Sunday, 6 November 2011


My editor had apparently bumped into the Blonde in one of those hideously overpriced department stores that seem devoted to offering the unpleasantly-rich bizarrely impractical things to spend their money on.  The Blonde said she had been looking for a goldfish-defibrillator and had literallly bumped into my editor as she was trying to pull an over-sized Taschen volume of pre-invasion Tibetan art from an inconveniently located book-pillar.  I had stared at her, not knowing where to begin in the wrongness of her sentence, and she'd seized my silence as an invitation to start to explain.
"I know we don't have a goldfish," she said, in a tone of voice that I know means that she's going to pause and then say "Yet" meaningfully.  Unprepared, I leapt into the breech.
"We're not having any pet that could be thought of as food," I said.  "I can't take you to restaurants and expense it if you won't eat any of the interesting things on the menu because they remind you of a pet."
"But a fish!"
"But a fish nothing!  There's a restaurant opening next week that is going to have ornamental carp swimming in ponds next to while you eat.  If they serve, as is being rumoured, Koi a la King then that's just a big goldfish in a chunky sauce right there, and you'll be calling me heartless and cruel for eating it.  If we get a dog you won't want to go to Chinatown any more because you'll start thinking about all those rumours that they serve stray dog on the menu and won't want to take the chance.  If we get a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, there goes my bacon sandwich of a morning."
"I don't want a pig running around the flat!" said the Blonde, looking annoyed.
"Thank God," I said very, very quietly, but equally fervently.
"Look, the goldfish defibrillator is a gag-gift for Annalieke's birthday–"
"How much did it cost?"
"...That's not important, she's my oldest girlfriend!"
"As in she's the oldest girlfriend you have, or she's just the longest-serving?"
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
I could hear the stormclouds gathering as her tone of voice changed and decided to retreat a little in the interest of entente cordiale.  "You met my editor then?"
"Oh yes!  Isn't she just adorable!  You never told me how cute and witty she is."
"How could I have missed that?" I said, letting the irony sit heavy on my words, confidant that the Blonde wouldn't spot it.
"Yes, how could you?  Anyway, we were talking about Thanksgiving and she thinks it would be a great little world-interest piece for the paper.  So we're going to this American restaurant.  Tonight."  She brandished a notepad at me, on which I recognised my editor's barely literate scrawl instantly.
"American?"  I groaned at the very idea.  "Don't eat today then, you'll need all the space you can manage for the outsize portions."
"What's wrong with a plate of food that fills you up?"
"Nothing, if it's the only course."


We went to the restaurant in silence, which I assumed was somehow my fault.  When we arrived a man dressed in a suit that appeared to have been cut from the American flag seated us at a table for six and called it a table for two.  The menu was blessedly short, just a single page with a second page brought a few minutes later for drinks.  Looking up and down it, I noticed that they had a "Thanksgiving dinner" listed with no further information, so I ordered that.  The Blonde ordered a child's garden salad and a bottle of spring water.
"Why aren't you eating?" I said, just a little crossly.
"I'll eat yours with you," she said.  "The waiter thinks we're on a date anyway, and you were just complaining about the portion size."
Her logic was impeccable, and I suspected that my editor had been coaching her there too.  However, our first course arrived before I could dig the truth out of her.  The Blonde dug in eagerly, while I stared in bemusement at the bloodied mess in front of me.
"What is it?" I said finally, picking up a fork and spearing some dripping red berries.
"Cranberry salsa and goat's cheese," said the Blonde, her teeth already stained red.  "It's delicious!"
"These are tinned cranberries," I said after the first mouthful.  "And this cheese is warm."
"This is turkey dinner," said the Blonde.  "It's supposed to be like this."
However, the second course stymied even her.  The turkey was served diced and recomposed in aspic into long fingers sitting on top of equally long fingers of polenta.  A thin layer of garlic-speckled mashed potato sat on top of the aspic, and a single spring of coriander poked out from the middle of it.
"This doesn't look right," said the Blonde, her lips pouting marvellously.
"You think?"
The food tasted a little better than it looked, but it was still mostly bland, canned, and over-tanned (in places, when we pulled the turkey out of the aspic).
For dessert, finally, sweet potato and pumpkin risotto was served inside hollowed-out pumpkins.  I was about to comment that this was actually worth eating when I noticed that the Blonde was discreetly throwing up inside her gourd.  I raised an eyebrow and she shrugged.
"I think it's the aspic," she said.  "That's not part of Thanksgiving."
I summoned the waiter and prepared to argue over the bill.

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