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50 Ways to Leave Your 40s: #2 The Mystery Dinner

I had the delightful annual dinner date with three old school friends this week – a pre-Xmas ritual we’ve been doing for a few years now and a date in the diary not to be missed. Since our school reunion a few years back, wonderful friendships have been re-ignited; memories stretched as we tried to recall teachers’ names, and much laughter has ensued as we reminisce of those carefree days of growing up in the 70s.

So, as I thought ahead to Thursdays meet up, I had the rather marvelous idea of this week’s milestone birthday challenge. Why don’t I let the girls choose my menu for the evening?! Hmmm, as a complete ‘foodie’ this could be my real-life heaven or hell. Ok, let me think about it for a second…

Thursday arrived and before I could change my mind, overthink it or come up with another milestone birthday challenge, I emailed the girls and told them my plan. I could hear the screams of delight through the computer screen. And it was at that point the panic set in! What if they ordered something weird and wonderful? What if they ordered meat? Or god forbid, pineapple?!

Now I adore pouring over a menu, allowing my senses to be ignited by delicious sounding combinations and mouth-watering desserts. And the anticipation of waiting for it to arrive (especially when you’re hungry) just heightens the experience of eating out. Will I have food envy of my fellow diners? Should I have ordered an extra side of green salad? Who am I kidding – Inever order a side salad. Extra fries yes, green salad no.

You can imagine how unnerving it was when my friends huddled into a corner and whispered behind the menu; raising eyebrows and looking over at me questioningly. Eventually, after what felt like an age, they asked me to leave whilst they gave the waiter the food order. As I loitered in the ladies loo, I felt an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach – and it certainly wasn’t hunger pains.

We chatted and caught up on news as we waited for the starters to arrive, that funny feeling still sitting low in my belly. As the waiter approached, I held my breath as he placed…garlic prawns in front of us! Phew! I LOVE garlic prawns. I savoured the taste and nodded my approval to the expectant faces.

The main course followed soon after, and as the waiter announced ‘Sea-bass’ the girls all pointed at me and waited for my response. To be honest, I’ve never had Sea-bass before and whilst I do eat fish, I guess I’m not very adventurous. Tuna, salmon and prawns are probably as far as I’ve stretched it at home, my lack of culinary experience not being brave enough to cook anything else. But what a delight it was! It was served on a bed of apple mash with a few mussels decorated around the side. Delicious!

Two courses down and I’m a happy diner. That unfamiliar feeling I had earlier long since gone and I waited excitedly for the dessert.

A small glass bowl was placed in front of me; the chocolate topping giving nothing away of what lay beneath the gooey surface. As I dipped my spoon in for the first mouthful, one of the girls (who had the same dessert as me) mentioned how she loves Baileys in a pudding – and I froze. I DETEST Baileys. Like seriously, I hate the stuff. I can’t even bear the smell and it makes me heave when I’m sober. I’m afraid too many drunken nights in Tenerife 1990 put paid to any future relationship with the sickly liquid.

However, this is where this milestone birthday challenge comes into its own. I’m already totally out of my comfort zone allowing friends to choose my dinner, and I would never have even looked at this dessert on the menu… but here I am, about to eat something I positively detest. And you know what? It was bloomin gorgeous!

So as I reflect on week 2 of the milestone birthday challenge, I’m so pleased I let my friends choose my dinner, despite going through a whole host of emotions during the evening. I started off worried, nervous and a little bit scared and finished feeling satisfied, full and empowered.

I highly recommend trying this ‘challenge’ next time you’re out for dinner – you never know, you may just be surprised with where your taste buds take you!

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