My Mother is reasonably annoying. She's a lawyer, purportedly, but since we've all grown up and left home she's just 'had so much extra time' (which, I have pointed out it might be wise not to say quite so loudly in front of her clients), and has been amusing herself by popping off on little courses.
'What are you doing this week?' I asked, feigning interest politely during our phone call. 'I'm going on a little cooking course,' My Mother told me cheerily. 'Hmm,' I replied vaguely. As it turns out, my Mother's 'little cookery course' was a Cordon Bleu Technique Class; a week-long program of the cuisine techniques used in restaurants all over the world. Awkwardly, the week after this 'little cookery course' my Mother came to dinner at mine. 'What the hell am I going to cook?' I wailed to my little sister, who was smugly getting ready for her date, cunningly organised for the evening our Mother was coming over.
It was imperative that I cooked something hugely impressive. I was hindered only by a lack of time, lack of money and lack of culinary skill. I could not fail. I am often intimidated in Waitrose, so I made sure to prepare carefully for my expedition.
My little sister asked, popping into my bedroom to 'borrow' a necklace. 'And 'fancy puddings that are easy to make'?'
'Why have you googled 'cheap meat that seems expensive''?'
My pre-expedition reconnaissance completed, I strode into Waitrose with purpose.
'Well,' I thought to myself huffily. 'The customer service sure has changed around here.' I made my way to the game aisle by myself.
'Game?' I asked the nearest Waitrose employee politely. He looked at me in fear, and scampered off.
The trouble with game is that it all looks terribly unappealing before it is cooked. It may be low fat, cheap and delicious, but there's no getting around the fact that, uncooked, it has none of the antiseptic spotlessness of chicken, or pork. I wandered miserably up and down the Waitrose aisle. It seemed that, despite my extensive preparation, Waitrose had once again defeated me. Suddenly, in the black pit of my despair, I noticed a light blue glimmer of hope. It seems some very thoughtful chap, or possibly 2 very thoughtful chaps, David Oliver (it's always frightfully hard to tell with posh people. I spent a weekend firmly addressing my host as Bunko, until someone pointed out that this was the name of his dog), have taken all the fuss out of game- creating these great pasta sauces and slow-cooked stews. 'Well,' I thought to myself smugly. 'It seems you haven't won yet, Waitrose.'
I had a main, which conceivably I could have cooked myself- and I had carefully picked the rabbit and flageolet beans dish, so that I could distract my Mother with the minutely detailed account of the time I skinned a rabbit. I briefly considered pretending that I had actually shot this rabbit, but decided that I would only resort to that if conversation ran dry. Now all I needed was a starter, and some kind of sweet, and I might very well get away with the whole caper.
The starter proved beyond me, in the end, but my Mother arrived laden with wine and crisps, so it didn't matter. She complimented me on the 'delicious and innovative' main, and oohed in delight when, insisting she 'simply couldn't eat another thing', I brought out the Amelia Rope chocolate. 'Oh no,' She insisted as I flashily unwrapped the chocolate from their VV Rouleux ribbons. 'You know I don't like chocolate.' (My Mother is, despite her ability to pay the bill, one of the worst people to go to restaurants with. She refuses, point-blank to order a pudding, no matter how much you explain how little you want to share yours, and then snarfs 3/4 of whatever you have ordered for yourself). 'It's dark lime and sea salt,' I said casually. 'Oh, and this one is pale hazelnut and sea salt. That one's coffee.' My Mother wavered for a second. 'Well,' She said, reaching forward to break off 3/4 of the chocolate bar. 'I'm pretty sure good quality chocolate doesn't have that many calories.' I stared at her in confusion. 'Yes, darling,' She continued happily. 'In the same way that expensive wine won't give you a hangover. That's why I brought so many bottles. Well, that, and I thought your meal would be inedible.'
I glared at my Mother across the table. 'But darling,' She went on. 'It wasn't! It was quite lovely. Now let me tell you about my next little course...'