There’s a programme on the telly where a bunch of people have to competitively host a dinner party.
I view it in the manner of a faintly baffled anthropologist, because I don’t think I’ve ever actually thrown a dinner party in my life. Why ‘throw’ a dinner party, anyway? It sounds like you take the entire contents of your table and hurl it against the wall.
It looks like a weapons-grade faff. Why make such a fuss inviting your pals over for dinner? To be honest, I’m not sure any of my friends would say yes to that particular invitation, given my near legendary inability to cook anything much beyond cheese on toast, and even then my mum has to supervise the toasting.
It could be that I have post traumatic stress disorder, revealed in flashbacks from the one and only dinner party I can recall actually being at, back in the days when David Cassidy broke girls hearts, when I was a mere teen.
My friend at school, in the democratic way our schools used to be, was actually quite posh. Her dad had served in the Indian army, and they had crystal glasses in a cabinet and there was a room in the house that was just for eating in.
Anyway, they invited me to join them for a dinner party. It was clearly a posh do. There were flowers on the table, and not in a jam jar. I felt like I was being hemmed in by a floral hedge and spent most of my time talking to a chrysanthemum.
The posh dinner was a rustic chicken arrangement baked in a brick. This was the 70s, such things were permitted. The dessert was an impossibly large and fluffy gateau, involving cherries and kirsch.
And then coffee, which I thought odd, because everyone knew that Nescafe so close to bedtime was a bad idea.
They also produced cheese. Several cheeses, in fact, on a board. And crusty French-style bread. I was baffled. I had never seen lunch served at the end of dinner before. I took an industrial length of baguette, several massive slices of something vaguely cheddary and made the sort of cheese sarnie that would have graced the tea break of a Clydeside shipyard.
Everyone else had a tiny bit of brie and a salted cracker, which they broke up to balance cheese crumbs on, prior to popping the morsels in their mouths. Their mouths were already open. They were watching me, aghast, as I did battle with a sort of bread and cheese torpedo that could have sunk the Bismark.
They never asked me back.
The drugs don’t work, especially snorting sugar
Just like the Tour de France, of course, it’s all going to end in a welter of drug-related scandal.
Virtually every competitor I’ve watched seems to be awash with performance enhancing drugs such as sherry, Chardonnay and caffeine.
Bet some of them are even snorting sugar.
Game, icing’s set and match to competitors
All leisure activity seems to have gone the way of the Olympics or the Tour de France, with competitors “going the extra mile” and “stepping up their game” to thrash the opposition.
There’s live commentary, intense music and people cracking up under the strain of a runny icing or a saggy soufflé.
You’re baking a cake, mate, not facing down a screaming Andy Murray on the Centre Court. Or his fiancée, come to that.
Making cakes is supposed to be relaxing and fun, not some sort of high-octane, adrenaline-driven battle to the last cook standing.
Mind you, the Women’s Institute does have a fearsome reputation. Woe betide the baker who presents a lacklustre lemon drizzle cake to hard-faced judges in the Teatime Treat Cake Semi-finals.
Give me bonkers Keith any day over that kitchen nightmare Ramsay
In the time when baking chicken in a brick was the height of sophistication, the cooks on the telly were a kind, cuddly bunch. Even the fictitious Mrs Bridges, the queen of the range in Upstairs Downstairs, was a rounded little bundle of unsaturated fat, complex carbohydrates and unrefined sugar.
There was a gourmet who galloped and the ever bonkers Keith Floyd who was so keen on performance enhancing stimulants that entire vineyards of Bordeaux were set aside just to keep him fuelled.
Now we have chef-as-angry-
athletes, especially that Ramsay one who never misses a chance to remove his shirt so we can see his rippling biceps and who seems to exist in a permanent whirl of bad temper and fury like a foul-mouthed, pinny-wearing Tasmanian Devil.
Ah, dear Keith Floyd. He rarely raised his voice, never made anyone cry and actually fell over once or twice, but he looked like he was enjoying his cooking.
Whenever I am forced into the kitchen, I invoke the spirit of Floyd. He was right, everything tastes better with a glug of the good stuff, and a cheery attitude. Even cheese on toast.