The new Tuscan restaurant was having a series of parties to introduce it to the capital’s foodatti, and with my wife qualifying in more ways than one, she was delighted to be invited to graze at the table. Literally. Having mwah-ed her way through the celebrities and other diners, and having migrated from shiraz to apple martini in the blink of an eye, it wasn’t long before she was making a buffet of the floral arrangement at the high table.
It’s true that the arrangement looked edible, consisting of several varieties of exotic flowers, but supported also by many more varieties of grapes and other unusual fruit that had been skewered in with toothpicks that, alas, were no match for my wife’s dexterity. While I decided between ravioli and risotto, chicken rolls and arugula, she began by picking the plumpest of the pink grapes that are best when paired with cheese. “Darling,” said a horrified guest to her side, “you can’t eat these, they don’t look washed.” “That,” said my wife, munching away with abandon, “is just the blush,” stretching out her hand to reach for a bunch of green grapes. “Oh dear,” said another guest, “those grapes were right next to the anthuriums that, as everyone knows, are highly toxic.” “Send me an SMS in the morning — if you’re still alive,” cackled another wickedly.
Around us, restaurant regulars were being served an a la carte choice, unlike our pre-plated menus that, like an airline meal, were essentially split between a preference for veg and non-veg. By my side, the gentleman, however, was having his sea-bass after a scrumptious looking seafood salad, while right opposite me the diner was ululating about the quality of her tenderloin. Ignoring their sighs of appreciation, my wife reached once more for the centrepiece, plucking out the mangosteens that alert waiters hastily removed from her hand, perhaps because they were stale, or because they had overheard the conversation about the toxic touch of the anthuriums. They also removed the other fruit – chikoos, apples and strange berries that perhaps had been spoilt through skewering – serving her instead a platter of fruit that had been washed and wiped clean of any traces of dirt, but which my wife ignored, plucking away, still, at the forbidden fruit that stubbornly clung to what remained of the floral arrangement.
Not that it was anything new, for we in the family were only too aware that she would be the one opting for the onion rings instead of the kebabs on a platter, choosing the wilting lettuce and the wood-like flowers hacked out of carrots from the canapé tray, and dismissing the dessert only to come home and spill open a purse full of pinched sugar sachets. Depending on the size of that purse, it could include purloined bread and cold cuts, a dinner plate, and our mismatched collection of forks and knives set out at parties provided an indication of the many restaurants we had dined or been entertained at to their cost.
Among her best party tricks is to snap her fingers at a waiter and order him to carry a flower arrangement or two to the car with such authority that no one has the temerity to question or stop her. I don’t know if there are any red-eye notices against her pinned up in the innermost recesses of hotel restaurants, but if the toothpicks holding down the fruit in the arrangement at the new restaurant provided any indication, I think they’re at least on to her.