Sometimes, I really feel that the whole world is against me.
Take this week, for example. A troubling incident involving the trying on of a bikini I hope to be wearing in Greece in two weeks (without being at risk of harpooning) has prompted a period of comparative abstinence in my levels of food consumption - and I'd really been doing quite well, thanks to industrial-size batches of homemade carrot soup and sad little packs of melba toast spread grudgingly with low-fat cheese spread.
Then, however, The Mark Addy selfishly decided to go ahead with its monthly six course Gourmet Evening, staunchly refusing to reschedule it for after my holiday, and obviously we had to go, because a/ I'm greedy, b/ hate to miss out on anything, and c/ special surprises were planned in honour of Margaret's birthday (which she had, with equal lack of thought for my bikini, also refused to postpone.)
Of course, in the end, it was (almost) all marvellous - easily the busiest and best Gourmet Evening yet. Here is the menu in full - please don't be frightened (as many were when I posted it on Facebook last night), as not everything is as it seems...
1. Frog Spawn. Served in tiny glass jars, this was not frog spawn, but a mixture of fennel, poppy seeds and witchcraft (apparently; I can only say in my defence that I had to rely on John here for my information.) This was not an auspicious start to the meal; ROB rarely puts a foot wrong, but this just didn't taste of anything at all - actual frog spawn might have been tastier.
*hopes ROB doesn't read this and make her eat actual frog spawn next time*
2. Bonus Soup Course. This was as tasty as the previous course was bland - a shot glass full of gloriously thick and creamy soup that tasted a little like lobster bisque. This wasn't on the menu, so my usual pin-point accuracy may temporarily desert me, but I'm assuming it was made from shells and, erm, other bits from the course that followed.
3. Crawfish and Brown Shrimp Salad. Being ROB, there was no greenery in sight here, just tender new potatoes and teeny tasty sea-life in a tangy vinaigrette that was so nice, I might have accidentally had to run my finger round my almost empty bowl when no-one was looking.
4. Crispy Sand Eels. I was a little nervous of this one, but it turns out that if you deep fry little sand eels and serve them with garlic mayonnaise for dipping, they taste just like whitebait, but nicer; who knew? Next time I go to the seaside I shall be casting my literal and metaphorical net far and wide in order to snaffle things I might eat, and wouldn't be at all surprised if next month ROB proves that sand and rocks can be turned into a similarly delicious and nutritious snack.
5. Roast Baron of British Beef with Dripping Pudding. Mr Liz had his eye on this one right from the start, and it didn't disappoint. Carved before our slavering faces, then heaped generously onto individual wooden boards for each table, this came with dripping pudding (like a flat Yorkshire pudding), perfect roast potatoes, gravy and an array of vegetables which Mr Liz wisely eschewed in order to consume more beef and potatoes. Sadly, due to the cow's cooked state we were unable to ask it about its claims to nobility.
6. Trip to the Seaside. I must confess that earlier in the evening I had been bemoaning the lack of a cheese course, bemoaning this crucial oversight to John and privately wondering how on earth I could blog about something so traumatic.
"Trust me," said John. "Wait till you see the pudding - you won't be disappointed."
Pah, I thought - I'll be the judge of that.
His confidence was not misplaced; it was simply breathtaking. A stunned silence greeted the arrival of an enormous board, hefted in by two strapping gentlemen, bearing not only a full-size deckchair (sadly non-edible) but an entire sea-shore, entirely crafted from STUFF I COULD EAT. Blue jelly for the sea, yellow sugar for the sand, a range of sand-castle-shaped mousses quivering seductively, defiantly unafraid of the white chocolate shark's fin, deep-fried Mars Bars looking for all the world like battered fish, ice-cream cones, old-fashioned sweets...words really can't do it justice (particularly last night after two glasses of wine, which is why I took the easy option and posted a picture on Twitter.) The pudding was self-serve, and I soon felt very sick; I suspect these two facts may be related, although I cannot be completely sure (shore?)
Of course, I had by this point long since forgiven ROB for the frog spawn unpleasantries, and left happy, full, and proclaiming the whole thing a total triumph. Goodness only knows what Margaret will get for her birthday next year...
- The next Gourmet Evening is on Wednesday 27th July; visit the Mark Addy website for more details.