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Dinner anyone?

So we emerge from lockdown and I expect with mixed emotions depending on our circumstances and outlook. Good riddance for many people but for not for all. For some people, it has been a truly wonderful experience. So convenient for those of us relieved of some burdensome duties like visiting our elderly relatives. And let’s not forget the work shy of course. Those ‘workers’ who have so fully embraced lockdown and especially so in the light of this new magical word; furlough, whereby we stay at home, keep our jobs and still get paid.

Dear Lord, thank you. Amen.

No such schemes for people in my game but this is not to say I haven’t enjoyed some lockdown upsides. Nikki and I have revelled in the easing of any entertaining duties. No dinner parties to attend and reciprocate. A dinner party debt can only be settled in kind and unfortunately not by dispatching a pizza complete with garlic bread and a bottle of sugar.

But this week we did head out again. A kind invitation from some particularly chic friends. He an architect and she a creative director of one of the glossies. And joining us to make up the six (and remain within the law m’lud) is a famous fashion designer and his cool wife.

Arrival time is 7.30pm, so naturally Team Holland arrive at precisely 7.30 for what will be a dinner party masterclass and highlights just where we have been going wrong these past thirty years.

We are the first to arrive. Our designer friend who has made suits for Bond, Cumberbatch and royalty is nowhere to be seen.

Their house is immaculate. They must be exhausted from all the cleaning and clearing and yet they don’t appear so.

Cocktail, anyone?

He is on cocktail duty, preparing a drink which involves three individual spirits, lemon rind and crushed salt. He has ice to hand and a zester.

When we entertain, we provide ready-made drinks only: wine, beer or fizzy water. We are making dinner, not drinks. And once dispensed, it is preferable if our guests could imbibe elsewhere. We have rooms other than the kitchen and we appreciate being left alone, to flap and wish the time away.

Drinks in hand we are led in to their spacious and cool lounge. The place is absolutely spotless. Maybe they are selling the gaff and this evening is an elaborate sales viewing? If so, then they have me confused with another much more successful comedian/author/blogger.

Quickly I am on to my second beer and I’m rapidly filling up on nibbles. Roast artichokes, who knew? Still no sign of the designer though – fashionably late? I remark how comfortable my swivel leather chair is and he tells who designed it. I don’t recall the name but it’s not John Lewis. Our PM’s fiancé would approve.

At 8.15 and finally we are six. I note the famous designer is wearing a scarf, a garment I rarely wear and never indoors.

On to Champagne now and my thirst is up. Everyone is good company and the evening has a convivial rhythm. He controls his stereo with his iphone. Re my phone, recently I had to ask my youngest son to turn its blasted torch off.

9.30 and still no sign of food. Proper food I mean, you know, stuff requiring cutlery.

Finally we sit down to eat at 9.45 – by which I’m already full on nibbles and pissed. It is over two hours since we arrived which sounds ridiculous and yet somehow it all works brilliantly. And so different from a Holland dinner party.

These people entertain.

We just feed.

If we set an arrival time for 7.30 at the Holland’s house – then I am expecting people to be seated and chowing-down by say, 7.45 at the latest. As soon as the doorbell goes, I start the clock. The garlic bread is already on. We receive coats, jackets and most usually various bottles of wine. And usually some dolt brings flowers as well, like we haven’t got enough to do already. Now I need to find a vase and where are the fucking scissors?

Not so for these cool cats. These people are immune to time.

And of course, the food is spectacular and seemingly rustled from nowhere. Slow roasted lamb (who does lamb? Too risky, surely). Cauliflower cheese, miniature roasted potatoes and completed with a cold pea, mint and broccoli salad. It’s delicious, plentiful and I consume about half my body weight. And then a beautiful dessert emerges – homemade naturally.

Who buys ready-made desserts these days? Er… that will be us. And those tubs of custard (Madagascan, obviously).

Well past 1am and almost unable to see, I am chasing lumps of cheese about my plate with a water biscuit when our cab duly arrives.

We stagger to the door promising that it is back to our place next time.

Which is why I am hoping the Indian variant induces another longer and even more stringent lockdown. Because grim though this will be, the prospect of entertaining these cool cats is worse.

Much worse.

12 thoughts on “Dinner anyone?”

  1. Valerie KERAUDREN

    Nothing beats a nice dinner, even in the kitchen, over a simple dish with a good bottle of wine, why complicate life? If you find it exasperating to be offered flowers, you should know that everyone systematically offered bottles of whisky or Scotch to my mother, who never drank anything stronger than a small glass of port once a year. A word of advice: if you are given flowers, ask for the vase to be offered with them.
    I didn’t know about roasted artichokes, with you I learn things, your article is really funny.

  2. Buenos días!! Saludos y Bonito Domingo, y a disfrutar y a apreciar lo que realmente se extraño durante este encierro.
    Saludos desde
    Monterrey, México.

  3. Derek Shakespeare

    Get yourself a freelance private chef in,ha ha. For those elegant soirees,Chez Holland. I do happen to know a guy who fits the bill,
    Entertaining fun read,as ever.
    All the best Dominic, cheers.

    1. Good man Del Boy – ive just recorded a thing for our school’s virtual ball this year.
      Who knew they’d need me?

      1. Derek Shakespeare

        I’ll probably see it online, when they do the “virtual ball” or whatever they’re calling it. I’m on their Alumni website, etc,but I rarely get much time to view stuff,despite notifications. All in a good cause, nonetheless.

  4. You too can have spectacular food seemingly wrestled from nowhere! His name is Sam Holland
    But really, you should invite them to a traditional Holland dinner party. They’ll probably enjoy it more than their own. (And for gods sake don’t serve cocktails, that’s so 1964)

  5. Where do these perfectly groomed, floaty dinner party people come from? Is there a course they go on in their mid-twenties to learn the art of making posh gravy called ‘jus’ and creating ‘foam’ to accompany the perfectly cooked bream (without becoming so red-faced from effort that an ambulance is called)?
    I usually manage to avoid this drama by ‘promoting’ my friends. I tell them that we have such a close friendship that I feel comfortable enough to get a take-away. I tell them that there aren’t many people I feel that relaxed with. I hope none of my friends ever talk to each other or I’ll be snookered.
    P.s. Love the blog.

  6. Roberta Bonkovich

    I look forward to your blogs every Sunday Dom. This particular one, I could not agree with you more. I get very cranky when hungry and unfortunately everyone knows it.

    I have several of you books, The Fruit Bowl is my favorite so far. Keep up the good work and I can not wait to read what is next!

  7. Alas…my family’s dinner nights usually end up starting a hour later, not due to cocktails or anything so fancy, but due to dinner not being ready “in time”. Which is usually the fault of the people coming because they showed up an hour early. Usually it’s someone we like thankfully so it’s good having them around. Good luck if you end up having those people over!! They sound like a handful!!

  8. I really enjoyed the blog this week!

    I thought that your writing style was unique to what it has been in the past few weeks, and I really liked it! I felt like I was being taken along for the ride, and I could picture the entire scene very vividly in my head.

    That dinner party sounds frustrating (I’ve had a very similar Thanksgiving, where the main meal was not served until three hours after we had arrived, and I had already filled up on the “appetizers”), and hopefully, when you host next, it’s much more fulfilling for everyone.

    Looking forward to next week’s blog!

  9. Dom, this is hilarious! I am hoping that this makes it to Takes on Life Vol 2. It sounds like you and Nikki must have been very entertaining guests – otherwise the hosts would have dispatched dinner much earlier I’m sure!

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