Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Dinner with the Queen of Chaos
Remember the Queen of Chaos (QC)? My gorgeous twin sister? Given that I’m pretty much housebound at the moment, she has been keen to come to the rescue. I could visit and make your tea she suggested, keep you company. Her rescue attempts have been thwarted however, because...
1. She lives 10 miles away.
2. She doesn’t drive
3. Usually when she comes to see me I have to make like a taxi.
4. My ankle is not quite flexible enough yet to drive.
When I pointed this out to her she thought for a split second and said, Oh well, never mind.
Both of us are relieved, it is fair to say. The last time QC attempted to make me a meal was Christmas 2005. Christmas Eve to be exact. QC and my Dad had been at mine for Sunday lunch around half a dozen times since I moved into my new place six months previously.
I foolishly decided to annoy her. So I pointed out that in the 12 years QC had been in her flat, we hadn't even been invited over once. She has a lovely wee flat, nicely decorated, wardrobe BURSTING with clothes but a kitchen as well-equipped as an abandoned warehouse - she's way too busy being fabulous to worry about things like kitchen utensils. Besides, she says, what more do you need than a plate, a knife and fork?
In any case, she reacted to my badgering, picked up the oven glove gauntlet and invited Pops and I over to hers for dinner on Xmas Eve. And whatsmore, she announced proudly, she would provide everything – food and drink.
This was great. I was going to be spending most of my Xmas with my then special friend (we have since split – 1, 2, 3 awww) and given that my pet hate at this time of year is the way people stock up as if for a world food shortage - this meant I could avoid the queues in the supermarket altogether.
The week before Xmas I receive a panicked phone call from QC. She doesn't have a table. We would all have to eat off our knees in front of the telly. Dad hates eating off his lap, she says and isn't it nicer to eat at a table while not staring at a TV screen? I had to agree. And didn't I have a nice big
dining table, she helpfully pointed out? We could have the meal at yours, she said, but I will still provide all of the goodies.
This was of course, the point of no return. The moment in time you realised while watching a movie or reading a novel where disaster could still be averted...
OK, I answered. I can see the sense of that. My place. Your food.
-What's on the menu, I ask?
-prawn cocktail, trifle and some Cava, was the reply.
-what, no main course? I ask.
-the prawn cocktail will be so big you won’t need anything else. Besides, she continued before I could question her any further, don't you think we all eat too much at Xmas time? I kinda like the idea of a lighter meal at the start – a kind of warm up for the main event.
This was of course, the point of no return 2. The point in the movie where the handsome actor opens the door and bravely chases the knife-wielding thug down the poorly lit street...
QC phoned the next day to arrange for me to pick her up at the train station on Xmas Eve and to let me know that Dad would be bringing the trifle.
- Wasn't that nice of him to offer, she asked? And he didn't need too much prompting either, she added.
I pick her up around 6pm on Xmas eve from the train station. She looked great as usual – long blonde hair, four feet eleven, size six – wearing a new top, if I'm not mistaken. (I’m a female shopaholic partner’s worst nightmare – I notice these things) It's only when she's in the car and belted in that I realise that she wasn't too heavily laden with goodies. In fact the one carrier bag she was carrying was decidedly on the light side. I'd seen dog walkers having just scooped the poop with busier carrier bags.
Ignoring the voice of worry in my mind I drive us both to my place. How long does it take, she asks as I park in front of my house, to defrost a bag of prawns?
-They aren't fu - I will myself into a state of calm - what does it say on the bag? I ask with as polite a voice as I can muster. It is Xmas after all.
-Cannae read it in the dark. Let's go inside, she answers. She walks in front, I follow with growing alarm. And a growing sense of pissed-offness (Again, I`m a poet, I can make up words)as I realise that most shops will now be closed for the holidays and we are all at the mercy of whatever QC is holding in that wee bag.
Inside, I point her in the direction of the kitchen. It's all yours, I tell her, while walking to the bathroom to wash my hands Pontius Pilate stylee.
