Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lunch under the Tree, or, Blogging backwards

A lunch was in order. They had heard about him. But not seen him. And I had just married him.
So we had a lunch under the plane tree in Constantia, and they came to look at Vince.

A sensible way to start. Lubrication. KC Sauvignon blanc.

My mom's amazing gazpacho. The ice cubes about to be added to each bowl: vodka and tomato juice. My mother doesn't mess around.

Ajo Blanco: almonds, chicken stock, much garlic and white grapes. By special request (me to my mother: pleasepleaselease?).

My cousin-in-law Dr Clark, standing on the right, saying something silly to me. I think he was either demanding a speech or suggesting I sing the Marsellaise.

Above, Roger Verge's olive tart from his out-of-print Entertaining in French Style. One of the nicest books, ever.

Guy's hitherto unsuspected talent is showcased in this post: plating. He was superb. Quick, thorough, economical, unrattled. Guy and Jay live next door.

...the results. A summer plate. Greek potato salad (why Greek? the feta and kalamata olives); three-bean salad; herbed tomatoes (a nod to Cafe Fiorello); ginger ale pig, and roast chickens with herbed ricotta stuffing.

                                                                          [photo: Guy]
And on to dessert. Lemon tart for the Frenchie. The Roux brothers' version from their wonderful Patisserie. Only 9 eggs. My Brooklyn oven refuses to make this: too hot.

I also made the dark and moussy Gateau Victoire au Chocolat. Another old friend, from House and Garden's collection published in 1980-voertsek. Alice Wooledge Salmon was their food editor and it is a fantastic book from whose almost-licked pages many Viljoen favourites have sprung...

Dr Clark even made his own doggy bag.

With dessert came a bottle of 1989 Vin de Constance. Which was the source of some stress for the Frenchman, who was asked to open it: the old cork broke. Not knowing my father very well, he thought this might mean the marriage was off.

The wine itself gave rise to some short tempers. Not right! cried 80% of the lunchers, led by my mom. It is right, I roared back, with Jay's support. It tasted wonderful. Another bottle, not as old, was opened, and I had to concede that it was very different. Still, crumbled cork and all (Vince wondering whywhywhy me, as it broke apart in his hands), I say the old one, as dark as cognac once decanted, was pretty good. And surely was more like what Jane Austen and Napoleon would have known, once it had roughed it in ships to their shores?

I think Vincent survived, and with much grace.


  1. Veni, vidi, vici - well done Beence!

  2. Of course I survived!

    Did you think that a ten minute battle with a viciously decayed cork, hidden in the remote kitchen while 12 people are waiting for me - and the wine - outside under the tree, could defeat me?

    Or that my brilliant setup of the three-part table top on a very uneven brick-covered patio that sent the whole table flying every time your dad leaned on it, could chip my self-confidence?

    Or even that Chrissie suddenly asking me to "tell her more about myself" and a tomb-like silence falling over the table and people staring like vultures preparing for a feast, would dent my will and weaken my knees?

    I mean, come on, I'm not Ben Stiller dealing with one of his catastrophic bad luck attacks in a cheesy movie. Yet. ;-)

  3. If you were Ben Stiller this certainly would not be happening, because I'd still be throwing up! Even the fact that you have confused my sister-in-law with cousin Andrea should not shake your confidence...xxxxx

  4. LOL, you're so right, it was Andrea! I'm not shaken, I'm stirred.

  5. Oh, and Jay and Guy, vici is a little strong, maybe. How about visiti? ;-)

  6. Oh and one more thing: ajo blanco and lemon tart, my favourites! :-)

  7. OK, Vince - then the corrupted version of Caesar's famous utterance will have to be:

    Beenci, veni, vidi, visiti et vici !!

    Oh, and Marie, we thoroughly enjoyed the lunch under the tree - wonky tables, Treacle de Constance and all and all and all.

  8. I like your mother already - vodka tomato ice cubes !! And I have had a clipping of Roger's olive tart in my recipe book for probably 8 years now and have managed not to make it - you've spurred me on :)


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