The humble cucumber gets a raw deal in salad land.
When people talk about the dull salads of their childhood, cucumber more than often than not gets tossed into the mix with iceberg lettuce and wedges of tomato. Flashbacks of the bottle of Kraft French dressing in the door of the fridge of my childhood home are coming to me now. That was a standard in Australian refrigerators of the 70s.
In Vietnam, the cucumber is more ubiquitous in salads than lettuce. It commonly features as a pickle on the side of wok-cooked noodle dishes like pho xao (stir-fried beef) and com rang (fried rice) - sweet, salty and with a hint of chili. Freshly prepared when the cucumber is crisp and firm, it is very satisfying.
But I wanted to turn my cucumbers from mundane to delectable on Christmas Day, into something festive and classy on our table. So I hacked at my green bumpy friends to create thin but rustic slices, to which I added the best delicate sprigs of mint from my herb drawer, half a Spanish onion mandolin thin and a sparse flek of chili. In a glass tumbler I ferociously forked together a concoction of lime juice, sugar and fish sauce to pour and coat each slice of cucumber.
On the garden balcony we sat, a cool cucumber salad and a little Asian-inspired prawn cocktail to start the eating on Christmas Day, me in my apron, glass in hand, the bird in the oven.
Later there was dancing and chocolate.
It was a merry Christmas.