Steve Comes To Dinner
Extending My Kindness to Steve
Gentle reader! Or perhaps, gentle readers, because I believe there are upwards of three or four of you out there who have read my hubs.
I know that most of you have inadvertently come this way in pursuit of clearer and crisper writing, as that offered by Mark Ewbie, or the in-depth style and elegance of Lady Wordsmith or Angie Jardine; perhaps misguidedly sidetracked by what seemed to be the light of a Sunnie Day at the end of a tunnel, as did those poor deluded and misguided ones: A.A. Zavala and mckbirdbks. Or H P Roychoudhury, that great sub Continental travel writer and historian; that talented and lovely poetess, Nellieanna Hay… or lastly, and unfortunately, the only other who springs to mind: attemptedhumour our Antipodean literary bricky.
Regardless how you may have wandered here, perhaps you may have ploughed your way through (or past) the first couple of paragraphs and learned of my innate kindness to my dear friend Steve (Currently cutting a dash on HP under the cleverly disguised nom de plume: steve of ian fame).
You may also have learned of my benevolent nature if you read of my kindnesses to my friend, George de Lancy de Somerville de Smith de Ceased de Brown de Tergent.
This hub, however, does not deal with GdeLdeSdeSdeCdeBdeT (George de Lancy de Somerville de Smith de Ceased de Brown de Tergent), but with my friend Steve.
It is a story, nay a hub, which deals with Good Manners, Hospitality and the British Way of Life, as personified by my good self (and to a lesser degree) by Steve.
Steve was staying with me for a couple of days in the lovely little village of Norbury-sur-Mer in which I reside. I decided, out of the goodness of my heart, that he should be treated to a home cooked meal.
We had gone to several Takeaways over the period of the three days that he had been staying with me, and we were running out of the types of food that dear Steve found suited his palate.
The first Takeaway restaurant at which we availed ourselves of their cuisine, was one of my favourites: ‘Tandoori Corner’ which is an Halal takeaway dealing with sub Continental foods at a very reasonable price and a good standard. One of their specialities is aloo gosht (lamb and potato), chicken biryani, and lamb biryani which I particularly like and murgh methi (chicken with fenugreek leaves) which is superb if cooked well.
Remembering that this Takeaway is run by Muslims, and all the food there is Halal, it was very foolish of me to leave Steve to his own devices, because, as I was deciding what I wanted, he took the opportunity to try to order for himself, and when the guy asked him what he wanted, he asked if they had any Sweet and Sour Pork.
We beat a hasty retreat and I have to admit that it was a long time before I could set foot in there again, but they seem to have forgiven me now.
Spaghetti Bolognaise - Typical English Food - Even Better with Chips
"Foreign Food" is a bit of a closed book to Steve
When I remonstrated with him, Steve said that “foreign food” had always been a bit of a closed book to him, and that he felt more comfortable with good old reliable English food, such as pie and chips and that equally typical meal known simply as Spaghetti Bolognaise.
We made do that night, and the next day, when we were out in the car, was the time that I decided on the "home cooked meal". I asked what he would really like and he said that he was very fond of liver and bacon, and that would be fine for him.
I pointed out that, being a Muslim myself, I do not eat bacon, and don’t like the idea of cooking it, even for a guest, but that I am capable of cooking a really tasty liver and onions with mashed potatoes. To me that sounded almost quintessentially British, and when I suggested it, he jumped at the idea… Well he didn’t actually jump. Steve doesn’t jump a lot, but he said, “Ah!” and that is tantamount to a jump in Steveworld.
Anyone being on familiar terms with the chap will soon become aware that "Ah!" can be a very reliable substitute for conversation with Steve.
So I took it that "Ah!" indicated that he approved wholeheartedly of my culinary plans.
So I went to the Halal shop and bought some really nice lambs' liver and went to my local supermarket and bought onions, and the best potatoes to make the mashed potatoes. I make mashed potatoes fit for a King or a Queen…
(I have been told by a couple of queens I know that my mashed potatoes “are simply divine, Dahling”… but that’s another story).
Garlic or Tulips
So the evening arrived, as evenings do, and I commenced to cook the meal. I had cleared the table, which is a fairly large two-leafed affair, and laid it for two. Candles were burning in the candlesticks, music was playing and I was in the kitchen, fiddling around, whilst Steve was sitting at the table waiting less than patiently.
Have I pointed out that Steve has little idea of “foreign food”?
Have I pointed out that Steve likes his food in fairly large quantities; and in front of him at the earliest convenience?
I didn’t tell you? I should have. Both facts are relevant.
