An appetite for change

Photo: Getty Image
Photo: Getty Image

Fine dining  wasn't that satisfying, Lisa Scott finds.

Lisa Scott
Lisa Scott

The Masticating Mountain Man is not the fine-dining type, has no appetite for degustation. He's more Vegemite-and-chip-sandwich-after-a-crate-of-big-bots (drinking a Lion Brown is called "blowing a trumpet'') and he's a vegetarian - in Oamaru that means cheese and pineapple sandwiches at the Lagonda Tearooms - and so big that when he turns around he knocks holes in walls and small children off their feet, making him hell in a confined space.

Despite this, last weekend I asked him to accompany me to a new restaurant. He was so excited he didn't eat anything all day apart from four hash browns, a round of toast and half a dozen eggs. He even wore his going-out cap. When the starter arrived, three slender baby asparagus next to a dot of yellow foam on a plate the size of a full moon, his face fell so hard it clunked the table.

Frankly, you'd think he would have got used to it by now. "Where's the tucker?'' he asked the first time he came to my tiny Purakaunui home. "You live in the country, there must be a big pantry around here somewhere.'' Like fun there is. How can I have a pantry? I don't even have a kitchen.

For the past year, my cooking facilities have consisted of a microwave so old you want to turn it on from across the room wearing a tinfoil hat and using two brooms taped together, a small fridge, a toaster and the top of a Klondike pot belly. Water is ported from the bathroom, dishes done outside on the deck. If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, I'm not sure which region on MMM's body I'm aiming for, but no doubt it's somewhere in the vicinity.

MMM is a man of action (like Bear Grylls just without the urine-drinking) and most of it makes him hungry. His hunger is the old-school kind. Ever since he left home at 16 to muster near Moonlight, women have been up from 2am in some kitchen or another preparing him breakfast, lunch and dinner. Women equals food is a common rural misconception, it seems, similar to "nice ladies shave their legs''. Some days you can hear my laughter all the way to Maheno.

By the time he gets to mine, MMM's either been hiking across a ridgeline/throwing a bike down a scree slope or just yelling a lot and led to believe there's victuals and finding only cheese and crackers, fails to hide his dismay, something I find secretly hilarious. I might be evil. "How could you even entertain entertaining?'' he asked, lending me a lightweight climbing stove to make him coffee so at least there was some of that. I didn't entertain it. There are the clear benefits to not having a kitchen and one of them is not having to cook for other people.

Anyway, out for dinner we went. A year of no stove (I'd been using it to store my collection of Penguins) or reason to use plates and you do lose some airs and graces. Ps and Qs get mislaid in a box somewhere with the colander. Forks and knives seem new-fangled when you're used to a spork and an instant ramen bowl and napkins blow your tiny mind - what the heck are they for? Is it a little hat? I don't think the staff noticed my unease, they were too busy righting knocked-over glasses and replacing the cutlery on the table next to us, swept off by an expansive gesture describing the route down a couloir. There was a window of about 20 minutes after MMM ate his main and most of mine when, if dessert had been served, he might have left sated, but it passed and two pear crumbles later he was not satisfied, which is the same as kicking a bear in the nuts and then waiting to see what happens.

"I'm getting a burger,'' he said as we left. The burger shop was closed.

You can guess the rest.

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