I have been promising to make the children risotto for dinner for some time now. Only Oscar and I used to have it. Now we all do (except Jason, who has beans on toast and likes it). Oscar’s loved risotto ever since he was weaned. He likes pea and prawn best. When he was very small he used to call it ‘otto’ and the prawns were just ‘pinks’. He knows the correct terminology now, which I am quite sad about, and I often call it ‘otto’, just because it seems a shame to lose the word.
I learned to make mine from The Naked Chef all those years ago, although I cheat with the stock and pour it all in at once, because I have a life and three kids and I haven’t got time to arse about, ladling stock into al dente rice for the rest of my life. It tastes fine, and I’m quite happy to have my Michelin star revoked, so yarbles to the purists.
Mr. Oliver uses white wine in his recipe, so I do too. You can just use extra stock if you don’t have/like wine, but I prefer the taste with. Last week, when I got round to cooking it, after building it up for weeks, I realised I had run out of white wine. This was most inconvenient, as I only discovered this as I was actually cooking, so I didn’t really have the option of nipping to the shops. Instead I remembered that I had a bottle of Prosecco put away for high days and holidays, and figured that would do instead.
This led to a glass for the ‘otto’ and several glasses for the ‘chief otto stirrer.’ AKA, me.
After a great deal of Prosecco and a very fine risotto (my judgement may have been slightly impaired, I confess, but the children ate it with gusto, and they didn’t get any Prosecco), I was feeling rather mellow. It was all a bit hail fellow, well met in our house. When the doorbell went, instead of my usual; ‘Who the bloody hell could that be?’ I sashayed down the hall feeling jolly and all welcoming.
There were two rather dapper gentlemen at the door, somewhere in their early Sixties I’d say. One of them had a clip board, but it was clear they weren’t selling double glazing because they were in what Alan Partridge would call ‘sports casual’, clothing.
It turned out that they were from the evangelical church round the corner. The kids and I call this the ‘Circle K’ because it has a large, illuminated circle with an equally large, illuminated ‘K’ in it, as its logo. We are also paying homage to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and often walk past the church shouting: ‘Strange things are afoot at the Circle K’ entirely to our own and nobody else’s delight.
Normally, as soon as I find out that someone on my doorstep is of a religious persuasion, I make my excuses and leave. This evening, due to the wine, I did not.
One chap whose name I can’t remember, explained that they had recently done a survey of 100 houses on our road and the church road, and I might have filled it in. I said that I had. This was a blatant lie, and I know I will go to hell, but there you have it. The words slipped out before I could change them. He seemed pleased anyway, which was nice.
The survey covered many things, he explained. Firstly it asked about life in the neighbourhood. It did not have a box for ‘relentlessly aspirational and can’t quite afford Stoneygate.’ Instead it asked about whether you were lonely, and if you were having issues with parking. Two things which they seemed to think might be related.
I know these things not because I can mind read surveys I have lied about in the past, but because the other man, whose name was Maurice, had a clip board with the survey results attached, and he gave me a copy of them.
It was very impressive. The first page dealt with loneliness and parking. There was both a graph and a pie chart to represent this, and Not Maurice told me how a lady with a high vis vest and a clipboard goes round on Sundays, taking the registration numbers of irresponsible evangelical parkers, and then they name and shame them from the pulpit.
After this, the survey asked about Jesus. Not Maurice said I might be surprised to find that 39% of people actually thought that Jesus was the son of God. He did, and Maurice did as well. Maurice bobbed his clip board enthusiastically. They waited for me to agree. When I didn’t, they suggested that like 10% of other people I might believe he was just a good man. I said this was more in my line. Disappointed, Not Maurice brushed over the pie chart that showed 3% thought that Jesus was an absolute charlatan and moved on to ‘spiritual experiences.’
He said that he and Maurice had also been surprised at how many people had said they had had a spiritual experience. Maurice nodded. I nodded. Not Maurice asked if I had had a spiritual experience. I said ‘Yes!’ I do not know why I said this either, but I did. It would have been fine if that pesky Not Maurice hadn’t pounced and asked me what my spiritual experience was.
Naturally, it was at this moment, despite the glib tongued lying I had been doing up to this point, that my wits deserted me and my mind went blank. After some excruciating erms on my part and some sympathetic clipboard action from Maurice I said: ‘Well I’ve had two large glasses of Prosecco on a school night, and I’d count that as a pretty spiritual experience.’
They left shortly after that.