Weekly writing challenge: Trading old ways for new

A salad for kings … and Estonians

This year I began with the resolve to cook, on Sundays, a virgin dish – something I’d never cooked before. The resolve lasted about four weeks! Those four weeks were magic. I’d start planning on Saturday night, pouring through my huge stack of cook books and Cuisine magazines, and listing ingredients to buy on our regular Sunday pilgrimage to Moore Wilsons (an institution for Wellington foodies).

I’d spend time reading the recipes making sure to begin preparation early enough, and then would spend all afternoon in the kitchen – humming as I worked revelling in the challenge. I would proudly deliver my resulting efforts to the table to requisite squeals of delight from my partner or whoever else happened to be there, knives and forks aloft.

Then my youngest son returned home with his Estonian business partner. To stay. Both of them.

Just when you think your life is sorted and when after years and years of child-rearing, you can please yourself with what you eat, when and how – your bubble bursts!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my son and love having him back home. But – and a BIG but – my darling carnivorous son, who had always loved all manner of meat, especially rare beef, schnitzel, green chicken curry, malaysian chicken curry, motorway chicken, crusty lamb racks, barbecued lamb, meat, meat, meat – you get my drift? Well he returned after 12 months away proudly announcing:

“I’m a vegetarian now, Mum. You won’t have to cook meat for me.”

My New Year’s resolve came crashing to the ground. All of a sudden the gloss went off my new and fabulous meat dishes, yummy scrummy pies, marinated rumps, and a thousand-and-one-way chicken recipes!

“No, no, no I’m not interested in a diet of chick peas and lentils … it’s bad enough having diabetes. Don’t do this to me…please …”

Mr six-foot-two-inch Estonia looked at me with puppy-dog eyes beneath his floppy Hugh Grant fringe,

“Oh, but I love meat – I love meat a lot,”

and smiled … pleadingly.

So began two and a half months of catering (while working full-time of course) to my fitness fanatic vegetarian son and our meat and sugar-loving Estonian – a fella who could down a batch of baking in two days flat.

“When I finish my work (he’s a computer Geek as well as being Estonian!), I reward myself with a cookie. I love your cookies.”

And he’d smile … pleadingly.

They came up with a compromise to help me cope with the changes to my perfect life. They’d cook one night a week, I’d cook the other six. They thought it seemed fair…

Mr Estonia turned his talents to cooking. Well, not cooking exactly … but he became very good at making salads, cutting up the ingredients and arranging them in the salad bowl. He took his time, really laboured over the task, and I mean laboured. That was how he approached everything, except cookie crunching. Slow. Methodical.

To their credit they did the dishes every night which was a whole new experience for Mr Estonia who’d never ever seen a tea towel in his life, let alone used one!

“Oh it is a very strange to do these dishes. It is very family isn’t it – it is fun.”

You know that game of flicking the wet tea towel at the legs, arms and butt of whoever does the washing? You know the game where screaming takes over from the task at hand and ends in tears? I was the one pleading for mercy – the youngest and only girl in the family! I had two older brothers who used to make me do the washing up and then subject me to relentless torture while my hands were in the sink. Some game!

Well, Mr Estonia knows that game now. I pity his poor partner as he inflicts the wet tea towel torture on his unsuspecting sons, that if, of course, he’s able to break centuries of chauvinism and lure them into the kitchen.

When his visa came to an end, Mr Estonia returned to the other side of the world to his partner and children, determined to impress everyone with tales of his New Zealand adventures AND his new found cooking skills. For a man who throughout his whole 35-yr life had barely stepped foot inside a kitchen this was major.

He contacted me recently to ask for the recipe for his favourite ‘cookies’ – which have weetbix in the list of ingredients.

The biggest challenge for him is finding weetbix in Estonia.

So what of my New Year resolve? Well, I’m now enjoying the vegetarian adventure. Meat is still on the agenda – and I’m being far more experimental with all else.

When my son takes off again – as he will – the challenge is to continue this new regime…not just one day a week, everyday!

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