Entertaining

In terms of being the perfect hostess you can put me right at the bottom of the list. Not the bottom of ten or a hundred, but at least a thousand, or ten thousand.

I hate the staged spectacle of dinner parties. Maybe because I grew up with them. They were wonderful. My mother actually was the perfect hostess. To the extent that she slaved away in the kitchen cooking for my father’s half a dozen or eight masonic mates (all men obviously), dished everything up on bone china, and dutifully kept out of the way.

Not really for me.

She did however receive the odd bouquet of flowers and a charming note from the more thoughtful members of the mens’ club after the wonderful dinner – invariably:

• prawn cocktail/smoked salmon/smoked salmon and prawns/prawns in cheese sauce/potted shrimps/cold fresh salmon/fresh crab

• soup – lobster bisque, turtle soup, a home-made beef consommé or home-made clear chicken soup

• fish course (if there was no starter) – plaice with prawns and sauce, dover sole, coquilles St Jacques – we even had the little sea shells to serve them on

• main course – could be anything: a chicken classic casserole, a beef one, or game, or steak

• dessert – trifle seemed to be very popular, or profiteroles (you can tell the time period), crepes suzettes, hawaiian glory (one of my faves)

• and a cheese board – of course.

When I moved to the home counties, well, the outer echelons ie Bedfordshire, one of my friends asked if I had joined the local dinner party set? Uh??

The nearest I got to that was cooking some sprouts one day in the oven and a neighbour who I didn’t like, nearly fell over in shock because he thought the sprouts (cooked with sauce, mace, and can’t remember what else) smelt wonderful. He lived with a woman who burned bacon and toast. He didn’t get invited in for sprouts.

Moving onto the next house we were asked to dinner with some journalist friends, and she did a super meal. We invited them back. Halfway through the meal prep I realised I was doing mushroom pate and mushroom something for main course. No!! I switched halfway through and created a disaster. The dog helped though during dinner. He jumped on the chair at the table at one point waiting for his meal thereby creating an excellent diversion. Thanks Ben.

They wouldn’t believe he’d never done it before. He never did it again either. He must have figured I needed a bit of help.

We entertained a couple of Californians who we’d met on holiday in Scotland. They were vegetarian which was pretty lucky.

Next house, we jumped up a social gear and were invited to dinner at the home of my work colleague. She really was a fantastic cook. The one who did the famous veg wellington with chestnut stuffing.

We invited them back. At which point I started to panic, and let Partner cook the food. I then realised I didn’t like formal dinner parties.

In our second house in the same area, we had some neighbours round. I was so loathe to dish up the food that I asked them if they really wanted to eat.

I mean, there was vague logic there. When you go to someone’s to eat, it can be too late, too early, food you don’t want, so sometimes you eat before. A bit like going to a boring party. Sadly they wanted to eat, so I dished up. Utterly bored and disinterested with the whole thing. I hate cooking for non-vegetarians anyway. They never like the food.

But in the same house, I did manage a spontaneous meal for a neighbour. I walked in from work after yet another crap day at the office on a late summer’s evening to find her sitting on the front step with my partner.

I stormed in to get on with tea and she was STILL there.

‘Well, if you haven’t finished chatting, you might as well eat with us,’ I snarled.

‘Oh yes please.’

I rattled off that we were having veg casserole, potatoes, spring greens out of the garden and salad leaves. All to no avail, she still said yes.

In fact, it was an extremely pleasant meal and she was good company. Which just goes to show that I am terrible at pre-arranged cooking dates, but ok with turn up and if you eat what I happen to be cooking, take it or leave it.

She’s not the only one I’ve cooked for on a similar basis. One acquaintance invited himself to stay with us in Spain for a week, so I cooked for a few days for him before he suddenly remembered he had a lot of food in his campervan freezer that might be going off. Good.

We employed an electrician who was going through a bad phase (so to speak) and I chucked in lunchtime meals as well. He wolfed everything down. Thai, Indian curry, and mashed potato dishes were his favourite. I fed his huge Rottweiler too. Hell, I don’t want to see anyone starve, and they were both pretty hungry. I explained the food was vegetarian, and he (the man not the dog) had this ‘I really don’t care’ look on his face. And he invariably had seconds. How much more rewarding is that than hosting some poncy dinner party?

So I couldn’t do a Christmas meal for anyone in a million years. Nor do I want to. In fact I don’t want to cook for anyone, ever again.

Believe it or not, there are some great vegetarian meals to be had, although as far as I am concerned they either involve nuts, pastry (filo or shortcrust), tempeh, tofu, or seitan.

But they don’t suit non-meaters.

It’s not only a different way of eating, it’s a different mindset.

People are happy to eat veg meals, so long as there is some meat as well. Jamon serrano for example, or seafood, or fish, or steak (exactly like my mum’s meal from 40 years ago) but veg meals on their own don’t do it for most meat eaters.

So, there are no dinner – or lunch – invitations from me in the future.

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About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
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20 Responses to Entertaining

  1. Vicky says:

    Your mums menu sound like it should be in the Michelin Guide, that is some menu!!

    I’ve never been to, or hosted a dinner party in my life, and I certainly don’t intend to start now.
    I’d much prefer a spur of the moment BBQ on a lovely summer evening……better still….on the beach on a lovely warm summer evening. Not much chance of that in the UK 😦

    Like

    • It wasn’t all dished up at the same time! It was one or the other for the various courses (apart from dessert). Either way, it was still class, I have to say. She was a great cook, there’s no doubt about that.

