It’s yet another Sunday afternoon, and I have just started preparations for dinner tonight: I’m making a favourite chicken in white wine stew with gremolata, originally from John Pawson and Annie Bell’s book, Living and Eating which I bought years ago really only because of the simple but evocative title, and have loved cooking from, and just looking at and reading. I will serve that with mashed potatoes and a simple green salad. Every breath that I take as I sit typing here is redolent with that particular fragrance of cooked off wine and tomatoes and rosemary and garlic and chicken portions simmering away in a new white enamelled cast iron pot in the open plan galley style kitchen which I can see from here: an early birthday gift from my lover.
Tonight I’m having my longest standing friend and his partner over: he truly is my longest standing friend: we always somewhat gleefully tell people that we have been friends for close to 45 years, remembering a time when we as very little children first got to know one another, shyly, playing in adjacent back yards separated only by wire fencing woven into a diamond style pattern, on which a vine of granadilla had started twisting it’s fast growing tendrils, and we would season after season, even though we didn’t know it then, pluck them when almost withered looking and discover a fruit very different from the peaches and apricots which we knew well as children and in which trees we used to play: his parents had a huge orchard of fruit trees in their back yard.
I felt quite nostalgic, peeling potatoes with certain, rhythmic precision from long years of practice, thinking about our long history together: from little playmates, to pen pals when his parents moved away, to firm friends studying together for our matric finals, but secretly dreaming about a life after growing up in that small town when we both would be away at varsity and having Lives very different to our parents’ perceived parochial existance. I of course, had a crush on him,(I always had a crush on one or the other boy) and accompanied him to his matric dance: he was the head boy at the English High school; I went to the equivalent Afrikaans school. He never even tried to kiss me, much to my then unnameable exasperation, my inexperienced body trembling with his nearness as we sat with bent heads over our summaries of Biology notes, and watching him expertly cook us a steak during study break, in his mother’s kitchen, with real butter(my mom used margarine only) and fresh garlic(no garlic, fresh or otherwise in my mother’s kitchen: my father detested it in food) and a splash of wine to deglaze the pan, though at that time I did not know the term for that…
It was only after I met his boyfriend and now life partner, that it all fell into place: I didn’t for years even after varsity, know that he was gay, since we lost contact when he left the country rather than go to the army which was obligatory then. It has been 20 years since we renewed our contact and have been close friends since, him and his partner and myself and the men who have been in my life over that time.
So tonight we will no doubt have lots of sparkling wine, while he regales my new love with tales from my past, and stories from their present: a recent trip to China, and there will be appreciative comments from both of them about the food, and we will sit around the table for hours after the last plates have been cleared and saying goodbye there will be promises, and probably unspoken but fiercely wished for, of many more meals together.