On the agenda: Chas and Dave; Carrie; salted caramel; Asterix and the Picts; Chinese food


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The Independent Culture

Middle-class problems: Hosting a dinner party

By Daisy Stenham

A Dinner party is one of those strange social rituals at which it is imperative to appear as unfussed as possible in a desperate attempt to disguise an atmosphere of low-level mania.

It all starts with the "casual" nature of the invitation: "No big deal, just throwing some things together, turn up whenever!" Translation: "I have been cooking for three hours, I have been to four shops miles apart to source rare ingredients. I am barricaded in by print-outs of recipes. My YouTube tutorial on making hot-smoked trout with fennel and ricotta won't load. And I will be severely pissed off if you are late."

Yet the show soldiers on and guests arrive with dodgy plonk that must be discreetly placed to the side while you decant that very drinkable bottle you'd been meaning to keep to yourself.

As the parade of food begins, inevitable awkwardness arises. "Oh, you don't eat fish, don't worry," comes tersely from your mouth as you edge out of the door to whip up some SOS pasta in a cold-blooded rage.

The careful seating plan, meanwhile, will have been "re-arranged" by one guest who simply had to catch up with an old flame, meaning two people with absolutely nothing to say to one another are left trapped between walls of over-complicated food.

And finally, with the plates cleared, there comes the final predicament: how to shoo everyone out without seeming rude. In-roads are unsubtly made – "God look at the time!" – but not followed through until there's only one thing for it: now where did you put that plonk?