Dinner At Eight

So we’re having your friends over again, and you’ve told me to prepare something special. Being the dutiful little wife you always expect me to be, I’ve put a great deal of thought into tonight’s menu – and knowing how particular your friends can be, I’ve prepared them each their own individual dish, as follows…

For Martin, whose monobrow is Cro-Magnon, who was born wearing an animal logo over his heart, and whose chins the turkey wants back: T-bone steak, medium rare, served with asparagus tips, a fresh green salad, chopped pistachio nuts, and 8 to 900 milligrams of burnt thallium salts. That should give him three more days to use the word “methinks” wittily in conversation, to slosh and gargle his Merlot because it “releases the flavour”, and to tell everyone he meets how his wife was born under the sign of Dexys, so her parents christened her Eileen. (Even though she was born twenty years before that song was even written!)

For Eileen, who gave us dirty towels when we stayed the weekend, who kisses her miniature poodle with tongues, and who was so horrified by the death of Princess Diana that her hair turned platinum blonde overnight: braised lambs kidneys in garlic butter on a bed of spinach, served with artichoke, purple flowering broccoli and a reduction of calvados, crab apple and antimony. Perhaps this will finally stop her asking, “You’ve been married ten years now – why no kids?” (“Because we discovered something called birth control, my dear. It’s fucking wonderful.”)

For Trevor, who, like a budgie, hasn’t ever seen a mirror he hasn’t wanted to look in, whose silver threads among the gold fall regular victim to the genocide of Grecian 2000, and who is currently dating a girl not born until his seventeenth birthday (if you ask me, ‘cradle-snatcher’ is just a polite way of saying paedophile): pan-fried pheasant breasts in a tangerine and crème fraîche sauce, cavolo nero and new potatoes, garnished with parmesan shavings and mercury chloride. Although initially concerned that he might notice and question the rather distinctive crystals of HgCl2 sprinkled across his platter, I’ve since decided that between his ingénue, my cleavage, and the tantalizing reflection in his silverware, Trevor’s attention will be taken.

For Kelly, who spells her name Cheallaigh, who trained as a synchronised swimmer and hasn’t ever lost the smile, and who last time we got together insisted on showing everyone her bikini line at the table (in the restaurant): Salmon en Croûte (fish is, after all, good for the brain) served with horseradish, beetroot and chopped dill. Rolled into the pastry, its flavour disguised by lemon juice: taxine – taken from the leaves of our very own yew tree. (You are always encouraging me to do more in the garden.) And I’ve chosen an especially low calorie recipe for Cheallaigh in response to a conversation we had about dieting at Cliff and Carrie’s New Year’s Eve party. “They say eating less helps you live longer,” she told me over her second slice of Black Forest Gateau, “but it also reduces your sex drive. I think when I’m older, I’d rather be plump and up for it like you than… well, skinny and frigid like poor old Eileen.” My grandmother, god rest her soul, would have said of Cheallaigh: she thinks she’s chocolate, and everyone wants a lick. Not after tonight.

And for you, my dearest Raymond, given that you long since stopped asking what I’d like to do this weekend; that you’ve never learned to cover your mouth when you yawn; and that last month I overheard you telling Trevor that mental arithmetic has never been my strong point… (“I’ve got a head for figures – the wife’s got a figure for head.”) Given also that there are three things we never talk about over dinner in this house: religion, politics, and the female orgasm; and given that at most of these infernal parties you force me to cater for, I feel about as welcome as a zit in a wedding photograph: I’m serving arsenic, straight up. I’ve put it in your scotch, since that’s the easiest way to get you to down it in one. Enjoy your duck…

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Rol Hirst was the first man in space from Huddersfield. The Russians still beat him up there.

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