If I was asked what is my specialist subject, I would like to say the Mongols or even the effect of the Black Death, yes I do have an interest in them both – but really it is lunches.
My best beloved gave me a book for my birthday on Friar William of Rubrick who visited the Mongols and wrote about it, and I am fascinated.
A book has just come into the shop, a mighty tome, on Britain and the Black Death which I am mightily interested in spending my non-existent salary on.
But if I am honest, what I do best is lunch.
Sad to say I know. I would much rather be known for having an interest or skill in something more intellectual but a woman must face up to her own failings, and mine is a good lunch.
So, here are three lunches in order of when they happened. Only two of which I had anything to do with – but all three were very good in their own ways.
First, was a lunch for Lizzie. She was my friend who died this year and it reminded me, oh you shouldn’t need reminding, but you do, that life should be seized regularly and you should not waste time not meeting friends.
So I organised a couple of lunches and we had one recently.
Everyone, at that lunch was a woman that I really liked – and everyone at that lunch, apart from one, was someone Lizzie had introduced me to.
One person was there who couldn’t be at the last one, one person wasn’t there who was at the last one – and that is life.
We talked and gossiped and exchanged news and stuff – there was no memorial, we didn’t talk about the meaning of life, we just had a good time.
And like every restaurant, there was music playing in the background – and then they played the piece of music that was playing us out at Lizzie’s funeral.
I have no faith in the afterlife, but even so it was nice to think that she was there in spirit – as she would have been at her daughter’s recent wedding.
We have a winter lunch ritual. In that we have one, every year.
Cooking for 30 or more people ( I always get the numbers wrong as in I send out invitations and never keep a tally of who is coming so blithely invite more…) is not hard in itself.
Get the menu right and just multiply, is my general philosophy on the issue.
Anyway this year was marked by the fact that it was my best beloved’s special birthday and the next day and he was off to Berlin at 5am, so this had to be his celebration – and at the last minute, I heard that a well-known chef was coming.
Finding a load of damsons in the freezer seemed to be an inspiration but could I find a recipe for damsons?
I did find one but it involved expensive lamb and ingredients you can’t find in Deepest Sussex, so I opted for chicken and, made it up as I went along – against the rule of not cooking anything you have never cooked before ( but I always ignore that one ), and the other rule of not cooking anything you can even find a recipe for on google.
My best beloved was very patient as I got a little stressed and let me tell you that there were also Russian cheese pies, something interesting with lentils and caramelised onions for the vegetarians, artichoke and butter bean croustades etc etc.
But the best bit, never mind the food ( but just in case you are interested, there was a slurp of gin in the damson sauce, the chef didn’t have the food, but he and I spent some time talking about it, and I was told it was nice – but hey, they would say that being polite Deepest Sussex people) was that I surprised the best beloved by getting his son and daughter to come.
They schlepped to us and his daughter brought a lovely birthday cake – now that was nice.
And my friend and colleague from Oxfam brought another lovely cake which meant I didn’t need to worry about puddings, and that leads me onto my third lunch.
You will get confused if I don’t name people now, so I will. My friend and colleague is Pat and the other friend and colleague who I work with on a Monday afternoon, is Stella.
So, this Monday was my birthday.
Anyone who has a birthday so near Christmas will know that it is rubbish.
If you go out anywhere to eat, you are squished among 20 office workers wearing paper hats and getting drunk ( though not so much in Deepest Sussex) and all you can eat is turkey.
It is also rubbish because everyone ( again this is not true in Cosmopolitan areas where there are cultural differences) is on a christmas vibe not a birthday one.
So, I worked my normal shift and as usual, went in and took the money to the bank.
There was an almighty queue, a problem with the money, bags to be taken here and there, cat food to be collected (don’t ask because it is a long story) and so on and so on, and the morning was galloping away and I had to be back in the shop to take over the till.
When I got back, Stella was in early, Pat was still there and I was planning a quick cup-a-soup to get me into the afternoon.
Anyway, they said to me something along the lines of, ‘ stop rushing about and have some lunch.’
Not something you usually get told in Oxfam where lunch is a sarnie whilst book sorting.
And then they cleared the table of the usual pile of books and produced Proseco, prawns, salmon delights and other such stuff – and we sat down, the three of us, and had the loveliest lunch.
I may have been slightly drunk in charge of a till, and Stella and I may have spent the afternoon clearing an almighty influx of books, but I have to say that was one of the nicest lunches I have had.