Over the weekend, M. and I had the pleasure of having our new kitchen 'test-driven' by M.'s friend D., who is a student at the Institute of Culinary Education. D. had inspected the kitchen while having drinks at our place the night before, and decided it was just the spot for him to complete his final project - whipping up different dishes and photographing their presentation.
"Do you have butter?" he asked M. from the supermarket while shopping for the ingredients.
"I don't think so. Do we have butter?" M. asked me.
"No," I said, somewhat emphatically. Butter is evil.
"We don't have butter. Oh, and we don't have mayonnaise. We don't believe in mayonnaise," M. said.
Half an hour later, D. called again. "Do you have a rolling pin?" he asked.
"Do we have a rolling pin?" M. asked me.
"No," I said.
"We don't have a rolling pin," M. told D.
An hour later after that, D. came tumbling in to the flat with a pile of grocery bags and his girlfriend H., who helped him set up the kitchen, including his formidable cookery tool set (he actually had the knives, peeler and other tools labelled as his own, wrapped in a canvas post bag).
"He kept telling me to hurry up," H. said to me. "He didn't want the lobster to die."
"What lobster?" I asked. D. unwrapped a gigantic blue specimen from the plastic bag it was in. It was still waving around its scalloped claws.
"This lobster," he said. M. looked askance.
"I'm not a big fan of lobster," he said.
"But I am," I said.
"You'll get lobster," D. said. He stuck on to a cabinet the list of dishes he was planning to make - miso grilled scallops with creamed asparagus, minute steak and rosemary with egg, marinated short ribs with chestnut, lobster with potato gratin, chinese fish with sweetcorn, braised pork with risotto and duck, and stuffed chicken rolls with spinach, sweetcorn and apple and wild rice. I knew that list meant the kitchen would look like a tsunami had swept through it, so I carefully placed myself in the living room where I could not see what was going on (what I don't see doesn't bother me). The kitchen started steaming and smoking like a locomotive so, despite the chilly breeze, we opened the patio door to let out the oily air. I sat at the table fiddling with the blog template while, one by one, M.'s friends who had heard of D.'s project dropped by to say hello and taste some of his concoctions. All I could hear was chopping and occasional pleas from D. - "H., please, help me?" - while the guests mulled over the baseball on the television or went outside to the patio to avoid the smell and the noise. Finally, the dishes began to come out to be photographed one by one as D. put on the finishing touches to each one.
"Scallops," he said curtly as he dropped a picture perfect plate of pan fried scallops and sauce next to me at the table. It was delicious, and I told him so. He chuckled while wiping away his sweat and said, "You know it's because it was pan fried in butter, right?"
The lobster plate looked stunning and was polished off without a breath to spare. The entire living room started smelling of fried food and cooking vegetables. At four o'clock, I realised I'd eaten three plates and three hot biscuits (D. decided we needed comfort food and made a whole tray of them, with plenty of butter) and was stuffed to the gills. At seven o'clock, M. and H. had to finish off the last two plates by themselves - and this was after having had a steak and short ribs. The three of us sat at the coffee table, puffing and panting with our extended stomachs while the chef went outside in the patio for a smoke. He looked tired and the front of his t-shirt was covered with various different stains of mixed colours.
"Don't you want any? You haven't eaten all day," H. said when he came back in. He shook his head.
"I know what went into that stuff," he said, and laughed.