OK. I admit it. I cheated. The cider really came from the Isle of Wight. Look, I don't have a massive budget for these things, I can't really go buggering off to Normandy to buy a bottle of cider now, can I?!
Actually, history lesson time. The Isle of Wight actually used to be under Norman control, like much of Engand, from 1066 to 1243 if you want to be precise. So I didn't cheat that much. They may have drunk cider then, but mediaeval food is nothing like modern French cooking, I've seen a recipe for 1 hen and 1.5 lbs of spices... funnily enough I decided against putting that on the menu, not least because can you imagine what 1.5lbs of spice in those tiny little Schwartz spice jars would cost?! That would definitely blow my budget! And they had some pretty weird ideas about dessert too. No differentiation. Again, I've seen a recipe that took 1/2 a pigs head, stew with a load of spices, take the other 1/2 pigs head, stew with 1.5 loaves of sugar...serve together... mmm... does it sound tempting?! Almost as bad as the Ox Penis I saw on the menu at the Peace Hotel in Shanghai 10 years ago. That in itself was not so odd, but the fact that it was in the dessert section....
So, Norman Night. And the Case of The Curiously Shrinking Headcount. Well, at one point I did have 12 bookings (which is my limit). But then 2 pulled out, at least in good time. Then we were 10, but after 12 for the Road to Revolution last Saturday and my rice cooker nightmares, I thought that was fine. Then, someone who I know through work who booked a couple of places, suddenly started his Houdini routine. I mean, it was so good, it should be televised. 55,000 ways to NOT tell someone you're not coming to dinner.
Because I am a charity supper club I ask for payment direct to the charity through Just Giving. And what I have found is that people really do leave this till the very last minute, in some cases even on the day! But if I sort of know the person then I trust them to actually do it, it's not that they intend not to come, it's just they didn't get round to it yet. And so far that's been fairly fine, at least I had two last minute cancellations for the Chinese night but I had one person on a waiting list. Well I didn't know them so it seemed less egregious than this situation.
This guy, a client of mine from my other life, contacted me originally saying he wanted to come, probably with his wife. I was surprised but quite touched that he wanted to come since I really don't know him well. Then he stopped replying to my mails asking him if his wife was coming or not. I wondered if they might be going into a junk folder so I called him - just voicemail. Perhaps he was travelling. The day prior I was on the phone to a colleague of his who passed me over to him so I could confirm whether or not he was coming and should I buy food for him. He said that he was still trying to sort out childcare which left me in a dilemma. What should I do? So I told him I would have to assume he and his wife were coming then and buy the food for them, what else could I do? Which I did, expecting first thing the next day (the day of the supper), I'd get an e-mail from him telling me if or if not he could come. In the event I had to contact him THREE TIMES today with a direct question as to whether or not he was coming before he would admit he wasn't!! What is wrong with the guy? He told me that he was at a conference, even what it was about and who was hosting it, but he could not tell me he WAS NOT COMING until 3.30pm? And if I hadn't asked him the same question three times, would he simply not have shown up, even when knowing that I was cooking for him? Some people. If I didn't know him through work I'd really give him a piece of my mind (it's for charity after all), but it would make things awkward for his colleagues if he hates me so I can't. All I can hope is he gets his come-uppance in the afterlife. If it were up to me, something like a straightforward mutilation, that's a good old-fashioned Norman punishment, would come in handy in this life...
So, I was down to 8. And tonight I ran into another hazard I'd yet to encounter: the guests that show up 1/2 hour early!! I should have known that they hadn't read the e-mail since they texted to check the address - next time I'll also be reminding them of the time to show up! Hmm. Does anyone else have any tips on what to do with these people? Ritual mutilation seems a bit mean since at least they arrived at all, although it did throw quite a spanner (or should I say Norman mace) into the last minute preparations.
Ah well, made it through another night (oh and by the way, the truffled cauliflower soup was divine, and I don't care if I do say so myself!), and there won't be another till I get back from Syria armed with spices and a clutch of recipes... let me know if you want to be on the mailing list for that because my investment in expensive cooking lessons with the best cook in Aleppo better not go to waste...!
P.S. I put up with ****hole clients in aid of MSF