The Disappearing Act

©2012 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved

I have hosted and attended many a memorable dinner party. Some remain etched in my memory because they were important milestones being celebrated, some others because of hilarious conversations that had the entire party in hysterics and yet others will be remembered for having been the birthplace of new and valuable friendships. And yet, there is one dinner party which needs to be singled out and given its own special status as having been the only one with an element of mystery thrown in. Why mystery, you might well ask. Well, how else would one describe the tale of a disappeared dinner? Looking back, it was a classic ‘elementary, my dear Watson’ kind of scenario. Dear Sherlock would have been grudgingly admiring of my deductive reasoning.

It began as a perfectly normal evening, with me playing hostess to the hilt. The table linen was freshly washed and ironed.. pink and purple flowers adorned the tall, slender vases..the champagne lay nestled in its bed of ice. Floating candles dazzled the lounge room and soft bollywood numbers floated from the music system. The chicken and mushroom vol au vents were baking in the oven, engulfing the entire house with savoury aroma. Donned in my faithful old apron that still retained faint smudges from  past memorable parties, I spun around the house in a frenzy of last minute preparations, mentally ticking off an imaginary check list. Ice in freezer? Check. Oven at right setting? Check. Toys tucked away in toy baskets? Nearly check.

Just as the door bell pealed its ‘Old Macdonald’ tune, I took a final look at the piece de resistance of the evening’s meal…..chicken cooked in a bed of snowpeas and shallots. It lay simmering in a shallow dish on the kitchen bench top and as I lifted the lid, I breathed in the delicious fragrance. I had cooked pasta in a separate bowl, and would later toss the chicken into the pasta to complete the main course. Hurriedly pulling off the apron, I hastened to greet my guests. Hugs and kisses were followed by awed comments about how something really yummy seemed to be cooking. ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’ was the next logical question. ‘Surprise’ I answered coyly. ‘I have bought this fantastic new cookbook and followed a gorgeous recipe step by step. Wait till you taste it’. My friends rubbed their palms in glee. ‘Can’t wait…can’t wait’ .

What followed resembled most normal dinner parties. We discussed humble topics such as the plight of the current government and how the world would have been a better place had we been ruling the country etc etc. That was followed by a hearty discussion of the Indian cricket team and its prowess (?) which seemed to lead automatically for some strange reason to a fierce discussion of Bollywood compared to Hollywood. The vol au vents were polished off in the blink of an eye, proving themselves to be the ideal accompaniment to the chilled champagne.

Once we had exhausted every topic under the sun, from politics to sport to movies, I decided it was at last time for the main course to be served in all its glory. ‘Dinner will be served in five minutes’, I said with a broad smile as i walked into the kitchen, and then stood transfixed in confusion as i stared around me. Something did not seem right. The pasta lay obediently in the colander, the salad glistened in the glass bowl and the herb bread sat in neat rows on the porcelain platter. What was wrong then? I spun around in panic as i looked in vain for the masterpiece. The chicken in snowpeas and shallots. …my very own contender for the Martha Stewart award. Where on earth was it??? The steel dish that had contained the chicken now stared back at me empty. I blinked a couple of times in disbelief. No, i wasn’t seeing things….or rather not seeing things. The dinner had really disappeared !!!!

From the lounge room came merry cries of ‘We’re starving. Will dinner be served in this century?’. It was a surreal moment. I had not the faintest notion of what could have happened.

And then, just as i was about to yell at my kids for having finished the chicken (although I was finding it hard to believe they could have done such a thing), I spotted Cody (our seven month old rhodesian ridgeback, still very much a puppy in spite of looking every inch the lion-hunter) staring at me guiltily. I stared back in confusion. Cody refused to make eye contact which was most unlike him. And then it suddenly dawned on me. ‘C-O-D-Y’ I roared, and the entire house shook under my rage. ‘How could you have eaten it???’. He flapped his ears, gave a little apologetic bark and went and hid behind the table. ‘And since when do you like snowpeas and shallots anyway?’ I roared even louder. He whimpered and tucked his nose between his paws, guilt written all over him.

It was a very teary chef indeed who returned to the lounge room to tell her amused friends that the piece de resistance was not on the cards after all.

Someone smartly phoned the pizza place and within half an hour boxes of hot steaming pizzas had arrived. Half way through dinner, a friend asked the million dollar question: ‘How did you guess it was Cody?’. I could not help smiling. “Elementary, my dear Watson. His guilty eyes spoke a million words”

It turned out to be the one dinner party where the meal truly vanished in the blink of an eye !!!

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