The day Goldenoldenlady splashes out £9.95 in Waitrose on a large can of Cuisses de Confit de Canard for that evening's dinner is absolutely NOT the day to find out that no-one in the house knows the hell where the can opener has got to, truly it isn't.
I extolled the virtues of duck preserved in its own fat only last week. That can had been bought in Normandy for seven euros ninety-five, on our jollies, imported along with a bottle of halfway decent calvados and a few cheeses, as a souvenir. So emboldened was I that it was a runaway success I had invested a sum in sterling that could once have ransomed minor royalty to repeat the experience. What? I hear my Dear Reader cry. You spent £9.95 on a tin of something? Scarcely credible, is it? Well, I did. And the wherewithal to have with it, mangetout peas, haricots verts (cf last week) and a decent bottle of Reserve Cabernet Shiraz.
And I couldn't get AT it! WE couldn't get at it. We poked about in drawers, gazed in cupboards, checked the dishwasher, moved things to look under them, put them down and minutes later moved them again. At one point The Husband left the kitchen to look elsewehere, the dining room, the sitting room even, until I asked him who on earth would ever open a can of something anywhere except the kitchen. He conceded this was unlikely ever to have happened,. We would have to accept that something very odd indeed must have happened to it, and we were no nearer solving the mystery of its disappearance.
Most tin cans these days have ring-pull openings. It's not often the tin opener is called for, usually it hangs on our batterie de cuisine quite neglected, along with the melon baller and the butter curler. We aren't ones for tinned food, and in any case, as I just said, most nowadays have got ring-pulls. But not £9.95 tins of Cuisses de Confit de Canard from Waitrose. They are very Old School - they need an implement.
Despairing of ever liberating our dinner from its suit of armour, I left the house on foot to buy the cheapest tin opener our nearby Co-op could offer - I'd seen them often in the past; very basic, a bit flimsy, but reassuringly inexpensive. The sort you'd take camping, just the thing for an emergency. I asked an employee where they were. They weren't anywhere. They'd stopped selling them, he explained. Most cans these days have ring-pulls, you see.
I told The Husband I'd drawn a blank at the Co-op and someone might have to drive further afield. No, no, he said, digging into his trouser pocket and pulling something out with a flourish, I have THIS!
"THIS!" was the tin opener attachment on his Leatherman. I saw an enthusuastic gleam come to his eye as he unfolded the miniature apppliance from amongst its other handy little chums. So boyishly happy was he to be able to use it - at long last - I thought any second he'd rush upstairs and come back down wearing a cobbled-together Venture Scouts uniform comprising, maybe, his long khaki shorts with lots of pockets, an antiquated but never discarded safari shirt and that beige beanie hat I'd bought him in Lyme Regis to stop the top of his head getting sunburnt.
Well, all I can say is if your life might ever depend on it don't rely on a Leatherman tin opener. It was indefensibly feeble. Yes, it made a puncture hole. No, it did not saw the lid off the tin. The duck was still obdurately captive, and our dinner still a long way off.
Searching for my car keys I offered to drive to a bigger supermarket further away, but The Husband had by this time opened out a Main Couronee hunting penknife (we have several in different sizes, they are brilliant vegetable knives) and had sunk the blade into the hole in the tin. I froze. Surely not?
Oh yes, surely.
Because The Husband is left-handed I can never watch him use a sharp knife, not even to slice and chop an onion. It looks so awkward, so ungainly, so wrong, so dangerous, I want to cry STOP! I cannot ever watch. Funnily enough, and so sweetly, he feels just the same way, and cringes when I use a sharp knife in my right hand.
So I left the room for what felt about the right length of time, counting the seconds under my breath so I'd hear any anguish yelps if he sliced his hand open.
When I got back The Husband looked immensely pleased with himself - the preserved duck in its bath of cold grey grease was open to view, the ragged-edged lid bent back above it, like the upper shell of an oyster prised open to show the glistening pearl. Never was a mid-week dinner more hard-won, not in our house.
That £9.95 was only the half of it. It'll cost exactly that to replace the tin opener tomorrow.