I hate waste. I’m the one who scrapes off the leftovers and packages them, neatly labelled in the freezer. And Christmas is prime time for waste so I stock up on extra bags and labels beforehand: yes, I do have an OCD side.
After the early service on Christmas morning my friend Joseph unloaded three bags of stuff from his car boot to mine. We were both going to friend Vera’s for Christmas dinner but he was being picked up by other friend Jo, so wasn’t sure if there would be room in the car. I wasn’t convinced by his logic but however knew I’d have space so accepted three bags full without murmur. One contained plates. The other two contained the ingredients for the first course, extracted from his freezer on Christmas Eve.
Back home; smoked salmon and scrambled eggs cooked by Captain Wunderkind, and the unwrapping of presents. All lovely. Then the peeling of the veggies and the parboiling of the tatties and the packing of all, plus the chocolate truffle torte (thank you Delia Smith, another brilliant recipe), the cranberry sauce and the half-prepared bread sauce for the journey. Great fun and we went in CW’s car as mine isn’t big enough to take two crates of food plus our duvets and overnight bags.
Festivities well under way when we arrived at Vera’s. Bean, 6’4” and clad in Kevlar and a leopardskin onesie (wunzie? don’t know how to spell it) greeted us, and we met his girlfriend Julia, poor soul, and of course Odessa in red lace was pouring the bubbly within seconds of our arrival. Jollification all round. Until, an hour later and just before the expected arrival of Jo, Joseph and Keira, when someone’s question, ‘what’s for starters?’ pierced my fuzzy brain. Eeeek! Double-eeek! Joseph had been planning his starters for weeks. We’d even had a dry run, so to speak, to test the provenance of the prime ingredient. And since said prime ingredient was so good, he went ahead and purchased, at great expense, nine of the armoured beasties. All the way from Canada, and by the size of their muscles you’d swear they swam the entire Atlantic Ocean.
I was mortified. Nine cooked Canadian lobsters sitting in the boot of my car, 45 minutes’ drive away. Captain Wunderkind offered to go and get them but it wouldn’t have been wise, given our draconian new drinks law (see previous post). Vera, being Queen Caterer (ask her about the nine gallons of cheese sauce) immediately produced a couple of melons and some Parma ham and the starter problem was solved. But facing Joseph’s wrath? A different matter entirely, and fully deserved on this occasion. Everyone chipped in with lies and super-lies we might tell him to get me off the hook. Julia, new to this company, offered to claim a seafood allergy of such proportions that she couldn’t even be in the same house as a lobster. But you can’t let brand new friends take the punch, can you? Maybe next year … Also, I’m a terrible liar.
So we played Joseph along a bit, had a few drinks, served the melons and ham and engaged in some Q&A about what might have happened to Plan A. With his customary perspicacity, Joseph made the rapier-like deduction: HELEN FORGOT THE LOBSTERS! Aaaagh! I am undone!
Well of course we had a lovely meal, thank you Vera and all who made it such a special day. Bean’s ‘Cards Against Humanity‘ was suitably gross and strangely well-behaved, considering how fiercely competitive his movie team game had become, beforehand. Odessa lost lots of points for her team by thinking out loud, much to Keira’s polite frustration. ‘Odessa,’ he enunciated, ‘DON’T THINK OUT LOUD.’ Their team won by a whisker, which I suppose must say something about the wonders of teamwork.
When next day I arrived home in freezing fog and checked the boot, I found nine sealed poly bags with their beautiful contents perfectly poised – apart from the greenish liquid gathering in pools around them. You know the old revenge trick about leaving a packet of frozen prawns behind your victim’s radiator? I didn’t want my little car to the be a permanent olfactory reminder of the Christmas 2014 memory lapse, and I didn’t want them in the house either, for the same reason. So I lined them up for a photo shoot and consigned them to the food recycling bin. What a waste. But better than food poisoning. And knowing Joseph, he will make full use of this generous gift of wind-up material. I suppose I owe it to him.
So, to any other amnesiacs out there who may have forgotten a vital ingredient amid all the fuss and frolics of Christmas – I hope this makes you feel better. And don’t let anyone unload bags of stuff to you for safe keeping. Especially if it has a shelf(ish) life. Happy festives, everyone!