Couscous, Spinach and Green Bean Salad; Big Brother doesn’t care

We're traveling in Italy: new recipe; old story.

Sometimes, for us Expats, even English can be a foreign language.

When we moved to Ireland we lived in one of the tall, skinny, attached houses that so typify the British Isles. 

On the ground floor we had a living room, a small dining room and a Hobbit-size kitchen that was tucked under the stairs. On the two floors above were the bedrooms and bathrooms. 

All of the stairs were polished wood. 

Because I am known for making nocturnal ramblings I decided we needed a night light for the stairs.  Obviously the little plug-in seashells so loved in the US would not work in our 240 Watt outlets so off we went to the big department store in Cork City. 

After searching the lighting section and the light-bulb section in vain I finally asked for help. 

The nice young lady gestured me across the aisle towards the candles. 

I looked…. and looked. 

Strangely enough, all that was in the candle section were candles. 

I found the nice young lady and asked again. 

I got the 'stupid, daft cow!' look before she marched over and, from the shelf right in front of my face, handed me a box of tea-light candles, (you know, the little ones in the metal containers) except it didn't say Tea Lights on it….it said Nite Lights. 

I patiently explained that what I was looking for was a small light that could be left on all night, like in a child's bedroom; not a candle, which everyone knows Must Never Be Left Unattended.

She shoved the box at me again and spoke a little louder (stupid, daft, American cow!)

I was embarrassed into buying them. 

I started looking around a bit and realized that these little candles, which proudly claim to burn for eight hours, were, indeed, what the Irish used for night lights in their children's bedrooms.  There were cute little holders for them everywhere!  The Andorrans, Spanish and French use them, too, as does, probably, the rest of Europe. 

In the 'lawsuit-happy, it's not my fault, blame someone else' culture of the US, I had become accustomed to having anything even the tiniest bit risky have an in-depth, 5-page, warning on it. 

All of a sudden I was being treated like a competent adult, capable of determining my own level of risk. 

I immediately went berserk and started doing all sorts of foolish things. 

I finally came to my senses after a walk along some cliffs overlooking a splendid rocky beach.  It was a public path (so, of course, it was safe).  I walked out to a point and stood in the wind looking over this incredible vista.  A few yards further on I walked out on another point.  As my gaze took in the panorama I paused, looking at the point I had just been standing on.  It had been severely undercut.  The only thing that had been between me and the rocks below was about 2 feet of turf.  I still have nightmares. 

There were/are still instances where my curiosity gets the better of my good sense (and there are no signs warning me off). 

At Salisbury Cathedral (England) there was a staircase that went up into the heights of the church. 

On the first stair was a little painted sign: "Mind your Step". 

We will, I said to myself and up we went… and up…. and up. 

It was a stone spiral staircase just big enough for one smallish person so there really was no turning back – there was one on the other side for coming back down…I assumed. 

Next thing I knew I was a gazillion miles above the floor, walking across a narrow stone ledge that crossed the back of the cathedral with a knee-high railing to keep me from plummeting to the pews far below.  I'd seen it from below but thought it was just decorative.  With my back against the wall I inched across; the only thing keeping my feet moving was the knowledge that I wouldn't have to come back that way. (Stupid, Daft, Cow! – didn't see the ledge on the opposite wall of the cathedral)

Once on the other side of the church we could go up into the steeple (lucky us!).  We had to crawl across the roofing struts first….I crawled, mon mari stepped from strut to strut. 

Well, you get the picture and you know I lived to tell the tale.  In the US I could have sued for emotional trauma! 

Now when I see a sign that says 'Mind your _____' I know I'm really going to have to mind my _____.

BTW: in British English calling someone (always a female someone) a female bovine (cow) is the same as an American calling that someone a female canine (bitch). 

Didn't know that till I left Ireland. 

Just as well….

And I never ate couscous until I left the US – very popular all over Europe.  I can understand why – it's tasty, versatile, and the original fast food.

Couscous Spinach Salad
Couscous, Spinach and Green Bean Salad

1/2 cup medium couscous
3/4 cup chicken broth
4oz (120gr) green beans
1 rib celery
2 tbs snipped chives
1 tomato
2oz (60gr) shredded fresh spinach
2 tbs white Balsamic vinegar
3 tbs olive oil – good stuff
1 1/2 tsp Dijon-style mustard

Top and tail beans and cut into bite-size pieces. Put a medium saucepan 2/3rd's full of water on high heat. When boiling add beans and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water.
Heat chicken broth to a boil. Put couscous in a medium bowl. When broth is boiling pour over couscous, cover and let stand for 10 minutes…Do not stir it.
Meanwhile, slice celery, snip chives, roughly chop tomato and shred spinach.  Add vegetables and herbs to couscous and fluff with a fork. Put the vinegar, mustard and oil in a small bowl. Whisk well and stir into couscous. Serve.

You can, of course, add any bits of veg lurking in the fridge…. Great way to use up leftovers in summer.

7 thoughts on “Couscous, Spinach and Green Bean Salad; Big Brother doesn’t care”

  1. That’s my type of salad – I could eat that all year round. And don’t worry, Australia is close on the heels of the US when is comes to being litigious to the nth degree !!

  2. Oh boy! What memories – night light/tea lights. So confusing. Funny – it took me a year to realize what “Bless your heart” down here in the South meant. Hmm….

  3. I married an Englishman many, many years ago, but we still have moments of misunderstanding when one of us uses `slang` not familiar to the other. Life is nothing but interesting!
    I love the looks of your gorgeous salad — perfect for a hot summer`s night when it`s too steamy to turn the oven on! Theresa

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