Oy vey! A fishy tale of mayhem in the kitchen
My wife just found something smelly in the fridge – which is probably the most boring line I've ever begun a newspaper column with.
But I get paid to make the mundane interesting, so bear with me and we'll see where this chilled pong will take us…
It all began about 15 minutes ago in the kitchen – me just back from a walk that was cold enough to freeze the brass balls off a pawn-broker's shop, and my wife taking time out from her artwork so that she could tidy up in readiness for tonight's dinner guests.
A word about them… One of our guests is famous – indeed she just won a massive plaudit for her TV acting – but, as I am not a name-dropping kind of journalist, I won't go on about that… It's just that she is of the Jewish faith and also a vegetarian – so cooking for her does become a bit of challenge, especially when I turn to the fruits of the sea, which I am wont to do at the drop of a hat, or a name, or anything else.
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Until I met this woman, the term "bottom-feeder" didn't mean anything to me – unless, that is, there was some kind of vulgar linkage I'd rather not have dwelled upon. But apparently creatures that live on or near the bottom of the sea (or, at least, the eating thereof) are out of bounds for my friend and her people.
The husband and the kids do not join in with either the religious diet or the vegetarianism – indeed, they are absolutely ravenous for the kind of first-class red meat we get in these parts, by which I mean Red Ruby beef or lamb from the high Exmoor hills.
So now you are, I hope, beginning to imagine the scene… The Hesp kitchen is normally a laid-back kind of place to which the master of the house (that's me) retreats at around Archers time on the radio to prepare food for a much-diminished family which (apart from me) has no interest whatsoever in anything edible.
But today an unusual mayhem has entered this hallowed kitchen. Great slabs of beef have to be kept away from non-bottom-feeding fish – vegetables are separated from one another as if they are samples of nuclear waste – and no splash of bacon grease can go anywhere but the outside bin.
Which is why my wife is tidying up the general whirlwind that was the result of my earlier, schizophrenic, bout of cooking. And in doing the tidying – which is making her deeply unhappy – she smells something unpleasant in the fridge.
Frustrated artist that she is, she is pleased to mention the pong as I come through the front door, then again as I take off my walking boots, and a third time as I put on the kettle. A fourth, fifth and sixth mentions are made before the tea is finally brewed and poured.
I think we were on about "Something smells in the fridge" number 12 when I eventually snap: "For-chrissake-shut-up-about-the-damned-pong-I-can't-even-smell-it-and-I've-got-work-to-do!!"
Cue: one bitter, sniping, little row.
How can two people who have raised children together and lived with one another for so long become so unpleasant during the five minutes it takes to brew a pot of tea?
I don't know. I'd have to ask a marriage guidance counsellor. But being a middle-aged rural-based male dinosaur, that is something I am unlikely to do.
Instead, I have retreated to my office and started writing this newspaper column – which I was happy to do because it effectively got me out of the row and, moreover, getting stuff off one's chest so publicly is a kind of therapy.
So I am feeling just a little bit smug. I can hear the grinding of my wife's teeth three floors away – while here I am being paid to be at one with myself, so to speak.
However, I think I may be wrong about the sound of grinding teeth. It is, instead, an odd little chuckle and it just got louder – acting as a precursor to the triumphant words that have just been hollered up the stairs…
"You know that smell in the fridge? It's that sea-bass you were going to serve our famous friend. It's off. Not even the dog will eat it."
The shops are shut and they'll be here in an hour. Will you, dear readers, excuse me? There's a chippie in Minehead I need to visit.