When I was a kid I went for a sleep-over at somebody else’s house and for dinner that night was served something that I could barely force myself to eat. I was old enough to know that it was impolite to refuse a meal, so I ate it. But I can’t recall what it was.
You may not remember the shape of the light but you will remain dazzled forever (Clive James).
On Tuesday night we had dinner at the hostel we stayed at near the ski fields that will be remembered in all its awful detail for the rest of our lives.
It was advertised as ‘curried chicken.’ In fact, it was very small, almost undetectable pieces of shredded chicken, with about a tablespoon’s worth of diced carrots and beans, swimming in a gelatinous white sauce that had been flavoured with something that made it vaguely spicey but not at all curry-like before being poured over an entire plateful of overcooked white rice. There was a single floret of broccoli in the centre and then, dotted around the plate – for no apparent reason – were half a dozen walnut-sized dumplings.
Dinner the previous night had included an entree of a pretty decent chicken and sweetcorn soup. I suspect the chef had found himself with a large quantity of soup left over and figured he could thicken it up with a bit of cornflour, chuck in some veggies and add a spoonful of out-of-date curry powder. In fact, I’m 99% sure that’s what he did.
Madeleine couldn’t eat it, and I could hardly blame her. It was really unpleasant on so many levels, not to mention the fact that it was obviously devoid of any nutritional value – the vegetables had been so overcooked as to be barely holding themselves together. She was so ashamed at her lack of appetite that she actually left the table at the end of the meal so that she wouldn’t be there to face the chef or the waitress when they returned to clear the plates. I ate as much of mine as I possibly could so as not to upset the staff but with every bite I wished I had ordered the alternative; a home-made meat pie with a massive serve of vegetables and chips that the people on the next table were devouring with smug glee.
There were plenty of people in the communal dining room who seemed to be quite happy with their Curried Chicken. I don’t know what that says about the other people but there’s an offensive over-generalisation to be made here.
There was one family who struggled to eat theirs, but they managed – I overheard the mother tell the kids that “you have to have the rice but you don’t have to eat anything green or yellow.
“The chef had no doubt cottoned-on to the type of guests his hostel attracted, and so wasn’t bothering to put too much effort into the meals. The kids meal on the second night was chips and nuggets and dim sims. Not a pea or carrot in sight. Why would you bother dishing it up if the kids aren’t going to eat it and the parents aren’t going to care? For a chef, that particular job must be incredibly demoralising.