Sunday, February 24, 2013

A tale of two bath mats

All couples have their idiosyncrasies; ways of evening out the power balance that might seem a little... odd... to others.

Maybe you hide the good chocolate.

Or maybe you switch the mosquito repellant plug off after your partner falls asleep (against their express wishes, and that partner wakes up in the night and can’t go back to sleep because she’s covered in mosquito bites).

Or maybe you fib that the DVD store's copy of The World at War was out, but hey, guess what? Working Girl was in!

Or maybe you have his and hers bath mats.

That last one applies to Husband and me. (Actually, they all do.)

It dawned on me one day, after I’d once again accidentally stepped onto the edge of our (his) bamboo bath mat, that I should not have to put up with this. I mean, the thing is practically useless. It doesn’t keep your feet dry when you step out of the shower. It’s hard, and every now and then I accidentally catch the edge with my heel, causing it to snap up like a rake in the grass. It's aggravating.

One day, it was too much.

I marched up to Husband, the air above my head crackling slightly, and demanded that either he get rid of that bloody bath mat, or at the very least store it out of harm’s way after showering before someone (me) gets seriously injured.

He paused, mid-munch — he was eating a sandwich — and stared at me for a few beats. Then he swallowed and said very slowly, ‘Okaaaay,’ which did nothing to improve my mood. Was this not a serious discussion about a legitimate health hazard?

It was only then that I realised much of the dialogue leading up to this confrontation had occurred in my head — okay, all of it — and this was the first time it was being brought to Husband’s attention.

Never mind. Irrelevant.

I suggested getting a nice, soft bath mat. One that it is absorbent, pleasant underfoot and shields feet from frozen cement tiles in winter.

The indulgent look was replaced with one of horror.

‘But they’re so dirty! No. Sies. No way.’

‘It doesn’t have to be one of those kitsch pink things that look like candyfloss — I’ve seen some very tasteful ones at @home.’
‘Absolutely not!’

‘But I keep slipping on that bloody bamboo thing! It’s driving me nuts!’

‘Why are you slipping on it? I never slip on it.’

He ignores my murderous look, and I am treated to a demonstration of how to step onto, and off of, the bamboo mat.

You would never put up with it if it bugged you,’ I seethe.

‘Nonsense!’ he laughs. At which point the situation escalates dramatically.


Well, dear reader, this impasse lasted for a few weeks. Husband neither placed the bamboo death trap out of harm’s way or agreed to replace it. So I just went out and bought my own. It’s rather pretty, don’t you think?

Husband was severely annoyed, but recognised (sensibly) that he didn’t have much of a case.

I still curse the bamboo thing whenever my heel slips off the edge, but I am willing to put up with this purely because of the occasional glimpse I catch of my beloved scowling at my lovely soft bath mat.
It’s lose/lose — and balance has been restored.

Ain’t marriage grand?

Of course, we always reconcile — usually over a meal, which is like having make-up sex, except with your taste buds.

This is a dish I sucked out of my thumb... It’s pretty basic, but soooo good. You just have to be willing to make your own labneh, which is stupidly easy, but requires you to prep about 24 hours in advance. (See my previous post on the subject.)

One of my New Year’s resolutions (okay, my only resolution — ever) was to stop wasting food. I seem to waste a lot of yoghurt, in particular. Woolies doesn’t sell full-cream yoghurt in the little cartons, so I have to buy a large 500ml tub, and I am very ashamed that I rarely finish that tub before the contents go off.

So I’ve started making labneh. It’s such a versatile ingredient, and so yummy that it gets used without fail before going off... perhaps also because it lasts a bit longer than yoghurt would ordinarily.

So, as I said, this dish was invented, as so many are, by the contents of my fridge, and holy fuck, it was a winner. I cannot wait to make it again. It’s glorious on pasta, but I think the sauce would be equally good on crostini, or over some grilled polenta or chicken.

Baked spinach, labneh & tomato pasta
Serves 2

400g swiss chard, chopped fairly finely
About 400ml yoghurt (I prefer full-cream, but it’s not essential), made into labneh (recipe here)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
Olive oil
200g baby rosa tomatoes, halved
250g pasta of choice (I think fusilli or any long pasta would work well — I used spinach linguini)
Parmesan, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Combine the spinach, labneh, garlic and zest in a bowl. Season with black pepper (the labneh’s already pretty salty, so you shouldn't need any), add a good glug of olive oil, and mix it all up until evenly combined.
2. Transfer to a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes, or until spinach is tender (but still green). (It always amuses me when I read the instruction ‘Remove dish from oven’ right around this point in a recipe. What are we, brain damaged?)
3. Arrange the tomatoes on a baking tray, and roast at the same time as the spinach, also for about 20 minutes.
4. In the mean time, cook the pasta until al dente, and reserve a cup of the cooking water.
5. Add the baked spinach sauce to the pasta, along with the roasted tomatoes and stir so the pasta gets evenly coated in the sauce. Add a little of the reserved cooking water water to loosen up the pasta if needs be.
6. Serve sharpish, with a generous grating of Parmesan on top.