Life's a bastard...but sometimes it lets up

The life and times of an ordinary Dublin girl. Follow her journey as she finds out working from home really ISN'T about watching Oprah all day and that perhaps men aren't really all bastards.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Nigella Lawson, I ain't!

PARENTS are funny aren't they? Well mine are anyway. As regular readers will know, about nine months ago I moved back in with my folks following an illness and have had to adjust to the sometimes frustrating situation of living once more with Mammy and Daddy Dunne.

So as not to be too much of a burden, I pay rent money, some of the bills and generally buy my own groceries and I've also set up my little home office here in my room so that I have an oasis of calm to escape to if it all gets too much. (Right, maybe oasis of calm is pushing it considering that right now the place is coming down with clutter mainly empty Coke cans and crisp packets as well as five million OK! magazines, but you get what I mean.)

Last week, to prove yet again what a great daughter I am, I offered to make dinner for the three of us, including dessert, virtually unheard of in our house on a weekday. Trifle on a Sunday, or perhaps an apple tart, is perfectly fine, but on a weekday? Do you think we're made of money?

Anyway, like the good Catholic parents they are, they reluctantly agreed to eat whatever I made, lying through their teeth that it all sounded 'lovely' though Daddy Dunne did try to mumble something in protest which was swiftly silenced by Mammy Dunne via a dig to the ribs.

The thing you have to understand about my parents is that they think a bit of parsley on their plate in a restaurant is the height of sophistication. Anything that has a word of French in the title or anything in italics on a menu sends them into a spin of indecision, even if it's only soup au mushroom in our local hotel. They have plain tastes and they like plain food. And I do mean plain. So, absolutely no garlic, spices, herbs, sauces, infusions, chillies, peppers, oils, vinegars...or..anything really. Meat and two veg is fine, once it's veg they recognise and can pronounce, anything with more than two syllables is a no-no (cab-bage, car-rott, tur-nip are all grand you see, but as-par-a-gus is not).

So I scoured my cookbooks (all three of them) so I did looking for inspiration, dismissing anything that seemed in any way exotic, even a gorgeous looking lemon chicken which both of them thought looked a bit 'yeh know...complicated like'. I finally settled on a sausage and potato bake with roasted vegetables followed by an apple crumble. Great, nice and plain, yet a little different to what they usually eat on a daily basis I thought, what could possibly go wrong?

It all went downhill from there. The recipe called for Italian herb sausages, which I knew neither of the Dunnes would eat so I substituted Denny's finest butcher sausages instead. It called for garlic, which I left out and it also called for rosemary which I snuck into the house telling them it was Holy Palm the parish priest had given me. The recipe also said that the dish should take 40 minutes to cook but in reality took an hour and 15 minutes, as I’d overlooked the vital ‘par boil the potatoes’ stage.

It turns out you need Italian herb sausages for a reason, cos when you use other normal sausages, the inside comes out of the skin onto the dish, sticking to the edge resulting in a burned mass of sausage meat. It turns out that without the garlic, it’s just ordinary roast potatoes and it also turns out that rosemary burns very quickly scattering little bit bits of charred stuff throughout your meal.

With a flourish (hours later) I served them up burnt sausage mass with roasties and bits of charred rosemary….and they ate every bit! It’s amazing where a bit of mournful whimpering will get you and I watched in amazement as they devoured every mouthful, pausing only to grimace slightly and churn out an unconvincing ‘mmmmmm’.

Even I have to admit, it was bloody horrible and I’d eat my own arm so I would, so that’s saying something. We’re still picking the rosemary out of our teeth.

I think they were just so grateful that I was actually DOING something instead of mooning about the place that they seized it with both hands and went along with it, charred mass of shite notwithstanding, which was lovely.

So parents are funny, but you gotta love them eh? Next week I’m thinking of forcing them to eat pasta (‘Jaysis, not foreign muck’) so I’ll keep you posted.

Oh and just in case you were wondering, the apple crumble went down a treat and the ‘mmmmm’s at the dessert stage were much more convincing! (I may be no Nigella Lawson, but I make a good tart!)

