My friend Louise never does anything by halves, which didn’t really bother me until she became a mother. Up until then she’d been as much of a beer swilling meat-eater as the rest of us, but giving birth transformed her into the ultimate organic, free range, ‘my body is a temple’ sort of bore you’d never wish to meet.
The rest of us gave up drink while pregnant but still had the odd glass to see us through the long sleepless nights, but that was simply not good enough for Louise and if it hadn’t been for her husband Steve working with my husband Grieg I would have dumped her without a second thought.
That makes me sound really shallow, but until you’ve endured one of Louise’s lectures about how we owe it to the future generations to embrace only everything that’s good and pure you cannot actually imagine expiring through sheer boredom.
All of us had kids at the same time and suddenly socialising was based around going to each others’ homes for easy suppers, which were usually fairly relaxed, even with Louise in full flow.
After witnessing her shake her head in horror over anything meat-based most of us were reduced to always adding a dish of plain pasta and salad to everything else on offer, but even this wasn’t enough and she started bringing her own tasteless meals.
Again, most of us would have just ignored that and got on with it, but it was difficult especially as a dinner couldn’t go by without one of her lectures. Steve’s a lovely guy so we didn’t really want to dump him, and as Greig reminded me a few times, he’s also my husband’s boss so keeping him onside was always going to be a good move.
Having exhausted all her attention-seeking moves, and finally becoming aware that we were all now tuning her out or changing the subject when she starting droning on, Louise decided that anything non-organic, vegetarian or free range was making her ill.
She sprung this on us one night when Wendy had cooked, and we were halfway through the meal when Louise leaped to her feet, clutching her throat dramatically and gasping.
The table was in an uproar with everyone thinking she was choking and after much coughing and wheezing she turned to Wendy and gasped “Oh my God, what was in that dish?!”
Poor Wendy was absolutely mortified and stammered that the food was totally vegetarian.
“But not organic? said Louise, “Oh Wendy, I’m so sorry. I should have told you that anything non-organic gives me a terrible reaction. I can feel my throat swelling up but it’s all my own fault!” and she thumped down dramatically in her chair, waving a paper napkin in front of her face.
Wendy was practically in tears and I wanted nothing more than to throttle Louise, but instead I suggested that everyone come to our house for dinner the following month. I reassured Louise that my past experience stood me in good stead as waitress for the evening. “Trust me,” I said firmly, “I’ll make you all a vegetarian meal you’ll never forget.”
I thought long and hard about my menu for that evening, utterly convinced that Louise was talking complete nonsense about bad reactions to non-organic food but unsure how to put an end to her behaviour once and for all.
Eventually, when I realised that the Monday after my dinner party was going to be the school open night I realised I had the perfect opportunity to make such a fool of her that she’d never abuse someone as timid as Wendy again.
So when everyone arrived at our home they were greeted by huge pitchers of homemade organic beer and banana chips and although Grieg wasn’t the only one making anguished retching faces I ignored the murmurs and made a huge fuss of Louise.
“Rather than serving two lots of food and drink I thought we could all have a vegetarian night!” I announced briskly, “We’ve got spinach and ricotta bake and soya lasagne, so tuck in!”
I could see everyone helping themselves to tiny portions and then the look of surprise on their faces as they realised the food was absolutely delicious in comparison to the foul concoctions of vegetable crumble and meat free casserole that Louise served, but that was hardly surprising as I’d spent a fortune on steak mince for the lasagne and added a rich chicken stock to the ricotta bake.
The so called organic beer was one of the cheapest lagers I could find decanted into jugs and Louise was drinking glass after glass with no ill effects, as well as having second portions of the lasagne.
There was an awkward moment when I brought in the massive strawberry cheesecake and she stopped for a second to say “You didn’t use gelatine for this, did you?”.
“Of course not’ I frowned, “I made sure it was just lemon juice as that’s such a good setting agent with the cream” and she piled her plate high.
When we reached the school on Monday night Louise was at the home baking stall, in full flow to all around her.
“We really need to address this issue of catering for different dietary requirements” she said loudly, “I’m not the only one who suffers terribly as a result of this but with a bit of effort everyone can lead as normal a life as possible. Emma made a wonderful meal on Saturday and I enjoyed every bite, knowing that there was nothing there which could make me ill” she beamed approvingly at me.
“Are you sure you were fine?” I asked imploringly and she beamed, “Absolutely. I felt marvellous. Why do you ask?”
I looked round at all the interested faces, especially those who had witnessed her behaviour at Wendy’s.
“I’m so sorry” I said earnestly, “I made two lots of everything and thought I’d frozen all the meat based food. But I froze the wrong lot and everything we ate on Saturday wasn’t just non-organic but had meat in it, even the beef gelatine. But thank God you’re alright – at least it means all your allergies have cleared up.”
She might still be a vegetarian but if she is she never talks about it.