Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Hants, UK
Device: Kindle, Cybook
I'd been away for far too long. Departmental politics, multihop routings through dubious (not to mention dubya) countries, never-ending meetings, urgent project overruns ... So little time, so many people to offend ...
Still, after several months, here I am, back at last. And the mobile informs me I have a message.
Vera. So she hasn't forgotten me. But has she forgiven me for not staying in touch?
Heart racing, despite the passing of these many months, I read the message.
"So you're back now?" (How did she know?) "Come over for dinner. 7pm. No need to bring anything."
I glance at my watch. Just about time to dump my luggage, change and head over.
Forget the expense. I grab the nearest thing to some decent flowers from the arrivals lounge and a really nice Royal Tokaji (I remember she loves dessert wines), and charge out. "Taxi!" I shout as I leave terminal.
And so, at about quarter to seven, I'm standing, slightly breathless, outside her door, holding the flowers and Tokaji, with many thoughts going through my mind. How did I get here so quickly? Will she like the wine? Does she still love me? What have I forgotten? Why didn't I call her while I was away? Desperately trying to calm myself, I take a deep breath and ring the bell
The door opens and Vera is standing there, just as I remember and as I'd imagined her. "You've come early". That voice, that elocution, that ... STOP IT. I'd forgotten how her voice penetrated straight into parts of my mind and played with them and just how much I love her playing with them.
"Come in. Help me make our risotto," she murmured, sounding like the gentle caress of waves on the shore.
"I thought you might like these. I feel awful at not calling," I at last uttered as I stepped through the door.
"How beautiful and a '93 Aszu. You do feel naughty. Here, let me chill that for you. Remember, distance makes the heart grow fonder." I wish my heart would stop stopping, it's so
distracting. And that she wouldn't stress words like that.
I followed her, helpless, like some adoring puppy into the kitchen. Get a grip of yourself. You're a grown man, not a puppy!
"Can you get the Carnaroli, please?" Car-na-rol-i. How can she make an ingredient sound like that? How can she make it so incredibly sensuous? And why do I feel an urge to slobber and go woof?
I find the rice and measure out the right amount.
"Here," she says, taking the rice and placing my hand on the saucepan with the oil and softened onions, into which she pours the rice. "The stock is ready. You can make the risotto." I've never made risotto. This will not go well. And her voice is not helping me concentrate on cooking.
Somehow, sensing my unease, she carries on: "It's easy, just let it simmer and let your instincts guide you." She places the wooden spoon in my hand and then puts the first ladle of stock onto the rice. "Just play
" CONCENTRATE. "Turn the heat up with the stock for a moment, and then stir. Gently, then quickly, then perhaps softly, sometimes circle this way, sometimes that way, other times stoke the stock into the rice. Vary the rhythms, dance with the risotto, play with it." CONCENTRATE. MUST CONCENTRATE. "Lead the risotto, and then let it lead you, tease it, caress it, then add more stock and keep the play going and going."
I swallow far too loudly and nervously, and she busies herself with the final preparations of the roast pumpkin, parsley and parmesan.
As I stir, and combine, every few minutes, Vera comes over and rests her head on my shoulder. Her right hand glides gently along my arm until it rests on my hand and can gently guide me. "Pianissimo", I hear as she slows my hand. Other times it is "forte", as she raises the urgency, then "mezzo piano" as our hands slow. Sometimes her other hand reaches round in a caress.
"I'm almost done," I manage to say, as the last of the stock is almost gone.
POP. I jump.
"Perfect timing. Prosecco?" She smiles, and we add the final ingredients.
We never got round to the Tokaji.