The Longest Meal

I adore eating.  I always have.  There’s not a lot of food that I don’t like, and even less that I won’t try once.  I think about it far too much.  My meals are often planned a day ahead.  I always have to pre-discuss where we’ll grab food if I’m meeting friends around noon.  I browse through cookbooks just to salivate at the luscious photos.  And I have an ever-growing ‘Wanderlist’ of recipes waiting to be tried.  Food uses up an embarrassingly large percentage of my brain wattage each day.

For someone who loves their dinner (and breakfast and lunch! 😛 ), I don’t dine out that often.  As well as not having a big enough pension to do so, eating out is tiring for me.  I find it hard work to continually support my body on upright restaurant chairs, and the busy environment zaps my energy.  Furthermore, since October, I have developed hyper-reactive lungs that hate smoke and candles and strong fumes.  Yep restaurants are full of all three!  All of our favourite haunts are now out-of-bounds for seven months of the year, as have roaring open fires and atmospheric tea lights everywhere!  We seldom ate out before, but now it’s even rarer. :-/ So when Phil and I do manage to wine and dine, it’s a treat.  Consequently we want to try everything on the menu!  Unfortunately as we have neither the purses nor the stomachs for that, we settle on picking different dishes and sharing them.  Yep we literally chop them in half, so we can each try both.  Amazingly we’ve never had an argument about unfairly divided plates! 😛 

This month Phil and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.  To mark a wonderful decade as Team Marshall, we decided to dine out somewhere way above our normal league, and way above our normal budget.  A Michelin Star restaurant!!  The Nut Tree Inn in Oxfordshire fitted the bill perfectly.  I’ve only once experienced fine dining before, and rather embarrassingly, ended up nipping to McDonald’s on the way home to fill up my stomach!  However this time, to prevent hunger from tiny portions, and to allow us to try everything on offer… we decided to opt for a tasting menu!  What a perfect invention for people who are greedy and struggle to pick just one meal!

It was the longest meal of my life.  FOUR hours of indulgent eating!  Heaven!  We were given nine official courses, plus some extra treats also.  The first fare -cold tomato soup- was not good.  In fact, after only sipping half, I gave it to Phil to finish.  Incredibly tasty, but very odd as a chilled dish.  I decided the chef would probably throw his Michelin star at me if I asked him to put it in the microwave! 😛  Thankfully every course after that was incredible.  Each was tastier and more delicious than the last.  Whenever the waiter collected our dirty plates, I would declare to him that that was the best dish yet… before repeating myself after the next offering!  The food was a riot of taste and texture sensations, every element cleverly selected to perfectly accompany the rest of the plate.  Some parts I’d never previously tried- wobbly jelly made from tomatoes, gold encrusted chocolate.  And some parts were just incredibly tasty and fancy versions of classic favorites- steak and mash, a fabulous cheeseboard.  Every course must have taken an age to prepare.  The tiny crystal balls atop the ‘cheesecake’ were a whole recipe alone- made by dropping very hot lime juice into very cold oil, and then scooping out and washing each tiny bubble created!  My favourite dish was the sea bream; the pea and mint sauce was immense!  After four hours of glorious food and glorious conversation, we eventually rolled ourselves out.  My lungs had coped admirably, as we’d blown out all the candles near us, and sat by the open patio doors.  My body had managed to sit upright for hours without any complaint.  And I’d even worn a dress that wasn’t too tight so wouldn’t restrict my breathing when my stomach grew!  Success!

As we drove home full of smiles and love and food, we continued reminiscing about the past decade, and planning the next to come.  It was a perfect celebration.  And we didn’t go anywhere near a McDonald’s drive-through!


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