Last night found me embracing the picnic aspect of the concert I went to at Kenwood house rather too enthusiastically.
No sooner had we settled on the grass among the other fans than I found myself – much to my boyfriend’s dismay – peering indiscreetly at other people’s picnics. In fact, before we’d even unpacked our own dinner, I had craned my neck this way and that and smugly rated the efforts of everyone around me.
There were the M&S devotees, rifling through their lime-green plastic bags and yanking open aggressively sealed plastic containers of Parma ham, hummus, and mozzarella balls with sun-dried tomatoes (then passing round the Percy Pigs). Yawn, I sighed.
Then there was the Waitrose camp, their Waitrose convenience food stored in convenient Waitrose cool bags (or else nestled in large designer hampers). They were tucking heartily into mini pork pies and posh-ly processed potato salads. They had all the gear – not only wine glasses but wine glass holders – but there was no… X-factor.
There was one pitiful girl sat spearing vegetables from a slab of couscous in her single Tupperware: everyone in her group was also guarding the one dish they’d brought along with them. I averted my eyes, embarrassed for them.
As for the couple in front of us, they were tucking into just one course: a bottle of red wine. Enough said.
Posted in gluttony
Tagged aubergines, broad bean, Carluccio's, couscous, feta, gourmet, hummus, M&S, meatloaf, mint, mozzarella, muffins, Ottolenghi, pepper, Percy pigs, pork belly, pork pies, potato salad, potted rabbit, restaurants, sensitive gluttons, Serrano ham, strawberries, sun-dried tomatoes, vegetables, Waitrose, wine
Why is it that whenever I offer anything up for human consumption I have to voice a loud disclaimer before people tuck in? Am I alone in this self-sabotage? I know I can’t be, because I learnt this bad behaviour from my mum, whose verbal apéritif to anything she’s prepared is flavoured with tremulous uncertainty. I in turn have become a similar kind of Hugh Grant figure in the kitchen, babbling self-justification and wobbling like jelly as soon as I have to share my creations.
Even when I invite unsuspecting friends in for a simple cuppa, I can’t seem to get by without exclaiming in surprise at the lack of clean mugs instead of giving the offending crockery a surreptitious cosmetic rinse, or voicing my misgivings over how long we’ve had that bottle of milk instead of keeping schtum. And heaven help me if I’ve run out of biscuits to offer round.
Worse still, when I bring homemade goodies into work, my colleagues have to endure the long and tedious back story that comes with them. Before tucking in, they must listen patiently to my concerns over whether I used the right type of cream cheese for the frosting on those muffins, whether that cake could have done with an extra five minutes in the oven, and whether we’ll notice that I forgot to add the sugar to that tart. Sometimes I’ll announce that I’ve brought in a treat, then dash everybody’s enthusiasm by adding that I don’t think it will be very nice, leaving my guinea pigs wondering in exasperation why I bothered in the first place. Happily, advertising wasn’t my career of choice, though God knows applying a little brand management to my products wouldn’t do any harm.
Some people have the chutzpah to present their food without untoward comment, sensibly leaving the recipients to judge the results for themselves. These people also have the quiet cunning that turns tragedy into opportunity – burnt brownies are deftly trimmed of their offending edges and dusted with sugar, sunken cakes are levelled off and elaborately iced, and dry sponges are swiftly doused in booze, plunged into softly whipped cream, sprinkled with nuts and berries and transformed into a decadent dessert, with no one any the wiser.
It’s a simple concept, yet so difficult for transparency-crazed neurotics like me to follow in practice. For example, if you come for dinner at mine we won’t say grace. Instead, before every meal I’ll bow my head and religiously repeat the words, ‘Here it is, I’m not sure if it’s OK or not. If you don’t like any of it, just leave it, I won’t be offended’ – the better to dampen any appetites that have been prematurely whetted.
Posted in daily bread
Tagged aperitif, biscuits, brownies, cake, cream, frosting, Hugh Grant, jelly, muffins, sugar, tart, tea