Lissa: <knocks on Gary’s front door. He answers> Heya, Gary!
Gary: Heya. Come on in.
Lissa: <thrusts a potplant at him> Happy birthday.
Gary: Um. My birthday was in September.
Lissa: Yes, but you didn’t tell me until November, so now you get a present. It’s a cactus. They can live for hundreds of years if you treat ‘em right, according to Google. Don’t worry, I’ve typed up a ‘care and feeding’ guide for you.
Gary: <stares at cactus for a bit, pokes it gently with his index finger, grins> Hundreds of years, eh? That’s really cool.
Lissa: Thought you’d like it… <pauses to sniff> Gary, what’s that smell?
Gary: <worried> Does it smell bad?
Lissa: No, it smells… edible.
Gary: Come and sit down. I’ve got to get something… just a tick.
<He leads Lissa to the dining table and rapidly vanishes. The table is mysteriously clear of books and covered in a slightly motheaten tablecloth, and a silver service setting for one. Daisies that have grown like weeds at the edge of the concrete in Gary’s front yard have been cut and are gathered in a raggedy group above the setting, near the dessert spoon. Lissa, puzzled, sits and examines it all minutely, especially the decoration – a fat new candle sticking up from the middle a parfait glass. Some miniature daisies are scattered around the base of the glass. Gary returns with a bone china bowl full of clear soup>
Gary: Do you remember when we were watching Moonlight, and Mick cooked Beth that meal he couldn’t eat because he’s a vampire? You talked about it a lot.
Lissa: I did?
Gary: You said all this stuff about how feeding someone is a way of caring for them. You said a lot of stuff about nurturing and nourishment, and you talked about your Nanna, and how she used to bake cakes and biscuits, and made lunches and dinners and everything for you kids, and how you like to cook for Kate now.
Lissa: Yeah. I guess I did talk about it a lot. It struck a chord, I guess. <swirls the soup with a spoon> So you made me soup?
Gary: Um. I made… a lot of stuff.
Lissa: Oh. <tastes the soup> That’s lovely.
Gary: <grins like an idiot> Does it? Because I couldn’t taste it. It smelled okay.
Lissa: It tastes fantastic. <eats more, slowly>
Gary: … Are you okay?
Lissa: Fine. Good. The best. <wipes her eyes> Absolutely the best ever. This is delicious.
Gary: It’s a beef consomme. It’s got eggs and sherry in it. And beef soup. From a tin. I didn’t know how to make it from scratch.
Lissa: This is… is… <wipes eyes again> Where did you get all the stuff? How did you do this? You only own a kettle.
Gary: Oh, there were pots and plates and things in boxes in the spare room. And a camp stove, from when I was a kid, and the shop had one of those little toaster ovens going cheap, so. You know. I made stuff I could cook in that.
Lissa: I didn’t know you could cook.
Gary: I did some stuff for mum, when she got too old to do it for herself. But mostly it’s just following instructions. As long as it’s straightforward I can do that.
Lissa: I’m… I don’t know what to say. <wipes eyes again>
Gary: That bit of the show really got to you, didn’t it?
Lissa: I liked the series. It had a good developing story arc, and the status quo kept getting wobbly. It wasn’t always predictable either. Pity it got cancelled. You said you liked it too. Even though the vampire stuff was only half right.
Gary: Beth reminded me of you. Always asking questions.
Lissa: Mick reminded me of you. Always answering them eventually! And other things. It was so sad, when he found the cure for being a vampire but had to give it up again so he could save Beth.
Lissa:<pats his hand> Yeah. But this is lovely. Thank you. <eats more soup>
Gary: There are more courses coming – prunes wrapped in bacon, savoury tomatoes, olive and almond rolls – that’s got more bacon – melon and ham, well it’s called something starting with ‘p’ I can’t pronounce, but it looks like ham, and avocado with prawn and this sauce I made with mayonnaise and herbs and stuff.
Lissa: Oh my god, so much food!
Gary: Yeah. I had to use up all the ingredients, the perishable stuff anyway. I don’t have a fridge. Oh, and I made a pavlova. I cheated a bit with that one and bought a base. But I used Mum’s recipe book to work out how to do the rest of it.
Gary: I’ll pack up the leftovers for you to take home.
Lissa: Which recipe book is this?
<Gary leaps up and returns with “The Australian Hostess Cookbook” , published in 1969. He proudly shows her the page with the consomme recipe. Lissa flicks through it and sees, on almost every page, serving suggestions and recommendations on being a good hostess underlined and notated. The page where the hostess is exorted to put fresh flowers at the table setting is underlined in red, with Good idea! written next to it in Gary’s neat hand. The recipes he’s used are all highlighted with red asterixes.>
Lissa: Wow. You really went to town.
Gary: I hope it’s all okay. I mean. I haven’t cooked since Mum died in the 80s, and then it was mostly toasted cheese. She liked toasted cheese. And soup. She really liked the consomme.
Lissa: <flings herself at him in a fierce hug> I love it all.
Gary: <patting her back awkwardly> You haven’t even tried most of it yet.
Lissa: <muffled> It’s all going to be absolutely perfect. I can tell.
Gary: That’s good. Cos… I think you’re going to be eating it all week. It’s a lot of food.
Lissa: <laughing, wiping her eyes again> It is! Tell you what, bring it all in and I’ll describe it all to you as I go. How’s that?
Gary: That’d be nice.
Lissa: And Gary?
Lissa: Thank you.
Gary: <Smiles> Thanks. And thanks for the cactus. I’ll take good care of it.
Get Moonlight – The Complete Series at Amazon.com
The Australian Hostess Cookbook, edited by Hanna Pan and published by Thomas Nelson (Australia) is out of print. I found Gary’s copy – marked up as stated – at a second hand shop.
*For newcomers, the GaryView is a review of books/films/TV/entertainment carried out as a conversation between Lissa Wilson (librarian) and Gary Hooper (vampire) , characters from my book ‘The Opposite of Life’. Visit my website for more information.