townie entertains new neighbours

Epicurean meals have been consigned to history since leaving our city life. We had a chef then. How pretentious can you get?
11 July 2008

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Epicurean meals have been consigned to history since leaving our city life. We had a chef then. How pretentious can you get? In our defence, he doubled as a gardener and house cleaner – a Malawian who’d worked as a chef at the British embassy there and had come to SA to seek his fortune. I met him at a roadside veggie market packing produce.

Loquacious to a fault, he told me his life story and ended with an appeal for work. The locals hadn’t taken to his foreign ways and treated him with suspicion and he’d even had threats made on his life. This goes to prove that xenophobia was alive and well way back when. Invitations to our dinner parties were much sought after in those days, with chef Mpenda in his element and basking in all the praise. I hope he’s back in his home country now, running the restaurant he’d always wanted to have. Meals on the farm these days are much less pretentious. Dinner parties too.

Neighbour Jan is a meat and potatoes man, so having him and Hettie around is easy. Alone, Wifey Dear and I make do with a plate of something simple on our laps, watching Nigella enviously as she cooks up a storm. So when we invited our new neighbours for dinner, we thought it was time to polish the silver, haul out the cookbooks and do something spectacular.

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Roast venison it was to be, stuffed with bacon and garlic and glazed with honey. It would take all day to cook. Preceded by curried butternut soup and followed by crème caramel. That evening, the guests were seated around the dinner table, adorned with silver placemats and gleaming crystal wine glasses to be filled with my vintage white and red.

I served the first course and started to pour the delicate white wine. Our guests announced they were teetotallers. Jan frowned disapprovingly. They sniffed at the soup. ““Has it got curry in it? Sorry, not good for my ulcer, I’ll pass,” said the male guest. We slurped in silence. A bit later, with much ceremony, I brought in the venison, resplendent on a silver platter. The guests groaned with embarrassment. We’re vegetarians,” they chorused. They filled up on the pudding, cheese and biscuits. They left early and Jan shook his head in dismay.

There’s no way I’ll accept an invitation to dinner at their house. No meat, no wine, they probably live on vitamin pills and water. I’d rather starve to death!” Wifey Dear was inconsolable after having spent all day slaving away. I wonder what chef Mpenda would have done? Probably rustled up a vegetable quiche. – Derek Christopher |fw