Tales of food, sex and friendship




Posts Tagged ‘Dinner’

Season 1: Episode 4a (Christmas Episode)

December 25, 2010

Ana hung up the phone, closed her eyes and took an extra moment to savour the rich, heady scent of Willow’s coq au vin before walking in to see her friends. Judging by the aroma and the peals of laughter emanating from the kitchen, dinner preparations were well underway.

“Merry Christmas!” they cried, as she walked in.

Johnny pressed a glass of Prosecco into Ana’s hand and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek as he moved past to decant a wine he’d selected for their meal. Ana was grateful for the drink and took a long swig. She felt a pang of guilt – or was it regret? – that she had not been there for the afternoon to help with the feast. If it wasn’t for Marc, and his tantalisingly persuasive ways, she could have spent Christmas Day laughing and preparing dinner with her best friends.

She shook her head a little at the thought. Much as she craved Marc, more and more she found herself walking away from their passionate, secret trysts feeling frustrated and, well, lonely. As their affair wore on, Ana was beginning to realise that her boss was never going to leave his wife.

“Ooh… what have you got there?” enquired Willow, craning her neck to peek inside the large white box Ana was carrying. Ana cleared her mind of Marc and turned to face her friend with a smile. Lifting the lid, Willow clapped her hands together when she saw the figs. “Perfect!” she exclaimed, giving Ana a quick hug before opening the fridge and taking out fresh butter and cream and placing it on the bench. Ana couldn’t help but smile to herself at the memory of the figs, remnants of her lovemaking with Marc earlier in the day.

Mia was over the sink, topping and tailing French beans, stopping every few minutes to take a quick sip of her drink. In a pot next to her was a selection of deep yellow Dutch Cream potatoes, which had just been boiled. The steam from the potatoes curled up in long fingers, disappearing just before it reached the ceiling.

“What can I do?” asked Ana, moving around the room refilling glasses with the refreshing Italian wine. She was hoping the others had already had a bit to drink so they wouldn’t notice the way she swayed as she stood. She and Marc had polished off a bottle of Moët earlier and she’d had nothing to eat all day. Except the figs, of course. And Marc.

“You could mash the potatoes?” Mia replied. “Willow will be much happier if you do them. I don’t put enough butter in, apparently.”

“It’s Christmas Day. Calories don’t count, Mia!” Ana teased in a sing-song voice. She ladled cream, butter and salt onto the hot potatoes and started mashing furiously.

***

At around eight o’clock, the four friends sat down in the dining room and surveyed the feast that was spread out before them.

Mia had laid the table beautifully, incorporating fresh apricots and rosemary sprigs into a simple, stunning centrepiece. They’d taken out the bone china dinner set Ana had inherited from her grandmother; the vintage lead crystal glasses sparkling in the evening sunset. Their fine white plates soon brimmed with food. Tender pieces of organic chicken breast that had marinated overnight in a French Burgundy and then slow-cooked for hours throughout the afternoon. Green beans – quickly blanched in hot water, then cooled to retain their crunch – glistened with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and rock salt.  And the mashed potatoes sat up in peaks like small mountains of buttery fairy floss.

Johnny had carefully selected some beautiful wines to complement the meal and was pouring a 2004 Pinot Noir from the decanter into their glasses. He explained that it was from his friend Claude’s boutique vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula and that only 600 bottles had been made. He had been lucky enough to get his hands on four of them.

The sun was turning a deep scarlet pink as the night air set in. But the unseasonal rains that had robbed them of much of the start to summer finally seemed to have stopped.

***

Mia looked at her empty plate and gave out a satisfied sigh. She picked up a lone green bean with her fingers and held it up to her mouth, licking the rock salt off before devouring the vegetable. It always amazed her that food could take so long to prepare, yet no time at all to eat.

Johnny began clearing plates next to her as Ana and Willow disappeared into the kitchen to put the finishing touches to dessert. Watching a lock of her friend’s dark mop of hair fall over his eyes as he leaned over the table, Mia felt herself fighting the instinct to tuck it behind his ear. She could detect what had become known to all of them as Johnny’s Smell: Beer, cigarettes and cinnamon. The smell perfectly illustrated the contradiction within him. Johnny only ever wore black and rarely shaved or slept in his own bed, but he liked to keep bundles of ribbon-tied cinnamon sticks tucked away in his cupboards. Something his mum used to do, he’d told them one day when the girls had quizzed him about it.

Even though they had all been friends for so long, Mia felt as though she and Johnny had rarely spent much time together alone. Why was that? She knew that Willow was close with him – they all thought it was hilarious that Johnny and Willow used to date years ago – but it was always the four of them together, whenever Johnny was around. There was something about him that unnerved her. She couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but she never felt comfortable alone in his presence. He seemed unpredictable. Dangerous. A shiver ran down Mia’s spine. And she kind of liked it.

Mia’s thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of Ana and Willow returning to the dining room. Mia and Johnny both drew breath at the sight before them. Ana held a tray of ripe figs, opened like flower blossoms. Inside each was a dollop of glistening mascarpone. Next to her a beaming Willow held a golden cake piled high with fresh cherries. After the coq au vin, the vegetables and the wine, it felt like the final act in some decadent, Baroque feast. Mia felt filled with happiness as she watched her friends excitedly carving up the cake to expose the dense filling within, and tipsily sucking at the mascarpone-filled figs. Life was good.