18 February 2010

The 4+ course meal--surprisingly NOT an American invention

In case you were wondering, we didn't pull off the biggest win in Oxford basketball history. In the terms of Survivor, we were outplayed and outlasted (though I am not sure the outwitted part came into play). In other news, in one possession one of my teammates was put into a chokehold that would have made Hulk Hogan proud which inspired one of bold Canadian teammates to get into the face of the London-er who had been watching too much WWF. This exchange probably characterizes the game better than any words that I can contribute; it was a brawl with a much, much bigger kid.

So, to celebrate/recover, I headed off to guest dinner at Jesus College with a few friends. As I sit here, contemplating how many days I could have derived sustenance from that meal had I had access to doggie bags, I am puzzled by a few things. First, the fact that if I have paid for something in advance, I am going to lick my plate (or plates in this case) to get my money's worth regardless of the short and long-term physical consequences. Secondly, how is this level of indulgence NOT an American idea. I don't think you can grasp the amount of food that it includes (nor am I sure that I really want to acknowledge it), so let me describe.

For starters after the important people have rolled into high table, a gavel has been banged, and a prayer has been speed-read in latin, you have a nice soft roll to soften your ravenous hunger. Well, what should be ravenous hunger, because if you know what's best for you, you will have stopped eating days ago in preparation. By the time you get your roll buttered, soup has arrived. The soup is not too heavy and you don't feel too guilty about it. On to the second course. For our meat-eating friends, salmon will be your second course, and the vegetarians will get a large helping of risotto. What kind of risotto, you ask? Jesus College flavored risotto of course. That's right, it is seasoned with a palate of ingredients that is perfect for everything from curry to pasta with a hint of cilantro for this special occassion. This isn't a criticism. I like Jesus College flavored food, it is starting to have the comfort of home cooking.

Honestly, if you left the hall at this point, you could probably be satisfied. But the main course is already on its way into the hall. For the meat-eaters, some fowl is being served up and the herbivores will enjoy a puff pastry covered in goats cheese, herbs and tomatoes. Both mains are supplemented by family style potatoes and vegetables. Personally, I am inwardly celebrating my decision to order vegetarian.

No sooner has your meal been cleared away than the fourth course arrives. A delicous chocolate cake complemented by raspberries and a dollup of cream. A perfectly indulgent end to a satiating meal.

Except....it's not over yet. As soon as I see another round of fine china being distributed (because we have already dirtied a bowl, three plates, and what seems like 20 utensils) and I am thrilled because that can only mean one thing: fifth course. No sooner do I announce the good news to my guests than plates of fruit arrive (almost as magically as Harry Potter--I can see where that woman gets her inspiration). It should be said that this is no meager plate of bananas and oranges--oh, no. Kiwis, pinneapples, grapes, plums, strawberries, and melon--all fruit that I previously thought were out of season--are the fare for the evening.

And then, just in case you have an extra bit of room, there is a round of coffee with chocolate mint biscuits. So British, but oh, so American.

Roll me out of here, I am done.

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