On Saturday night, the Fibro, spruced up and decluttered, was the venue for that most endangered of all things, a dinner party between friends. Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it? In fact, we had another couple over for dinner.
It did feel like a major occasion, mostly because it seems so incredibly difficult to organise these days. In the city, we had trouble because everyone had to synch diaries, schedule months in advance and reschedule by text the afternoon of the proposed event.
Here in Fibrotown there’s a bit of synching, a bit of scheduling, but mostly it comes down to the fact that we just don’t know as many people. Anything involving face-to-face contact with other adults is greeted with fireworks and a marching band. Or, in my case, candles – I seem to unfailingly (and inadvertently) schedule dinner parties for Earth Hour night, just to add that zing of excitement that comes with entertaining in the dark.
I love a good dinner party. I have a friend who goes into hysterics at the idea of cooking for more than one other person, but I really enjoy it. I follow the rules: plan in advance, make sure all ingredients are in the cupboard more than five minutes before guest arrive, and cook stuff you know will work. (Also, never leave IKEA without the requisite 100 tea lights just for those occasions when you forget you'll be turning the lights off.)
The joy of entertaining new friends is that you can wheel out old dishes knowing they haven’t had them at your house before. (The Builder is in for a lot of Chicken with Caramelised Pears and Prosciutto as we work our way into the upper echelons of Fibrotown society.) I believe there are women who keep a record of what they serve to whom and when. You know, in case Mrs Guest gets the lasagne at two consecutive visits (quelle horreur!). But I’m not that woman.
To reinforce that, I admit to being a menu cheat. Cheese and nibbles for entrée. Mini Heaven icecreams for dessert. When I write my cookbook it will be called Cook one course and assemble the rest (catchy, I know). A chef once told me to focus all my attention on dessert – if you give guests something spectacular as a third course, they go off into the night raving about it and forget whatever garbage it was that you served up before it.
But we’d had enough wine by dessert time that anything more than an icecream on a stick would have been wasted. Besides, it was Earth Hour. We couldn’t see what we were eating anyway.
The wine and the intimacy of candlelight did allow us to work our way through the three big no-nos of polite social chit-chat: politics, religion and sex. I know you’re not meant to bring them up, but really…take them out of the equation and you’re looking at a very long night of discussing the weather and each other’s children. In all, we managed to cover off all three without fisticuffs, verbal abuse or even banging on the table.
There’s a lot to be said for candlelight. Little pockets of flattering, flickering, shadowy light that give people room to say what they think. Electric lights are harsh, unforgiving. There’s no room for error in what you say or in what you hear.
Let’s turn them off more often.