Retirement, friendship and ….. Food

The phone rang early on Monday morning – it was a young Marketing executive, asking if I could do a small research study for him. I had no hesitation in telling him that I had closed the business and was now fully retired. He asked: “How was I enjoying retirement? How was I filling my days?” How to answer him? The first answer was simple – I’m loving it. The second isn’t quite so straightforward as I’m not really doing anything in particular to fill my days, they just seem to stream by in a series of coffee, lunch, dinner dates – interspersed with gym, Pilates, swims, dog walks, films and theatre. But, in trying to form an answer that didn’t sound lame I realised that the basis of my happy retired life was friendship.

Now don’t get me wrong – my husband and daughter (and dog) are at the core of my life, and I would be bereft without them. But, my friends provide the warp and weft; they are the fabric of my life. They know where I have been, and help guide me to where I am going. And, they fill my days to overflowing. 

Thinking back over the last 4 weeks, I have driven up to the snow with a girlfriend and we encouraged each other to tackle cross country skiing once more – and enjoyed it! I have been away on a mid week break with two women I have known since childhood. I have discussed books, and life matters, with a group of ladies who gather in my home on the first Sunday of every month. I have had dinner and a movie with friends I made in playgroup almost 23 years ago. I have had lunch with a friend I made when I first moved to Melbourne – a woman I lost touch with decades back but rediscovered thanks to Facebook. I have had coffee with a friend I made in the change room at the swimming pool. I have had a ‘Bon Voyage’ lunch with a woman who started as an employer, but has become a firm friend. I have had lunch with a girlfriend who has just returned from her French sojourn so I could hear all about her trip. I’ve had afternoon tea to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend who moved to Melbourne the day before my wedding 25 years ago. And so it goes on – days and nights full of chat, laughter and sometimes, tears. But usually always food!

Which brings me to what actually prompted this post – a review of my meal at Maha on Thursday night. As it turned out, the food was virtually irrelevant, we could easily have eaten at a local burger parlour (and it would have saved a lot of $$!). We had a wonderful evening, but that was because I was with my two ‘besties’ – two women whom I met via work but have gone on to shepard me through marriage, child rearing, running a business, my Mother’s death and the myriad other vicissitudes of life. The evening was their 60th birthday treat to me, despite the fact that they had already spent an enormous amount of time organising a wonderful surprise dinner for me on the actual day. Their generosity and kindness warms my heart.

So, on to the food. Maha offers a choice of 4 set menus: $120 for 6 courses, $95 for 5 courses, $85 for 4 courses and finally, $55 for 2 courses. We opt for the 4 courses.

We chose not to do the matched wines, rather started with a glass of Clover Hill bubbles, and then moved on to a glass of Trebbiano di Soave from Veneto, Italy, followed by a bottle of ‘The Twilight Pass’ from Massena, a winery in the Barossa (a blend of primitivo,mataro & graciano). Both wines were suggested by the maitre d’ (a very charming young Scot), and proved to be an excellent choice.

Of the 4 dishes in the first course, it was the pumpkin hummus that clearly won the day. The least successful was the olive oil poached potato with grilled octopus – served cold, it had an unappealing gluggy texture and rather bland taste.

Neither of the two dishes in the second course were particularly inspiring. The pigs head croquette, which is just shredded pork people, was okay whilst the singular mussel and scallop mention proved to be accurate – I saw one mussel and wasn’t sure if there were scallops in there! However, the flavour of the cous cous was good.

The carrots were the standout dish of course 3, whilst the lamb was disappointing – there were some very dry hard pieces of lamb, and once again we felt flavour was lacking. Across all the dishes we well and truly covered off grains!

The desserts looked a picture, but not being a huge chocolate fan I found the brownie too rich for me.  The raspberry sorbet was delicious but I left the ‘pearls’, which had an odd taste & texture. The doughnut was indeed filled with Turkish delight.

Overall, we had a hugely enjoyable evening, helped by our charming Scotsman, but would have to say we were somewhat disappointed by the meal itself. It read much better than it tasted. But, once again, a huge thank you to my lovely ladies, without whom life would be very boring!


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