We left the story of Helen and I at the point where we had just moved into our first flat together.
In our first week of living together, I almost managed to cause three diplomatic incidents, and they were all food related.
The first one came on our first ‘proper’ night in the flat, i.e. the one after we moved in. That night, I had to go to a wine tasting organised by the people I was starting work for the following week. Helen came along and met all of my colleagues, then went home to cook dinner (the fact that she is a teetotaller made the wine tasting a bit dull anyway).
So imagine the scene. I get home from a wine tasting at around midnight. There, waiting for me, is a beef casserole, lovingly cooked, fortified with a large helping of Mouton Cadet. And there is Helen, very excited because she has cooked for me for the very first time. There is only one problem. I am so shattered after both moving house and then the very proper wine tasting (no gulping, only sipping) that I can hardly eat any of it. It was delicious, but I only manage about half a plateful. Whereupon my girlfriend dissolves into tears, thinking that I don’t like her cooking.
Second incident came when I tried to cook for Helen. Now, I am not on the same planet as her as a cook. She’s been on Masterchef, for one thing. But sometimes you have to do your share and I’ve never minded cooking if the people I am cooking for don’t mind dying horribly of food poisoning. Which Helen almost did.
OK, so strictly speaking it wasn’t food poisoning, it was just that I made a curry. A very English curry. Before the likes of Madahur Jaffrey enlightened us, curries over here were, well, as Jeremy Hardy puts it “An awful lot of fruit seems to creep in. To the point where there should perhaps be hundreds and thousands or a sponge finger on the top”. So my curry was kind of sweet and featuered a heavy dose of both raisins and pineapple. It was the second most inedible thing I have ever made, and I still ate it.
The final incident was at the end of the week. Even though it was only November, we went out for Christmas dinner with Helen’s work colleagues. To a Chinese restaurant. At the end of the meal, we paid the bill and were about to leave when the manager came up and claimed that we owed another small fortune as they had not put the service charge on the bill.
Now, knowing what I know now, I would have just pointed out that there was no legal requirement to pay the service charge, that it was not our problem that they forgot, and so on. Back then, I shouted a lot instead, which didn’t do anyone any good, no doubt made Helen’s colleagues wonder why she was dating me and landed me in the doghouse for the third time in five days of living together. A ratio which I maintained for the next decade and more, proving that I am nothing if not consistent.