Saturday, November 14, 2009

After the Dinner Party

The guests have all gone and the dishes are done.
The cottage speaks only in whispers now, in the muffled ticktocktick of the old clock in the bookcase, in the now and then crackle of the diminishing blaze still slightly aglow within the stone fireplace. Edward dozes at my feet as I sit, comfortably curled like a cat, deep in the arms of the orange velvet chair, sipping a toddy that is warm and so sweet. The playful personality of the midnight wind has changed since the arrival of November. It sounds more serious somehow, moving through the black leaves outside with a purpose, sending shadows through the windowpanes, muted grey dancers that silently waltz round the candlelit walls. I watch them move and imagine the music only they can hear.
Surely, this is the essence of contentment.

It had been the best sort of day. One spent chopping and slicing, stirring and tasting; a day decorated with antique china and pink flowers, old-fashioned music and red, red wine, happy dogs napping under the chairs of happy dinner guests. The cottage had been redolent with the cozy fragrances of fresh apple pie, crusty bread, boeuf bourguignon simmering in a fat red pot - the menu I had promised for the first truly cold weekend of autumn.
There had been spirited talk of books and of movies, music and Christmas, of Italian landscapes, bagpipes, and Renaissance art.

Cooking for friends, making them welcome, is such a satisfying occupation at any season of the year, but especially just now. When the nights become longer and the temperature drops it seems that a spirit of merriment knocks at the door, a woodland sorcerer clad in robes of crimson leaves and cardinal feathers whose talent is pure hospitality. I am happy to serve as his apprentice. An elegant soul, he is a bit more formal than his counterparts of summer, those alfresco fairies of barefoot spontaneity and pink champagne. No, he seems to prefer dressier occasions - richer colours, richer foods. He is all red roses and tapestry, mulled wine and dark chocolate - his candles are scented with chestnuts and pomegranate, and he hides the recordings of Debussy, preferring to fill the house with Mozart instead. A most convivial fellow, I highly recommend giving him free rein in your household all season long. I promise you shall have even more fun than your guests.

"Frame thy mind to mirth and merriment,
which bars a thousand harms, and lengthens life"
William Shakespeare