Dining on Lemons

How to describe my wife’s face?

Carefully, obviously.

But pert, pretty, provocative. All of those. And one other…

“Blimey,” I said lovingly, “You look like a bulldog chewing a wasp.”

“No, I don’t,” she replied, “I look like a woman being forced to eat a lemon. Which is exactly what I am doing.”

“Yeah, Dad…”

My sons joined in enthusiastically. Once their pained expressions had returned to normal.

I’d cooked Lemon Chicken you see. No, I didn’t bother with the recipe. Real men don’t eat quiche and they don’t use recipes either.

Chicken, lemon, garlic, crème fraiche, pasta. How could you ruin that? Recipe? Go and see Delia.

I cooked the chicken breast in lemon juice: plenty of it. Last time I didn’t really get the subtle hint of lemon I wanted. Cooled, sliced and into the wok. With a bit more lemon juice. Add the pasta, crème fraiche, pepper, and – let’s make sure we get that subtle hint – some freshly grated zest.

“Alright, alright,” I said. “I may have overdone it slightly.”

“It’s awful, Dad.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“You’re right. It’s worse. Just be grateful Jessica’s not here to tell you.”

I blame Keith Floyd. Those early TV programme stamped my cooking indelibly. No recipes, just sweat the onions and garlic. Chop the tomatoes. Take a big glug of red wine.

Nine times out of ten that’s how I start. And that’s clearly where I went wrong with the lemon chicken.

Anyway Keith’s gone now – blimey, six years ago – and I’m left with Rick Stein. Quite why when I’ve never caught a fish in my life is something of a mystery. But I watched Venice to Istanbul and if the tourist board of Croatia want a blogger to eat and drink his way through their country I’m right here…

Back at the dining table the faces of Tom, Ben and my lovely wife hadn’t improved.

“Do you want the recipe to take back to uni, Tom?”

“Frankly, Dad, I’d rather eat my own toenails.”

That was probably a ‘no’ then.

“You need to widen your repertoire, Tom. You can’t go through an entire degree course on sausages and pesto.”

“Three years down, Dad. One to go.”

I had to concede the point. So far sausages and pesto seem to have served Tom remarkably well. But that didn’t stop me sending him back with fingers crossed and a few alternatives from Master Grossman.

Meanwhile Ben was making his excuses and leaving the table. He’s got a part-time job now. Waiter. Friday night and Saturday night. And guess what? We’ve had to pay for him to go to work.

“Yep, I start on Friday night,” he said as I collected him from the interview.

“Brilliant,” I said. “What do you have to wear?”

“Black or white shirt: black trousers.”

“That’s good, you’ll be able to wear your old school shirt and trousers.”

His sister couldn’t have looked at me with more contempt. You can guess the conversation. Friday morning predictably found my wife in Next.

New black trousers: rather stylish black shirt. Slimfit, naturally. What is it with the shirts my sons wear? I have sleeves that are wider.

“When do you need collecting?”

“When I finish. Duh…”

You know, that’s not what you want to hear on a Friday night. Long week, glass of red wine, another glass of red wine… Instead it’s ‘stay sober and alert until I send you a text.’

Not that the burden falls on me: I’m an early-to-bed early-to-rise bloke. Jane’s the late night taxi driver. But I had to make an effort. “There’s some lemon chicken left if he’s hungry when he comes in…”

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here

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