Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Perfect Host

About this time of year it seems to be customary to invite friends around for the occasional nosh-up, a function that used to be referred to as a dinner party. As one with long experience of these events, I thought it would be appropriate for me to pass along a tip or two on how to survive such functions whilst preserving both your sanity and your wallet.

The first rule is not to panic. However dire the food turns out to be, it takes a very strong minded guest to complain openly – and if you find subsequently that he or she has, you don’t have to invite them again.

It is important to establish your position at the event. A good start is to tell your invitees that it’s just an informal gathering. Undoubtedly they will have been misled in the past by this sort of thing and will therefore show up, booted and spurred as though for the hunt ball. You, on the other hand, will greet them in a food spattered tee shirt, jeans and carpet slippers. You will have instantly asserted your superiority.

The British tend to arrive clutching a bottle as a sort of peace offering. This gives you yet another opportunity to score. If, by chance, they have brought something worth having in the hope that they might get a swig of it, you can thank them profusely, adding that you will put it aside for a special occasion. This implies that the evening is rather less than a special occasion and garners you a bottle of good wine into the bargain – known as a win-win situation.

If, as is more likely, they have contributed something from the dregs of the Australian outback, inspect the label critically before placing it ostentatiously alongside the cooking sherry in the kitchen.

The food itself is unimportant. After all, it’s not as though you’re cooking for yourself when it would really matter. The supermarket freezer section and the micro-wave are formidable weapons here, but be sure to point out that the recipe is an old family one of your maternal grandmother’s or, if an exotic dish, an idea you picked up during your travels in the Far East. A dollop of soy sauce gives a touch of verisimilitude to the story. And it’s worth bearing in mind that even Gordon Ramsey has his off days. Apparently the lobster ravioli in his New York restaurant has all the qualities of high grade synthetic rubber.

If your guests number amongst them someone who knows something about wine, it is as well to proceed cautiously in the drink department, but the percentage of those who do actually know anything of the subject as opposed to merely being snobbish about it, is infinitesimal. So unless you relish casting pearls before swine, as the saying is, I suggest you preserve the empty bottles of the good stuff you’ve been drinking privately and reload them with common or garden plonk. When pouring, make sure your guests see the label – they’ll never know the difference and, if they have the temerity to question why you don’t uncork the stuff before their eyes, tell them that you opened it early in order to allow it to breathe.

By following these simple instructions you can develop the reputation of being a fine host with the minimum of trouble and expense.

It is possible that your guests may demand a return engagement to seek revenge. Bearing in mind the above strategy, you should now be in a position to outwit them.

Bon appetit!


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