Whatever happened to chops?

Whatever happened to chops? My entire childhood was founded on chops, spuds and one green and now they’ve vanished in much the same way as Morris Minors or glory boxes. (For you Gen Yers – a glory box was a box where women kept things like linen and embroidered pillowcases until the glorious day when they would marry and be able to use them. I know. And before I get outed – I actually had one.) There were the few fallow years when Mum had a mid-life crisis and started wearing ties sewn together in the form of skirts and took herself off to chinese cooking classes whereupon she started doing things like battering and frying ice-cream for the same reason that mountaineers ascend ridiculous peaks. Because it was there… and because she could. Apart from when Mum went mad, expressed through some fairly radical mid-seventies cooking experiments, chops formed the culinary base of our gastronomic geography. They were so easy - get some chops and tell the kids they’ll get a cuff around the ears if the spuds aren’t peeled and cooking and the greens ready before Mum gets home from work. The perfect dinner!

If I even tried it now, I’m afraid my own child would ring CYFS declaring child abuse. No hint of Thai Green Curry. An absence of miso soup. Not a thread of saffron or a cardamom pod to be found. Not a suggestion of … well anything much except … chops. Glorious chops.

I do vaguely recall going vegetarian for about 8 years after one too many weekends on the farm peeling cow’s kidneys and cleaning up guts. And I do have faint guilty memories of telling Dad that according to Buddhist texts he would die uttering the same noises he had engendered in those beasts he had killed in some karmic retribution theory that I’d pretty much made up in order not to have to get so up close and personal with anything in my immediate food chain. Eventually I washed up in Argentina where such deep character flaws as ‘vegetarianism’ were soon knocked out of me. They are such a meat eating culture that only ‘beef’ is considered to be actual meat. Everything else; chicken, pork, lamb is ‘other’ and therefore appropriate to offer non- meat eaters. Very few vegetarians make it out alive from Buenos Aires.

Since leaving home I’ve been an espresso fuelled culinary experience junkie always looking for the next exotic fix, looking down my nose on that limited mainstay of kiwi culture: the humble chop. How deluded I’ve been. A few nights ago, rushing home from work and experiencing the working Mum’s water-boarding hour where one wonders what is for dinner and then remembers that you’ve got to cook it and there is only some dying parsley and a can of chickpeas in the house, I decided to make falafels. Not too radical – not life threatening and just enough stress to make you feel like you’re making an effort. Instead of undying gratitude the mad Latin declared war (where’s the meat?) and the six year old said she ‘didn’t like the texture.’ ‘You what?!’ Incredulity sending my voice ceiling bound, ‘ We didn’t have texture when I was a kid! We just had bloody chops!’ Those kids in Haiti wouldn’t mind the texture.’ She held up her hand as if to say… ‘I know... starving orphans…blah blah.’ “ I’m still going to eat it, I just don’t like it that’s all’.

Dumbfounded really.

It was only then that I realised that I haven’t so much fostered an adventurous eater as created a culinary monster.

So that’s it. No more masterchef or any of the other myriad cooking shows – they’re all banned for their evil influence. Next I know she’ll be declaring that the syllabub (if I knew what one was) is lacking in consistency and that the chicken should have been baked in a handmade clay pot.

Arise Sir Chop! Your time has come. I’ve bought 20 kilos of the things and two potato peelers – one each for their birthdays. Retro cooking is the new black.

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