Now by serendipity (or not) the kitchen is next to the dining room… of course it is. But when the dining room door is open, if one were to look at the oven door, it’s black glass, it acts as a mirror and reflects, so that one can see into the dining room if one is standing in the right place.
I happened to look across to see the reflection of Steve reaching right across the dining table to the other end; a good three metres away to where there lay a clay dish containing some tulip corms that I had meant to plant in the garden. They had lain there for a week or more, as the season had just arrived for planting. He reached across and picked one up, and peered at it closely. I thought nothing of it, as the meal was just about ready, and I was a bit busy.
Fried Liver and Onions with Mashed Potato and Petits Pois
The liver was beautifully cooked and smelt delicious, the onions were a dark golden brown and smelt wonderful, and the mashed potato (Recipe withheld for selfish reasons) was creamy, and in peaks of delicious promise.
“Dinner’s ready,” I announced and came into the dining room with the dish of liver; that succulent liver lying in and on a bed of fried onion, the fried onions doing what fried onions do best. I then returned to the kitchen and came back with a bowl of mashed potato which was almost crying out, “Come and eat me and have a coronary… I am so wickedly rich and full of butter and milk”. There was a bowl of precious petits pois begging, no, demanding to be devoured.
But as I was starting to serve the liver and onions onto his plate, I noticed that he was already eating something.
“What are you eating?” I asked.
He held out his hand to show that he was holding half a tulip corm.
“This,” he explained, “I thought garlic would have tasted differently”.
Trying to suppress my irritation that not only had he not waited for the meal that I had prepared; not asked if he could eat my tulip corm; ruined a perfectly good tulip corm, I said,
“Well you’ve started eating it; you may as well finish it. Is this enough liver? Would you like some more onions?”
Steve obediently finished the tulip corm.
“I thought it would taste different… I’ve never eaten garlic before,” and he put his fork into the liver, cut off a healthy slice, and continued, “That was garlic, wasn’t it? It didn’t taste as if it had been cooked”.
Ignoring his question, I put a large spoonful of mashed potato on his plate. Steve has maintained ever since that I threw the potato at his plate, but as there were no witnesses, apart from half a dozen Norbury Mudhounds reclining tastefully around the room, the history of that evening depends on whose version one would wish to believe.
Garlic or Tulip or Daffodil?
There was something in my demeanour that gave rise to some misgivings on his behalf.
“That wasn’t garlic was it? What have I just eaten?”
“Well if you must know, it was a tulip corm. Now why don’t you get on with your meal. It’s going to…?”
But I didn’t get a chance to explain that liver and onions, and my delicious mashed potato (Recipe withheld for selfish reasons) wouldn’t taste nearly as nice if he allowed it to get cold.
“Help. I’m dying. Will no one take me to the nearest hospital?”
Steve rose to his feet at an alarming speed, letting his knife and fork drop to the table beside his plate (never a sign of a good upbringing; one feels that manners are so important).
“I’ve been poisoned,” he shrieked, “You’ve poisoned me with tulip bulbs, I’m going to die”.
“Tulip corms,” I corrected him. “Daffodils have bulbs… tulips have corms”. I started to explain to him that daffodils were similar in construction to onions, as they consisted of layers of thick fleshy leaves wrapped around the centre; whereas tulip corms were solid and of a completely different construction.
For some reason he didn’t seem interested in the difference between corms and bulbs, but as I had started eating, I thought it best to carry on. The liver and onions; the mashed potato and the petits pois were delicious.
Suddenly, and precipitously he rose from the table and darted from the room, and I could hear him opening the front door and rushing out into the street. I made a quick headcount of the Norbury Mudhounds, and realising that there were still six, and having verified that none of them had accompanied Steve, I continued eating my meal.
I could hear his voice as he ran up and down the street, calling out it a piteous little voice,
“Help. I’m dying. Will no one take me to the nearest hospital?”
Suddenly he reappeared in the dining room. His hand to his throat. His face was quite red.
“Aren’t you going to do anything?” he yelped. “Don’t you realise that you may have poisoned me?”
I tried to show some concern; I really did. But he seemed quite lively, and I was enjoying my dinner so much.
“I think I have the number for NHS Direct,” I said, “I’ll look for it in a minute”.
I must admit that my eyes wandered a little distractedly to my, as then unfinished, dinner.
“Eek! I'm hallucinating. I think I'm going to die. Call NHS Direct,” and other similar cries for help.
I looked at him in as kindly a manner as I could muster.
“I’m doing my very best, Steve, but I have already started eating and it will take me between ten and fifteen minutes to finish the first course. You wouldn't want me to rush my food; or worse still, put down my knife and fork to find the NHS Direct number for you, would you? My dinner would get cold. And you wouldn’t want me to spoil my dinner, as you obviously seem to be determined to do to yours, do you?”
