Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Pampered Chef?

Hubby, an elevated mover and shaker in Her Majesty’s navy, may well scoff at my rather pedestrian attempts to equal his – after all I am never going to give a presentation on the future role of logistics in a 21st Century Royal Navy, nor is the future of Britain’s brightest young naval officers in my hands, but does he have to be so disparaging when hearing that I am to host a Pampered Chef event?
“For God’s sake Alice, I know you keep telling me that you are a desperate housewife but these are the very events you mocked when we were living in America.”
“Well that was different”, I replied haughtily, “They weren’t my type of people and besides, I had no real call to go to such things as you were home every night and so I could go to the pictures or to a bookshop or even 24 hour Wal-Mart, anything in fact other than stay in the house night after night”.
“Well what is this chef thing then?”
“I’ve told you before; a lady comes and gives a cookery demonstration, I cook it, we share it and then guests can buy the cookware”.
“Does the demonstrator bring the ingredients?” I knew he’d ask this question.
“No”, I replied softly.
“You mean you have to?”
“Well yes I suppose”
“There’s no suppose about it is there? And no doubt our cooker is being used”
“Oh don’t be such an old fart. What’s the big deal? She’s not going to cook fillet steak. It’s just a packet of puff pastry and a few veggies”.
“I should bloody well hope so. I can see this costing a fortune”.
“As I’m the hostess I do actually receive quite a few benefits. Things for free, half price and a percentage off.”
“But off what? Our kitchen draw is crammed full of reamers, potato ricers, avocado slicers, lime zesters and God knows how many other culinary gizmos. What more could you possibly need?”
“You’d be surprised”. Of course, as is the norm in our geographically remote relationship this conversation was conducted on the telephone during the day when I felt so inclined to chat to my husband. He typically, mind elsewhere, other phone ringing, officers to interview, boss to impress, a million emails to attend is often brutally brusque and this day was no exception. “Look I’ve got to go. Don’t spend too much money”. Then I heard him answer his other phone and knew, as mine went dead, that I’d been dismissed.
So, desperate housewife or otherwise, I prepared for my evening. I genuinely couldn’t remember who I’d invited and so visited my local supermarket with a list in my mind that read: posh crisps, dips, good runny cheese and a few nibbles. Standing in the aisle, the wire basket’s handle digging into my arm, racking my brains for something I’d forgotten, one of my guests sidled up to me and brandished a bottle of Colombard chardonnay in my face. “Looking forward to tonight” she beamed. She doesn’t get out much either.
Remembering a 3 litre box of wine I then returned home, stuffed things into the fridge and embarked on a cleaning frenzy. Bleach was liberally squirted around u-bends, the Dyson was whizzed around the carpets, Barbies were lobbed into the toy box and last Sundays newspaper that I evidently was not now going to read, was chucked onto the recycling pile.
The next thing to address was where was my demonstrator going to demonstrate her wares? The dining room and thus dining table were the obvious choice but I looked at the dining table and groaned. It had never seen a table cloth and so the pine was encrusted in weeks of dropped cereal, jam, adhered pasta complete with arabiatta sauce and finger painting in fromage frais. I went at it with a Scotch Brite but this was going to take an industrial sander to remove – there was nothing for it but to buy a decent oil cloth and within the hour I had been to and from Laura Ashley, bought three metres of eau de nil pvc cloth, come home and laid it over the offending detritus. “There” I said, with a satisfying smoothing, “No-one will ever know”.
Soon the children were home from school. My son, who, every day after dropping his back pack just inside the front door, walks to the fridge and inspects its interior; saw the selection of Tex-Mex dips.
“Cor, yum mum, cheers”.
“Put them back, they are for tonight”, I said slapping his hands and closing the fridge door.
“Well what’s for dinner then?”
“Pork and a gratin of Jerusalem artichoke and leeks.”
“Gopping. Must you buy that organic box? We don’t like half the vegetables in it. Hell, we haven’t heard of most of them.”
“Don’t say hell and don’t be so unadventurous. Now go and do your homework.”
Some hours later, food was laid out, far too many guests arrived, the demonstrator made her Mediterranean Ring and the wine – all 11 bottles and the 3 litre box flowed and were emptied.
It was all too good to be true, I’d made enough sales to receive some dishes I’d had my eye on and a garlic press that one might imagine a sorceress to possess – put in the whole clove, skin and all, squeeze and voila – garlic emerges, crushed and skinless. Magic.
Suddenly a cat appeared from nowhere, frightened the living daylights out of a guest, she in turn upturned her glass in a pot of guacamole and a mess ensued. I went to mop it up but it was too late, another guests whipped off the table cloth, only to reveal to my horror the filthy table underneath.
There was a terrible silence, no doubt many feared they’d come down with e-coli or salmonella at best.
“Don’t worry”, I said breezily, “That’s very old and encrusted foodstuff. The pathogens evaporated long ago”.

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