I have gone on strike. Or, to put it more accurately, I have quit.
Things had been leading up to this for a while. I was having a conversation with The Son, trying to get him to help out around the house, and when I listed all the things I do, he said – quite gleefully, I might add – “It’s like you’re our servant!”
Then, two weeks ago, the three kids had their half-term break, and The Author – unable to work with three kids milling around all day – had an enforced holiday as well. Me, well I still had work to do, and uncomplainingly (yep) I did it. When I got home from the college, the house was a tip: breakfast dishes and lunch dishes piled up on the table, the floor covered with debris of all kinds (where does it all come from?!), and the laundry in a big pile that had sat there for a week because no one approached it except when they were out of something to wear, despite my daily request to please put the clothes away. Something had to give, and I’m afraid it was my temper.
After ranting for a bit how I’m NOT a servant, and we are all members of the household and we all have to pitch in, I looked at everyone’s glazed eyes and thought, I’m not getting through to them. So I officially quit.
I marked the day in my calendar: “Stop being a servant.”
“I am not doing anyone’s laundry anymore,” I announced. “I will still cook for everyone, unless you complain too much – then you can make your own dinner. And it can’t be cereal,” I added for the benefit of the Son, who, if given the chance, would eat only cereal from now till the day he leaves for university and, for all I know, the rest of his life.
“But what about when we need clean clothes?” the kids implored. The Author was very wisely staying out of it.
“Wash them, ” I said, apparently quite cryptically, because there were a few confused looks. I told them I would show them how to use the machine. I also told them that they were only allowed to put dirty clothes in the wash, not the clean clothes that they have finally picked up from the floor and didn’t feel like folding. (I’m up to their tricks!)
I was worried I was being too harsh. Luckily, I happened to be reading Caitlin Moran’s How to Be A Woman, a very funny book which also happens to address some serious feminist issues in a raw and compelling way (i.e. lots of explicit sexual stuff, crude language galore, and brilliantly detailed anecdotes from Moran), and and my sense of outrage at having to do all the housework was rekindled. There are four other able-bodied people in this house who can take some responsibility for running it. It’s not like I’m asking them to beat their clothes on the river rocks and wring them out by hand. I’m asking them to press a button. Is this really something only a woman is able to do?!
It’s been two weeks. The Author has sprung into action, and The Oldest as well. The Twins may run out of clothes before they understand the implications of it all.
And as for me, I have been enjoying the little extra bit of time that not doing laundry for 5 people can give. Servant schmervant. We’re all family here.
Speaking of families, my best friend Lisa (3000 miles away but like a sister to me) wrote me a long email, bringing me up to date on what was happening with her and her family. And in the email she mentioned that she was roasting some of her home-grown asparagus for a salad to bring to a family gathering. And since I had some spare time thanks to my laundry moratorium, I fiddled around with the idea and here is what we had for dinner. With no complaints, I might add. But then again, they probably didn’t dare.
Roasted Asparagus & Tomato Salad
Serves 5-6 people
Asparagus is at its peak right now, but the tomatoes we get are not necessarily in the same league – they are still coming in from Spain and Italy with only a few UK hothouse varieties available. Because the tomatoes don’t have that sweet, bursting-with-sunshine flavour that the end of summer tomato brings, I like to give them a little roasting to maximise the taste that is there. In fact, this entire dish gets all its pizazz from roasting, although serving it at room temperature is the way to go. This is a great dish for when the calendar says summer but Nature says drizzly and chilly.
I have written the recipe so that you only need to use one pan, but it does take a bit longer, as each item needs different time in the oven. (To be fair, I feel I should mention that The Author always does the dinner time washing-up, so by using less pans, this method gives him a little break. I may be easing off the housework, but that doesn’t mean I want other people to do more than their share either!)
The ingredients do not have to be precise but are listed below as a guide to get you going.
- 700g (1.5 lbs) asparagus
- 400g (3/4 lb) cherry tomatoes
- 35g (3 Tb) pine nuts
- 150g (just under a cup) kalamata olives
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar (not the good stuff, just supermarket variety)
- sea salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 200C (400F).
Spread the pine nuts on a roasting tin and cook in the oven until they have just started to take on some colour, anywhere from 2-5 minutes. Keep a close eye on them, as once they start to colour, they go from golden to brown in a flash. Trust me, you don’t want that! Take the pine nuts off the tray and put them aside. Keep the tray handy for the next step.
Snap the asparagus as far down the end as you possibly can; it will break where the stalk is too tough to eat. Alternately, you can peel the asparagus, but you may still end up with stringy, hard-to-chew ends. (You can save the tough ends to make soup or stock or you can compost them, your call.) Toss the spears with olive oil, salt and pepper, and lay out single-layer on a roasting tin or tray. If you pile them up, they will steam, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but what is really preferable is a little caramelisation, which will happen if they’re not crowded. Pop them in the oven to roast for about 10 minutes, and if the underside has taken on any colour, flip all the spears over so the caramelised side is face up. Scatter the olives on the tray. Continue roasting the asparagus with the olives until the asparagus are tender (cut a little bit off and taste it to be sure). Take the asparagus and olives off the tray and put them aside. Keep the tray handy for the next step.
While the asparagus is roasting, cut the tomatoes in half (stem-end to bottom – more of the bits stay in that way) and toss gently with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay all the tomato halves cut-side up on the roasting tray and drizzle the vinegar over them. Pop them in the oven and roast them until they start to look a little bit dehydrated and they have a slight slump to them. Remove the tray from the oven.
In a serving dish, layer the asparagus, tomatoes, pine nuts and olives, making sure that all the ingredients are evenly distributed – the dressing in this salad has already been cooked as part of the vegetables, so you want to make sure you get a little of each thing in every bite. (Remember my motto: every bite should be the best bite!)
We had this salad with grilled bread and steak (I’m swooning just remembering it), but it would also make a lovely light dinner or lunch with the same grilled bread and a sheep’s milk or goat’s milk cheese, like Pecorino or Quicke’s Goat. Really, it’s probably good with anything – to use the parlance of my rekindled feminism, it’s an equal opportunity salad!