From experience, when asked to dine at Hebe’s, it’s advisable to eat before you go. While alcohol is plentiful, food can be less so. Hebe tends to forget or, I suspect, becomes bored with the original purpose of the party, especially after imbibing the better part of a bottle of Bollinger.
It is not uncommon for guests to depart hours later with no more sustenance than alcohol and a few canapés to fortify them on the journey home; confused as to whether the invitation had been for drinks only, and not dinner.
Tonight, a party of eight is assembled. With pre-dinner drinks done, we move into the dinning room. It’s a beautiful room of graceful proportions, a high ceiling and French doors that open out to the verandah. The table is laid with the family silver, starched napery, fresh-cut flowers and lit buy candlelight.
Hebe takes charge of the seating and, in moments, we have our places and begin to unfurl our napkins, large luxurious squares of white damask linen. You can imagine my consternation when my napkin reveals a hole so great it is entirely possible to pop your head through the yawning gap.
I quickly refold it in a manner to disguise the discrepancy of fabric and look to Hebe with an amused eye. Without noticing my glance in her direction, she has simultaneously realized her mistake. Her eyes – large with horror – dart around the table desperately trying ascertain the recipient of the defective napkin – which she had clearly meant for herself and not for an unsuspecting guest.
The dinner progresses, soup bowls have been cleared, and, from the cutlery left behind, it is indicated we are to expect two more courses – the main and a pudding. Wine is flowing freely as indeed is the conversation. Hebe stands and makes her way, somewhat unsteadily to the kitchen. Is it too much Bollinger or the six-inch Manolo Blahnik heels the cause for her erratic gait? My charitable disposition resolves to blame both.
From where I sit, I can see clearly into the kitchen. A saucepan of boiling water is on the stove. Hebe adds salt and empties two big packets of spaghetti into the pot. She quickly slices tomatoes and cucumber, throws them into a large salad bowl along with torn lettuce. That done she turns her attention to the now-ready pasta.
Staggering slightly from the weight of the saucepan, she pours water and pasta into a waiting colander sitting ready in the kitchen sink. Allowing it a moment to drain , she then pours a little olive oil over the pasta.
Hebe then picks up the colander and begins to vigorously shake the remaining water from the pasta. Suddenly the spaghetti, as if life has been miraculously bestowed it, leaps from the colander. An oozing sinuous entity and, with great speed, proceeds to mount its escape down the garbage disposal unit.
Hebe quickly abandons the now-empty colander and plunges her hands into the gaping maw in a desperate attempt to retrieve some of the fast disappearing spaghetti. I see her working furiously, hands pumping like pistons but to no avail. The spaghetti has made good its escape.
The rest of the party are oblivious to the unfolding drama. Hebe turns, sees me watching her and gestures for me to join her in the kitchen.
“What am I to do?” She laments: “It’s a disaster. Some bugger out there” she says pointing to the dinning room “has the holy napkin and the spaghetti are like eels, probably swimming in search of the Pacific Ocean.”
I laugh: “Don’t worry regards the napkin. I have it. Do you have rice?”
‘Yes!” she cries, suddenly inspired. ‘The sauce is Bolognese. I’ll add chili, a can of red kidney beans and call it chili con carne.”
Handing me her empty glass she says: “Darling. Get me another Bolly. I feel an overwhelming urge to become quite inebriated.”
And as I pass her the brimming flute I regretfully suspect the chances of pudding making it to the table are now indeed slim.
“Bottoms up!” she raises her glass in salute, tosses back almost the entire contents, “Darling I’ve the most brilliant idea. Lets get the main course over with and bugger the pudding.”
Bugger indeed ! I think resentfully.
And then my mood brightens with the thought of a family size Kit-Kat waiting for me in the refrigerator at home.
“Cheers Hebe !”
- vegemite & cheese wholemeal spaghetti (mylovelylittlelunchbox.com)
- I am Hebe. Hear Me Roar (ellievmcdonald.com)
- No Distancing Oneself From the Familiar Odour of Guilt (offtherecordbytonyjones.wordpress.com)