I've been eating this meal almost as long as I can remember.
At 7 years of age, I declared that I was turning vegetarian. But in Grade 3 when your mother says no, you kind of assume there's nothing you can do about it. When I hit age 11, however, my convictions grew stronger. Mum realised that, this time, I really meant it when I said I was never eating meat again. That fateful night, my sausages sat on my plate uneaten as I was sent to bed early.
Even when threatened with having to eat the dreaded minestrone soup every night for the rest of my life, I stood my ground. My sister Christina, who literally retched every time she had to swallow a piece of bacon, quickly followed suit.
These are the two special animals that led to my decision: Maxwell Augustus Ayres (aka Bull's Wool) and Jinx Annabelle Ayres (aka Episcopalian Girl). Of course, my reasons for being vegetarian are now much broader and more well formed, and I'm as concerned for the environment as I am for animal welfare. But it all started with the simple belief that animals deserve our love and respect.
So, to her absolute credit, Mum embarked on a long and probably harrowing (Mum's favourite word) journey (Dad's least-favourite word) of vegetarian discovery. At the time I'd never cooked a meal in my life and the amazing sacrifice she made to adopt a whole new way of cooking and eating never occurred to me. Now, I am eternally grateful.
Mum taught me the best way to dice tomatoes and red onions – turn it upside down, make a grid that doesn't quite reach the bottom, then turn it on its side and slice. Then you're just left with the top slice, making it easy to chop out the bit where the stem attaches (which, for the life of me, I can't find a name for) and quickly slice the remaining flesh.
For cucumbers, I've found that the fastest way to cut small chunks (which is how I like it) is to cut into quarters lengthways then take each half (pair of quarters) and cut lengthways down the centre once more. Then slice acrossways as usual.
This meal is as quick as it gets, and uses just a small number of fresh raw ingredients. When you're faced with dropping into the supermarket on the way home from a long day at work, this is an easy one to turn to. After you've made it a few times, you'll know the ingredients by heart.