In their polyester habits, the Nuns rustled as they walked. Some had large motherly breasts, others were dwarfed by their navy blue tent. Interspersed with the Nuns were the ‘secular’ teachers, I often wondered how the banter went in the staff room.
I don’t think the education would stand up to the rigours of an OFSTED inspection. I remember Sister Humphrey telling us in very racist terms about a tribe they had been ‘helping’ in Africa. The air that pervaded the school was that the main business was God’s business and the education was an exasperating afterthought.
We were once allowed to visit the Nuns' quarters. It was a very quiet place, I remember feeling very reverent. I think we were allowed to see one bedroom, and there was a carpeted chapel with a prominent statue of the Virgin Mary. I found the idea of the Nuns living here fascinating, it seemed a quieter, more holy version of Malory Towers.
I was not a good student. With a troubled home life, I was the child that was too loud, attention-seeking and disruptive. I would hate to have me in my class. I think lots of the nuns hated to have me in their class.
Sister Pauline was no exception. A stern-faced brunette with pointy features, she would take no messing. She was such a challenge to me. She had a slightly arty streak, more Jackson Pollock than Monet.
She once commissioned a large, religious-themed painting for the wall. I was in charge of doing the sky. I knew Sister Pauline would have some strange colour ideas, so asked her advice. She got quite animated, her creative smile broke through, ‘use lots of different colours!’ she exhorted me. With a giggling friend, I set to work. Dark purple, orange, lime green, they all had their place on our canvas. She was not impressed. What should have been a pretty sky, looked a bit like a bad car crash.
It was the only time I managed to break her. She completely lost control, shrieking and quivering, her pointy nose drained of all colour. As I took my place outside the Head Nun’s office, I smiled quietly to myself. What a horrible child I was.
I hope Sister Pauline would enjoy this salad. Alas, be you male or female, if you eat it, your wee is going to smell bad.
(Names have been changed to ensure I can never be sued)
Sister Pauline's Asparagus Salad (serves 2 adults)
8 small new potatoes
12 asparagus stalks
6 cherry tomatoes
3 tbsps dairy-free spread
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
about 8 sprigs of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1-2 tbsps lemon juice (I used the cheating stuff from a bottle)
1-2 tsps Gluten-free Dijon Mustard (here's one)
Salt and Black Pepper
- Melt the dairy-free spread in a small saucepan. Add the chopped garlic and finely chopped coriander. Let it all heat gently until it is sizzling, but not brown
- Add the mustard and stir through. It may be helpful to use a mini-whisk
- Add a tbsp of lemon juice, whisk and taste. You might find it tastes fine, you might want a bit more lemon juice or mustard. Adjust as you see fit
- Add salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside
- Wash the new potatoes and chop them into small cubes
- Put a large pan of water to boil. When it is boiling, add some salt and put the potatoes in. They should cook for about 12-15 mins depending on the size of your cubes
- Trim the ends of the asparagus and steam (or boil) for about 10 minutes. This will leave them quite crunchy, you may prefer them softer, if so,leave them for a bit longer
- Whilst everything is steaming and bubbling, halve the cherry tomatoes and put to one side
- When the potatoes are done, drain them and allow them to steam for a minute or two
- Put a little of the dressing into a large bowl and put the potatoes on top. Mix it gently round to lightly coat the potatoes. Arrange the potatoes in the centre of your plate
- Take the asparagus off the heat and arrange them in a star pattern around the plate (see picture)
- Arrange the cherry tomatoes in between the asparagus stalks (see picture)
- Using the remaining dressing, drizzle around the plate and on top of the potatoes