Thai Beef Salad and…A Little Bit of Power

There’s one in every school.  A housewife with a need for power so they volunteer at their child’s primary school and step into positions like running the canteen, marshaling the children at carnivals and worst of all, running the uniform shop.

As a parent you can avoid the woman running the canteen, you can stay away from the marshaling area at carnivals but you can’t avoid the uniform shop.

Thai Beef SaladAt Archie and Arabella’s primary school there was a woman who ran the uniform shop from the day her first child started at the school and she’s still there today and isn’t planning on vacating the position any time soon.  She is a woman of very solid structure.  One of those women who surprise you because they are so well covered you don’t actually notice they’re pregnant until you see a baby lying in a pram and they’e pushing it.  This woman had an enormous chest.  The type that rose out of her chest like a shelf you could rest a tea cup on.

There was a rumour that in her pre-mothering days she had spent time in the army and that accounted for her rather severe look with a short, no-frills sensible hair cut and definitely minimal make-up.

Stepping inside that uniform shop was like walking into her domain where everything was on her terms.  You were not greeted with a friendly face and no matter how many times you went in there, she offered no shred of recognition.  It reminded me of that episode in Seinfeld where Elaine is queuing for soup at the Soup Nazi’s shop – you entered with fear and trembling and hoped you would survive the ordeal and come out with what you went in for.

I remember being a new mother at the school and as well as buying all the uniform for Archie I also had to buy the school bag.  And this is where the trouble began and like Elaine with the Soup Nazi, I was given a permanent black mark that to this day has not been lifted.

The school’s bag was available in two sizes.  The advice I received from all the other mothers was not to bother buying the small bag because Archie would soon grow out of it and then you’d be back down to the uniform shop needing to buy the larger bag.

With that advice I went into the shop wanting to buy only the larger bag.

And it should have been a simple exercise.

The uniform shop was busy.  Full of mothers handing over enormous amounts of money for their child’s bits and pieces.  Finally it was my turn.  All went reasonably well until I said, ‘And I need a large bag too’.

And she looked at me.  ‘Didn’t you say he’s just starting school?’


‘Well then you only need the small bag.’  And she reached her large arm across to the shelf and pulled out a small bag and slapped it on the counter.

‘No, I’d like the large bag please’, and I gently pushed the small bag towards her.  It was shoved right back at me.

‘He’s only in Kindy, in Kindy they all have the small bag.’

‘Thanks anyway but I’d like to buy the large bag.’

‘It will be too heavy for him.’

‘No, it hardly weighs any more than…’

‘It will be too big for him.’

‘Well I think it will be fine so could I just have the big bag please?’  And out of the corner of my eye I could see the other mothers standing there enjoying the moment and the room was growing deathly quiet.

But she continued.  ‘My boy’s in Kindy too and he has the small bag.’

‘That’s nice but Archie will be doing swimming and tennis and just with everything he needs to pack into his bag I think he needs the large bag.’

‘My boy’s doing swimming and tennis too and he can fit everything in the small bag.’

‘Well great but I’d like to take the large bag.’  And I could see it on the shelf and felt like snatching it and running away.

‘It will be bad for his back you know, with all that extra weight in it.’

‘But you just said your son has the same stuff in his bag so his bag would weigh the same so there isn’t really a difference, is there?’

And she glared at me and she narrowed her eyes.  ‘The school doesn’t recommend the large bag for kids in Kindy, they want parents to buy the small bag.  It fits everything in it that your son will need.’

‘Right well I didn’t hear that recommendation at the information night and I think as there is a choice, I’d like to take the large bag.’

‘I see.  Well because you insist.’  And she snatched the small bag off the bench, threw it to the back of the shop, grabbed the large bag and banged it down on the counter.

‘Thank you’, I managed with gritted teeth.

‘And I’ll be making a note of that’, she said.  ‘I’ll be putting a note in your file that you have been advised against buying the large bag but that you insisted and when your son gets back problems for having a bag that was too heavy for him you won’t be able to sue the school because you were warned and because I’ve put a note in your file.’

‘Righto then.  And thanks so much for your help.’

Ridiculous.  That one large bag saw Archie all the way through primary school.  And there is nothing wrong with Archie’s back.  He’s completely fine and so is Arabella because I bought her the large bag only I asked another mother to buy it for me.  I wasn’t up for another round.

Have you come across ‘volunteers’ who have controlling tendencies?

That day in the uniform shop was very hot.  A bit like today.  On hot days like that all I feel like for dinner is a salad.  Here’s a recipe for the perfect salad dinner on a steamy night in.

Thai Beef Salad

The perfect meal on a hot summer’s night

Serves:  4

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  I used eye fillet of beef which isn’t cheap.  You could use less expensive cuts of steak like sirloin or rump but the meat won’t be as tender.

