‘Mr Bannington-Blythe is home Rosa, please bring the tray’.
Rosa started as she heard Glenda’s voice. She’d been completely engrossed in aligning the leather bound books on the bookshelves.
‘"¿Qué?… ¿perdón Meesis?’,
she looked hunted, scared. Glenda slowed down her speech,
‘Mr Bannington-Blythe is home, please bring the tray’.
Rosa squinted slightly,
‘Meester is home?’
she pronounced ‘home’ as if she were attempting clear a fish bone from her throat. Glenda bit her lip and tried again,
‘Yes Rosa, Meester- MR is home’.
Rosa nodded, performed a slight curtsy and hurried from the room. Not for the first time Glenda resisted the urge to cry with laughter, it barely seemed possible that a female Manuel could exist. The agency that had sent her Rosa had enlivened her life immeasurably.
She turned to watch her husband struggle out of his car. It was a sleek machine named after a large and powerful cat. She often pondered the mismatch as she observed how he had to lever himself out of the plush leather seats. His portly frame wedged against the steering wheel and he had to use two hands to wrench himself up, trapping his foot in the door during the process. He lumbered around to the boot and removed his briefcase. She noted his pinstripe trousers a little too short, and the mound of fat straining against his Jermyn Street shirt.
Rosa bumbled back into the room with a crash; it was a minor miracle that the decanter had remained intact during her six months of service.
‘Thank-you Rosa, I’ll see to the rest’.
Rosa nodded, tripped slightly on the thick rug and then was gone. Glenda removed the lid of the ice bucket and carefully dropped two cubes into a heavy crystal tumbler. As her husband entered the room she poured him three fingers of whisky, enjoying the crack of the ice cubes as they bobbed in the amber liquid.
‘Good evening darling’ she smiled, ‘how was your day?’
Roger Bannington-Blythe grunted,
‘Bloody awful, have you looked at our share price today? ‘
Glenda was used to this rhetorical question and assumed her usual sympathetic look. As Roger droned on about stocks, shares and the sheer incompetence of all those around him, she wondered if Cook would overdo the green beans for dinner. Glenda observed that Roger's monologue made no mention of his pert young assistant, Angela, although she was fairly sure that he’d spent a sweaty and heaving ten minutes with her sometime before lunch. The urge often seemed to take him when he was hungry, she’d noted. And he did have a terrible weakness for blondes.
When he’d finished, she cleared her throat,
‘Judy Wainscot called me today’
she announced brightly. Roger was shaking out the pink pages of the Financial Times, his overgrown eyebrows frowning at the headlines.
‘Hmmm? What’s that?’
he shifted position slightly and broke wind.
‘I said, ‘Judy Wainscot called me today, she..’
‘Telephoned!' he bellowed, 'She telephoned you! Good grief woman, did they teach you nothing at Roedean? On THIS side of the Atlantic, we say ‘telephoned’’,
he tutted and harrumphed as he gulped down his whisky.
It often happened around this time of day. Glenda - for a brief instant - floated up and saw herself from above. She saw the pearls he’d given her - ‘these were Mummy’s darling, if you are only half the woman she was, I’ll be happy’ - her cashmere cardigan, the neat a-line skirt and the sensible handmade leather shoes. She noted the red lipstick that she was sure he didn’t like, too tarty. As she watched, her perfectly manicured hand reached for the knife with which she sliced lemons for her Gin and Tonic. It was always on the tray that Rosa carried into the room. Her heavy diamond ring glinted as she crossed the room to her husband’s chair. As the knife plunged in just left of his windpipe, she noted with disgust that even in extremis he broke wind.
‘I’m so sorry darling, well as I was saying, Judy Wainscot telephoned me this morning, and they would be delighted to come to dinner on Friday. Do you remember you talked to Jeremy about it at the clubhouse? I’ll have Cook braise a leg of lamb, and we may have marinated peaches for dessert, it’s been so warm recently, I think a light dessert will be perfectly adequate’.
Roger looked up disinterestedly,
‘What’s that? Friday? Oh gawd, Jeremy is such a bloody bore, did I really invite them?’
‘Yes dear, don’t you remember? You’d just - what was the phrase - pulverised him on the golf course and in your delight insisted that they should come round to dinner’.
Roger shook his head,
‘Sorry, don’t think I can make it. John Peachy-Havington has demanded we have a drink at the club on Friday, I can hardly say no to someone of his standing now can I?’
