Blessed be the crock pot, in forging Anglo-Austrian fusion cuisine. Sunday’s lunch party with the snow lying still in places by the house was a triumph for the British casserole – cooked nice and slow with the crockpot turned on at a low setting as I went outside to grit by the house to avoid any guests taking a tumble later in the day, and then leafed through Der Standard, having been the first paying patron of the honesty bag at the end of the road.
And what would a British casserole be without a helping of Knödel to help pull the wool over the eyes of our visiting local guests? True to form I had cooked enough to make sure that there would be a few portions for freezing, for the days when we’re too lazy to cook, or as turned out to be the reality, to ensure that an extra uninvited guest (a friend’s neighbour, who was rather lonely, had persuaded our friends to take him up to the cemetery close to us, and our friends felt they couldn’t not let him join after he’d checked on the family plot) would also be adequately fed. Fortunately he arrived after the pre-lunch nibbles had been served, otherwise I would have feared missing out on my wife’s slightly less generously catered vols-au-vent (which in the morning had caused us to scramble towards a dictionary in the vain hope of finding out the correct plural form to ensure that marital harmony was restored).
Our surprise guest’s spontaneous appearance flustered my wife slightly, as she has a fear of people sitting on the corner of a table, and meant the table needed hastily rearranging (her command of Anglo-Saxon invective still not strong enough for a pronouncement about an extra place setting “buggering up the whole shooting match” despite my brother’s labourious intentions to get this into her vocabulary). Given the fact that it was the 1st Sunday in Advent, and we remind ourselves about looking after those less fortunate than ourselves (in the hope that in turn we will also be looked after in our dotage), we of course welcomed him in. Fortunately, his fretting about whether he had fed his cat or not meant that he did not stay very long, although what his stay lacked in terms of the time he was here, he did make up for with a very handsome appetite. He’d seen fit to find some forecourt flowers for my wife, but there would have been apoplectic tutting at our hosts from the previous week, especially if he’d clumsily shovelled the Vanillakipferln onto his saucer with coffee.
The only hat-tip to local custom was that we did make sure that we ate on time – although I was slightly deceitful – the lunch gong went and that was the time for lunch to be served, and there was an instant checking of watches to see that I had indeed served up at 1pm, having invited our guests to come over any time after say 11:30am, depending on whether they fancied breaking the midday rule of abstinence. Since we usually pre-cook, we enjoy spending more time in our guests’ company, while also ensuring piping hot food despite the absence of a hostess trolley (my wife still claims that such a thing does not exist, although maybe in fifteen years time, they will be all the rage in Viennese suburbia). We will still steadfastly refuse to serve our guests Viennetta ice-cream or Ferrero Rocher, should we continue to cater well into our dotage.
Fortunately with our usual tactic of serving cheese before dessert, unexpected guest decided to make his apologies before a hefty pudding came out – a Nigella Lawson recipe that my wife has decided is the height of decadence, albeit with less glossy hair flicking and camera-directed flirtatiousness (a recent discovery on RTL Living). For me that was the excuse to serve the Eiswein, having eyed a naughty little bottle for the occasion, having been so successful in ensuring that glasses were kept well filled and one set of guests had to leave the car at ours until the following day, due to their over-enjoying themselves on the provided wines and their fear of a spontaneous “Planquadrat”.
The Flat Lake reds that I had picked up at the new Hofer on Obkirchergasse were well received, although I decided to let people blind test by serving it into a decanter – just to see if there were secret wine snobs at the table. Fortunately an ample stock meant no danger of running out. When all were fed and watered, and headed on their way, I commandeered the sofa and promptly fell asleep, as following my session as debt counsellor with “Nephew” the day before and an ensuing night of wine and silly card games for penny stakes. All remarkably fun for passing the long winter evenings, after the weather and gloom has put me off going for a walk.