On Mars, apparently, technology is far more advanced than it is here on Earth. This high-tech environment extends even to the smallest room in the house, where used cardboard toilet rolls are automatically removed from the spool in the middle of the night without human intervention and teleported to the recycling bin. Sadly, men's Martian DNA means that they retain a life-long inability to identify empty toilet rolls and give these unfamiliar items a wide berth.
Similarly, the advanced technology on Mars means that towels are unnecessary – the Martians simply step into cubicles rather like full-body hairdryers and emerge seconds later, perfectly dry. This has two consequences: firstly, it means that the novelty of towels never quite wears off for them, and they are seized by a compulsion to gather and use as many as possible, regardless of whether the towels belong to them or to their housemates. In fact, in some expat Maritan communities, the number of damp, crumpled towels in a house is seen as an indicator of prosperity, and therefore a much sought-after status symbol.
These cultural differences are also much in evidence in the kitchen. I have heard many reports of the average male Martian cooking session dirtying 7.29 times as many cooking utensils as an equivalent session by their Venusian counterparts, and involving approximately 738% of an adult's Recommended Daily Allowance of saturated fat.
My own personal Martian remains true to his species in terms of the first two cultural quirks, but in terms of the third it seems that he displays some differences. Not to say he is more like me – he just has different quirks to other Martians. If I cook dinner, there will be some sort of protein, some sort of starch, and a lot of vegetables. Yes, this will dirty more than one pot, but that's because it's in effect 3 different dishes (more often than not – I seldom master the art of one-pot cooking!). And if we had chicken/fish/pasta/pork last night, I will make sure we have something different tonight. Nick, on the other hand, will go to great lengths to make sure he uses as few pots as possible – if vegetables will dirty another pot, let's skip them! And I do believe that, left to his own devices, he would eat the same thing every night: pasta with chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic. And maybe a braai or two when the weather is good…! But the biggest difference is the speed at which we produce meals. However I cut it, preparing dinner seems to take me at least an hour – but Nick transforms from lethargic sofa-surfing mode into Speedy Gonzales when he enters the kitchen! I came home from a meeting after work the other night, tired, grumpy and hungry, at about 9pm and my heart sank when I saw that the oven was not even on yet.
But my fears were ill-founded because half an hour later we sat down to these salmon fillets and their delicious herb salsa, together with sauteed zucchini with leeks! It seems he had been surfing the net and defrosting the salmon, waiting to leap into action when I walked through the door :) They have a warm, spicy flavour rather than a take-the-roof-off-your-mouth heat, and the crisply refreshing salsa is a perfect match.
What can I say – my Martian's a keeper :)
SPICY SALMON FILLETS WITH FRESH HERB SALSA (serves 2) (from the BBC Food website)
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground paprika
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cumin seeds
300g salmon fillet, skin removed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
handful each fresh chervil, coriander and flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
¼ onion, very finely chopped
¼ courgette, very finely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. In a small bowl, mix the spices together, then sprinkle onto a plate.
3. Press the salmon into the spices to coat well.
4. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a small ovenproof frying pan and fry the salmon on both sides until golden-brown.
5. Transfer the ovenproof frying pan to the oven and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, or until cooked through.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard until thick and creamy.
7. Add the chopped herbs, onion and courgette to the mustard mixture and mix well.
8. To serve, place the salmon in the centre of a serving plate and spoon the herb salsa around the edge.