Saturday, November 1, 2008
Since Llew had left London before I started to make my own friends, I thought it might be a good idea to introduce him to the English friends I've made by inviting them over to our place for a meal. It was also a small way of thanking them for being such good friends to me at a time when I felt lonely and anxious in a foreign country.
Being a gourmet chef, Llew wanted to make them his signature dish--Sindhi Biryani--but I had to remind him that I do not have the pots and pans and other specialist equipment necessary to concoct such an elaborate dish. We decided to settle for Indian take out since most of the English love a good "curry" and since Chicken Tikka Masala has taken over from Fish and Chips as the country's favorite Take Away meal.
So I placed a call with Gandhi's, an Indian Restaurant on Gray's Inn Lane--this is a branch of the other Gandhi's at Kensington whose owner has been boasting to the press about the fact that Gordon Brown and Britain's other bigwigs sat at the tables in his restaurant over Lamb Bhuna and Paneer Mattar plotting and planning ways and means by which to save the flagging British economy from collapsing completely. We settled for Chicken Korma, Navratan Vegetable Curry, Saag Aloo, Pilau Rice and Naans with Onion Bhaji for starters. We picked up our meal at 12. 30 which left us with a half hour before our next-door neighbors Tim Freeman and Barbara Cookson rang our doorbell, just a little after Cynthia Colcluff arrived from around St. Paul's Cathedral. Both Llew and I had no idea how large take-away portions are in the UK and we were a little worried when we found that they were much smaller than we had expected. Certainly, portions are much larger in the US and though we had doubled each order, we wondered if there would be enough to go around.
We all hit it off immediately and, before long, we were deep in animated conversation which flowed so easily. Tim kept us all in splits with his fascinating anecdotes and comedic impersonations. Llew helped me organize our repast and served the wine and from start to finish (I served coffee with coffee-walnut cake for dessert), he was a huge support and help. I felt as if we were back in Southport entertaining guests at one of our many sit-down dinners--except that we were in a far smaller space and making do with the few things our kitchen cupboards contain. In fact, since I have only 5 chairs around my dining table, Tim nipped over to his flat and brought in a chair and a little later, a porcelain sugar and creamer as I had neither in which to serve the cream and sugar--in fact, I did not even have any sugar as I use a sweetener. At the end of the meal, they suggested a walk around our neighborhood. I begged off and decided to start on the washing-up while Llew went off with them to discover some of the architectural gems around our building.
Later that evening, Llew and I, went next door to return Tim and Barbara's things and spent a good hour with them over tea and tea cakes in their fabulous apartment. It truly is a spacious welcoming place. Thanks to some ingenious planning and decorating, it is warm and cozy and it was hard to tear ourselves away from Tim's video photography as projected on the flat screen TV in their living room. I find them such an engaging couple and whether it is food we talked about or travel, they are so informative and so entertaining.
Later in the evening, back in our own flat, we decided to take it easy and catch up with our own exchange of news. We realize how much we've missed one another and truly are looking forward to the next two weeks when we shall do all the things we so enjoy doing together.