Sunday, 7 February 2010
My mother was fuming today.
She was throwing a dinner party for her girlfriends.
Having spent years between the two countries, my mother wanted to impress her friends with a simple, yet elegant meal-English style. Some light salad to start with, followed by a shoulder of lamb with vegetables. A lemon meringue pie to finish. And some G&T to wash it all down with. Lovely.
“And they.... she said- they just insult me like that!”
So what could those pleasant ladies do that upset my mother so badly?
“They brought me chickens”- she said. The skype connection can play up at times, so I had to ask her to repeat. They brought her chickens. Two raw chickens.
I love it when people do something so bizarre. Something so unexplainably bizarre that it does not fit in any category of the weird human behaviour that I have ever heard of.
Why would anyone come to a dinner party and bring two raw chickens? My mother reckons it is because the woman wanted to humiliate her. To be honest, I tried but could not think of any explanation to assure her that it was meant as a good gesture. Thank you for inviting me to your dinner party. Here is some raw poultry for you. Just in case you had no money to buy any meat for tonight. Or, perhaps tomorrow, when you have nothing to eat (because you had spent all your money cooking this nice meal for us) you could make yourself a chicken soup. I guess, that makes sense. If you are crazy.
In an attempt to reassure her,I reminded my mother of some of my Azeri friends here, in the UK, who would often show up at my house with bags of food. And then get busy in my kitchen chopping up some tomatoes and herbs and brewing tea. At first, I was not sure how to take that. I could, of course, view it as a lack of trust. They know that there is no hope to eat anything tasty at my place, so they had to bring their own food. But I learned to appreciate my friends’ offerings. They bring stuff from Russian and Turkish shops. Tea leaves and flat bread, special Russian style gherkins and herrings...stuff I miss and cannot easily get. And, knowing them, I know it is not meant as an insult.
But there is, indeed, something about the way some people can put you down.
The other day, my child was invited to a birthday party by someone in her class. I did not really know the mother or the girl, but my child was keen to go and I phoned back for directions.
“I live three houses down from the pub”.- the mother told me in a pleasant tone.
I knew the pub. On the right hand side there were tiny, or if you are an estate agent, cosy cottages. On the left hand side, however, there was this one magnificent house. The one I always referred to as “the dream one”. I asked if their house was three houses towards the tool shop. Which would mean one of those cosy cottages. And this is the moment when some other woman would have allowed herself a little superior laugh. But not this one. She did not laugh. Neither did she say:
"Oh, no, my dear. It is that F- off big house you all drive past and wish you had".
No, she did not mention any of that. She simply said it was in the other direction.
“It is a yellow house”- she said.
Yellow. That is what I call a proper lady. I bet she would never show up at somebody’s house with a raw chicken or two. You see, if she were this one Azeri friend I used to have, she would have said something that would make me realize straight away just how expensive and big that house was. The friend who once asked me if she, her visiting brother, the brother’s child and her husband could visit me on a Tuesday night. I used to work full time at a new job then and would get pretty tired by the time I made it home, to suburbs, from the city. I told her that of course, they could. But since it was a Tuesday night and I was tired, I could only offer something simple for a meal. Not the Azeri style feast.
"Oh.- she said- Oh....Can you not cook a proper meal?"
“I will buy the ingredients”- she said.
So yes, she was the kind of friend who would have, indeed, shown up with some raw poultry. You might have noticed I said a friend I used to have. I am getting old these days and realizing that I don’t actually have to be friends with people who bring raw chickens to my dinner parties. I can afford to let them go.