Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Entertaining. It's like flying a plane you know

My earliest memories of dinner parties that my parents held are my sister and I getting up early  the morning after when the sophistication has gone and all that's left is some  Carrs Water crackers with a slice off egg and a small teaspoon of fish roe on top. The "caviar" has stained the egg slightly black but it's still a mouthful of adulthood - snuck while they are still asleep. The remnants are cleaned up quietly and the room is done.

The next room holds a a treasure trove of half finished deserts, dirty coffee cups with their rims gently marked with lipstick of all shades and in the center of the table - the ultimate prize - Tulip After dinner mints. The rectangle white box and the mint - in a small brown envelope - was what we were here for. You could sit up in the big chairs around the table and slide the mint out of the envelope and then put the envelope back in the box. The perfect crime.

After all how were they going to remember how many had been eaten ?

The rooms still smelt faintly of cigarette smoke and stale perfume. All of which to us was just another example of complete sophistication.

The diner parties were strictly off limits whilst they were in full swing. If you were going to interrupt it you better have either Ebola or have been the victim of a shark attack. Children were to be not seen and certainly not heard

My parents were the masters of entertaining, everything was perfect, from the gold rimed Noritake dinner set to the individually polished silver cutlery. The guests would arrive and champagne corks and polite laughter would pepper the evening, and then after a while they would all move from the lounge room to the dining room to consume delights prepared earlier.

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Well that was the 70's and 80's. Fast forward to today and the pressure to entertain well is akin to being a pilot of a 747. One wrong move and lives are at stake.

I'm blessed to be married to a woman whose attention to detail makes OCD look like a common cold so I'm ahead of the crowd from the start. But don't think that makes it any easier, nowadays Masterchef and every other TV chef proclaim to be able to make even The Incredible Hulk able to cook up a five course meal in 30 minutes or less. So the expectation is already set.

And to make matters worse the meals have to good for you as well, because the minute you re-create Adrian Richardson's Crackling Wrapped Pork Roast  with mash and tarragon salad, some one pipes up with the calorie count and the next thing you know the forks start going down on the table.

Now days portion control is a major point of contention. Serve up an American portion and you'll be howled down, serve a big plate with the food as a desert island swimming in an ocean of sauce and people will look to you for assurances that there a  lot more courses to come. You simply can't win.

There's now even a movement of people who only use ingredients that are transported  less than 100 kms away from where they are, which is fine but that would mean I would have to start keeping cows and banana trees in the park around the corner. Which would be pretty hilarious watching all the people walking their dogs in the park trying to stop them from eating cow pats.

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Anyway entertaining has certainly changed and if the people you are inviting over have even the remotest interest in food and you don't want them to get  Social Commitment Phobia when you invite them over, you can't just slap some Coles sausages on plates and hope for the best.

No,  you are going to have to do research, preparation and planning. Which means you have to get all those cookbooks down from the shelf and read them.

Again I'm luckily ahead of most people as we have been given a plethora of cookbooks over the years from which to research from. I often wonder with all the millions of cook books purchased/gifted if anybody actually makes dishes out of them (besides us) or are they simply used as a conspicuous display of knowledge.

So next time your better half says " Hey we should have our friends /family over for [insert occasion here] " I'd think twice especially if they don't like Coles sausages....

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