Friday, 8 July 2011

Red mullet with black olives

I can't do parties anymore. I used to be really good at them, but I just can't anymore. I can't drink, I can't make conversation and I can't stay up late.

It makes me feel like such a dick. I used to love a party. Though I was never, let's face it, the first or the last one on the dance floor or the one swept out with the fag butts at 5am, I went, I drank, I laughed, I had a good time.

Now when an invitation drops on our doormat I make a face. My husband and I argue briefly about whether or not we should go and we always decided that we probably ought to because otherwise we will just go mouldy sitting at home watching Californication.

I think about what to wear three minutes before we leave and end up putting on the same plain back jersey dress I have been wearing to parties for about 5 years, "jazzed" up with whichever necklace I bought from Anthropologie most recently. Then I put on eyeliner (but not mascara because it's such a pain to get off) while my husband puts the baby to bed.

I open the door to Kate, our teen babysitter who lives a few doors away, who is so thin and beautiful that I'd refuse to have her in the house if she wasn't so nice. I talk to Kate for a bit, wishing I was staying in watching telly with her, not least because her mum brings her dinner round and it always sounds really nice. But then we leave, driving (because I won't get pissed) and arrive unfashionably early. I gratefully suck down one aperitif, feel a bit dizzy, poke my dinner around and start wanting to go home at 11pm.

The other night we went to a party and the wife of a very famous person came to talk to me. We'd met before a few times. She was very drunk. "You've got suchajewish name," she slurred. "The MOST JEWISH NAME EVER," she shrieked. I stood there, with my hands in the pockets of my Topshop maternity jeans that I am still wearing and felt self-conscious in the not-very-me Gharani Strok blouse I bought from TK Maxx and gave her the smile I give to drunks and lunatics.

At least, I thought to myself, I am not wearing the black jersey thing.

"Do you smoke? Do you wanna fag?" she said. No, I don't smoke, I said. But I'll come and keep you company outside. "Do you wanna do a line?" she said and giggled. I blinked a few times and looked at her, feeling more square, I think, than I have ever felt in my life. I towered over her in my stupid clumpy Boden wedges. "I can't," I said. Which was not true. Of course I could. I just didn't want to. I should have just said that. "No thanks," I ought to have said. "I don't really want to." But instead I said something about having to get up early.

Then instead of vanishing as soon as her head was turned (drunks never notice when you do this) I actually accompanied her out into a street and stood there while she smoked a cigarette. I felt like I was back at school, hovering at the arm of the coolest girl in my year who will occasionally suffer my presence. There were a lot of people on the street from the party also smoking cigarettes, sucking up to the woman I was with because she is married to this very famous man and I felt like even more of a hanger-on and a wanker. But I didn't slip away back into the party. I just stood there, unable to think of anything to say. She finished her cigarette and we went back into the party. I walked in behind her and made my alarm face and frantic jazz hands at my husband behind her head.

She turned and suddenly threw her arms round me and blew a raspberry on my cheek and hissed "I don't like your husband much. My husband loves him. I don't really get it." Then she made a beeline for the bar.

It being 11pm, I insisted to my husband that we leave immediately.

This has been bothering me ever since. She has some children and a job, that woman. But she goes to parties and gets drunk and does drugs and makes a complete fucking mad spectacle of herself but she doesn't care and just carries on with her life regardless. Whereas I have one tiny baby and no job and I've decided this means that I can't ever drink again. Maybe I'm just using it as an excuse. Maybe I never enjoyed parties or drinking in the first place and domesticity is just a key to unlock my inner square and let her run free.

Olives are a thing that people always tell you to put with fish and I'm sceptical. But the other night we roasted a red mullet with lemon, parsley and black olives and it was terribly nice and worth doing if you can get your hands on a really fresh red mullet from somewhere.

I think this is from the River Cafe cookbook, which is always telling you to do things like put a fish in the oven covered with olive oil and a few select herbs and then charge £200 for it.

Red mullet with black olives

1 red mullet
about 20 black olives, roughly chopped
a large handful of parsley, roughly chopped
one lemon, halved
olive oil

1 Preheat your oven to 180C.

2 Wash the fish and put it in a roasting dish or tin. Sprinkle over salt, drizzle over a good sloop or two of olive oil, scatter over the parsley and olives and put the halves of lemon, cut side down either side of the fish.

3 Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes.

I think we had this with new potatoes. Or it could have been sourdough. At any rate, it was really very nice. And I hate fish.

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