Accepting The Invitation

I like getting dinner invitations. It means I don't have to cook and I have company during dinner. Yay! But being the guest means you have to be an adventurous eater and have a sense of humour.

Many years ago when my husband was in the army one of his mates, Pebo invited me to dinner at his home with his wife, Cherry. Frank had been away for several weeks on exercise and I was in need of company. I accepted Pebo's invitation and I was excited about not having to eat on my own. I took wine to compliment the meal. When Frank is away I never cook a roast meal, so I thought about the lovely smells of a roast beef with baked potatoes, pumpkin, onion, carrots, peas and gravy. You know what I mean. I walked up the steps of Pebo and Cherry's home and sniffed the air. Nothing. Not one little whiff of the juicy roast I had expected. Okay, maybe it would be a BBQ steak or chicken. Mmm, nice. That was just as good as a roast.

I followed my hosts into the kitchen. Pebo took the wine and filled three glasses. Still no smells that would make my mouth water. Anyone who knows me, is amazed at how messy I am when I cook. No matter how hard I try I can't help getting food from one end of the kitchen to the other. Pebo's kitchen though, was spotless. So what was for dinner?

Pebo and his wife took me into the lounge room where we drank our wine and all the time I was wondering if I was supposed to bring the meal. I was so hungry my stomach growled loud enough for all to hear. Oh no, I got it wrong! With my face turning red, I asked if I'd made a mistake and was supposed to bring the food.

'Oh no,' Pebo said brightly. 'We're going out in sympathy with Frank, tonight.'

Call me stupid or whatever you like, but did that mean I wasn't eating tonight? Frank had told me there are times when the soldiers on exercise are so busy they don't get time to eat. Oh dear, I knew I should have stopped in my Saturday busyness to eat lunch. Whenever we had people over for dinner I cooked a special meal. Too bad, tonight I wasn't eating, so I gulped a few mouthfuls of wine instead. My head was already going dizzy.

Food that warms the heart.

Food that warms the heart.

'Does that mean we're not eating tonight?'

'No, Laura. I'll go and prepare it now,' Pebo said.

Oh good, food at last.

I took a few more sips of wine and within fifteen minutes, my head was spinning. Pebo came back into the room carrying three plates. I sniffed the air, still no nice aromas. Pebo had a smirk on his face and placed the three plates on the table. He called Cherry and me over. He stood behind a chair at the table gesturing for me to sit. To my horror, the food on the plate consisted of the army ration pack. This had to be a joke.

My fuzzy head fuelled my sense of humour and I sat down laughing. It wasn't until Pebo refilled the wine glasses, sat down and ate with gusto that I realised the dried biscuits, tinned bully beef, dried out cheese and macaroni on the plate in front of me was my dinner.

Pebo and Cherry chomped away as if they were eating the roast beef meal I had conjured up in my mind. I picked at the food and ate what I could. Pebo proudly told me he and Cherry often ate ration pack to identify with the soldiers out in the field. Identifying with my husband while he was in the field left a lot to be desired. I excused myself and went home.

Pebo and Cherry got posted soon after that and we never saw them again throughout Frank's army career, but it will be a meal I will never forget. Have you ever accepted a dinner invitation and it left you feeling less than satisfied or bewildered?