Geoff Beattie stills lives in the Queensland, Australia, house where he grew up. Now 68, he’s had an eventful life: wooing his wife, Elaine, over her father’s objections, building a dairy farm, and raising children. A spine injury caused him to hand over the farm work to his wife while he cooked for the family for a while. Then Elaine developed leukemia, leaving him heartbroken, with four children when she died at age 38.
In the weeks and months after Elaine’s death, Geoff suffered insomnia and barely functioned by day. “I’d be lying there and I just couldn’t go to sleep,” he says. “So I hit the bottle a bit. I’d had it. I don’t know if I’d get depressed. I’d get … sad, drink half a bottle of brandy.” He points to his kitchen cupboard. “I’d have the whisky bottles lined up above me cupboard there.”
Then, late one strange and divine night as he lay awake, lost and sunk deep in the depths of longing and despair, Geoff Beattie was struck by a profound and persistent compulsion to make marmalade. He rose from his bed and walked to the kitchen. He reached for his wooden chopping board and a bag of oranges and, as his children slept, he began slowly and carefully slicing orange rinds well into the night. He cut those orange rinds with such out-of-body precision that they were thin enough to dissolve on the tongue. On the stovetop he reduced his cooking liquid with such tenderness and innate understanding that, come morning, Geoff had created a marmalade so pure and so clear, it looked like the dawn sun had chosen not to rise outside his kitchen window that day but inside the glass jar he held in his hand.
Beattie continued making marmalade and jellies and cakes, which were so impressive he began entering them in contests. He’s now won the national Florence Morgan Memorial Prize for Rich Dark Fruit Cake four times! Read the melancholy yet fascinating story of Beattie’s life, and get the recipe for his award-winning fruitcake at the Weekend Australian Magazine. -via Metafilter
(Image credit: Eddie Safarik)