By Katerina Nicolaou

I got him a stainless-steel egg poacher pan, Mrs Maria told me. You turn the boiling water down to a simmer, add eggs to the cups, steam them into perfect rounds and present them like a MasterChef contestant. She had found it on sale at a London market, a whole village of brands and the best kitchenware. Only the best for her baby. No matter how much he grows he will always be her baby. Her stainless-steel baby. Or at least that’s what I thought. Now, a malnourished baby, like those in Biafra. Hungry. Alas!

Who would have thought that I would bring my boy into the world, she said, send him to the best universities only to enlist him in Putin’s army, the female army. He chose a bride from the Eastern bloc… A tall blonde with blue eyes and long legs. God knows what he saw in her. Why do you want that foreign girl, my love, do you think she will care about you, she asked. Have foreigners ever cared about our country? A superpower will first look at its own interests. He just wouldn’t listen…

Plus, she was 15 years younger than him. Maria thought she looked rather old when she first met her, resembling the iceberg the Titanic hit. A chronicle of a death foretold, not only did they not speak the same language, but they also had a generation gap. What did he see in her?

It’s the legs, Olga the nearby hairdresser, said. Another iceberg from Kazakhstan, with blonde hair down to her waist, she found love and citizenship in her forties in a 90-year-old, RIP. Hey Olga, my son hooked up with a Russian girl, give me some advice, Maria asked. “Ten,” the Siberian oracle answered. Ten what? “I give them ten years”. And why? “Because your men are the biggest idiots in the world.”

A pause. Maria said she felt her lips numb as Olga looked at her with an ironic little smirk. Suddenly, the lemon-sorbet woman softened, maybe thinking she was having a stroke. “Look, this girl is not made for the kitchen. Her legs are for high-heeled shoes. And your son wants to eat mom’s food!”, wretched Olga said in that superior tone of hers. She always inspires regret talking to her. Then why don’t you stay in your country and marry your own men, Maria asked. “Because our men are the worst in the world. They drink and beat women.”

Olga was right, in ten years they were separated. Bull’s-eye. And Maria found herself, at 80, delivering meatballs and moussaka, his favourites, and driving around her little ones. But she did confess to relief. I’m not a racist, she said, but these women don’t know respect. He was sick and she didn’t even make him soup. Can you believe it? Not even a soup?

She gave me a glassy-eyed look and there’s the double-code verification. I told you so! Remember? She had pissed Olga off, I think, because she continued in Russian.

Maria then shut up and went on a trip to get over her national defeat. And bought him a poaching pot. At least eggs have protein.