How not to hold a dinner party

Is it me or are dinner parties a pain in the arse?

I don’t mean going to dinner parties.  Once I’ve come to terms with being parted from my sofa for the night, I’m more than happy to totter off to someone else’s house to be fed and entertained.

The bit I could do without is holding dinner parties.

Some people came to dinner recently.  I’d decided – don’t ask why – to do a Thai banquet.

Preparations started a week earlier with an afternoon in the supermarket.  There were fifteen dishes and sauces to prepare, each requiring an average of twelve ingredients.

For the next few days, I peeled, chopped, grated, ground, mixed, soaked, marinated and fried.  Raw fingered, I crammed everything into the fridge and hoped I’d know what was what on the night.

The day itself and I deep cleaned the house.  I’d read somewhere that carpet stains disappear in dim lighting so I rushed out last minute and bought a job lot of candles.  And a new tablecloth.

7pm arrived and I was a wreck.  I showered, squeezed into my glad rags and necked a G & T to get in the mood.  Feeling suddenly brave and bold, I threw on so much slap that the dog growled when I came downstairs.  At which point the doorbell rang.

How did the evening go?  Well a respectable amount of wine was drunk and there was only one awkward silence (when conversation dried up mid-coconut and galangal soup).

But the food, seriously, was bland.  Everything tasted the same.  And there were so many dishes I couldn’t fit them all onto the table.  The new tablecloth remained hidden.  It was too dark in the candlelight to see anything anyway.  The rice was stone cold.  And the pudding inedible.

Oh, and I got so drunk I only vaguely remember people leaving sensibly at 11.30pm.

The following weekend, we were guests at another dinner party.  Get in there; someone else’s turn.

They answered the door in jeans and jumpers.  Had they forgotten we were coming?

‘Good to see you!’ they cried.  ‘You don’t mind watching the end of the match, do you?  Then we’ll switch off the telly and sort out the food.’

We sank onto their comfy old sofa and they sat on the unhoovered floor.  We ate crisps and chatted with half an eye on the football before moving into the kitchen.  A pile of stuff was cleared off the table and we sat down to jacket potatoes with tuna salad followed by supermarket cheesecake.

The evening ran away with us.  It was 1am before we tumbled out onto the street and made our happy way home.

At last, I’ve seen the light.  I know the secret to dinner party success.  And it’s not a Thai banquet.


What to do about fussy eaters

Do you own a fussy eater?  Most of us do these days.

Our parents tell us we’ve brought it upon ourselves by offering too much choice.  (“Orange juice or apple juice?”  “Pasta or potatoes?”  “Honey or jam?”)

Maybe they have a point.  Or maybe they’re forgetting that THE POST-WAR YEARS ARE OVER.  Whatever.

The fact is that I’ve brought up both my boys the same way and one is a fussy eater while the other isn’t.

Anyway, what should you do if you have a fussy eater?  Worry?  Buy middle class toddler cookery books that only reinforce your failings?  Despair?  Lose your rag?  I used to do all these things.  Then I realised nothing made a blind bit of difference.

It’s far better – and I wish someone had told me this fourteen years ago – to relax and go with the flow.  They won’t starve themselves to death.  And it doesn’t matter if they eat the same things day after day.

Honestly, they’ll be fine.

“But my little darling isn’t having a balanced diet!” I hear you cry.

In that case, resort to bribery.

When my son was six, I paid him £10 to eat three mouthfuls of broccoli.  His shock at discovering that vegetables don’t kill was assuaged by the purchase of tat from Toys R Us.  And he’s eaten something green most days since.

Best tenner I ever spent.


Coming soon…  How to avoid housework