Wednesday, 20 February 2013

My Newly Vegetarian Teenager


‘I’m going vegetarian announced,’ daughter 14 last Friday.
‘Why you love meat?’ said brother 10.
‘Because the average human consumes 342 animals a year,’ she said. ‘But I’m starting tomorrow because I had a chicken wrap for lunch.’
‘I stopped eating potatoes for a year because someone told me they’d make me fat when I was your age,’ I replied.
Newly-teen-vego marched off. On to the food fad faze I thought. Been there done that, thirty three years ago. My sister and I tried every diet the Cleo magazine offered, when we escaped boarding school at the end of each term. We did the Israeli army diet: Two days of apples, two days of cheese, two days of grilled chicken and two days of plain salad. Then the Grapefruit diet. I always succumbed to starvation and nicked great granny’s Russian fudge from the pantry to keep me going. I can’t remember if we lost weight or just stuffed up our already sluggish from boarding school stodge, metabolisms.
At the same time we sewed our own swim wear. I made a very brief red string bikini, from t-shirt material and piping cord. Daily we slathered our bodies in a whiffy concoction of cooking oil and malt vinegar; squeezed lemon juice into out blond hair and baked ourselves for hours in the hot Hawkes Bay sun. Teenage assertiveness, we knew what we wanted; the perfect body and a tan.
I too had a teenage vegetarian phase. The smell of frying bacon still brings back memories of my silly hungry-for-pork salivating self. But I didn’t scoff at my teenager. I thought good on her for testing herself, challenging her will power.  I doubted she could last though; she’s a big meat eater like her carnivore dad, whose favourite meal is lamb chops and potatoes.
Instead I took her new dietary requirements on like a master chef cooking challenge. I love thinking about new tasty dishes to cook my family. I’m one of those cooks who constantly rips recipes out of the newspaper then sets them aside, awaiting the correct ingredients and a huge boost of inclination.
One such meal was from, The Food Truck cookbook: “vegetarian burger with pumpkin and pinach patties” (printed in Jan/Feb Metro). A rather fiddly recipe, I’d got out to cook, then put away half a dozen times. I mean it even suggested you fashion your own wholemeal burger buns. I wasn’t going to go that far; but the time was right. After several supermarket trips (I always leave my list in the car) I had what I needed. I started with the beetroot, star anise and cinnamon quill relish. Note: make sure you reduce vinegar mix by half until sticky, as the recipe says, before adding 2 cups of grated beetroot. I was in a hurry, as usual and my relish turned out very vinegary. At the same time, I roasted one cup of chopped pumpkin and prepared the quinoa, buckwheat and cooked chickpeas, grated carrot, chopped parsley and threw in the wet ingredients. Then quickly boiled up the almond satay sauce, before taking middle daughter to dance. This was not a twenty minute meal but I felt prepared nonetheless.
When I got home I raced over to the garden for the cup of spinach and greens to assemble. Newly-teen-vego added the egg white to the patty mix and started pan-frying. Meanwhile I made chicken burgers for my non veg children and cleaned up kitchen as hubby had offered to make chilly prawns. Three meals in one night, bench space was at a premium.
Five minutes later NVT returned with half-finished vege delight claiming it was very filling. I was down hearted but not deterred. I think what most teenagers don’t realize, in the flourish to step out of their meat and cheese comfort zone and turn vego, is that HELLO they are going to have to eat more VEGETABLES.  Although I recall a niece managing to be a non-vego-vego, somehow surviving on pasta, cheese and tomatoe sauce for a couple of years.
The next day after school my NTV was sprung finishing off her brothers instant noodles flavoured, beef.
‘It’s not really meat though is it?’ she asked.
‘Yes it’s made from beef flavouring.’
‘I’ll start properly tomorrow.’
‘You’re not a real vegetarian,’ said brother 10.
That night I served up vege burgers again, without the bread buns. Mmm very tasty Mr Food Truck man. Luckily the beetroot relish and almond satay sauce will stick around for other meals because freakily, almond butter is $12 a jar. Conclusion: will make again.

Later I checked a Mumsnet email and lo and behold there was a link for ‘newly vegetarian teenagers’ Mumsnet NTV 
Timely because I had just informed my NVT that if she was serious about being a vegetarian she would have to research and understand what food groups she needed to eat to get all the nutrients required to stay healthy. Like enough iron. One of my bugbears when girls go vego. I staunchly believe that haem- iron from red meat, is superior to non-haem iron from grains etc.
I also suggested NTV might want to learn some veg dishes to cook herself as she’s a highly capable cook and avid baker. Plus cooking three dishes every night instead of the two I often cook, is going to get boring PDQ (pretty damn quick).
The above link has everything my NTV and I needed to know. Thank you Mumsnet.
Whatever way my NTV goes, I now have some yummy new family meals to serve up. And at least only two children can yell, ‘YUK Mum this is disgusting’.

