One morning I got a message, bull pigeon flying through my window, I would have opened it had he knocked but you know how they are, in love with the sound of breaking glass. A new client desirous of a dinner party for visiting family, something to communicate subtly the successes of this former prodigal child, gone missing these many years, my client. I would very much like them to go home and
talk about this meal for a thousand turnings of the tide, the note said. Hold nothing back, what you present need not so much appeal to the senses and shock them. Surprise me. My new client, it turned out, was not some ordinary dignitary with cash to burn, but rather a denizen of the deep -- well endowed with sunken treasure I was led to understand -- a htapothi, in fact, what the silly Brits used to call octopus before we trod them underfoot and made them squawk for their suppers like gout-stricken guinea hens.
A dinner setting for eight, with sixty-four arms and hands. How many forks, how many spoons? Are knives necessary or would they prefer rustic tearing and gnashing? What limbs go under the table and which stay up top? A table, probably not a table at all. I was unfamiliar with the protocol and the physics. Leave that to the maitre de. My task was culinary not flower arrangement. For my antipasta, I decided on raw geoducks -- precious nestlings of the mollusk clan -- floating freely in their shells, bathed in a sauce of samphire mignonette, their hanging siphons tinted phosphorescent. The primo must be like a grand gate to the entree, not humble, even perhaps grand and ostentatious, but only the way through to the palace of the truest delights.
[only 364 words .... more later]