Pic representing me slaving over a hot stove borrowed from:


At 10:15 p.m., Blogger Mickey Blue Eyes said...

Fair play for making the effort despite the unfotunate results. Its been my experience with parents that what they dont know wont kill them so next time just through in all that "foreign muck". They will more than likely love it but under no circumstances reveal the true ingredients - sometimes ignorance is truly bliss, especially when trying to broaden the palette of resistant Irish parents!

At 12:43 p.m., Blogger Cat said...

I've a similar situation with my ole mum. While I consider myself less than a domestic goddess but a distinctly above average cook, my talents do not lie with good plain food.

At 2:59 p.m., Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

Brilliant Kaz, brilliant! I'd go with the palate-expanding foreign food next time but give it Irish sounding names and tell them that its a favourite at Ballymaloo!

Chicken au gratin = Westmeath Chicken
Boeuf Bourguignon = Belfast Beef
Ravioli stuffed with roasted pumpkin and amaretto with shavings of Parmesan = Roscommon Potatoes
Paupiette of partridge with foie gras and pancetta = Poolbeg Pigeon

Okay then, maybe not!

At 3:12 p.m., Blogger dunner said...

From someone whose parents have the same thing every day of every week I know where you are coming from.

My Mammy Dunne become accustomed to trying new stuff, however god help you if you told her you liked it as she would go out and buy as much of it as possible and feed it to you every day!!

Next time just dont tell them what is in it, we did that with Daddy Dunne in our house and it was true, what he didnt know didnt hurt him.

At 3:37 p.m., Anonymous redmum said...

My mum thinks my dinners are more like snacks, she will even poke around the kitchen an hour or two afterwards saying 'mmmhhh I'd like something, now what would I like'. (A smack in the mouth from me)

She is horrified at the thought of pizza for dinner.. It is just not dinner.

Following on from Paige you could go 'here's some godawful Dublin dish coddle which has pale sausages and everything bunged into one dish - you'd like that wouldn't you, you ungrateful friggers' or is that too harsh, coddle is minging (sounds minging anyway).

At 3:52 p.m., Blogger KnackeredKaz said...

Yes Red Mum, coddle IS minging! Paige I like your idea..I wonder if I could get away with the Belfast Beef one, they like beef..hmmm!

Anyone have any idea how I can gently tell them that although this coming Friday is in fact Good Friday and traditionally a fast day where you don't eat meat...that I in fact am not a Catholic anymore and instead of the poached cod they're having, I would prefer a juicy steak? Anyone?

At 10:39 p.m., Blogger fatmammycat said...

That sounds...well, vile really. Cooking is easy, just practise really. Not that I'd know too much about it. I can cook, but I'd eat sausage sambos with brown sauce and white pepper day in day out, maybe altering it with really strong cheese on Carrs Water biscuits for the occasional change. The paramour is a surprisingly good cook and I find I am very good at hanging around the kitchen drinking wine and nicking bits of food here and there while he makes dinner. Seems very civilised that way.

At 4:09 a.m., Blogger Emma in Canada said...

I had to ask my mum what par boil meant when I first moved out on my own. Just the other day I called her to ask how long to boil a hard boiled egg for.

At 3:30 p.m., Blogger eldesperado said...

Jayzus...I only wanted to reply to Kaz's post about dinner and next thing I know I'm filling out a blogger account. This wasn't even the name I'd first chosen...but after countless attempts at creating a username that was actually available (I swear to God I made up names that weren't yet known to man and they still weren't available) and finding myself roaring at the screen and thumping the keys in a menacing manner I knew I was in a DESPERATE situation so I decided this blogger name was very appropriate!

Anyway...where was I? Loved the blog on making dinner for the folks, Kaz. Methinks you could be the next Marian Keyes. Watch this space!

This is the first time I've ever blogged. Still don't know what the hell blogging means or what I'm doing here but heh I'm willing to see where it takes me.

