I’m sitting at my desk, which is now in my bedroom. I love that there is space for a desk in here: perfect for an intrepid (read wannabe) writer: when I cannot sleep I sit here and write, a cup of tea at my elbow…

Tomorrow night I will have a first dinner party here, in the new place. I smiled at myself earlier this week: I had been obsessing about what to cook for an ex husband and his girlfriend, and a couple who have been friends of my boyfriend’s for a very long time. I hate to confess that I really want to impress!! So, yes, I talked it through with my therapist!

And, now that I have explored the unconscious stuff around that, I am able to start cooking. I have started cooking actually: I work until after midday tomorrow, and when you hear the menu, you will understand why there is an enamelled cast iron pot with soffrito slowly caramelising in my kitchen as I write here…a whole day before my guests arrive.

The menu was inspired by a gift, an offering almost, of a shoulder of Springbok, hunted by this ex husband, which he gave me, vacuum packed and frozen, from his freezer a couple of weeks ago.

So, to start we will have bruscetta: toasted, sliced ciabbata rubbed with garlic, with heaps of oven roasted baby romano tomatoes(which are also slowly being cooked in the oven as we speak), and thinly sliced coppa….The coppa( bought on my behalf by my the same ex who will be here) directly from where it is made by Roberto of Fama: he has been buying that and chourico there for years…

Then, a venison ragu with papardelle, followed by pannacotta with fresh berries: blueberries, blackberries and raspberries steeped in marsala, and maybe a touch of cinnamon, and honey(the way I had it recenly, or almost the way a good friend made it: he added aloe juice)….I will make the papardelle myself: tomorrow afternoon after I have put the pannacotta into the fridge to set. I will have just enough time to do that…

I hope it does not rain: I will set a long table out in the pretty courtyard at the back, the french doors of my kitchen flung open….a tablecloth which was a gift from my beloved mom draped over it, sparkling wine cooling in a silver (plated, sigh!!) bucket, glasses catching the flicker of candles…. Flowers, probably roses….I think at least half the pleasure I derive from cooking for people is from the planning… and the picture I create in my head of what I’d like to present them with…

I have not cooked venison in years: I grew up with a hunting-fishing kind of father (and therefore brothers) and a mother who did not mind getting up to her elbows in processing game carcasses…I remember my father coming back from hunting trips, smelling of wood smoke and two or three days stubble on his face and cigarettes and faint sweet alcohol (brandy and coke) on his breath as he kissed me hello, a carcass over his shoulders, literally flinging it, skinned and gutted onto the kitchen table. My mom would process the meat: biltong cuts steeped in a special brine and spice mix in an enamel bath which used to be a baby’s bath(I even probably was bathed in it before it took on another incarnation), and then mincing the other meat for dried wors, her mincer clamped to the same table… and the next day that smell which I cannot to this day tolerate would permeate house: of the last bits of flesh being cooked from the bones to make venison pie with.

So, when I add the meat to the pot to brown soon, and then the red wine (a very drinkable shiraz which no doubt I shall have the leftovers of) and fresh sage leaves and surprisingly: salted anchovy fillets, to slowly transform a chunk of raw, bloody wild meat to a fragrant, meltingly meaty and hopefully impressive ragu, I shall be thinking of my father, and my mother, and a childhood home, and an ex husband who after ten years is suddenly, surprisingly back in my life: an offer of fond friendship and many evenings of food and wine with the woman whom he loves now, and me and the man I love now…

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