Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Supper # 9 - Knowl Hill, Berks.

Fraught and reckless, I rocked out of Asthall after a day of baking. If I could manage my time better I would be on fire. I need to approach time better and not to watch it, aghast, as it falls in between my fingers like oil. I wanted to stay for weeks and catch up with myself; I always want to catch up with myself. The friction made my belly burn.

But off I went and as soon as I was on the open road a calm enveiled me. It is easy, even within the constant newness of the tour, to feel afraid of it; to still want to cling to that which I already know. But on leaving the known I am fine. I take the A40 by storm - Jimmy roaring at 65mph, Desmond Decker singing sweet, pud for the night sat on the passenger seat and nibbling away at the huge bag of green raisins I bought in my efforts to eat better. Because, though I'm eating like a queen most nights, I'm not actually eating any fruit. At all.

THE SET UP: Madeleine was one of the first to stand up and say 'hell yeah!' to having me over for supper. She e-mailed me with all sorts of exciting sounding options and I was hooked. She and her husband bought the house she grew up in. They got married a year ago and live there with a couple of cats. The house reminds me of Jo Carter's, scene of all my early initiation into teen-age parties. It casts the same kind of spell on me from its low ceilings and dark beams and soon enough the wine is really flowing.

They've decided to have an indoor English picnic and have invited two other couples for the event. Everyone is dressed up - if not to the nines then at least with a bit of make-up / fresh shirt. I meanwhile, am still in my tracksuit with my make-up bag too out of reach to bother with. I don't think they care - they're all too excited about the pud and the trip and coming up with ideas. I like them all immediately and really enjoy myself. Madeleine hands me a glass of English wine and then a Pimms. The flow of conversation and wine are at even stevens.

WHO CAME: Madeleine & Dan + two other young couples and I.

WHAT WE ATE: Lots of picnic food without actually going outside (too nippy): tricolore salad, roast chicken with garlic mayo, boiled potatoes, prosciutto, chorizo, ham, chips & dips and bread. Dan is wine mad and keeps pulling bottles from the fridge. Before long a murky, stanky-danky bottle of chilli Absolut turns up. I can't say no. I can never say no. My mouth riots. Then comes some dandelion wine made in the year of my birth. If I was ever going to say no to anything it wouldn't be this; I want to know what 1975 tastes like. It is grassy and bucolic. It is a roll in the hay then a tumble in the hedgerows. It tastes like summer.

DINNER TABLE TOPICS: Chocolate! How much they all like it and what their favourites are. Like most people, none of them know much about chocolate but I humour them when Galaxy's are mentioned. We talk about wormeries, recycling, local dogging spots and Walsall. I want to go there like woah and I get given a contact in Walsall Bus Station: amazing. Reality TV and documentaries - Dawn Does... which I've never heard of. Nor the Red Paper Clip thing, nor the 80 Dates idea. I wonder what the hell I've been watching if not these.

THE PUD: I was told at the last minute that one of the guests is gluten-free. No problem - a sunken chocolate mousse cake is born. Almost like a baked chocolate mousse but with the magic crackle of a brownie on top. The cake gets devoured in moments. They love it. We all love it. Its density and smooth darkness takes us There.


MY BED FOR THE NIGHT: After giving them all a tour of the van/putting on the chimes/turning on the neon lights/playing shop, the guests leave. I've had a few and must get up early for the brewery. I sleep very soundly in the sloping room. I still continue to be amazed at the hospitality I have encountered and I am getting used to sleeping in a different bed every night.

1 comment:

Gwen said...

As I can now vouch for the quality of your gluten free food I know how good that sunken chocolate cake must be. I've actually sat here staring at it for a couple of minutes...