I sit at the foot of the bed, staring slack-jawed at a Russian news show. One of those satellite channels you only ever come across in hotel rooms. The panel members are using words like “financials” (can you really pluralise that?) and “bullish” (where, I wonder, is the missing “t”?).
K is lying on the bed, casually leafing through a property development brochure. We’re in a chalet on the grounds of an exclusive golf club and resort. The suit has had another dusting off and is hanging on the wardrobe door as she gets up to run a bath.
I think I may have died and gone to hell.
Now the dance, the ridiculous waltz of preparation; K will castigate me for not getting ready. It’s nearly time! Why am I just sitting here? Why am I not shaving? Why do I always do this? There will be raised voices, maybe even a couple of tears. Then I will get ready. In precisely ten minutes. And then she won’t be ready. When she finally is (multiple costume changes and two completely different hairstyles later) I must admit she doesn’t look too shabby. We go to the clubhouse.
It is evident from the off that this is not a British arranged affair; female guests arriving at the top of the steps that lead to the clubhouse have a red rose foisted upon them by a waiting attendant who has a huge tray of the things and looks like he means business; the roses do not appear to be in any way optional. Elegantly dressed ladies adorn the foyer inside, a drink in one hand and their compulsory bloom in the other – their efforts to get hold of the passing canapés thus severely hampered.
The canapés: dollops of apple purée supporting orbs of fresh cheese sprinkled with toasted nuts, fried chorizos on unnecessarily long sticks, seafood salad on disposable plastic spoons, delicious fish balls in a rich sauce, filo parcels of cheese and leek and strips of anchovy draped across little slices of crusty bread.
Ok maybe it’s not hell exactly.
In one corner a rather intense looking chap has set up a bellota ham on a jamonera and is carving it in a manner I can only describe as angry. Bellota is popular round these parts and as skilful as he is he can’t keep up with the demand from guests who loiter nearby and swoop in frequently – the platter in front of the ham is perpetually on the point of being empty and he appears increasingly harassed and frantic until he brusquely picks up the jamonera and leaves in a huff.
As tempting as the food is none of the ladies appear ruthless enough just yet to abandon their roses although later when the disco starts up (someone please kill me) they can be found everywhere – the vacated tables strewn with them. K – ever the pragmatist – collects some to bring home with us.
Music is always a bit of an issue at these things isn’t it? Tonight I learn that an Italian gala dinner can be every bit as questionable in that regard as a British or Irish one. After an eternity of loungy, laid back jazz (music with the music removed), one of the Italians gets up to sing.
As disconcerting as it is to watch a balding insurance broker rampage his way through a version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here he is quite the entertainer, judging from the grimaces of emotion and giggles of delight around the dining room. I myself am not convinced. I wonder how senior he is in the organisation and whether anyone will dare offer a critique. I think not.
Still, there is some good news that goes along with the evening’s Italian flavour – the food is good. The fish course in particular sorts the men from the boys. K has already had me warn the caterers not to put any seafood in front of her but everyone else – expecting a fillet of seabass – is confronted with a carabinero.
Caribinero, Scarlet Gamba Prawn, Plesiopenaeus edwardsianus. Call it what you like – it’s huge and looks like it might be dangerous. The sea bass is actually underneath but it will be a few moments before I get over the initial shock and realise it. How to get past this beast to my fish?
I grit my teeth and get to work. It looks like a shrimp so I treat it like one, ripping off its head and peeling its tail for the edible meat. This takes a while. The flavour is strong – much stronger than its smaller cousins. Another culinary first at alotofwind.com.
I have been eyeing these monsters up for months in the supermarket but hadn’t mustered the necessary resolve to buy one – I’m insatiably curious when it comes to food and wouldn’t have been happy till I had tried.
Strange that I had to find myself amongst a contingent of Italian insurance brokers, at a company bash hosted by their Gibraltar based accounts managers and in a decidedly expat golf club to finally sink my teeth into one, but you never know what’s going to happen, do you?