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Small plate, big plate February 19, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

“Khev dinner on table ven I get khome,” went the Russian’s text, which I can’t claim oppressed-wife status for because he cooks 12 times out of 11, at least, and he was probably on his way back from a tough day of exams and all sorts of academic hardships, like getting stamps on bits of paper from recalcitrant women with short blond hair and glasses, so it was the least I could spouselily do to, for the first time this millennium, try to welcome him home with something bordering on warmth, wiping the flour off my flushed cheeks onto my apron and primping my hair so that he could be proud of his nest. Plus I was probably feeling guilty about something – he did try to pin Heath Ledger’s death on me, but I stood my ground – so shook myself up and admitted that it would be a scandal of enormous proportions if I couldn’t have a plate of some gruel or other waiting for him one evening in a million.

Thought I’d go for something a bit spesh. My beloved tends to dash for salt and mayonnaise whenever I provide any item of sustenance, even a glass of tap water, so I thought I’d better pull out all the stops. Throw in a bit of everything to disguise the main ingredient – bland nothingness – and confuse his palate into submission. And two courses. Nothing will make a Russian man’s mouth water like the prospect of a good, slurpy soup. With some good old-fashioned boring ingredients, like potatoes and cabbage. And carrots. Especially if you don’t blend it and it appears in the bowl as some bits of potato, cabbage and carrot looking dumbstruck and forlorn in a putrid puddle of murky water. Anyway, I cheated. There was a pre-made soup, which I sexed down with some boring ingredients, and then let that nicely fester away, while I went and dipped my fists into the packet of flour, which I had no intention of using, dabbed a blob on either cheek and my forehead, and got on with some main course or other and laying the table.

Seeing as it was such a rare occasion and it was so exceptional to have been unleashed on the kitchen, I wondered if I could be seditious and try to introduce some structural changes to the way we eat. We could do with them, after all. We’re both as fat as barrels and it’s not unknown for us to get wedged in the hall if we mistime our inward breaths and then have to wait, like Winnie the Pooh, for us to lose weight or the walls to sag.

“Small plates!” I said in my head with revolutionary zeal. Not really small. Not what couples who have wedding lists at John Lewis would call side plates. Just the plates we bought when we first got here, which are plain and spartan to the point of showing off and have ‘Romania’ stamped across the bottom of them. Off-centre. But then one of us must have earned some money and we bought big plates, the size of car wheels, to make ourselves be middle-class. A size=class-rule which didn’t apply on the wine-glass front, where we eventually got them bigger and bigger so that we could have a whole bottle in two glasses and still feel ungluttonous at only having had one glass with dinner.

I plonked down the small plates. On place mats. Three items of cutlery with the spoon across the top to remind me of school dinners. Wine glasses the size of vases. Another glass for water with a bit of lemon thrown in. Maybe even a napkin. And then put down some pre-middle-class soup bowls on top of the plates. It looked just like the dining room of a hotel on the English coast in 1977. Like in that execrable Suffolk shit-hole Southwold that we all have to pretend to like because Twiggy owns a weekend house there.

“Honig, I’m khome,” barked the Russian manlily to the click of the front door shutting out the wicked external world for another evening. “How was your day, dear?” I asked, flicking my apron onto a hook while helping him off with his coat and readjusting the shirt collar under his jumper to make sure he looked neat and tidy because it’s good for the soul to look neat and tidy, even if no-one else can see you.

“Honig, you go and sit and read your paper. I’ve ironed it for you. Do you want a gin on the rocks?”

“No, honig, but do zat sing for me you do. Vere you massage my tyemples. I khev such khard day.”

“Oh honig, baby, we need to take a vacation. You work too hard for that bad ol’ Mr. Boss.”

“Honig, you know I can’t tyake tsime off now.”

Dashed spouselily back to the kitchen. Served up the soup. The Russian ate it with relish. And salt and mayonnaise. And the Southwold 1977 look completely passed him by, so voracious was his manly appetite and so overcome with joy was he at the sight of some good old cabbage as tastelessly tasty as anyone could have made.

“But look, darling, see how clever I’ve been for the main course. SMALL plates. We’ll eat less. Be svelte in no time.”

Twelve portions of tasteless gruel later and we agreed that from now on we’ll only swap roles with carnivalesque infrequency.



1. marshaklein - February 19, 2008

God, you’re on form at the moment!

Have you been reading this:


What would the Russian reach for if you made him mayonnaise?

2. pleite - February 19, 2008

Darling, thank you. I’m actually feeling rather off-form. But what a good link. And my behaviour was almost perfect, wasn’t it? I should have quickly gone and abducted the neighbours’ children for half an hour or so, though.

