Small plate, big plate February 19, 2008Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
“Khev dinner on table ven I get khome,” went the Russian’s text, which I can’t claim oppressed-wife status for because he cooks 12 times out of 11, at least, and he was probably on his way back from a tough day of exams and all sorts of academic hardships, like getting stamps on bits of paper from recalcitrant women with short blond hair and glasses, so it was the least I could spouselily do to, for the first time this millennium, try to welcome him home with something bordering on warmth, wiping the flour off my flushed cheeks onto my apron and primping my hair so that he could be proud of his nest. Plus I was probably feeling guilty about something – he did try to pin Heath Ledger’s death on me, but I stood my ground – so shook myself up and admitted that it would be a scandal of enormous proportions if I couldn’t have a plate of some gruel or other waiting for him one evening in a million.
Thought I’d go for something a bit spesh. My beloved tends to dash for salt and mayonnaise whenever I provide any item of sustenance, even a glass of tap water, so I thought I’d better pull out all the stops. Throw in a bit of everything to disguise the main ingredient – bland nothingness – and confuse his palate into submission. And two courses. Nothing will make a Russian man’s mouth water like the prospect of a good, slurpy soup. With some good old-fashioned boring ingredients, like potatoes and cabbage. And carrots. Especially if you don’t blend it and it appears in the bowl as some bits of potato, cabbage and carrot looking dumbstruck and forlorn in a putrid puddle of murky water. Anyway, I cheated. There was a pre-made soup, which I sexed down with some boring ingredients, and then let that nicely fester away, while I went and dipped my fists into the packet of flour, which I had no intention of using, dabbed a blob on either cheek and my forehead, and got on with some main course or other and laying the table.
Seeing as it was such a rare occasion and it was so exceptional to have been unleashed on the kitchen, I wondered if I could be seditious and try to introduce some structural changes to the way we eat. We could do with them, after all. We’re both as fat as barrels and it’s not unknown for us to get wedged in the hall if we mistime our inward breaths and then have to wait, like Winnie the Pooh, for us to lose weight or the walls to sag.
“Small plates!” I said in my head with revolutionary zeal. Not really small. Not what couples who have wedding lists at John Lewis would call side plates. Just the plates we bought when we first got here, which are plain and spartan to the point of showing off and have ‘Romania’ stamped across the bottom of them. Off-centre. But then one of us must have earned some money and we bought big plates, the size of car wheels, to make ourselves be middle-class. A size=class-rule which didn’t apply on the wine-glass front, where we eventually got them bigger and bigger so that we could have a whole bottle in two glasses and still feel ungluttonous at only having had one glass with dinner.
I plonked down the small plates. On place mats. Three items of cutlery with the spoon across the top to remind me of school dinners. Wine glasses the size of vases. Another glass for water with a bit of lemon thrown in. Maybe even a napkin. And then put down some pre-middle-class soup bowls on top of the plates. It looked just like the dining room of a hotel on the English coast in 1977. Like in that execrable Suffolk shit-hole Southwold that we all have to pretend to like because Twiggy owns a weekend house there.
“Honig, I’m khome,” barked the Russian manlily to the click of the front door shutting out the wicked external world for another evening. “How was your day, dear?” I asked, flicking my apron onto a hook while helping him off with his coat and readjusting the shirt collar under his jumper to make sure he looked neat and tidy because it’s good for the soul to look neat and tidy, even if no-one else can see you.
“Honig, you go and sit and read your paper. I’ve ironed it for you. Do you want a gin on the rocks?”
“No, honig, but do zat sing for me you do. Vere you massage my tyemples. I khev such khard day.”
“Oh honig, baby, we need to take a vacation. You work too hard for that bad ol’ Mr. Boss.”
“Honig, you know I can’t tyake tsime off now.”
Dashed spouselily back to the kitchen. Served up the soup. The Russian ate it with relish. And salt and mayonnaise. And the Southwold 1977 look completely passed him by, so voracious was his manly appetite and so overcome with joy was he at the sight of some good old cabbage as tastelessly tasty as anyone could have made.
“But look, darling, see how clever I’ve been for the main course. SMALL plates. We’ll eat less. Be svelte in no time.”
Twelve portions of tasteless gruel later and we agreed that from now on we’ll only swap roles with carnivalesque infrequency.