For those that know me, cooking and Mrs Carmichael aren’t best bedfellows. We are not even kissing cousins in the kitchen sense. Particularly.
So, when my niece, L…… invited me to a Pampered Chef evening I thought she must have the wrong phone number/aunt. I’m sure she could hear the surprise in my voice and hastily told me that her mother, my s-i-l, was attending. She would, if I felt the need to fortify myself against the foodage preparation onslaught with a libation or three, drive me there and home again. Too kind. Unnecessary however because I do have a modicum of self restraint de temps en temps. This party could be one of those temps I decided.
The, out of the blue, invite fulfilled a number of recent rules penned by me, for myself in the wake of losing my one remaining dog and having more time on my hands. The pertinent follow:
1) Do more things.
2) Do more new things for longer.
3) Make new friends.
4) Drink less.
“Yes,” I said. “I’d love to.”
Having utterly no idea what I’d let myself in for I began to feel quite excited. Apparently it was to be a night of cooking, eating and shopping. Two thirds of these activities are particular favourites of mine.
Pampering is another thing I’m into and have found lacking in my life of late, so booted and spurred M……, my s-i-l, and I arrived at 7.30 prompt with with empty stomachs, wallets bulging and hearts aflutter. Stone cold sober.
We were given stick on name badges, sat down around a table with lots of utensils on it and asked if we’d been to a Pampered Chef party before.
“No,” we replied as we spelt our names out for the head chef and sales person, P…… Ours were easy to spell, remember and pronounce correctly. Not so Niamh’s it transpired. This beautiful, young teacher from County Derry proved, through the evening, to have a first name impossible for P……. to reconstitute with precision.
“Nam-ha, what about you?” she asked. “Have you been to a P C event before?”
It’s Niamh,” Niamh replied laughing. “Everyone over here gets it wrong. No, I haven’t.”
Does no one know the actress, Niamh Cussack? Doesn’t that help just a little?
“Why don’t you do some chopping now, Kn-ive? If you turn the red pepper over it’ll be easier.”
“It’s Niamh,” Niamh laughed along with the rest of us and chopped a slice of pepper badly.
“Pretend its someone you don’t like,” P…… instructed. “Take your frustrations out on it.”
Sorry, this child is too young and pretty to have frustrations big enough to make that chopper go through that pepper skin.
“I’ll have a go,” I said.
Pepper chopped we were onto the pastry.
B…… who was seated next to me and who had been brought by her daughter was onto her second glass of wine.
“I’ve got one of those dibber things,” she said rather loudly.
P…… jumped on this with alacrity. “How do you find it?”
“I haven’t actually used it yet,” B…… replied. “It looks like fun.”
We made this:
Pretty good huh?
Now, I don’t really eat pastry. But starving and not wanting to appear churlish I had a bit. It was quite nice. The ingredients chopped by my frustrations, fine and well balanced.
B…… had almost finished her bottle of wine and was getting louder.
“How old do you think my daughter is?” She lent into my right ear and shouted.
Oh God, no.
“I wasn’t a teen mum, if that helps.”
It did and knowing her daughter had teenage children I was back in control.
“Thirty two,” I guessed.
“Thirty five,” she yelled pleased, I think, with the progress of the conversation but then a distraction.
“I’ve got that,” she fog horned, waving her empty glass at a muffin tin. “Nothing sticks to it.”
“Exactly as promised,” P……. smiled. “Do you use it a lot?”
“Never got it out of the box,” B…… shouted. “I read the reviews though and bought it a couple of parties ago.”
A couple of parties ago? Her thirty two year old daughter was nodding.
“I got the mixing bowl at that one, didn’t I, Mum?”
“Yes,” blared B……
Under my hair I pushed my finger over that little triangle of ear flesh thankfully provided to protect ear drums.
“How do you find the bowl?” P…… asked.
“It’s still in the box,” the daughter replied. “What are you ordering this time, Mum?”
Thank goodness I wasn’t drinking. I managed a rapid eye swivel at my s-i-l who shares my sense of humour and was enjoying the derailment too. Her experience was not quite as dramatically sensurround as mine however. Sitting further away from B…… she was enjoying safer decibel levels.
The young professionals down the end of the table seemed to have forgotten that they were there to buy product and were chatting excitedly about their jobs. Two of them had admitted they lived with their parents anyway. Having been in sales for many years I would have concentrated on our table-end, in general and B…… plus daughter in particular, if I were P…….. but I wasn’t and she didn’t.
“Nia-m-ve,” she said somewhat timidly. ” Is that right?” The question an afterthought.
“No, it’s Niamh, ” Niamh said.
“Sorry, I just don’t seem to be able to get it right, do I?”
No, you really don’t.
“Will you slice the banana?” P…… asked her producing a machine of infinite complexity.
“Why can’t we use a knife?” I asked but was drowned out by B……
“Ooh, I’m going to put one of those on my wish list. I might get it at the next party.”
I subtly removed forefinger from ear to hear P…….’s reply to my question.
She hadn’t heard it and was now preparing pastry cases for the desert. Woe. This was turning into a diet night. But with my new half full mentality that meant another tick against the evening as a whole.
These are the cases:
Needless to say the finished product did not look much like this:
But apparently they tasted good.
Then we had a raffle and I won. I never win anything. Yea, I thought, a utensil. But no it was a tiny recipe pamphlet. Never mind, I don’t do recipes anyway.
I bought a coloured knife because it is really pretty
and my s-i-l bought the mother of all trifle bowls. I mean it’s gigantic. P……explained all the things M…… could use it for apart from filling it with trifle. It was almost 11.00 pm and our eyes were glazing a little. Here, pictorially then, are some of those things:
Believe it or not I had a brilliant evening. Utterly out of my comfort zone for oh so many reasons I enjoyed every last second of it and do hope P……. made a profit on the evening.
I’m thinking of doing one for my utterly dysfunctional book group (Rules of Engagement and Rules of Engagement (Reprise)) when it’s next my turn to host. We will not cook pastry but if I can track down B…… and her daughter I will invite them along to their mutual activity of choice. I need to be kept abreast of any new Pampered Chef product they haven’t used yet.
As a postscript, Niamh is pronounced Neeve (as in heave) for anyone who is struggling as much as poor P…… did on the night.