Friday, 8 July 2011

Red mullet with black olives

I can't do parties anymore. I used to be really good at them, but I just can't anymore. I can't drink, I can't make conversation and I can't stay up late.

It makes me feel like such a dick. I used to love a party. Though I was never, let's face it, the first or the last one on the dance floor or the one swept out with the fag butts at 5am, I went, I drank, I laughed, I had a good time.

Now when an invitation drops on our doormat I make a face. My husband and I argue briefly about whether or not we should go and we always decided that we probably ought to because otherwise we will just go mouldy sitting at home watching Californication.

I think about what to wear three minutes before we leave and end up putting on the same plain back jersey dress I have been wearing to parties for about 5 years, "jazzed" up with whichever necklace I bought from Anthropologie most recently. Then I put on eyeliner (but not mascara because it's such a pain to get off) while my husband puts the baby to bed.

I open the door to Kate, our teen babysitter who lives a few doors away, who is so thin and beautiful that I'd refuse to have her in the house if she wasn't so nice. I talk to Kate for a bit, wishing I was staying in watching telly with her, not least because her mum brings her dinner round and it always sounds really nice. But then we leave, driving (because I won't get pissed) and arrive unfashionably early. I gratefully suck down one aperitif, feel a bit dizzy, poke my dinner around and start wanting to go home at 11pm.

The other night we went to a party and the wife of a very famous person came to talk to me. We'd met before a few times. She was very drunk. "You've got suchajewish name," she slurred. "The MOST JEWISH NAME EVER," she shrieked. I stood there, with my hands in the pockets of my Topshop maternity jeans that I am still wearing and felt self-conscious in the not-very-me Gharani Strok blouse I bought from TK Maxx and gave her the smile I give to drunks and lunatics.

At least, I thought to myself, I am not wearing the black jersey thing.

"Do you smoke? Do you wanna fag?" she said. No, I don't smoke, I said. But I'll come and keep you company outside. "Do you wanna do a line?" she said and giggled. I blinked a few times and looked at her, feeling more square, I think, than I have ever felt in my life. I towered over her in my stupid clumpy Boden wedges. "I can't," I said. Which was not true. Of course I could. I just didn't want to. I should have just said that. "No thanks," I ought to have said. "I don't really want to." But instead I said something about having to get up early.

Then instead of vanishing as soon as her head was turned (drunks never notice when you do this) I actually accompanied her out into a street and stood there while she smoked a cigarette. I felt like I was back at school, hovering at the arm of the coolest girl in my year who will occasionally suffer my presence. There were a lot of people on the street from the party also smoking cigarettes, sucking up to the woman I was with because she is married to this very famous man and I felt like even more of a hanger-on and a wanker. But I didn't slip away back into the party. I just stood there, unable to think of anything to say. She finished her cigarette and we went back into the party. I walked in behind her and made my alarm face and frantic jazz hands at my husband behind her head.

She turned and suddenly threw her arms round me and blew a raspberry on my cheek and hissed "I don't like your husband much. My husband loves him. I don't really get it." Then she made a beeline for the bar.

It being 11pm, I insisted to my husband that we leave immediately.

This has been bothering me ever since. She has some children and a job, that woman. But she goes to parties and gets drunk and does drugs and makes a complete fucking mad spectacle of herself but she doesn't care and just carries on with her life regardless. Whereas I have one tiny baby and no job and I've decided this means that I can't ever drink again. Maybe I'm just using it as an excuse. Maybe I never enjoyed parties or drinking in the first place and domesticity is just a key to unlock my inner square and let her run free.

Olives are a thing that people always tell you to put with fish and I'm sceptical. But the other night we roasted a red mullet with lemon, parsley and black olives and it was terribly nice and worth doing if you can get your hands on a really fresh red mullet from somewhere.

I think this is from the River Cafe cookbook, which is always telling you to do things like put a fish in the oven covered with olive oil and a few select herbs and then charge £200 for it.

Red mullet with black olives

1 red mullet
about 20 black olives, roughly chopped
a large handful of parsley, roughly chopped
one lemon, halved
olive oil

1 Preheat your oven to 180C.

2 Wash the fish and put it in a roasting dish or tin. Sprinkle over salt, drizzle over a good sloop or two of olive oil, scatter over the parsley and olives and put the halves of lemon, cut side down either side of the fish.

3 Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes.

I think we had this with new potatoes. Or it could have been sourdough. At any rate, it was really very nice. And I hate fish.


  1. so of course now we are desperate to know who the very famous person is that this woman is married to.....

