The primary reason one so cheerfully anticipates dining with my friend is that he is a superb cook. He expends considerable time in the selective acquisition (or seasonal production on his acreage) of the ingredients. He is as well an international vagabond who regularly revels in fine dining (whether in exotic urban restaurants or quaint seaside establishments) and a gentleman who over the past 35 years has deliberately acquainted himself with the talents and emulation of other qualified cooks. His culinary productions are cosmopolitan and skilfully prepared and assembled. He as well invariably proves himself a tireless host - in spite of which he is unflaggingly personable and socially provocative. One is forever predicted to enjoy a well-tuned experience of both food and intellect.
Nor were we in the least disappointed tonight. We were seven at table, all people who were familiar to one another and who had dined together before. In our customary habit we initially rallied on the patio overlooking the back meadow. The transition there from the country kitchen (where we first congregated to gather glasses of wine and flutes of Champagne) took some time and instruction from our host. But the laying of plates and mountains of victuals on the deck table soon lured us into the very agreeable evening air. We were in addition within reach of the outdoor barbecue from which subsequently appeared a succession of sausage, shrimp and pork ribs. This was by way of complement to a further collection of homemade cured salmon gravlax with sour pearl onions, fig bread, Swiss cheese, ripe olives, white baguette, dry sausage and pâté de foie gras.
Though the crowd protested that we couldn't possibly endure any further indulgence, we collectively thwarted our reservation upon the appearance of the first mosquito and willingly headed back indoors to the dining room for what our host promised was a further supply of healthful nourishment - this time predominantly vegetables and salad concoctions.
Refreshed by the country air and the delicious starters, we boisterously communicated with one another as we prepared to seat ourselves at table. Momentarily the supplemental repast began its arrival and we passed the serving plates among ourselves. Once again the arrangement and combination of ingredients was nonpareil! Though we had imagined our appetites to have waned, there remained little if anything in the serving dishes. We succeeded perfectly to balance our meal from start to finish.
There was however yet the dessert - a choice of homemade cheese cake and meringue prepared by Her Ladyship. From the moment of the first sample of the cake there were groans of approval. The meringue produced a similar response. Between mouthfuls of food and sips of wine we shared with one another our opinions and prejudices about travel, employment, health, investment, whiskey, impromptu socializing, house-husbands, motherhood, child rearing, home improvement, economy and retirement.
Nearly five hours after our arrival we precipitously rose from the table, embraced one another and headed into the night. The sky was black and dotted with stars.