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Meat Pie Friends

Owen Thomas looks at what makes good friends and why they last

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My mother’s sunroom overlooks their back yard and given they have been in the home for over thirty years is was a lovely view. Even though the surrounds were beautiful, my mother was not having a good day.

She was sitting opposite me and lamenting about some comments her friends had recently made. Her conversation drifted from one who lacked compassion to another her didn’t thank her for efforts in line dancing classes. There was another who wasn’t interested in her life or a lot of her hobbies. She felt a little hurt over some recent events and wanted someone who would hear her. So, I listened. After a time, she had talked herself out. She didn’t have much to add. Mum stopped talking and looked at me.

I looked at my mother and replied, “These friends are nice people mum, but you have to remember they are ‘Meat Pie Friends’.”

A meat pie in Australia is one of the favourites go-to meals when you are on the run. A quick lunchtime snack and a must at any game of football. It has a history that dates to the Egyptians.  They had a tough pastry and later perfected by the Europeans and “shipped” around the world by various missionaries and explorers. It is not a big favourite in the USA where a sweet version is more popular. Depending on what county you live in, it will come by a different name. Its ingredients consist of meat, gravy and on the odd occasion some vegetables – generally mushrooms. Depending on how much you consent to pay will depend on the quality of the produce used. Mince being the most common with possibly some offal included, through to the “gourmet” meat pie with beef steak chunks.

They are a favourite of “tradies” where business predicted their success by the number of tradesmen they attract.

You can get it hot, fast, and tasty at local bakeries or service stations. They can often be found seating in the pie warmer for a few too many hours leaving a little to be desired but if you’re hungry still good enough to fill the hole in your belly. They can get you through a cold day until a good meal.

But back to my mother…

Meat Pie Friends what do you mean?” she looked at me somewhat confused. I went on to explain.

A meat pie is an excellent quick meal in a hurry. It is portable and makes sure we don’t go hungry. But to expect it to be anything else, something that will provide us with long-lasting nutrition. Food to give energy and vitally for a long life is a mistake. The friends you are talking about are like that. Nice to be around. Can provide us with a feeling of belonging and providing some social company. But that is it. If you are looking for more than that, don’t expect something that they are unable or unwilling to provide by their inherent nature. Please don’t complain about it, and don’t criticise them either. They are what they are.

If we want more, a deeper, more meaningful Three Course Meal, sort of friendship we need to look elsewhere. On the occasion, we want more than it is our responsibility to go and find it. We cannot expect someone else to be what we are unwilling to go and find ourselves.

To continue the metaphor. If we want highly nutritious organic food that will provide good vitality health, the sharpness of mind and hopefully a longer life. We have to look for it. We must either grow more of it ourselves or be prepared to find those outlets that provide that food. There are less of them and maybe a little harder to find, but they are worth it. In other words, we have to be prepared to change our own habits and look outside what we have already established.

If we want better and deeper friendships, we must become someone who draws those types of friends to us. Those very actions will cause us to be involved with different people and create the opportunity for a different kind of friendships. We must remember that not all of us like the same food either; some even so-called ‘healthy’ food can cause allergies and negative responses.

The good thing about better food sources is they are often more nutritionally dense, and hence we need less of them to support a good life. So, it is with friends. A few good close friends who know us to our core and accept us. Who are there for us when we need them, and we for them. They are more than enough for a meaningful life.

Don’t get me wrong I am lucky enough to know hundreds of people I enjoy good casual friendships. We meet a social gatherings, bump into in the street or at times even worked together. The interactions can be fun, engaging, and at times downright entertaining. I gain insights on life from their experiences. But I do not expect anything more than what’s on offer. And of course, for them, I’m probably a Meat  Pie Friend also. (Hopefully, a gourmet pie, with a little bit more to me than the average “meat pie”.) I more than open if the friendship wants to go deeper. I don’t expect or look for it. I enjoy it for what it is.

I have not always been this way.

In my thirties, I decided to change my career, which means changing life in some form. I wanted to keep some of those work relationships going. There appeared to be friendships that could be built developed. We would catch up for lunch, occasional dinners, parties, and other occasions. I remember having lunch repeatedly with a former colleague where we talked Dostoyevsky, art projects, politics, and the meaning of life. I enjoy it.

I remember conversations about their former friends whom they saw no longer. I was only just becoming familiar with what I wrote about in “Pay Attention”. It took me a little time to realise that the friendship was mostly one-way traffic. I was doing the work to keep it going. There was little coming back the other way. It was a good chance that had happened with their other friends.

I was hurt for a while but realised they were either unwilling or unable to be more than what they were. Rather than being hurt or angry, I decided to enjoy whatever friendship they were prepared to offer. We see each other very occasionally and talk every couple of years. Sometimes more frequently, but that is rare. I am glad to have them in my life and appreciated whatever highlight they bring.

A deep friendship is a beautiful experience. It takes both parties to be active. They can ebb and flow through life, but their core is always sound. They take time and care to develop, and like a garden needs constant nurturing. They will experience winters of heartache, springs of new life and beauty, and summers where they need to be protected. And if we do this well there will be autumns where the bounty of the harvest will be immense and beyond measure.

If we want great friendships, we must seek to become the person to whom great friendships happen.  

It is said, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” It is a mistake to expect people to be any more than what they choose to be; however, it is wise to allow the space for a human to evolve into something more, unlike a purse.

Evolution does not happen very often, but when it does, it can be like Halley’s Comet and burst across the night sky. Worth the wait.


The Seasons of Life – E. James Rohn.

The Laws of Human Nature – Robert Greene

How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends – Don Gabor

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

Quiet – Susan Cain


Written By Owen Thomas


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