He continued to pant and hyperventilate; gazing at me in a manner that almost looked like hatred, for some inexplicable reason.
“Anyway,” I said, attempting to calm him down, “I have heard that daffodil bulbs… or was it tulip corms? Well, whichever; are poisonous. Not both… just one. Daffodils or tulips… but I can’t remember which”.
“I don’t want to die,” he moaned.
“And realistically speaking, there’s a fifty-fifty chance between daffodil bulbs and tulip corms being the poisonous vegetable. So you have an equal chance of surviving”.
"By the way," I added, in an attempt to make him see the lighter side of the situation, "The tulip corm and the garlic clove are certainly closer in appearance than the daffodil or the onion. So you were sort of right in thinking..."
But for some reason he didn't seem to be really interested in my botanical comparisons.
At this stage I finished my meal. And it was very tasty too. I had really enjoyed it; even with the distraction of Steve’s little drama.
“Are you going to call NHS Direct?” he shrieked.
"Oh I suppose so," I started, "But first, before we tie up the phone line with what might be a protracted conversation with NHS Direct, would you mind if i just had a couple of words with Judi?"
Judi, as anybody should know, is my best friend, and we always share little bits of gossip and interesting anecdotes.
"I think I'm dying," he moaned peevishly. "Can't it wait?"
A Jolly Little Chat with Judi
I picked up the phone, and dialed Judi's number. Her husband, Sid, answered the phone, and after a few pleasantries, he put me through to Judi.
Of course she was glad to hear from me and we chatted about this and that for a while, but then, caring and sympathetic person that I am, I gently slid it into our conversation that Steve was with me, and that, inadvertently, he had managed to eat a tulip corm.
"Goodness!" she said. "Sid did that once... but whether it was a tulip corm or a daffodil bulb; I can't remember."
I could hear her on the other end of the phone, asking Sid if it was a tulip corm or a daffodil bulb. He couldn't remember either.
"He can't remember," she reported to me. "But apparently one is quite safe and the other is really poisonous... but he can't remember if the tulip or the daffodil is deadly."
For some reason, i found this information to be quite amusing. I think she could hear that there was quite a bit of merriment in my voice.
"So what's poor Steve doing now?" she asked, almost concerned as his well-being.
"Oh, just whining and feeling sorry for himself," I replied, and I could feel the laughter at the situation bubbling to the surface; both with me and with Judi.
"You're not being very supportive!" she said.
"Oh. You think not?"
"Not really," she chuckled and after a short time, we brought the conversation to a close.
NHS Direct steps in to help
But by now, as I have said, I had finished the first course of my meal; given myself time to relax; let the digestive process start (as one should) and so I gave my chum the NHS Direct phone number.
But when we rang through, he was hyperventilating so much that he couldn’t make himself heard or understood. However, when I took the phone from his violently trembling hands, I found that the woman on the end of the line to be very informative.
She told tell me what the incidences of fatalities from eating tulips were. She told a charming story concerning tulip corms that had been eaten by a certain person, Mr Jan deGroot, who had eaten forty-three (43) medium sized corms without any ill effect. A world record; on 14th May, 1973, in the picturesque little village of Jelsum just outside Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.
I found the information fascinating but my chum took himself off again. He had darted out through the front door and it seemed that he only wanted to run up and down the street outside my house, flapping his hands, squeaking and telling passers-by that he was hallucinating and/or in imminent danger of dying. In fact, he was making quite a spectacle of himself, in no uncertain manner.
This is a nice, quiet suburban street, and that sort of behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated. NHS Direct should think carefully of setting up a help Line for that kind of reaction.
I strongly feel that NHS Direct isn't much help for some needy people.
And so, after a relaxing few days in Norbury-sur-Mer, Steve returned to Halstead in Essex.
A couple of days later I received a text message from him on my mobile phone. It was just one sentence.
“Your compassion and concern came to the front and set something of a benchmark and left a pathway for others to follow.”
I think that there are people in this world who are brimming with the Milk of Human Kindness, and I can honestly classify myself as one of those precious people.
If you think you would like to know more of my kind and caring nature, these hubs may interest you.
- A Remarkable Likeness
My friend, Steve, became very excited because he had been gaining quite a bit of attention following his photograph having appeared in his Local Newspaper. He showed me the cutting, and wondered if I could explain to him why it had caused such a ple
- STEVE AND GEORGE
STEVE & GEORGE BEING A GOOD HOST TO STEVE I had decided that it would be nice if Steve could stay for a few days in London. So I picked him up at the station GEORGE GETS A SUN TAN. Me being a good friend and helping someone fit in