  • 1 tbspn Jasmine rice
  • 500g (1 lb) thick fillet beet
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 bird eye red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 red shallots, finely sliced (I sliced mine on a mandolin)
  • 3 tbspns coriander leaves
  • 3 tbspns mint leaves
  • 3 shallots, finely sliced

Heat a dry frying pan, add rice and toast over medium heat until lightly browned.  Grind rice in a spice grinder until it’s a fine powder.  Set aside

Grill or pan-fry the beef until wee-marked outside and rare on the inside.  Allow to rest for 10 mins.

Dissolve sugar in lime juice and soy sauce.  Add chillies and powdered rice.  Combine shallots, coriander, mint leaves and green shallots in a large bowl.  Add lime juice, soy sauce and sugar.

Slice the beef thinly.  Toss beef through the salad together with any cooking juices that have collected in the bowl.  Pile high on a platter stacked with salad leaves and cucumber.  Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.

This recipe has been adapted from Jill Dupleix’s Old Food.

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  1. Oh yes , I have. I have been scared by the uniform shop too. The shop opened at 9 and closed at 2pm. I worked from 7 am to after 4 and I had to beg to get uniforms. There was no compromising there

  2. Magnolia Verandah says:

    All those flavours just work so well together -perfect for a hot day!

  3. I’m afraid I was a volunteer when my kids were in school, but I hope I was never a Nazi. My favorite activity was running RIF (Reading is Fundamental) with a good friend. We got to spend hours in the coffee shop picking out books to order and then giving them away to the kids. What could be better?

    Since I loved the pork salad, I have I feeling I’ll love this one, too!

  4. Good for you! Glad you did not allow the bully to sway you.
    Agree, your beef salad is perfect for a hot summer’s meal.

  5. Good lord. What wrong with requesting the large bag? Why do people argue? Sigh. Your beef looks delicious!

  6. Lovely salad. If you had made this for the uniform lady, she might not have been so nasty (or at least her mouth would have been full).

    I volunteered at my girls’ school on yard maintenance day. We all had great fun raking up the leaves and then accidentally falling into the pile … over and over again. I had blisters on my hands the next day from all of the raking.

    We have a woman like this at our school; she is in charge of all the volunteers. You have to beg and beg to get volunteer hours and she acts like she is doing YOU a favor when she assigns you a job. That is probably because every family that doesn’t meet their quota of volunteer hours during the school year has to pay a fee at the end. I bet she never gets shorted on her hours.

  7. “No-bag-for-you!” – uniform nazi

  8. Beautiful, and so delicious… Thanks and Love, nia

  9. Oh how rude of her! And she’s still there! WOW lol it’s like she never wants to leave! I don’t like controlling people…and those who think they know it all… I remember going to get my Uniform in Year 7 and sure I was a little ‘heavy’ then and the lady kept nagging us saying that we needed to get a dress that was 2 sizes bigger because i’d only ‘get bigger’ and will grow ‘into’ it! I found that really offensive! Because I did end up losing weight and went down a few sizes >_<

    I'm glad you insisted on the bigger bag and got someone else to get it for you!

    I love Thai Beef salad ~ Thanks for the great recipe! I'm craving it hehe might go have Thai food tomorrow 🙂

  10. Ahhh, I so know the type you are describing… I was a teacher for many years before I became a SAHM, and I can just picture exactly who you are talking about. Good for you for standing up to her – most people would not have. 🙂 And thanks for the lovely recipe. Looks delish!

  11. some people…. are simply nuts. that lady must have had a bad day.

    Appetizing thai beef salad, looks easy to make too. I would defently try your recipe!

    thanks for sharing

  12. I remember women like that from when my kids were young…

    Salad looks amazing!

  13. Hilarious! You have reminded me of a University teacher (she was a very kind person though) who has put lots of weight during the holidays, but especially the belly was huge and everyone thought she was pregnant. Finally, one student congratulated her and we all understood she was only fat… I felt sorry for both the student and her during this conversation.
    I love Thai beef salad! Unfortunately I have noticed it’s best with the most expensive cut….

  14. Great flavor combo–this sounds delicious!! x

  15. Charlie.. that soup nazi is real LOL. That isn’t just a myth here in NYC, he’s actually real lol. And you better know what you want when you get in there or they will tell you to get out LOL. Which makes sense because it stays crowded in that place, and they would never get anything done probably waiting on a slow customer. And I just love how that meat turned out.. delish!

  16. Always gotta watch out for those Nazis…they are crazy people. Funny thing about the actual Soup Nazi, my brother in law used to buy his soup and said it was actually as phenomenal as portrayed on the show.

  17. I so enjoy your posts, Charlie Louie! And, oh, what a picture you painted for us today! From your description of her appearance to the Soup Nazi reference, that was one woman not to be messed with — and then came you! Major kudos to you for standing up to Madam Uber-Volunteer and not buckling under. And more praise to come your way for such a great recipe! Thanks for sharing both.

  18. So glass you stood your ground Charlie! Why do people insist on minding other peoples business for them? I’m sure you don’t look helpless, and are quite capable of looking after yourself thankyou!
    Fantastic salad, perfect for this hot weather too, Yumm!

