Friday, July 13, 2018

The country gentleman

Secreted among the ancient bushes, oak and willow trees along a meandering country lane near the Village of Ashton is the charming 75-acre estate of a country gentleman. We had been invited there by the lord of the manor to delight in an afternoon of warm sunshine and cool invigoration in the meadow pool.  In keeping with the feudal tradition of exchange of land for service or labour, we vassals (the interloping tenants) proposed to expiate our homage by preparing an evening meal.

Though the putative theme of the meal was a Caesar salad, we embellished by adding steamed lobsters and a lemon cake for dessert.  Our host was as always generous to a fault.  He supplemented the midsummer picnic by adding a homemade gazpacho soup and the flavourful combination of spicy green pepper sautéed in olive oil and Maldon salt - "pimentos de Padrón" - cooked on searing heat in a cast iron pan.

Precedent to putting on the nosebag we languished by the pool as the sun declined behind the outbuildings and surrounding emerald forest.  First there was a refreshing dip in the salt-water pool.  The heat of the day was nicely tranquillized in preparation of our resort to the deck for the appetizers.  We cheerfully reminisced about the day's agenda, aimlessly perambulating throughout the twisting subjects peculiar to impromptu conversation, never quite certain where we intended to go.

When the mosquitoes successfully reclaimed their territory (and our delicate skins) we - amid the company of the faithful family dog - retired to the interior of the historic stone house where we assembled the victuals for the main course. The process was in marked distinction from what normally prevails; namely, our worthy host was spared all but the most simplified domestic obligations. For one thing there was nothing for him to cook or cut - all was in readiness (though shamefully I confess to have forgotten to squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon into the toxic garlic dressing for the salad). Dreamily alighted by small candles over the expansive country kitchen table we reawakened ourselves to the not insignificant talent of eating lobster-in-the -shell, swirling in hot salted butter, some of us manifesting a skill for the most arcane features of the delectable crustacean.

While at table - after summarizing the current state of the Ontario medical system - we ventured into the ticklish politics of Donald J. Trump. Both were a pursuit of apocryphal detail of equally doubtful authenticity.  Yet we asserted our respective theses with the gusto of a nutritious meal and a suitable drink. It was after ten o'clock before we rose from our seats and withdrew.

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