Happy cooking.
 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Valentine's Day: It's the Thought That Counts xx



Lovers, new and old, have been bombarded recently with helpful suggestions re: how to woo their loved ones tomorrow. (My darling is away, luckily, because I haven't bought his card). Now, after careful analysis of what our Sunday paper and local rag proposed, I’d like to add my two cents worth. If you want to make an impression - listen up lovers.

***Don’t buy the woman or man you’re trying to impress the, $35 Valentine’s Cinema Combo. I’m sorry but; regular soft drink, popcorn and a movie ticket just screams CHEAP plonker. Unless of course you are 15 or an OAP? In which case, go for it. 

***Girls, do you really want to “spice it up this Valentines ... and feel special about your lady bits”, by succumbing to a beauty therapist and her hot wax.  Ahem. Then there’s the question of the add-ons available in the form of Swarovski Crystal stick-ons.  Va-jazzling be damned. Sorry. It just conjures up visions of macaroni kindergarten art. I’d recommend spending your $70+ on a small silk scarf to tie around your up-do (latest fashion trend from NYFW). That or a deposit on a pair of Kathryn Wilson heels. Then at least you’ll have something to KEEP for your efforts. Lastly on this subject, if the mood is right and you have the urge to say something deep like, ‘I love you’. Say it. Don’t stick it. Truly.

***Now, Saying it with flowers has never been more confusing. Personally men I wouldn’t follow, Lynda Hallinan’s (SUNDAY magazine) advice of picking your loved one some wilding agapanthus from the side of the road and presenting them bunched together with some gone-to-seed wild carrot. I do however agree on her suggestion of buying your Valentine an expensive vase. I’d present it with a single, bug free, red rose and a poem of your own making, just a couple of lines.  Even better, a highly perfumed, single old fashioned rose like, Constance Spry , although you will need to find a friendly old gardener for that. If you decide to forage, take snips and don’t get caught. 

*** Lastly, for those inclined to home craft and shabby chic, I would not present your loved one with a multi-coloured cottage garden arrangement adorned with animal skulls, unless he/she is a taxidermist or a pig hunter they just won’t get it.  

***Each to his own. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. Just make sure it’s a considered and GENEROUS one. If in doubt, chocolate, champagne, a card or at a push beer, should cut it. 

Happy Valentine’s Day lovers!

ps. a red card arrived in the post, I instantly recognized the writing, we’ve been swapping cards for twenty years plus now. There was a note scribbled on the back, ‘open on "heart" day’. Can't wait till tomorrow.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Aramoana: my pathway to the sea




I’ve lived in the deep south of the South Island, for twenty years now. I love it down here, nestled alongside the Southern Alps. But I’m a Shore-Girl at heart and when summer heats the land, I crave the saline depths of the ocean to cool me down, not our pristine lakes.
Fussy maybe? Nonetheless, I was born that way. On the Ides of March, 1964, at Takapuna Hospital, a stones throw from the beach in the North Shore suburb of Auckland; sun and stars and hours of labour aligned, then like Jonah being spat out of the whale, I emerged. Zodiac sign: Pisces. The two fish - salt water obviously. My destiny chosen. I would love water and swimming from that moment forth.
And I did. I was that kid who reappeared at the end of a beach day; wrinkled as a prune, last years Speedos cutting into sunburnt shoulders, a dark peppering of freckles across my nose and cheeks, salted blond hair, ears full of sand and a satisfied grin.
“Pisces love to swim…this easy glide… in the sea…serves to alleviate much of their stress.” I read on an astrology website just now. Any chance I get to leave our lovely landlocked home and head to the coast I grab with my finned hands.
A couple of weekends ago we spent a blissful 24 hours at the sleepy seaside village of Aramoana, just out of Dunedin. The weather was stunning. Hot. The sea artic. Probably around 12 degrees Celsius. I sunbathed and read my book. The kids swam in wetsuits. Day-trippers ate chips and drank bear under umbrellas. Mums ran after toddlers. A seal rotted in the sand. No mind, you couldn’t smell it. There wasn’t a breath of wind. Ah the great kiwi summer. Sun, sand and tiny surf. Bliss
Despite my sunny loved up state I couldn’t take my mind off the, Aramoana Massacre of 1990. The entire time.
Later that evening the kids and I explored the narrow streets of the village looking for a track to the northern side of the beach. I'm not obsessive or anything. Much. But I wondered...
Perhaps David Gray had lived in a crib like this? 


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