  19. Working the Soup Nazi into any post brings home the point. Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist.


  20. Wow, that’s quite a story. Unbelievable how much this woman wanted to argue! You really couldn’t win. On the plus side, your dish looks lovely, and I think the filet is worth it.

  21. This salad sounds delicious!

  22. This looks so yummy! I love that you note degree of difficulty 🙂

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Thanks Lou. I just went to your blog to write a comment but it won’t allow me. There isn’t a name/URL option and the other options don’t work for me. Frustrating!

  23. The recipe looks fantastic and yes, who hasn’t come across people that think that because a little power has been given to them they can treat you as they please… so annoying!

  24. It just goes to show that these are universal types–I certainly saw them in Mexico when my son was little. From the expats, though, not the Mexicans! The salad looks so yummy–all those fresh, bright flavors that I love. Thanks!

  25. A uniform shop which keeps “permanent records” on its shoppers??? Yikes 😮

  26. Sounds like somebody likes their little ‘power’ position. I bet she was fuming that you refused to do as you were told. Good for you and well done keeping your calm. The salad looks like just what you need at the end of a hot day.

  27. I stayed away from volunteering especially when I just migrated here in America. I don’t know why, well probably like your uniform mom volunteer. I was always intimidated… but later on I volunteered my time and I hope I was never had any shades of “her” haha.

    I will definitely enjoy this salad on a hot day.. or even on a cold day like right now…

    thanks for the blog love, you make me smile when you come over!

  28. I’ve met a few of those… they’re everywhere and I think there’s a screw loose or something.. There’s nothing rational about them, they just need to control, dominate and enjoy hurting people. One volunteer told my 5 year old she couldn’t enter a draw because she had arrived late to school. That same woman told off my friend’s son at the yoga studio where she works (12 years later).. she’s moved from job to job and you can imagine why! I hope she reads your blog, but that wouldn’t change a thing, would it! I love this recipe because it’s filled with my fav ingredients.. I love jasmine rice!! xo Smidge

  29. Oh good! I’m glad that you got the large bag in the end even if it did mean dealing with her! Have you seen the current season of Desperate Housewives? Gabrielle deals with someone similar but with parking 😛

  30. Why was she so adamant? Maybe she had a share of profits? Or maybe she liked you and wanted to see you again, which you would have done had you bought a small bag?

  31. Wow. What a starchy buxom woman. Hehe. Second chance to use that word – couldn’t pass it up.Good for you for standing up to that bully. Some people wonder where children learn to be bullies. Here is your answer.

  32. I’ve got quite short hair and don’t wear make up often – but I wasn’t in the Army. Gotta love a stereotype. Mind you, I don’t have the mantelpiece chest for resting the tea cup and saucer on, nor am I a bag-Nazi. Well done for holding your ground, I would have walked out and found some other way to get the gear. Salad looks great and if I hadn’t given up meat, Id definitely make it. Gawd, a short-haired, make-up free vegetarian…

  33. I truly don’t get it. Why do people have such short tempers?! After all, it’s only a shopping bag.


  34. A little power is a dangerous thing, isn’t it? Your dinner looks perfect, and I have that JD book somewhere, so I’m going to dig it out now. Just catching up on your last few posts Charlie and I love it, it’s like reading a book of family stories.. 🙂

  35. Ohhh, this looks mighty delicious! Love love Thai flavors…we had a Thai beef dinner just the other night! Love the corriander and mint combination – my mouth is watering!

  36. Oh my! Beef salad! Y to the UM! This looks super delish. Do you love papaya salad too? I bet you do. Yep.

  37. Hahah! What about the time we had to beg and beg to buy the size 10 jumper instead of the size 12!

  38. You are by far my most favorite story teller Charlie. I can build such a picture in my head like a little movie that plays out the story. We have a few of those at my boys school, we call them the Mafia and they are scary. 🙂 x

  39. It sounds like that woman was a large bag! The nerve. But I do like your entertaining stories Charlie. I’m rather glad you are finally getting a bit more summery weather. That Thai beef salad looks perfect for a hot summers day.

  40. I know the type! good for you for standing up to her..
    I love the addition of the rice to the salad, I am sure it makes things much more interesting

  41. So funny… There is one who has control issue in my son’s kindergarten class. Well she’s the room parent dealing with all kinds of events and field trips. I don’t want to do the job so I have been quiet…but come on… it doesn’t have to be SO PERFECT! She drives us crazy, but no one says anything… I think she’s enjoying it too. I should be more like you. I like you Thai Beef Salad – so refreshing and nice! Oh well, I have a volunteer in class on Monday morning. I better go sleep and get ready to meet her (she’s also volunteering on the same day as me…).

  42. Yes, I’ve come across people like that. Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable.

  43. Awesome stuff, wow, lookin good.

    I will be sure to try this one asap.

    **save to my documents.



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