Monday, 13 December 2010

Company: Having, Being

We had company this weekend!  Simon came for a visit, in part because he wasn't able to make Thanksgiving and also because he'll not be joining us on Boxing Day as usual.  He's going snowboarding instead.  He swears this is a one-off and not the thin edge of the wedge, but we'll see.  He's even planning to come back one weekend in January to make up for missing our Christmas, and to do the gift exchange, no doubt.

So, what do we do when we have company?  We go out and leave them at home alone with the TV, their computer and some leftovers!  Honestly, we'd been invited to go to Svetlana and Alexei's house since October and the leftovers were some of the frozen Thanksgiving food he missed out on, so he was happy enough.  We had a little time with him when we got home, about 10:30 and spent the next day at the Fleamarket and lunch before he set off back home.  His work takes him to Boston this week (business class, no less) and fun takes him to Andorra for snowboarding.  It's a tough life, no? 

I forgot (again) my camera, but Alexei kindly brought out his camera and then sent the results.  I wouldn't have believed it was possible to eat and talk for four hours, but apparently it is.  The food just kept coming and there was so much to talk about.  Alexei has been writing a book.  I read some of the early chapters and they were fascinating.  He's made some changes since and wants my comments.  You may roll in the floor laughing.  I can't get it across to him that my opinion is irrelevant, but hey, I'll enjoy reading whatever he sends and do my best to make useful suggestions.  I do hope he gets it published so I can share it with you.

As you might guess, they are Russian émigrés, first to Germany, then to England.  Funny enough, they came to England the same year I did and bought their house the same year I did.  I used to work with Svetlana and we've managed to keep in touch.  I've been to their house for dinner once before.  Bill was in bed with the flu, but I abandoned him just as quick as I ditched Simon.  I still remember the lamb roast, marinated in wine for 24 hours after having onion quarters and garlic cloves stuffed in small cuts in the meat.  I'm not a fan of lamb as a rule, but I'd eat their lamb anytime they wished.  


When we first arrived at their house, Svetlana anxiously asked if we liked duck.  I replied, "We like food" which is close enough to the mark.  I love duck; I just don't ever try to cook it.  Oh, but we didn't just have duck, we sat down to a table with hors d'œuvres:  radishes, cherry tomatoes, pickles and sun dried tomatoes in olive oil.  Also, tomatoes stuffed with feta cheese and dill weed.  Ratatouille.  Large green olives.  A plate of dill weed stalks.  A tray of nuts.  Smoked salmon and a basket of sour dough and rye bread slices (I adore rye bread, the smell reminds me of Grandma and Grandpa.  They only ever had 'brown' bread there.)

We made a start.  Then came out the duck, stuffed with prunes and apples.  Alexei said they would normally have duck with buckwheat, a traditional Russian food, but they didn't think we'd like it.  We'll just have to go back for the buckwheat another time.  Vegetable salad, very much like I would make, dressed with dill weed, which we also learned was a very Russian thing.  Roasted potatoes.  Did I mention three kinds of red wine and Japanese single malt whiskey?  (Because we Russians like that sort of thing).  When Svetlana removed the plate of dill weed I realised we'd neglected it.  I didn't know what one did with it.  She said, just eat it, so I did.  It was lovely and minty.  We need to grow some.

For dessert we had cherry strudel, German chocolates and German Jaffa cakes.  I think Bill called them German because they came from a German owned shop.  I could only manage the cherry strudel; well, I managed two helpings.

Honestly, there are no meals better than this.  Not only was the food amazing, but we were having a great time talking about everything from genealogy to raising chickens.  One of the most astonishing things for Bill was when Svetlana mentioned she was born and lived her very early life in Tashkent, though I believe their remaining family now are mostly in or near Moscow.  I'd no idea where Tashkent was, but Bill did.  He hasn't yet stopped saying, "I know someone from Tashkent!"  He showed it to me on the map.  Then I was impressed, too.

We're hard at work trying to figure out how to return their hospitality.  We only live three Metro stops - a scant 2 miles - apart, so we'd be daft not to continue exchanging meals and ideas.    I know entertaining is not about impressing people, so we won't be presenting a pig with an apple in its mouth or anything, but we definitely need to raise our game.

Any suggestions?


Rick Stone said...

You're from Oklahoma. You should serve them some good Buffalo steaks. It should not cost too much of a small fortune to have some shipped over there. ;-> But seriously, Buffalo is good and has less fat than regular beef.

Jo said...

I am glad you explained how to eat dill, because it is not something we would normally eat, just use as a spice. Suggestion for what to serve, what about some bar-be-que.

Shelley said...

Rick - I might actually look for buffalo over here. I don't believe I've ever eaten it. Because of Mad Cow disease, Britain is hyper-paranoid about meat imports, the logic of which escapes me altogether, but they might actually have some buffalo around. I know we can get venison, but of course all those options are quite pricey. Still, some ideas to consider. Thanks for the suggestion!

Jo - I did mention BBQ'd ribs to Bill. I think he's planning to be the 'chef' and he's not familiar with BBQ'd ribs, but we could practice (I would really enjoy the practice!) I still think that is a real possibility, but I've never tried buying ribs over here. That's one of our problems, we've opted out of meat for the majority of time and so cooking for company needs some thought!

FB @ said...

With good food and good company, it is easy to talk for 4-8 hours

I know this from sitting in a French bistro in Paris with BF and his friends :P

The English Organizer said...

You're right, very hard act to follow! My Mum loves Duck but having tried once to cook it and ended up with fat splattered everywhere, I leave it to restaurants now - but I'm full of respect for anyone who pulls it off.