Gosh, good question. What would he want if I provided the mayonnaise? Umm. Hmm. Erm. Well, second only to soup on the orgasm front for Russians are salads. Not “our” salads, which Russians find dull and not nearly squelchy enough. No, a good, squelchy Russian salad, with beetroot, potato, peas, maybe some egg, bits of chopped up sausage (or herring) and all squelching pornographically in a vat of oil and mayonnaise.

3. patroclus - February 19, 2008

Hee hee, I enjoyed this. Also I sympathise, having no cooking skills whatsoever and having to rely on the lovely Mr BC for all my meals. I made him a sandwich the other day, the first time I’ve ever presented him with anything to eat. He was stunned.

The Russian salad sounds great. I want that for my lunch now. With lots of mayonnaise. Mmm. Although I expect I will have beans on toast.

4. pleite - February 19, 2008

But Patroclus, you are pregnant (just in case you’d forgotten, which I don’t suppose you had), which surely means you are doubly entitled to be waited on hand and foot by the lovely Mr BC for at least the next ever.

Their salads are good, as are their soups, actually. They can’t resist a dollop of sour cream in any soup. And, just for your information, if a salad is layered, a sort of salad trifle, if you will, the top layer of beetroot is known as a fur coat. Don’t know if there’s a salad with no knickers.

5. marshaklein - February 20, 2008

Daisy had a go at making borscht (sp?) the other day. First time she’s ever willingly eaten beetroot.

“Fur coat and nae knickers” is what some Edinburghers call the residents of Morningside (the posh bit, south of Princes Street). I’ve been trying to render “Morningside” in your Russo-English. The best I could come up with was “Myorningsyied”

6. pleite - February 20, 2008

Marsha, that’s precisely how he’d say it. Bugger, what sort of street is Princes Street? A north-south one or east-west one?

And beetroot is good. I found it fearsomely dull in childhood, when I think it was served as rock-hard, pickled pellets from a jar, probably with a dollop of salad cream. (Just wondering if I can sue my mother. It would be a bit ungrateful, wouldn’t it?) But the Russians grate it, once it’s boiled (which takes three months) and add (crumbled up boiled) egg and black pepper and spring onion and grate some cheese into it and then mayonnaise and it’s good. I’m not a great believer in herrings but those too if they’re your bag.

7. marshaklein - February 20, 2008

Princes Street is east-west. Morningside lies towards the southern outskirts of the city.

I love beetroot in all its incarnations. Once, aged about 4, I ate an entire (big) jar of the pickled variety. My wee turned pink! As we lived in the Tropics at the time, my mother assumed I’d contracted some sort of urinary infection and was passing blood. Just as soon as he stopped laughing, my father put her right!

8. Ed Ward - February 20, 2008

When I was four, I broke my arm in such a way that I had to stay in the hospital overnight. There were beets with dinner, giant soggy ones. Worse, there were beets again for breakfast. I haven’t touched them since — in whole form. But I must say the cold borscht at Kanter’s Deli on Fairfax Avenue in L.A. hits the spot on a hot day.

9. Tim Footman - February 21, 2008

Patroclus is pregnant? How do you know? It’s not as if she’s started a pregnancy blog… ;-)

Of course, rich people also have crappy plates with ROMANIA stamped on them. But they buy them ironically at some bijou little place off-off Portobello Road, and spend about 15 quid a pop on them.

10. GreatSheElephant - February 22, 2008

You are right. Southwold is a shit hole. I felt so guilty for not liking it after the hideous 3 hour slog up the A12. But now I feel better because it isn’t just me.

11. pleite - February 22, 2008

GSE, I’ve never understood the attraction of the place, and I think I’ve tried, twice, or maybe even three times, at the insistence of fans who claimed it was heaven on earth. Though I did see a shooting star there at the same time as that comet was visible, which was a good all-in-one heavenly vista, but presumably I’d have seen it just as well from Colchester.

Tim, when times get really bad, I shall take my Romanian plates down to Oderbergerstr. here in Berlin, which is just the sort of street with shops selling an old telephone or a 70s coffee table and other assorted wank and flog the bastards for at least gazillions… And that internet. Spreads the news like wildfire.

Ed, I agree. I think it’s a food that needs to be disguised. I find the carrot equally objectionably plain but, with a bit of disguising, I think it really comes into its own. I’m happy with beetroot in slurpy form, but squelch really does it for me.

Marsha, so not the direction of the castle? And I’ve got a feeling what’s-his-name Clarkson wrote a piece about eating something, probably beetroot, which turned everything pink. He thought he’d had it. (Insert rude joke here.)

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