While we're on the subject of 'dinner' I have to tell you about my embarrassing situation with food (well I'd better blog up something (is that a term used?))...

It all took place many years ago when we (myself, himself, and two sons) moved into our new house. After being out one Saturday evening with a friend himself lands back at 01.30 am and says (matter-of-factly) that he's invited his friend/wife/two children to dinner on Sunday for a kind of house warming.

"Okay, " says I. "At least I have a full week to prepare."

"What do you mean?" asks he in complete bewilderment. "Sure isn't today Sunday...I told them to drop round for about 2ish."


"Don't worry," says he. "Sure You can ring ME MAMMY first thing in the morning and SHE'LL TELL YOU WHAT TO DO. SHE'S A GREAT COOK!"

Beads of sweat formed across my face, palpations set in, the veins in the side of my neck where about to burst open as the blood drained from my body. The very thought of asking my mother-in-law for advise on cooking...on...on anything was more than I could bear! Sure I'd never hear the end of it. So I decided to give it my best shot.

Early (very) next morning I went to the local supermarket and purchased a cooked chicken, a ribeye roast, fresh veg and potatoes, tins of strawberries and fruit coktail, banana ice-cream and cheesecake, and the vital ingredient in any Sunday Dinner...Erin Gravy Rich! I'd covered all avenues and was feeling very proud of myself.

I roasted, baked, boiled and mashed the potates. This was going to be a meal to remember. Everything looked great and the guests arrived.

"Hope you didn't have to go to too much trouble?" says the wife. "I couldn't have done it with so little warning. In fact I would've ripped out my husband's heart and served that for Sunday lunch if he'd sprung it on me."

"Not at all," says I. "Sure it was no bother. Tis only a matter of adding a few more spuds to the pot," said I in my hostess with the mostest voice.
"Would you like chicken or roast...or both? And how would you like your potato....mashed, baked, boiled, roasted or a bit of each?" says I like a maitre d'hotel. "Fresh veg for anyone? Anyone for gravy?"

"Mmmm...this gravy is delicious...did you make this yourself?" the wife asks.

Don't ask me why...but I just couldn't help myself. "It's a family recipe handed down from generation to generation," I heard myself say, while I heard himself choking in the background.

"You must give me the recipe before I go home," she insists.

"Eh...actually it's a secret family recipe... so ... eh ... can't tell you, sorry. Seconds for anyone?" I quickly defused what could have been a very awkward situation.

Then it came to the dessert. "Who's for strawberries?"

"Are they fresh? I only ever eat fresh strawberries," says she.

Dare I? "Actually...they're not fresh but I do have fresh cheesecake."
(if I scoop it out of the little plastic dish she'll never know the difference).

"Gosh aren't you very clever. What flavour is it?"

By now himself is on the floor bent double trying to hold in the laughter...cos he knows what I don't know.

"Flavour? What do you mean by that? Sure it's a cheesy flavour."

How was I to know that cheesecake came in flavours. I'd never ever eaten it and had only ever seen a yellow one and sure cheese is yellow(ish) isn't it!

I'd been well and trully rumbled.

"Now...about that gravy?" she asked knowingly...

At 9:43 a.m., Blogger doesthebishopblog? said...

well as a blogger virgin thought I'd reply to this after I'd googled ballymaloo and this came up!meant to be going on a suprise trip tomm and Ihope its ballymalloo.anyway heres my recipe for posh fish with milk which im sure your parents will eat,as for mine my dad doesnt eat pasta as that what the pope eats and my mother refers to the blue lady as HER but as the godfather goes thats my family not me! anyway buy some smoked fish preferably undyed haddock and cut in to 4 pieces add a nob of butter,and a teacup of milk bring 2 boil and simmer for 5 minutes. make your colcannon, thing ie tatties,cabbage and spring onions but add some not all of the milk from the fish to make the mash,pour rest away.then add a small carton of single cream to the drained fish and warm through.then its a scoop of colcannon fish on top and pour fishy cream over mixture enjoy


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