Reflections on living life by the rules and daring to, occasionally, colour outside the lines!
No matter how often experts in such things tell us that wearing white before Easter or after Labour Day is perfectly alright and will not land us in some circle of sartorial hell, we still quiver with anxiety at the very thought. Although we may secretly admire them, we fear to emulate the odd brave soul who will flout such arbitrary vestiges of days of yore. What will people think? Don’t colour outside the lines! No socks with sandals. Blue and green should never be seen! Don’t mix patterns! Shoes and purses must match!
Lest people titter! Oh the dreaded titter!
Yet being the titterer is ever so gratifying. Tapping the laugh emoji at every poor soul who has ventured to Walmart decked out in a fashion faux pas. Caught on camera! Posted! Busted! What fun, we titter! Our eyes roll knowingly at anyone within eyeshot. We know the rules, by cracky!
Although we are safely behind the lines scanning the horizon for offenders, perhaps we should wonder at which point those lines became walls trapping us inside. Maybe we should consider setting foot outside the titterverse and breaking a few rules. Just for fun. It could be liberating!
We needn’t venture out in public. We can practice at home. Baby steps.
Perhaps we have just assumed, for instance, that lamb needs mint sauce or pork demands apple sauce. A burger needs fries. Roast beef needs a Yorkshire pudding. Spaghetti needs tomato sauce. There are rules! And they’re not bad ones. Time-tested and true. But time-tested and true can, over time, become predictable, restrictive and, (dare I say?) a bit boring.
Instead of tittering at the first one to try balsamic vinegar and basil on a bowl of fruit, let’s just maybe, give it a try. Peaches or pineapple slices roasted on the barbecue? Perhaps. It’s summer, after all. Time to let our hair down. Isn’t that how the much maligned Hawaiian pizza got its foothold? Nigella Lawson, that intrepid domestic goddess of the Food Network, has lured us over many lines with suggestive murmurs and batty eyelashes. The titterverse squealed with derision when she roasted Romaine lettuce to create her “deconstructed caesar,” but notice that it has become a bit of a thing. It was also she who introduced us to a whole new way of enjoying watermelon. We were convinced that watermelon was a somewhat child-like fruit best enjoyed in jolly big chunks, outside, barefoot, with seeds for spitting. Or, occasionally, in demure wedges alongside a casual chicken barbecue and sweet corn feast. Although Nigella did not invent the following concoction, long popular in the Middle East, she was the one who kicked the door open for us, and aren’t we glad she did.
“NIGELLA’S WATERMELON, BLACK OLIVE & FETA SALAD
- 1 small red onion
- 4 limes
- 1½ kilograms watermelon (sweet and ripe)
- 250 grams feta cheese
- 1 bunch fresh flatleaf parsley
- 1 bunch fresh mint (chopped)
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 100 grams pitted black olives
- black pepper
- Peel and halve the red onion and cut into very fine half-moons and put in a small bowl to steep with the lime juice, to bring out the transparent pinkness in the onions and diminish their rasp. Two limes' worth should do it, but you can find the fruits disappointingly dried up and barren when you cut them in half, in which case add more.
- Remove the rind and pips from the watermelon, and cut into approximately 4cm / 1½ inch triangular chunks, if that makes sense (maths is not my strong point). Cut the feta into similar sized pieces and put them both into a large, wide shallow bowl. Tear off sprigs of parsley so that it is used like a salad leaf, rather than a garnish, and add to the bowl along with the chopped mint.
- Tip the now glowingly puce onions, along with their pink juices over the salad in the bowl, add the oil and olives, then using your hands toss the salad very gently so that the feta and melon don't lose their shape. Add a good grinding of black pepper and taste to see whether the dressing needs more lime.”
So the next time we are tempted to titter, let’s resolve to hold our fire and at least give life outside the lines a chance. I’m not suggesting we start wearing our pyjamas to Walmart, but let’s just be sure we’re not missing something delightful!