Quick as boiled asparagus.
They were foodies. Not like you and I are. Real ones, the kind that write books and have scars from oven racking. The kind that don't care about knives, as long as they're sharp. They were coming round for dinner, and I was cooking.
The night before I'd gone to the pub. There, I met my nemesis: a white guy with dreads dressed in a pea coat and chef's pants. He said, you're the coffee guy, aren't you? I said I was. He said he loved my coffee, it was the best. I often hear that from people I see little of, but I thanked him for his kind words. It was the pub after all.
I drank till I could drink no more. With my head resting on the tiles above the trough and filling it for the last time of the night, there he was again. Hey, he said, do you want a joint? I said that was very kind of him but would he mind popping it in my pocket as my head was stuck to the wall.
The foodie dinner party was going swimmingly. A barnyardy Fougeres had been uncorked and in foodie communion we sat around the rustic table and popped broad beans for Locatelli's broad bean, olive and mint crostini. They were impressed. I could tell. Next was Ottolenghi's asparagus with boiled eggs and capers. A fantastic dish of few ingredients which looks Michelin on the plate. Then I remembered the joint. I went to my coat, hooked it out, sparked it up and shared it round. I put the asparagus on. Now, it had been six months since I'd smoked and suddenly there I was in the familiar fug and I was retelling that story where I fell down the mountain. I was full of myself. There was much talk of capers and eggs. I said they were natural bedfellows. All agreed. Asparagus! we regaled each other with the tales: the growing, the white, the snapping, and so forth. I spoke knowingly and was well regarded. l thought. All was going swimmingly.
The Emperor Augustus, yes, that one. After whom the month of August is named. Luckily, as its previous incarnation was Sextilis, said something I have always remembered - quick as boiled asparagus. That's what he'd say. I want it done, quick as boiled asparagus. I was just about to inform everyone of this nugget when I remembered I was boiling asparagus.
I turned back to the pot. Have you ever seen what happens to asparagus when it's been boiled for fifteen minutes? The florets explode. The stalks wilt. Wilt being too mild a term. I'd murdered the asparagus. I took what I could out. They hung limp from the tongs and dripped the last of their blood into the lurid green water. I got a slotted spoon. Bastard Ottolenghi. I should have started again, thought on my feet, magicked up something from store cupboard ingredients then sprinkled it with dukka and too much lemon zest, but I was too stoned. I just stared. I cringed to the table and put the plates down. The woman, one of the two, picked up a stalk and the head fell off. It slapped the plate and leaked. I whimpered an apology. She wrapped the stalk around her finger. Twice. That was very funny. The man, the other one, tied it in a knot which made my wife cry in amusement, because it was, indeed, very hilarious. I said we have chicken marinated overnight with prunes and pomegranate molasses, but they were uninterested. They were plaiting. They were wondering if they could make a belt. I served the chicken, which is a great dish, and everyone liked it, but there was no forgetting the asparagus. They asked if I knew which farm it came from. I reluctantly admitted that I did. I tried to talk about pomegranates, but they shook their heads in foodie grief. Poor farmer, they said mournfully, all that work, for green spaghetti. Non dente, said my wife. I glared at her. I tried to blame Ottolenghi and I tried to blame the joint but I knew where the fault really lay. The dreaded Pea-coat.