  2. Blimey! Well, to me that all makes you sound rather splendid, and the wife of a very famous person such a dick, but then I was born dull and sensible. Anyway, If you really do want to do parties again, I'm sure you'll be able to, but you're still a new mum, so maybe just not yet. The recipe sounds delish and, if it is from the River CafĂ© Cookbook, reminds me that we had a close encounter with the very famous Lord and Lady Rogers recently – if you count holding open a door at the Hayward as an encounter. They did say thank you, but didn't ask if we wanted to do a line.

  3. 'put a fish in the oven covered with olive oil and a few select herbs and then charge £200 for it.'
    That made me laugh aloud! The recipe does sound good though.

    Regarding the wife of the famous man, I would far rather talk to someone like you than her. It seems that you take being a parent far more seriously than she does and that is to be applauded.

  4. What a fantastic tale you tell. Oh, and the recipe sounds pretty good too!
    I did used to be a bit like you with one little kid, then I went on to have 2 more kids and I now find myself supping wine quite freely and staying up late as I'm permanently tired anyway!
    I am a big fish lover and a River Cafe fan AND olive mad- fantastic....

  5. Esther, at the risk of sounding like a wanker, I have a massive girl crush on you. I used to be madly in love with your husband, but thats all changed now.

    Anyway, when I'm feeling better and my hideous morning sickness disappears I'm going to try your chicken pie, as it looks splendid.

    I really do feel like a huge knobber after my confession, but if you are part of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, this is kind of eejit you are going to attract!

  6. She sounds really rather desparate and sad inside.

  7. Sounds to me like a simple case of you maturing into your life choices. We've all been there. I used to be that woman ( metaphorically speaking, naturally ) and now I choose not to, not because I'm dull, at least I hope not, but because I can see thru it to better things. Don't get me wrong though. I went out to see Liza Minnelli last week and got so absolutely paralytically drunk I'm not sure how I got home AND I actually ate a Big Mac... shamefully drunk. But it was fun and I'll no doubt do it again. Anyhoo... Moral of the tale is in there somewhere and you're bound to change again once Kitty grows a bit... Oh, nice fish...

  8. There are so many reasons I love your blog that I cannot count the ways; but this post epitomises all of them. Hurrah for the inner square. I am now so sad that my idea of a huge Friday night treat is watching Andrew Neil make naughty political jokes with Polly Portillo on the BBC iPlayer. (Can't believe I just admitted that in public.)

  9. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but you seem a bit unsure of yourself at the moment. All the previous comments sound right at this woman seems up herself. I bet she's unhappy, else why is she always getting drunk and doing drugs?
    Anyway, keep doing what makes you happy, your blog makes me happy!

  10. Don't feel bad, I'm 19 and at uni and I'm supposed to go out and do drunks and get off my tits all the time but to be perfectly honest, most nights I'd rather just stay in, eat crisps and watch TV. Maybe when I have a baby my inner party animal will come out? Who knows.

  11. I'm with Tania - hurrah for the inner square. We were invited recently to some super swish do on a bling bling yacht. The same evening a friend of a friend offered to come over and give us all a masterclass on cooking artichokes. Went with the artichokes.

  12. Erm - can I second what Lisa said about the massive girl crush...Giles who??? Husband stalks Giles on Twitter and then mentioned your blog at the weekend. He just forwarded me this which makes him a very bad man as I am supposed to be working (also freelance so every minute counts) I am now going to lose lots of money going through every old post... The fish looks wonderful! The wanting to stay in sounds normal...

  13. Oh my goodness. I am you and you are me. (Not drinking anymore properly, wanting to leave parties early etc) Except I shop in Asda and live in Leicester and you shop at Waitrose and live in London. Parallel lives. Sort of.

  14. All it took was a small, yappy dog to turn me into a non-drinking stay-at-home-on-weekends type.

  15. My family and I tried it for dinner a couple of nights ago. It's absolutely delicious! Thank you for the recipe.

    Homes cook

  16. I third or fourth the previous comments that stated their tossing of Giles aside for you. I still do have a mad girly crush for Sue, though. You should write a blog with her, honestly.

    I've given my inner square free reign this year and it feels great. I'm by no means old, but I embrace my quiet evenings with my two cats and accept the fact that my liver can no longer process alcohol due to my profligate days in undergrad. Huzzah!

  17. I wish I had a small baby so then I could stalk you and force you to be friends with me (not really. Ok, a tiny bit then). That woman sounds horrendous. I meet people like that at parties sometimes and though they are awful I'm the one that ends up feeling paranoid about being boring. There should be a club for normal people who'd rather be at home with a chicken pie.

  18. Oh sweetheart! I have TWO small ones and often feel like the most pathetic person at the party, trying to leave early and thinking about how much more I would like to be watching the wire on the sofa. I'm hoping that in due course my party mojo will spring back (like my waist, enough said) but in the meantime, F*ck 'em, bring on the Doritos and Torchwood.

    Food looks fab by the way.