Monday, 11 June 2012

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

It is an unwritten but well observed rule that one is not invited to dinner at anyone's house in England for the food. Indeed, we can recall several dinner parties where the food was atrocious, burnt to a cinder, inedible or, quite simply, did not appear at all. But this matters not a jot, since on such occasions, what is offered to eat is far less important than how it is eaten and this, in turn, is far less significant than the conversation which accompanies each course.

Our own dinner party culinary calamities are legion. A spicy chicken main course, the name of which long escapes us, when Cayenne was mistakenly used in place of Paprika resulted in our guests attempting to put out the flames in their throats with copious quantities of wine. We have never known a merrier gathering. 


And whilst chewing with an open mouth, pointing at fellow diners with the flatware, and eating pudding [which in Britain should never be confused with dessert] with a spoon are all disasters of English dining etiquette, there is nothing more guaranteed to make our own dinner invitations cease to be issued than the inability to amuse, entertain or delight at the dinner table.

an amusing napkin, never a serviette, recently photographed at Brody House

Our friend, Anthony, is charm personified. Capable of elevating the dullest of tomato salads to food fit for the gods, his perfect manners, impeccable taste, witty conversation and sparkling humour ensure that his social calendar is never empty. And so too our American-Italian friends who, with glass of wine in one hand, canapé in the other, can 'work' a room with the professionalism of the captain of an ocean going liner navigating the smallest of harbours. Little wonder that the Marchesas, Princes and Princesses of Italian aristocracy vie with each other to entice them to the tables of their palazzos.

And whilst one will never go hungry in Hungary, since dining is given due deference, cooking is cherished, and eating is enjoyed by one and all, a hushed silence, rather than gales of laughter, is, alas, more likely to reign over the goose liver than not.


Jó étvágyat!

233 comments:

  1. I am absolutely crazy for the amusing quote on the napkin.
    Wonderful post today.

    cheers, parsnip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We thought for a change, Gayle, something not too serious. Always a table napkin in Britain!!

      Delete
  2. Some years ago we were invited to dinner by a couple we had a nodding acquaintance with. A second invited couple had clearly had words before they arrived and she was morose and monosyllabic, he acted like a yapping puppy. Our host dominated all conversation, making any attempt to respond futile. I remember taking a sneaky glance at the clock trying to work out when it would be polite to leave, I thought, perhaps after another hour. A second glance at the clock, when I was sure that hour had passed, revealed that I had just experienced the longest ten minutes of my life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracey, how absolutely dreadful. And it is so easy in the circumstances you describe to sense and pick up atmosphere and, try as one might, it is nearly impossible to rescue such a situation. They would all immediately be struck off our guest list, and we do hope that you did not return the invitation.

      Delete
  3. Give me gales of laughter everytime! I can almost feel the awkwardness now at sitting at a dinner table in silence with a group of people who have nothing in common but high opinions, usually of themselves. To use a modern term "lighten up" it's meant to be fun. Good company is priceless.
    Di
    X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We could not agree more, Dianne. Yes, you are right, it is those 'high opinions' which are so particularly tedious and, nearly always, about themselves. We gave up on the dinner party 'circuit' years ago and have never looked back.

      Delete
  4. What an enjoyable post! Couldn't agree more with the 'napkin' or with your wise words!
    x KL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are delighted that you found the post to be enjoyable, Kerrie-Lee. 'Napkins', in Britain, are socially divisive!!!

      Delete
  5. How I love the thought behind the napkin quote! Hurah, hurrah, it is an a wonderful wit who demands such things from their guests.

    And I have to agree, what on earth is the point of sharing a supper unless one share's one's wits. Then it can be but crusty bread, soup and good wine, and all is worthy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We too thought that it was so very clever, Virginia. And, yes, a simple supper of bread, soup and wine is more than enough when there is also good, lively conversation.

      Delete
  6. The most enjoyable - impromptu suppers with friends who came over for drinks and stayed way beyond a reasonable hour. No preparation, no stress, just laughter and good conversation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What you describe here, Susan, is exactly the kind of supper party we too so enjoy. Whatever, entertaining should always be fun and never stressful.

      Delete
  7. Meals are more than the food, they are for companionship when two or more are gathered. I could not agree more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely! Of course we all enjoy, and like to eat, delicious food but it is always the company and, as you say, the companionship which counts for most.

      Delete
  8. Funny about your comments on English food, all those international English chefs tell us otherwise. Hasn't culinary skill trickled down from their celestial kitchens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course in recent years British cooking has improved immeasurably to what it once was, but somehow we have never, or so it seems to us, to have acquired that lightness of touch and apparent simplicity so common with, for example, the Italians and the French.

      Delete
  9. Dear Jane and Lance
    Wonderful post and wise words today! It is very uncomfortable to be at dinner with unpleasant guests and to expect that dinner will end soon. I think if someone is not available, it is preferable not present at dinner and he hates the disposal of the other quests.
    Have a nice day
    Olympia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Olympia, we do so agree with all that you say here. For some considerable time now we only invite people to lunch or dinner who we really want to see and who we value for their very good company.

      Delete
  10. Eating a meal of indifferent food is nothing compared to the slow torture of dull eating companions. The napkin quote should be de rigueur in the school curriculum, along with lessons in how to BE witty and entertaining - this is far more important than learning the vagaries of calculus, right?!?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Dull eating companions' really does say it all and they are, surely, to be avoided at all costs. Yes, what use is any knowledge if it cannot be imparted wittily, at least where the dinner table is concerned?!!

