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Posts Tagged ‘Dinner Party Guests’

When people say “I like cooking” (or even when I read a CV, which I seem to be doing a lot more of than I would like, and it features “cooking” as an interest) I think “Ah – you like eating, eating with other people. Good.”

I like eating with other people, and given that I can’t afford to do that in restaurants (because I have decided that my disposable income, such as it is, will go on the theatre, rather than on eating at places where “spume”, “foam” and “mist” appear on menus and drive the prices for very ordinary food up by at least 60%), I have to do it at home.

Mainly, it’s family who come here – or at least family who form the backbone of the guest list – and people who know them (and would be pleased to see them) who swell the ranks. The reason for this is simple: there is a list of things that are made much more complex when you’re single than when you’re part of a couple. Chief among these are: “Carrying IKEA furniture up three flights of stairs”, “Assembling IKEA furniture”, “Hanging a seven feet high mirror” and “Cooking while also entertaining/carrying on a conversation”.

If I were content to have people lean on the kitchen work surfaces, making expansive gestures as we discuss Edward St Aubyn, describing wide arcs with the glasses of Kir that I have overfilled (out of a combination of nerves and a desire to render the environment into which the food will be introduced more forgiving) as I do interestingly modish things with beetroot, then the problem wouldn’t be so severe – but I am not. I don’t know why, but I have a (ridiculous) belief that when people come to eat at my house, they should enjoy drinks and canapés in a separate room to the one where I am swearing because I have forgotten to chill something that needed to be left in the ‘fridge overnight; so that, when the food is eventually ready, they don’t feel as if they have been as deeply involved in the preparation as I have, and that if ANYONE is going to accept praise graciously for the petits pois a la Francaise, then it ought to be them. As a result of this, there are any number of people whom I just don’t have over: people whom I like, people whom I would love to spend an evening with, people whom I owe an invitation to – I have decided in my crazy way that it’s better not to have these people over for an evening for a meal that I think we would all enjoy, than to leave them on their own every ten minutes for five minutes at a time while I go and marinade and get the steamer going.

It’s ridiculous. I know it is. Whenever I have seen cookery programmes – and, like everyone else, I can’t seem to turn the TV on nowadays without some media-friendly poppet who has a soundbite quirk to them (“She’s got a tiny kitchen!”, “He’s Australian and keeps going on about the rain in London!”, “She fellates wooden spoons!”, “He approaches cookery like a DJ!”, “He swears but he loves his children!” etc. etc.) looming over a set of achingly cool graphics – there is a compulsory reminder that I shouldn’t get hung-up, shouldn’t worry about the food, need to remember that it’s me they’re coming to see, shouldn’t drive myself mad over dinner…and I nod along to it, thinking “Absolutely”.

And then, when the time comes to see people whom I haven’t seen for far too long, I think: “I can’t invite them. They’re not coming to see me. They’re coming for dinner.”

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Tuesday, 1st January 2008

One of those questionnaire questions that I actually find quite illuminating about celebrities is the one that asks them whom they would invite to an ideal dinner party – alive or dead.

Whilst mine would be a fairly straightforward mix of heroes (Fiona Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Dylan Moran, Stephen Fry, Alan Bennett, David Hare, Wife and me), it is not going to happen. Wilde would smell – and the people at Pere Lachaise would probably be arsey about us moving the bones, and the Irish contingent might sing “On Moorlough Shore” too loudly if they’re allowed near the whiskey.

Fortunately, I reckon that the dinner we’re having tomorrow is going to be pretty good as the people coming have got a lot to say and MAKE ME LAUGH (which I think is the acid test for wanting to spend time with someone). So, Head of Communications Political Woman With Filthy Laugh, Sardonic Scot who Glances Sideways At the Punchline, Towering Redhead In Music Industry, Stitch-Inducing Lawyer, Hispanic Costume Designer and Author with Disconcerting Knowledge of All Things had BETTER be on form or this could be the most disappointed I have been since the dramatisation of “The Power.Book” – and that would NOT be good.

I have probably over-imagined it now and it will never live up to the dream of it I have in my head (nothing could, short of one of those evenings that you read about in biographies of Sartre, where all of Parisian intellectual life is present in a small bistro on the Rive Gauche), but there will certainly be enough wine – so that’s 80% of the evening guaranteed.

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