- Awww, not going to help me, QC asks.
- Nut, this is your gig, gawdhelpus – I'm now moving resolutely into asshole brother mode.
I had an open plan kitchen, living room area – so I switch on the TV and have a seat. Arms and legs crossed. This is her party. Leave her to it.
QC reads the back of the prawn packet. Shit, she says, eight hours. Eight hours, she repeats in case I haven’t heard her the first time - what are we going to do?
- Naw, I say. You! What are you going to do? This is your fecking party.
She starts humming which is her defence mechanism. She fills the kettle and then sticks her head in my fridge – which is pretty much empty – hoping that any activity will diffuse the irritation I’m no longer bothering to hide.
-Where's your Thousand Island dressing, she asks?
- Why would I have fecking Thousand Island Dressing? I’m shouting now...It dawns on me. You don't have any dressing? Is that not what turns a prawn salad into a prawn cocktail?
- Phone Dad, maybe he'll have some, she suggests.
- He’s strictly a brown sauce man, why the feck would he have fecking thousand island dressing…I have another moment of clarification. QC's bag of goodies didn't clink on the way in – it barely even rustled.
- Where's the Cava? I ask.
QC brings her head out from behind the fridge door. It must have been nice and cool in there, she’s looking less pink.
The kettle pings. QC turns towards it.
- Where's the Cava, sis?
- I did have it, says QC as she fixes the collar of her top, in my trolley. In the supermarket. Then I saw this lovely wee shirt. Phone Dad. Do you think he'll have some Cava?
- Awfurfuksake sis, the auld yin wouldnae know Cava from a hole in a rock face. Whisky, lemonade, tea milk and water, that's your lot.
My head is now in my hands, which is why I don’t see what happens next.
In the kitchen QC has split the prawns into three piles and has poured boiling water over them.
-See, she says with triumph in her voice, they've defrosted.
-Where did you learn that wee trick, I ask.
-Then what does she do with them?
-Cooks them – throws them in a stir fry or something. Why are you asking? She chews on the inside of her cheek and hums at the same time, wondering where the hell I'm going with this and if she should stick her head back in the fridge.
-We'll be eating them raw.
-In a salad.
-Yes – what's your problem? They've defrosted. They're now edible.
- Edible and quite possibly poisonous, ya numpty, I answer and storm into the kitchen. Well given that it was about 7 steps, my storm was probably more like a mince.
Right, I take a deep breath. I need to retrieve this situation. AndIneedtocalmdownandIneedtostopshouting. It is Christmas after all.
-Where's the salad, I ask.
QC hands me a small bag.
-Awfurfu…that’s it? I am now roaring while holding a wee tub of pre-prepared salad from Morrisons.
-What's wrong with that, asks Una? I eat this all the time – and it sometimes lasts me for a couple of days.
- What are you, a size zero? There's three of us.
I open the wee bag and empty it on to a plate. I count four lettuce leaves, four cherry tomatoes and some shredded beetroot. Barely enough for one – nothing but a garnish for three.
Just then Pops walks in the door. We both stop what we’re doing and stare at him.
- I hope you're no hungry, Una giggles.
Then she and I collapse over the kitchen worktop laughing like a pair of drunks. Dad stands in the doorway, wearing an expression that suggests he's wondering what he brought into the world, while holding a large bowl of Morrison's raspberry trifle.
QC serves him a cup of tea while I rummage – more in hope than expectation - for something in my bare cupboards that we can eat.
I find two baking potatoes, a tin of tuna and a block of cheese (this was in my pre-grated days).
Xmas Eve Dinner menu 2005 was as follows.
Starter – Petite Salade – one iceberg lettuce leaf, one cherry tomato, a sprinkling of shredded lettuce and a drizzle of olive oil.
Main – baked potato. Dad got the tuna. Sis and I shared the cheese.
Dessert – Raspberry Trifle.
Mmmm. Yum. The festive season has never been the same since. Now nothing says Christmas to me more than tuna and cheese.