Food for love 7
Lily’s feet hurt, she’d been standing all day. There were a few more minutes until the department store closed and she could leave. Working in the millinery department for the last month had been an unusually happy time for her, after being on shoes and handbags.
It was December 1952 and hats had become even more popular than before. She told her customers that she felt sure that now the period of mourning for the late King was over and a new Queen would be crowned next year, that everyone wanted a new beginning. So the best way to celebrate would be to buy a new hat!! This way she had sold even more hats than ever before, and the small commission she received had enabled her to buy a little red velvet beret that she’d had her eye on for a while.
She thought of letting her hair down but she was late meeting Betty at the Lyons Tea House, so the bun would have to stay. Putting on her hat she clocked out and walked down Regents Street. It was rush hour so she was swept along in the crush, her feet hardly touching the ground.
She found an empty table and ordered a pot of tea for two. Slipping off her shoes she wiggled her toes and sipped her tea. Heavenly, she thought, quite heavenly.
Suddenly she felt a tap on her shoulder, turning around she looked up to see a very tall young man looking down at her.
‘Yes, who are you?
‘Betty’s colleague, she sent me to say she is tied up with a modelling shoot and can’t get away. She asked if you wanted to come and watch if you would like. She was really sorry.’
‘Oh, that’s a shame, I have just ordered a pot of tea for two. Why don’t you have a cup and then I can walk back with you, if you have time that is? ‘She looked at him from under her eyelashes. He was rather dishy actually and wearing a very smart blue felt fedora, which gave him an air of mystery
‘Good idea. My feet are killing me I have been standing up most of the day’.
Lily giggled’. Me too’.
‘Oh by the way he said sitting down and holding out his hand. I am Henry, Betty’s gopher, come cameraman’.
‘Hallo Henry. I am Lily, Betty’s flat mate’.
Sitting in the studio on a red velvet couch Lily watched the model wearing a chic black cocktail dress, with one of her hats perched on beautifully coiffured hair being photographed from every angle. Lily felt very pleased that the little hat had come from her department, as if she had manoeuvred it all!
In the next split second the model collapsed. There was an almighty scuffle. Henry picked her up and carried her over to the couch. Lily jumped up and held some smelling salts from her handbag under the girl’s nose. She jerked awake then fell back weakly.
Someone from the back shouted. ‘I told you the lights were far too hot’.
‘Now what do we do? Betty shouted back? ‘We have to finish tonight whatever happens. Jenny is in no state to carry on she must go home at once, call her a taxi Henry will you’.
She looked over at Lily. ‘Fancy doing a bit of modelling?’
‘Me, but I look a fright’.
‘You won’t once our Dorothy has given you the works!’
Half an hour later, Lily emerged from the shadows. Dressed in a green silk cocktail suit with a tiny hat adorning long auburn waves that hung down her back, she looked perfect.
‘Good heavens above’. Gasped Henry. ‘You look absolutely splendid; your hair, quite astonishing’.
She blushed and said thank you.
Two hours later, after modelling what felt like hundreds of different outfits, Lily fell back on the velvet couch, exhausted but exhilarated at the same time.
Henry came over and sat next to her. ‘Well done! I’m off to the Belle Etoile, the little French restaurant just across the road, do you know it?
‘Definitely, it has the best Croque Monsieur outside France I had it after the theatre, only once sadly, but it was quite, quite delicious’
‘Well then you must come with me and we will have it together’.
So it began.
Of course Henry and Lily fell in love, there was no way they couldn’t have!
Henry became head cameraman for the Geographical Magazine winning many awards for his amazing photography.
Lily became the face of Dobson and Dobson, Milliners to the new Queen, where her face was splashed over every billboard and on the side of the red buses that trundled up and down the streets of London.
When Lily said ‘Betty I am in love with your cameraman, is that okay?’ I laughed so much and said I was so glad that I had been too busy to meet at Lyons Tea House that evening, as she would never have become a household name and none of this lovely story would never have happened.
The three of us meet up frequently and our favourite eating place is La Belle Etoile where their superb Croque Monsieur is to die for!
Lily copied the recipe as best she could and served it after her wedding ceremony in the early hours of the morning. It is still talked about to this day as the highlight of the whole affair!
Croque Monsieur a la Lily
This is a Croque Monsieur with a difference, an upmarket French toastie!
Just the thing to have in the early hours of the morning when you have been dancing all night.
Four slices of white bread
Two well beaten eggs, seasoned
Two slices of good sliced ham
Three tablespoons of grated cheese, Gruyere or similar
Three tablespoons of crème fraiche
One tablespoon of unsalted butter and a little oil to prevent the butter from burning
Make two sandwiches with the ham.
Mix the cheese and cream together to make a paste, spread this over the ham.
Dip the sandwiches into the beaten egg, turning over until the egg is soaked in, then sauté them in the butter and olive oil, in an already hot, heavy bottomed frying pan, make sure it is a heavy pan or you may burn the eggs and there is nothing more disgusting than the taste of burnt egg!
Sauté until the sandwiches are crisp and golden brown on each side.
Have ready a cream sauce keeping warm in a bain marie.
The cream sauce
One tablespoon of crème fraiche
One heaped teaspoon of flour
One tablespoon of butter
One tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese
Make the sauce by melting the butter over a low heat until bubbling gently, add the flour stirring well for half a minute, then gradually add the crème fraiche stirring gently, just before serving add the cheese and fold in, then pour over the Croque Monsieurs .
This is not for the faint hearted as is extremely rich but once in a while it is an almighty treat!
A light red wine such as a red Loire wine would go well with this.