Thursday, 5 April 2007

Food and Flowers

I met Manuela – a stunning Spanish beauty – at her house in Sydenham this morning to discuss the menu for Janey’s wedding. I’d mentioned over the phone that we wanted to keep it simple, buffet style and she’d prepared a few things for me to try. I ate all of the breadcrumbed mushrooms without even trying the garlic mayonnaise dip. Fantastic.

I also met Manuela’s mother Chineria, her mother-in-law Gabriella and her sister Juliana – they’ll be helping out on the day and also serving. This may pose one or two problems. Chineria and Gabriella speak little English and Juliana will be 7 and a half months pregnant on the day of the wedding. I swallowed my doubts along with a heavenly slice of broccoli quiche.

Manuela had grasped the basics of the menu and ran through the list in her lilting accent – amazing how exotic sausage rolls, mushroom vol-au-vents, mini samosas and strawberry flan sound when spoken with a hint of Spanish.

“Now, about the strawberry falana” she said, clutching my forearm and gazing at me intently. “How about I do a-different falana’s but tiny?” Here she demonstrated the small-ness of the flans by holding her thumb and forefinger about two inches apart. “Strawberry, the orange, the lemon, the garapa?” Chineria and Gabriella nodded enthusiastically and gazed at the menu. Both noses wrinkled in unison after a few seconds. They’d obviously reached the shellfish section. Manuela spoke in a torrent of Spanish and both women relaxed but still looked a tad disturbed. “You don’t want just the jellied eels and the prawns!” Manuela said, with a toss of her auburn curls. “You want the selection! You want the crabcakes, the lobster claws, the mussels, the langoustine – jellied eels and prawns! Pah!” she went on, crossing them off the list with a defiant black pen. I cringed and asserted myself. I could imagine several uncles and distant cousins who would go into a decline if there were no jellied eels. A family occasion meant slimy fish and salty jelly or else it wasn’t a family occasion. “Okkay, we put back. We keep at the back and hope nobody notice” Manuela pushed a slice of quiche lorraine towards me.

By the time I was ready to leave – along with several foil packages of titbits – we had more or less agreed on the menu and were ready to go. The price was right and the food was heavenly – I’d even been offered Manuela’s brother to help out behind the bar.

Pam the florist is a dead ringer for Dame Judi Dench. Seriously, I almost fainted clean away on her doorstep. She’s retired but still likes to keep her hand in and loves weddings and christenings. She’s able to do the bouquets, the table centre pieces, the oasis displays and the church end-of-pew posies.

She’s charging, naturally for the cost of the flowers which she can still get at the flower market at trade but then only a minimal amount for herself. When I checked that that was okay she said “I so love a good wedding, just being there is payment enough”.
Dear Lord, I hope she’s not put off weddings for life by this one.


dulwichmum said...

I was reading your blog and the children started to cry and hid behind the furniture - why the scarey music sweetie?

You and David have not been up to your antics again have you?

Nunhead Mum of One said...

I hope I have now remedied the situation sister dearest - am so sorry children, feel free to withdraw my Easter Egg privileges x

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Nunhead, London, United Kingdom
I'm a mum of one, wife of one and owner to several dogs, a variety of breeds and sizes. I live in the up and coming area (or so they say) of Nunhead and have mad neighbours, strange friends and certifiable relatives. I shop locally, although I do defect to Sainsburys once a week - shoot me now local shopkeepers.