Opinion Columnists

Monday 16 September 2019

Anyone for dinner? I aim to impress

'You can get away with murder with a barbecue'
'You can get away with murder with a barbecue'

John Masterson

The winter is drawing in. The barbecue season has closed, even to devotees like me. The outside tables and chairs have been put away or tied down thanks to Ophelia. That season of the year has arrived where people eat indoors and the guests expect something better and more imaginative than burgers, steak and chicken drumsticks.

You can get away with murder with a barbecue. I always lie about marinating and think they believe me. Indoors, the world has changed beyond recognition and with it comes great social pressure.

The old cure for cooking anxiety was easy. A few drinks. For them. Not me. In days gone past you could serve any old slop you liked once they had got through a litre of CDC gin and Schweppes. Regular or slimline tonic were the only options. Today people claim to know the difference between about 15 different gins (14 of which I do not stock) and a multitude of flavoured tonics, again, none of which I have. There are people who even ask "do you only have lemon?"

These are small problems. The big problem is that most of them won't even touch the booze because they or driving, or getting up at 7am. You are faced with serving food to sober people with taste buds. The days when by the end of the main course I could fill empty wine bottles from a box I brought from France are gone. There aren't even empty bottles.

There are further stress-inducing problems. We know every random family in the country possesses a celebrity-penned cookbook which makes cooking look a doddle. Everyone has seen celebrity chefs make it look easy on television and this is what guests have come to expect in the winter months. When you serve your efforts guests are so used to living on social media that the first thing they do is take a photograph of the food.

Anyone who doesn't compliment the cook on their efforts should not be invited again until the barbecue season. I will also post a photo of them on Facebook. I am never negative. I will leave it to someone else to add a comment about them getting a lot of wear out of that outfit.

Cooking should be on the school curriculum. Every human being should be able to cook a dozen or so simple tasty healthy meals. Every home-cooked meal that replaces a takeaway is a small step in our national battle against obesity. And it is not all goody goody stuff. If you have never cooked your own Christmas pudding try it. You can't go wrong.

Eating out is a great pleasure. Eating at home is an important part of the rich tapestry of life and the more you do it the better you get.

The best way to get rid of the anxiety is not to give a fig about anything except the compliments.

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