      I can live with someone coming to eat, (and I need to add something about that which Blu’s comment has reminded me of), I just can’t bear the pretence around dinner parties.

      Your BBQ comment reminded me of one of our camping trips, but that’s for another post!

      Like

  2. bluonthemove says:

    I haven’t been to a dinner party for ages, haven’t hosted one for even longer. I have a freezer which for me is a life saver. Over the years, work colleagues from abroad were for ever inviting ‘the single man’ out to dinner with them on their expenses, probably in the belief that all that would be waiting for me at home was a tin of beans.

    In reality, the meal I would have had at home was usually way better than the restaurant we went to, so what ever I was going to have was popped into the freezer for another day, as I hate wasting food. Equally, work colleagues, whilst expecting me to go and eat at their homes, always seemed to decline my invitations, probably for fear of food poisoning. Suited me, meant not having to tidy up especially.

    My freezer now usually contains a selection of pizzas including vegetarian options. They are then served to people who are visiting and are hungry as opposed to people invited specifically to eat. With vegetarian guests, I’ll fry a couple of rashers of bacon separately, so that after the pizza has been cooked and cut in half, the rashers of bacon are placed on my half.

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    • If our freezer hadn’t stopped working in Gibflat, I would use it too. But I am too tight to throw out the sort of working fridge while ever that lasts.

      Sounds like you got the good end of the deal. Not that I would have ever invited you, as I am well aware that *some* single men are perfectly capable of cooking, and if they aren’t, not my problem.

      We have cooked for and been cooked for by a single neighbour though. He was a good cook and we knew him well. He was also a sort of a work colleague but not directly, so none of that got in the way. He was a good sport about eating our veg food, although didn’t quite buy into our statements that tofu was similar to chicken 😉

      Bacon on pizza sounds truly vile! I’ve never had that, even when I ate meat. Salami or pepperoni, but bacon?! Sounds like ham and pineapple pizza 😀 Pizzas need as a minimum, olives, preferably black, capers and extremely hot chillies as a minimum. Anything else is a bonus (apart from bacon). Seriously, though, pizza as a quick fix is a great idea (especially without cheese – didn’t you mention that before?), and I totally agree with the approach of feeding people who are hungry and not creating a false event.

      Like

  3. Iquitoz says:

    Your mum’s cooking sounds delicious. Those “were” the days as Mary Hopkin sings. We never liked dinner parties and avoid them all together now. As if anyone invites us these days anyway. And yes, the pretentiousness! Pretentiousness in just about everything now. Arrgh.

    I remember my Czech grandmother’s huge fruit dumpling lunches. Fab but not on the healthy diet list. Today we are having delicata squash for lunch. Ten years ago I wouldn’t get within a block of a squash but I find them very tasty now. Spaghetti squash with pesto is yummy. Some of our protein comes from Portuguese sardines and of course grilled peanut butter sandwiches.

    Oh, and my wife of 42 years next week has never cooked a whole turkey. Our mothers did the holiday cooking.

    Great post.

    Like

    • On my mother’s side I come from a family of excellent basic cooks, and my mother started to dabble in fancy French stuff! But she really was a great cook. I can only ever remember one poor meal – it was called Swedish rabbit and none of us liked it (not her fault, it was the recipe), and my father’s choice of wine was equally poor! 😀

      I’ve got the Mary Hopkin single. So sad I think, still listen to it sometimes, as my partner comes from Wales.

      I read your comment out to him and he so agreed about pretentiousness being everywhere.

      The only squash we ever eat is when our neighbour next door gives us some of her leftovers, usually sauteed with delicate spices, some cumin I think, a little vinegar but I really have no idea. We just eat it. But I would have no idea how to cook it myself, although I do cook courgette and marrow – same family huh?

      Peanut butter sandwiches! Can’t remember the last time I ate those.

      Turkey? I’ve never cooked one. I think my mother cooked one once and the conclusion was that you could only eat so many turkey sandwiches afterwards. Needless to state my partner cooked one in his previous life before me.

      Thanks Iquitoz. Enjoyed your comment too.

      Like

  4. free penny press says:

    My Mom was a great hostess like your Mom. the difference being she had everything catered..I on the otherhand am not a great hostess, do not like stiff-formal affairs. I’d rather like coming to a gathering at your house very much. I think the food would be great and conversation aplenty!!

    Like

  5. Sounds like Terry and June or Margot and Jerry! I’m with you on entertaining or eating in general. I prefer something prepared in a single pot or dish (paella e.g.) to a lot of preparation, hard work and washing up!

    Like

  6. EllaDee says:

    As I read your post, I was impressed by your mother’s catering talents and dedication – I guess it was of its time but very classy and unlike anything from my family life – and also Ben the wonderful dinner party guest.
    As I read I was trying to remember dinner parties in my young life but no, we either went out – Chinese was popular or everyone turned up with a bit of something, but it was just family and friends.
    During the course of being married twice I cooked quite a lot for family and friends – there was always someone calling around or we were going somewhere taking something. I’m quite relieved that the G.O. and I don’t have that lifestyle… like you if we have visitors and they are happy to eat what we’re having, that’s fine. I can always make it enough but otherwise I don’t feel obligated, where as once I would’ve.
    I hope you don’t mind yet another tardy comment, being the latecomer I’ve had the added enjoyment of everyone’s comments and your further comments.

    Like

    • Some people don’t read the comments, I always do, and often go back to see what has been added. They add so much value.

      I could probably have done the DP thing at one point, but now? No interest at all. Although we do spend a lot of time thinking about and eating food 😀

      Like

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