He chortled at the very idea and clumsily rearranged his scrotum, belching as he did so.
Glenda’s hand twitched on the knife as she quickly and deftly pierced the flesh of the lemon. She added ice to her glass and a long slug of gin. There was no need for tonic today. She walked to the window and touched the roses in the vase.
‘Oh dear, well that is a shame. Judy was telling me that Freya is down from Cambridge for the summer. She thought it would be such a hoot if Freya came and served us canapés during the apéritif. She thinks that Freya is getting a little above herself, and it won’t do her any harm to do some menial work’, Glenda gave a short, little laugh, ‘Do you know she even suggested that Freya should wear a maid’s outfit, you know one of those short little black dresses, with a frilly white apron over the top. Mind you, Freya certainly has the legs for it, she’s been picked for the kick boxing team Judy was saying, and her thighs are rock solid. Well never mind, I’ll just telephone Judy and cancel, perhaps we’ll do it after the summer. Maybe we could invite…’
She turned when Roger coughed and spluttered. He was still rearranging his scrotum she noticed.
‘Do you know what darling? I think I’ll get out of drinks with Peachy-Havington on Friday. It would be bad form to cancel the Wainscots. And what’s the name of their girl, Freya you say? Good Gawd, I haven’t seen her for a long while…’
his voice tailed off and his expression became dreamy,
‘…yes, I remember her, last Summer wasn’t it? When we had that Wimbledon party and everyone came dressed up. Oh yes, she wore that little white outfit…’
He met Glenda’s steely eye and there was no mistaking the sneer that curled her perfect red lips.
‘Good!’ she exclaimed brightly. ‘I’ll telephone Judy tomorrow. And we’ll have Cook make some of those tomato and tapenade canapés, I’m sure Freya will simply love serving you’
Glenda moved away from the window, downing her gin in one smooth movement. She set the glass down rather noisily on the tray, and then reached for the small silver bell on the table. Rosa appeared in an instant.
‘Serve Mr Bannington-Blythe more whisky, Rosa’ she commanded, ‘I must just check that Cook hasn’t overdone the green beans’.
With that Glenda strode quickly from the room.
Now, perhaps we’ll never know the full details of what went on at the Bannington-Blythe’s dinner party. I‘m not even sure that Freya was ever really going to come; that may just have been Glenda‘s ruse to ensure she could spend a pleasant evening with the Wainscots. However, I have it on the best authority that the canapés were delicious.
Glenda Bannington-Blythe's Tapenade and Tomato Canapés
I know, I know, this is hardly cooking is it? More of a method...but if it's good enough for the Bannington-Blythe's, isn't it good enough for you?
For the toasts:
6-8 slices of gluten free bread (or wholemeal 'regular' bread if you can tolerate it)
a pinch of dried mixed herbs
olive oil to brush
For the tapenade:
200g black olives
lemon juice to taste
2-3 tbsps olive oil
Cherry tomatoes to garnish
ground black pepper
- Start with the tapenade, which will keep up to three days in the fridge
- Place the drained olives, capers, a squeeze of lemon juice and a tbsp of olive oil into a blender
- Switch on the blender
- Taste and add more lemon juice if required, if it's a little too thick, add some more olive oil
- You know, to many people that might actually constitute cooking, mightn't it? I'm really not feeling so bad about my lightweight recipe now. Like I said, good enough for the Bannington-Blythe's...
- Pre-heat the grill on your oven
- Using a cookie cutter (larger than the one in the picture if you wish), cut out rounds from the gluten free bread
- Mix the olive oil and dried herbs together, then use a pastry brush to brush the bread circles with the herby olive oil
- Place the bread rounds under the grill until lightly browned and sizzling, this will hardly take any time
- Remove from the heat, turn them over, then lightly toast again
- Remove from the heat, then spread the toasts with tapenade and garnish with a cut cherry tomato
- Add a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of ground black pepper ( I do believe I forgot to do that before I photographed my babies. Wow, I am human after all)
- Wriggle into your short, tight maid's outfit, and shimmy out to your guests. Watch out for the old fart in the corner with hair growing out of his ears and a roving eye, that's Roger, and his hand will be up your skirt sooner than you can say, 'Listen fat cat, you might be rich but you're an ugly toad and your nasal hair repulses me'
© Pig in the Kitchen 2008