Sport 9: Spring 1992
Over a candlelit dinner at BellissimoJasper tells me he wants a divorce. He has ordered his favourite Fettucine Alfredo* and after toying with Trenette al Peso* or Cannelloni all Laziale* I have decided on two entrees: Calamaretti Fritti* and Carciofi all Romana.* This gives a slightly refined impression, not exactly invalidism but a related kind of discernment. In a way it is a page 83 compliment to the chef. Jasper has been known, in certain moods, to send a half bottle of Barolo with his compliments. Two entrees allows room for dessert: I am already anticipating Gelato all'Anguric* or perhaps Cassata all Siciliana.*
'And to think I have always considered Italian food as the food of love,' I hiss angrily. Naturally I am not going to finish squid or artichoke now. I'd like to seize the carciofi and throw it at Jasper's face. He's just toying with his fettucine.
It seems he blames me for not recognising the pattern of his absences or a certain frisson between himself and his secretary Jill when he brought her to lunch last year (tinned soup and toasted sandwiches). I try to summon up a face and I come up with dark wavy hair, dark unplucked eyebrows and the faintest trace of a moustache. It is the moustache that undoes me. It conjures up an Italian Mamma cooking pasta for the midday meal, pasta casalinga or pasta casalinga verde, lovingly rolling and cutting and sifting the spinach. Then I see her setting the table, closing the shutters, sitting in her black apron with her head in her hands. I resolve never to eat Italian again or only in the company of children. I throw my napkin (red with white checks, naturally) into the Calamaretti Fritti and stalk out.
Now comes a period, before the settlement is drawn up, when the boys with their tuckboxes eat better than I do. Baked beans on toast and poached egg left to frill in the water. I have returned to baby foods. Stewed apple. A canister of Dairy Whip. Perhaps there should have been one final feast culminating in a great Pyramide de glaces, de sorbets et de fruits:** three litres of mixed ice-creams and sorbets: vanilla, mango, lime, melon, mint, apricot. A great pyramid to crash down, a gastronomique eminence that would melt away like a candle.
'Don't eat too many almonds,' Colette wrote. 'They add weight to the breasts.' I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I have eaten too many almonds. Decidedly I am heavier. I have always been pear-shaped.
The boys have been assured we shall attend cricket matches and end of term concerts and graduation as we always have. Jasper will simply be
* Fettucine Alfred, Fettucine with Pesto sauce, Cannelloni with beef, bacon and mushroom stuffing, Fried small squid, Globe artichokes Roman style, Watermelon ice cream, Sicilian cassata
** Ice-cream, sorbet and fruit pyramidpage 84
spending more time in the city. Eventually I shall find something smaller but there is no hurry. Jasper will find something larger than his one room flat we used to use for staying overnight for theatres and concerts. Where the fridge was stocked with Veuve Cliquot and pâté. Once it held a generous helping of Stilton brought home in a napkin.
French toast II
2 slices day-old whole wheat or enriched white bread
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons skim milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
½ tablespoon oil
In a mixing bowl combine the egg whites, milk,
vanilla and cinnamon. Beat lightly. Heat a griddle
or heavy frying pan until hot and grease it well
with oil. Dip bread slices in the egg white mixture
and fry on both sides until golden brown and
crisp. Serve with jelly.
Yield: 2 servings
Approx. Cal/Serv.: 115
Ate one serving for breakfast; one, cold, for supper. Approx. Total Cals.: 300.
Why, I wonder, did we never eat Looed beef (p. 312),* Pappardelle with telephone wires (p. 371), Chinese sausage, dried duck, and roast pork sand pot (p. 340) or Headcheese salad (p. 332)? I'm glad we missed Live drunken shrimp (p. 169)! 'I hesitate to tell you about this dish, but I have decided I can chance it with you. By this time we understand one another and you know that I will try anything, any food anywhere at any time, at least once . . . A large glass casserole is brought to your table with quite a bit of Chinese rice wine in the bottom of the dish . . . the live shrimps are dumped into the
heavy wine...as the wine intoxicates them, they begin jumping about...banging themselves on the lid. They are drunk! They are then removed from the wine bath and dropped into rapidly boiling Chinese Chicken Soup Stock. They die instantly of course . . . you can taste the wine they imbibed. A light dipping sauce accompanies this very Hong Kong dish.'