Many years ago when I used to wear a business suit and catch a bus to Circular Quay where I’d work on the 26th floor of an ugly building doing a job I couldn’t stand, Carl told me one day that he had organised a dinner party.
I wondered who was coming.
Well he’d invited Paul. Paul was one of his old school mates. Paul didn’t like to talk to women because women made him feel uncomfortable. Even a look in the eye would throw him off. But he was coming to this dinner party Carl had organised and apparently, was bringing a girl!
But, more people were coming. A year or so before, Paul had been on a holiday in Sweden and had met Hans. By some remote coincidence Hans was now working in Sydney so Paul had suggested to Carl that Hans should come too because he needed to meet people in Sydney.
Hans seemed to be doing okay all by himself though because he’d already met a girl and was bringing her too.
So there would be me, Carl, Paul who couldn’t look me in the eye, his date whom I had never met, Hans from Sweden (does he speak English?) and the girl he’d picked up in Sydney. I wasn’t feeling confident.
I wasn’t given much notice for this impromptu dinner party, a little less than 24 hours. The next day was Friday and I was at work at Circular Quay. In my lunch hour I hobbled up to David Jones Food Court in my stilettos and purchased everything I needed for a three-course meal. I hobbled back down to the office, begged for an early mark and as soon as I was let off the leash, ran in my stilettos all the way to Wynyard for the one-hour bus ride home while balancing all my groceries on my lap. Ran into the house and prepared the dinner. I cooked up individual fetta and leek quiche for an entree, a rolled loin of lamb for the main and little pastries filled with creme patissiere for dessert (bought the dessert at David Jones – needed a shortcut).
When the menu was under control I raced up to the local shops and bought beer, wine, canapes, flowers, candles, napkins and everything else except a desperately needed facial and massage. Came in through the door to find Carl just arriving home from work and we had just 10 minutes to spare. I set the table and Carl turned on some music and lit the candles and as the doorbell rang with all four of them arriving at once, we just tried to look relaxed and normal.
Paul couldn’t look me in the eye or give me a kiss on the cheek but he did bring a bottle of white wine and I thanked him and put it in the fridge. The girl he brought was painfully shy and didn’t say anything the entire night. Neither did the girl Hans brought. Hans was actually really nice and I was relieved that he was there because he was the only guest with something to say – and in English too.
The night was an unpleasant struggle right from the start and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
When the time came for the mass departure I was saying goodbye to Hans when I noticed Paul slip into my open-plan kitchen, open the fridge door, have a rummage, then pull out the bottle of wine.
And he drove off with it.
To this day I haven’t seen or heard from any of them since. Paul married the painfully shy girl but didn’t invite us to the wedding. Hans was recalled to Sweden and took the girlfriend with him. And ever since, I’ve insisted that Carl let me organise our dinner parties.
But about that bottle of wine…Was it mine or was it there for the taking?
If I’d had that bottle of white wine I could have made this:
Veal with White Wine and Mushrooms
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Veal in Sydney is expensive but this is a delicious and comforting meal.
- 2 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
- 400g veal steaks cut thinly like schnitzel
- 2 cloves of crushed garlic
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 250g button mushrooms sliced
- 4 shallots thinly sliced
- 2 tbspns flat leafed parsley finely chopped
In a large frying pan heat 1 tbspn of the olive oil until hot. Season veal with salt and pepper and cook in batches for 2 minutes each side until well browned. Remove and set aside.
Turn down the heat and add remaining tbspn of extra virgin olive oil and add garlic being careful to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add stock and white wine and simmer for four minutes until reduced and slightly thickened. Add mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes then return veal to the pan to re-heat. Add shallots and parsley and serve immediately.
Serve with steamed green beans and thinly sliced roasted potatoes and a glass of dry white wine.