As I type this, it’s been over seven weeks since the War Between Two Civilizations began, and as a total and stunning victory seems only days away at most, I feel it is time to look back to when it all began, with the lightning pre- dawn attack by the massed forces under the control of General Gordon Ramsay…(the world’s greatest Chef)…that occupied Claridge’s restaurant.
Never a correspondent to run away from where the action is (regular readers will recall I volunteered for the 6-Day-War. OK so maybe I did just wash up dishes on a kibbutz near the Gaza Strip, but ‘Clean Plates Win Wars’ is my regimental motto) early on Monday morning I went over the top of my breakfast table to bring you this exclusive report from the Breakfast Front.
I had just spotted the great war leader Ramsay himself (‘Ramsay the Roulade’ as his men call him), cleverly disguised as a dentist, moving silently round the perimeter wall in the North West corner of the dining room.
I crept towards him, making sure I kept beneath the 1mm barrels of the massed ranks of tiny CCTV cameras concealed under all the wall-lamps – manned, according to my sources, 24 hours a day by a platoon of Bulgarian pastry chefs. (Tales of video-nasties have swept the breakfast room recently…’middle aged businessmen filmed eating Red Snapper whilst dining with beautiful young women, and unconfirmed reports even mention film of people eating their starters with the wrong knives. If that’s the way this war is going, you can count me in…I am going to be in the thick of it.)
I made my way unnoticed past the alcove, where some of the very worst hand-to-hand combat had taken place just minutes before, when a breakfaster at a neighbouring table had asked David Frost to put his cigar out.
Huge plumes of blue-grey smoke were still emerging from the smoldering entrance. Frost was still firing hisTorpedo Monte Cristo. (The Great Presenter was clearly flouting the Geneva Convention, which states on Page 2527, Para 46798, sub- section 3: ‘No man or woman shall have to suffer Havana Cigar Smoke blown into their faces at breakfast, and to do so will be considered a War Crime’.)
With just feet to go to my target, a battalion of Special Forces waiters suddenly appeared from nowhere and started performing a highly skilled maneuvre they had trained in secret for years to perfect – known as Presenting the £50 Bacon and Eggs.( No trumpet fanfare today, I observed.)
I took a detour North to cut Ramsay off at the entrance to the kitchen, cleverly hidden behind a huge eight feet square mosaic slab of Foie Gras and guarded by his personal bodyguards, the two restaurant managers, Dominic and Nasser.
I tapped him on the shoulder from behind, he spun round and, without hesitation, I lobbed my carefully prepared bombshell straight at him:
(Yes, I know what you are thinking….At moments like this, I AM TOTALLY WITHOUT FEAR!)
“Excuse me, Your Highness, Gordon…Mon General Gordon…Oh God of the Kitchen…” I stuttered. “Look, I am terribly sorry to bother you, and I know there is a waiting list of at least six months of people who just want to gaze at you … but do you think you could possibly spare a second for a quick word…? It’s about the scrambled eggs.” I said.
He looked me straight in the eyes…the white of his dentist’s smock dazzled me!
I shrunk back…I had heard about his TV series where grown chefs had wept in his kitchens.
“Who are you?” he asked.
I noticed he looked just like he did on the cover of the matchboxes that were placed on every table…only bigger.
“I eat at your restaurant every day.” I said.
He rocked backwards in shock. “You’ve got to be kidding” he said.
“No, I couldn’t be more serious.” I said. “Well, for breakfast anyway… sometimes I have two or three breakfasts on the same day” I said.
“It’s a start…and, who knows, one day I might even have lunch and maybe dinner…but look, really, I do need to talk to you about the state of your scrambled eggs.”I said.
He swayed again…”What’s the matter with them?” he asked.
Nasser and Dominic edged towards me, I felt at any second they might push me up against the serving counter and strip-search me; I was very glad I had left my plastic replica gun, manicure scissors, hypodermic syringes and tweezers at home, as I was flying to Sri Lanka in a couple of days and had already done my unpacking in order to be allowed on the plane.
“They are shaped like moulded jellies…with high walls and rounded corners…” I said “…I like them messy and fluffy, like scrambled eggs should be!”
A silence descended on the restaurant, forks laden with sausages and eggs stopped just inches from mouths. Slices of toast were suspended in mid-air as all the other breakfasters watched ‘THE MAN WHO CONFRONTED GORDON RAMSAY ABOUT HIS SCRAMBLED EGGS.’
“No problem.” he said.
“Really?” I said.
He turned and went into the kitchen.
I gave the thumbs up sign to the regulars.
I went back to my table and sat down. As I picked up my cold single Espresso, my mobile rang. It was Sanjit of Sri Lanka Travel.
Mobiles are not allowed in the restaurant under the new regime; nor is kite flying.
I hid the phone behind my napkin and, bending under the table, pretended to go to the aid of a fallen croissant.
“Thanks for calling me back, Sanjit.” I said “I got the tickets…but I do have one little question for you about my holiday. Do the words ‘Tamil Tigers’ ring a bell with you, Sanjit?”
“Oh do not worry, Sir, they are in the North…and you are in the South.” he said.
“Yes, but, Sanjit, didn’t they attack the main Colombo airport recently, destroy five passenger jets and shoot up the terminal?”
“That is so, Sir, but do not worry, Sir, they only attack the airport on Sundays and Tuesdays…and you are arriving on a Monday.”
“Oh that’s all right then.”I said.
“You have certainly put my mind at rest, Sanjit.”
“My pleasure, not at all Sir.” he said, “Have a relaxing holiday and a very happy Christmas.”
I hung up.
I buttered my cold toast and, reaching for the marmalade, I thought “I just hope they don’t put the clocks back in Sri Lanka for Christmas.”
Copyright Peter Rosengard 2001. All back columns including those that first appeared in The Independent 1993/1995, are now up on the site. Please see The Saturday Column Archive.