When the caregiver suggested I prepare beef stroganoff for a dinner party, I immediately curled into the fetal position and began whimpering gently.

After my earlier boasting about my catering skills, managing numerous guests, she was mystified by my apparent breakdown.

"What's the problem?" she impatiently inquired, believing I simply needed to "get a grip".

"You mentioned ... beef stroganoff," I stuttered, adding, "you've unlocked embarrassing memories ..."


The caregiver understands the only way to pander to lugubrious behaviour is to serve strong tea laced with rum and, sure enough, after the third cup I was ready to explain why the mention of beef stroganoff leaves me seriously deranged.

"It happened many years ago," I whispered weakly.

I was curator of the Auckland City Art Gallery and, after an international conference, I invited some of the distinguished guests and their wives to a dinner party at my Parnell residence.

They included senior curatorial staff from the Tate Gallery and the Louvre.

I had meticulously prepared the dinner fare and, when the guests arrived, all appeared to be in order.

I had just placed my stroganoff piece de resistance on the table, when there was a knock at the front door.

Excusing myself, I was greeted by a young lady with striking red hair - swaying unsteadily on my doorstep - someone I'd met briefly at some gallery function.

I apologised, explaining the inconvenience of a dinner party, but she asked if she could come in and sit down briefly because she felt unwell.


Nonplussed, I stood aside, allowing her to pass and enter the dining room.

Presuming she was a late arrival, everyone rose to greet her.

As I nervously introduced her to my guests, she suddenly, without warning, vomited across the table and into my waiting dish of beef stroganoff.

My evening of effortless epicurean brilliance became a scene of nightmarish chaos.

After a thousand apologies, I packed my vomit-splattered, distraught guests back to their hotels in taxis.

The Tate curator's wife commented tersely as she climbed into the cab, "you have interesting friends". In the meantime, the lady responsible for the pandemonium had vanished into the night, never to be seen again.

"Well, how about poached salmon instead of stroganoff?" the caregiver suggested edgily, bored with my woeful tales.

"Oh no! Not poached salmon!" I cried, shrinking back into the fetal position. But hang on, readers - that's another ghastly story.