Entertaining the vegetable-hating Aussie

I am currently in the midst of a week-long vacation from work, staying home to entertain my close friend from Australia, Muck (because he’s Australian, he doesn’t always pronounce his R’s, so his given name Mark became Muck…although since my husband Mark is Smark, Muck is more often Smuck). Smucky and I couldn’t be more different in terms of palate: he’s a vegetable- and spice-hating carnivore with little sense of culinary adventure and I’m (obviously) a vegan with a taste for spicy food and trying new things. So I try to find some compromises when he’s here. He’s generally pretty good about at least trying most of the things I make and sometimes he even likes them! I do let him keep a quart of milk and sliced deli turkey in the refrigerator (the latter meaning the cats really like it when he’s in town) so he doesn’t starve, but I enjoy introducing him to new things.

Sometimes I am really surprised by the things that are new to Smucky. For example: bagels. I offered him a homemade bagel last summer and he said he’d never had nor even seen one before. What?!? How can you spend nearly three decades on this planet and never encounter a bagel?!?! The good news is he really took to bagels once he tried one. Now I feel obligated to keep a supply of them on hand when he’s here. They are fun to make, so it’s okay. After he took his jet-lagged self to bed early Monday night, I got to work and surprised him Tuesday morning with fresh everything bagels:

Somehow we’ve managed to go through 8 1/2 bagels already, so it looks like another batch is in my immediate future.

Smucky adulterates his with non-vegan turkey and mozzarella (and, surprisingly, sliced “beetroot”…apparently it’s a normal sandwich topping in Australia): he’s never had cream cheese because he “doesn’t like cream”. I, however, smear mine with Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, and in this case, jalapeno jelly from my mother-in-law in Charleston. Is it the healthiest way to start my day? Maybe not, but I’m on vacation, damn it!

Another thing Smucky’s never heard of is blueberries, which is possibly even more bizarre than bagels. He and I were in Wegmans tonight picking out sodas to buy for a party we’re having this weekend, when he suggested we try a blueberry soda. I said I was skeptical about the universal appeal of blueberry soda and asked him if he’d ever had it and it came out that he didn’t even know what a blueberry is: he thought it was just a flavor of “lolly”. Once I got over my shock, I abandoned him in the soda aisle, ran back to the produce section, grabbed some blueberries and returned stating he was going to find out what a blueberry was and not in soda form. Oddly, I did buy the blackberry soda he suggested without asking him if he knows what a blackberry is…maybe he just thought it best to keep mum about it.

One of the few meals I can think of that will satisfy both of our needs is Italian-style pasta. Usually we end up having spaghetti at some point when he’s here, but today I decided to go all-out and spring vegan lasagne on him. His eyes got big with excitement when I announced we’d be having lasagne for dinner, although he immediately asked, with concern in his voice, “but what about the meat and cheese? You can’t have lasagne without meat and cheese.” I told him not to worry his pretty little head about it.

Not only did I make lasagne, I decided to make my own noodles:

I made a very Veganomicon lasagne, with some alterations.

I substituted one spinach layer with commercial vegan “ground beef” in hopes of better appeasing the one who thinks lasagne can’t exist without meat and cheese. I’m very impressed by the fact that he ate two pieces despite the fact that I kept a spinach layer! (He did ask, suspiciously, “what’s with this green stuff?”)

(My homemade noodles didn’t retain layers very well, I’m afraid…)

One thing that I make that Smucky eats without hesitation or suspicion is ice cream, about which honestly I was at first a bit surprised. He’s such a fan of cow milk that I expected resistance to vegan ice cream…but he’s eaten about three quarters of a quart since yesterday!

Smuck’s favorite is mint chocolate chip, so I make it especially for him. Smark’s favorite is cookies and cream, so I made that tonight:

… although it looks like I’ll have to make another batch of mint chocolate chip tomorrow night. I also bought pistachios today in order to make pistachio ice cream for the party, although Smucky today informed me he hates nuts, so I guess he won’t be having any of that. Sigh.


  1. Alexis Said,

    July 24, 2008 @ 1:12 am

    How can you possibly hate nuts? I find this incomprehensible. There are several varietes, all of which are quite different from each other. I’m not a pistachio fan (especially not in ice cream) but I quite like most nuts.

    I am extremely impressed by your bagels. Freshly homemade everything bagels with BTCC and jalapeno jelly sounds like a small slice of heaven to me.

  2. Cecilia Said,

    July 24, 2008 @ 3:34 am

    I have to laugh out loud so many times throughout this post … Smucky is indeed a funny man ;0) Please tell him that I’m terribly jealous of him because 1) he gets to get your yummy food 2) he’s up in the SUMMERY northern hemisphere :0/

    Believe it or not, I never ever saw a fresh bagel before (except when I baked them of course) – it’s just not that common here in Aus … yea, I know we’re missing out!!

    Oh man that picture of your bagel is SERIOUSLY food porn …. yummmmm … I’ve never heard of jalapeno jelly before, are they sweet and spicy?? Oh yes, Aus loves beetroot – another Aussie icon that we have is vegemite – you like?!

    OOoo as for blueberries … the only ones that I’ve seen are the frozen ones …. never saw a fresh one before!

    Oolala! Your lasagna looks TO DIE FOR!! My goodness, they look so darn good!!! Please … can I have a bite of that pleaseeeee ….

    Last but not least … homemade vegan ice cream …. DROOLLLLLL … Renae is there anything you CAN’T do …. you’re such a kitchen goddess, maybe I should really move it with you and mark and your adorable cats …. you don’t at all do ya>!

  3. Carrie Said,

    July 24, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

    I am skipping a work trip to Chicago in order to attend your party this weekend, in which I will try very hard not to stuff my face and leave all your other guests hungry.

    I am really looking forward to the fo… seeing you both again.

  4. Sue Said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 2:22 am

    Renae, you should try being Mark’s mother! I tried, I really did. You might like to try some of the following techniques with him:
    1. Don’t tell him what it is
    2. Lie
    3. Cut up the vegetables in very small pieces and hide them in food that is covered with tomato paste
    4. Puree vegetables, put in batter and cook. Tell him it is whatever shape you cut it into e.g. we are having stars and moons for dinner
    5. Make a picture of his meal e.g. the one ring of carrot is the sun, the beans are the grass, etc
    6. Let him know that speading the vegetables around the plate doesn’t fool you for a second
    7. Put it in a sandwich or on a hamburger
    8. Read to him a description of the symptoms of scurvy

    Oh, and he would have known what blueberries were if you told him they were a fruit, those little round blue balls he sees in my fridge for most of the summer months!

  5. Mark Said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

    That comment was epic!

  6. Sue Said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 3:52 am

    Is that good?

  7. Nick Said,

    July 27, 2008 @ 1:45 am

    haha owned! Stars and Moons for dinner Mark! You noob – been eating veggies all your life! Sue: 1, Mark: -2

  8. renae Said,

    July 27, 2008 @ 10:57 am

    Those ideas are awesome; I’ll be putting a few of them into use as soon as possible!!

    Also, Muck ate half a carton of blueberries last night!

  9. John McDonald Said,

    September 11, 2008 @ 7:52 am

    We should probably put together a “Care and Feeding of Your Mark” pamphlet. The stars and moons thing is killing me. This may be the best internet web page I’ve ever seen. :>

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