I was very nervous about our first date, an al fresco afternoon tea under the apple tree in my backyard; I wanted to cook something special for her, and I wanted to get it just right. After I greeted her at the door with a hug and a gentle kiss on her cheek, she made her way to the kitchen and sat on the kitchen benchtop. While I made the custard, we talked about our favourite books and our favourite movies and our favourite food, and our hands touched gently when she helped stir. And when the custard was ready, and I began to serve apple crumble into two large bowls, she went outside and set up the teacups, napkins and spoons on a small table under the apple tree. The apple crumble was delicious: a golden thick custard, mixed with a dollop of thickened cream and a swirl of raspberry compote, sat on top of a layer of crusted oat crumble and a bed of glossy apples infused with sugar, cinnamon, a hint of ginger, and a pinch of cloves. And we went spoon-for-spoon until we were both scraping the last remnants from our bowls, stopping only to ‘sip’ tea from her red and pink polka-dot teacups and wipe our custard-encrusted mouths with our sleeves. And later, lying together on a nearby hammock under the same apple tree, bellies full and round, she dressed in an ice-blue Elsa gown and me wearing a tiara, we watched the passing clouds and discussed whether we would rather be Elsa or Anna, and we smiled and laughed, and I thought, yes, I had all the essential ingredients—grandfather, granddaughter, grand crumble, grand location, grand conversation—for the best meal I had ever eaten.
Martin Smith lives within walking distance of Santa Casa beach in Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia. Most days you will find him walking on the beach between Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale on a low tide, leaving footprints in the sand and weaving stories in his head.