know), but even I can knock up a decent soup, and what’s more, soup is not only a comforting tonic during the cooler evenings, but it’s healthy for all sorts of fascinating reasons: For starters, it’s a liquid, so you can eat lashings of it without feeling guilty or gaining weight because, being effectively a drink like water, it probably has no calories; you can also disguise all sorts of fugly, green veggie matter in soup, that you and the kids would probably never normally touch without gagging; and you can also make a week’s worth in one go, eliminating hours of brain-death family cooking time, too.
So as I leave Sydney for a week’s torture at the snow, (because the old man didn’t think that winter in the city was enough of an endurance test), here’s my winter gift to you – three wonderful soup recipes from Taste.com.au that I’ve tried, tested and successfully liquidized to near-perfection to get you through this most cursed of seasons.
(Tip from the Master Soup Maker: I add some celery and cheese for extra flavor)