Decamot of the month

31 Mar 2020-The Wager

Inspired by the following Decamot items:
Snowboarder, grave, Pendley Manor Hotel, satellite, sock, baton, microscope, Liam, colander, coral reef

These are unprecedented times.

The Chief Medical Officer for England tests positive for Covid 19; the Head of the London Fire Brigade is struck down by spontaneous combustion, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the interests of communal sanity, declares God off limits.

Worse still, golfing friends Liam, Roger and Eric are prevented from playing their regular Saturday morning round at the Pendley Manor Hotel for the first time ever, due to a sudden snowstorm; and it is still only August.

It was the first time they had been thrown together, script-less, since appearing as characters in a vintage Decamot story by their author. They found themselves sitting at the bar thinking of what they could do to fill in the time until another script arrived.

All three enjoyed alternative leisure pursuits which they might have substituted for golf given more notice, but none would have involved the other two. Eric was a keen Snowboarder; Liam was a baton wielding amateur conductor, and Roger spent hours restoring old microscopes. It wasn’t long before the competitive gene in all of them started to assert itself as they strained sinews to demonstrate their independence from their author.

They had all been half - watching Jamie Oliver’s Channel 4 fill in programme “Keep Cooking and Carry On” courtesy of a satellite television set fixed to the wall above the bar. It may have influenced the betting as each one outdid the other with ideas for entertaining each other at an imaginary dinner party for three. The other deciding influence may have been the three bottles of Dom Perignon 2009 they consumed during the bidding process.

“Impressive, you have to say” announced Roger, topping up all three glasses for the third time of asking and pointing at the screen.

“If you can read, you can cook!” announced Liam glancing up at Jamie Oliver performing culinary miracles before their very eyes.

“But he is dyslectic” replied Eric, with the meerest hint of a slur in his voice.

“Middle class excuse for academic failure if you ask me” responded Liam matching Eric slur for slur.

“Right time, right place, if you ask me,” added Roger with a well-modulated slur of his own “But I bet you couldn’t do that Liam”

“Bet you a pony I could cook a meal for the three of us in 15 minutes” he said, revealing his Cockney roots.

“Make that a ton and you’ve got yourself a deal!” added Eric, quickly upping the ante “After all we could all eat out for less!”

“Why stop there?” said Roger, keen to demonstrate that his double-barrelled surname did not indicate an ignorance of Cockney rhyming slang “I will make that a monkey if you accept a couple of conditions”

Eric and Liam looked at each other in astonishment.

Roger had never really struck them as a major risk taker but they both saw an opportunity of having some fun and so the rules of the wager were hastily agreed by all three in a bibulous haze. If Liam could produce three different pasta dishes within 15 minutes containing 10 separate ingredients (a nod in the direction of their author) then the other two would part with a monkey each. Should Liam fail he would pay a monkey to each of the other two but, as a gesture of goodwill, all three would be responsible for the washing up. Liam knew he had made a grave error of judgement as soon as he opened the first page of “The Dictionary of Every-Day Cookery” by Mrs Beeton. He had thought “I’ll sock it to them. It can’t be that difficult!” Now he needed to improvise, innovate or get out his prayer mat. He was facing coral reef as his Cockney grandmother used to say. It was then that his author came to his rescue with an imaginative use of a colander.

There was a knock on the door and Liam greeted his chums with a welcoming wave, ushering them into his spacious modern kitchen, which was fully equipped with culinary gizmos of all kinds, a German cooker with four gas rings, two American fridge freezers, three well-stocked larders and a multitude of gleaming modern work surfaces. In the middle of the room was a circular breakfast bar in the centre of which was a curious contraption neither of them had ever seen before.

“This is my newly acquired experimental colanderscope” announced Liam with a smug look on his face. “Once I have made and kneaded the dough with flour and egg white, I can pour it into one of the top funnels and literally dial up the pasta shape of your choosing by moving this lever on the side.

It looked a bit like a huge inverted light bulb with three funnels at the top but it was made of multi-layered stainless steel with three different exit funnels and a lever device on the side with had six different operating positions enabling the chef to select what shape of pasta he wanted the device the spew out.

Having taken orders from his two friends in advance, it took Liam six minutes to knead enough dough to the right consistency and stuff it into two of the entry funnels. He then lined up all the ingredients required for three pasta dishes in individual bowls. He then switched on the colanderscope, whereupon a whirring noise was heard as the machine heated the dough.

At regular intervals over the next eight minutes, Liam shoved handfuls of spinach, wild asparagus, anchovies, cherry tomatoes, parmesan cheese, chickpea, pumpkin pieces and garlic into the third delivery funnel whist adjusting the pasta lever as he went. The colanderscope duly delivered recognisable helpings of Spaghetti Carbonara, Chickpea Lasagne and Penne Pumpkin to various parts of the kitchen floor.

With a nonchalance worthy of Jamie Oliver, Liam scraped up each dish and presented three authentic looking Lukewarm Italian pasta dishes to his colleagues ready for consumption, all within the time specified in the wager. All three collapsed into gales of laughter.

Roger announced that all bets were off as he didn’t need the dough anyway.