      Delete
  11. I do love the "table napkin" or is it a "serviette"? As an American living amongst your strange race I do get so confused as the words seem to have become interchangeable -- is the secret having to use the word "table"?

    We have enjoyed giving dinner parties in the past, but as we have 'aged' now find them rather exhausting and so give far fewer and smaller in size. We have found the best way to encourage lively dinner table conversation is a drink or two before sitting around the table loosens everything up quite nicely -- but careful not to over-do that and it's also important that the cook (that's me) not drink anything until just before serving when I have one -- thus avoiding difficulties a-plenty!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One does, of course, have to be very careful, and respect the common usage which applies in other countries, when it comes to referring to table napkins and we readily accept that it is not the same the world over. In Britain, strange race that indeed we are, it should never be called a serviette.

      We entirely agree with you about the importance of pre dinner drinks - they certainly do help to get things going. But possibly not for the cook!!

      Delete
    2. Oh, dear, now I am confused: "never be called a serviette"!!! I have been admonished so many times for not using that word!! Please educate me!!!

      Delete
    3. Katherine, we are certain that you are more than enough of your own person to able to do what you want, when you want, and always pull it off with style. Possibly in the United States 'serviette' is correct. Alas we should not know as we have yet to visit which, before too long, we do so hope to do. But in the great scheme of things, none of this matters!!

      Delete
    4. No, Americans always use the word 'napkin'! I'd never heard 'serviette' until my first visit to Britain in 1978...

      I do look forward to hearing more about your plans to visit the United States before too long! I highly recommend New England in the Fall!

      Delete
    5. Then napkin it is, and always shall be. Large and white too!

      We have toyed with the idea of visiting the US for some years now but there is just one small problem...the Atlantic Ocean......or, rather, having to fly over it. We have, as we fear flying, thought that we could be on a 'banana boat' and sail across, not being the 'cruising' types but so far we have been thwarted in our efforts of tracking any such vessel down. Yes, New England in the Autumn sounds idyllic according to our many American friends, as does New York, Boston, the Adirondacks, Palm Beach, San Francisco, Baltimore.........!!!!

      Delete
  12. I have to say that you have been invited to the wrong houses in England if you think all the food is terrible. I have never visited a friends home where the dinner was poor. Full attention to detail and the table and the entertainment is powermount with in my circle of friends. And its always a lovely affair. dee x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course, Dee, we have had some excellent dinners in England and some of our friends, unlike us, are wonderful and very imaginative cooks. That said, we really have eaten some atrocious food in some quite grand houses but usually the company more than makes up for it.

      But we can well imagine the lively times you have with your friends which are, we are certain, accompanied by very good food. And that is how it should be.

      Delete
  13. Ensure each guest receives a glass of champagne upon arrival and the evening is bound to go well. Good wine, or even bad wine, usually ensures stimulating conversation. English food was much better than I expected, except for the legendary but ultimately very disappointing fish and chips. Also to my surprise, we did enjoy some half decent cups of coffee at times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now that is very good advice, Andrew, and very affordable here where a Hungarian 'champagne' may still be had for not too much money.

      Fish and chips, although much heralded in Britain, can more often than not prove to be very disappointing but this is usually not the case with those which are home cooked. Coffee, in recent years, has reached new heights!

      Delete
  14. Agreed. It's awful to be invited to a dinner party and to dread the event because of the tedium you know you'll be subjected to. We went to a such a lunch last week but one of the other guests was hilarious and she turned the afternoon into something quite wonderful.

    I used to call a napkin a serviette - it's what we grew up calling them in South Africa - but my husband had conniptions every time I did so and has trained me now to call them napkins. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh how wonderful it is when something which promises to be dull is relieved, if not saved, by a guest who is really amusing and intent on enjoying her or himself.

      Certainly in Britain they should always be called 'napkins' but it may be totally different in South Africa which, by the way, we understand to be a wonderful country [this from a South African friend who will, with his partner, come to stay with us at the end of the month].

      Delete
  15. Dear Jane and Lance,

    For me personally, the best cuisine is the simplest cuisine. Because, when the court have too much attention. There isn't enough attention for the guests.

    Have a happy week my friends!
    XX
    Jérôme

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jérome, we are in total and complete agreement with you over this. And we wish you a really happy and peaceful week.

      Delete
  16. Oh my goodness! I had typed out a response thanking you for this lovely, smile-inducing post when my computer closed out Safari! It must not have liked my response! Let's try again then...Here in France, one never lacks for fine food nor conversation but I still often dread dinner parties for fear of being sat amongst "les experts" (who know everything about everything so that it is deemed futile for anyone else to speak) or "les monopolistes" (who simply don't allow anyone else to speak as they stream on for hours, seemingly without even a pause to take a breath)--although it can be fun to watch these two types battle it out against each other!! I do miss the "give and take" of the best dinner parties quite often, I must admit. It is just often a different style of conversation here, a cultural difference.

    My honey and I have therefore largely banned actual dinners and instead prefer to host buffet style lunches, preferably after the Saturday market with fresh oysters and homemade tarts and the like. Copious wine is involved and it is far less formal and more fun. People can talk to who they please. Little groups form and split apart. Naps happen! :)

    Wishing you both a lovely week ahead!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Heather, how we too loathe, as you so succinctly put it, both 'les experts', usually complete bores, and 'les monopolistes', sleep inducing to the point where one finds oneself slowly slipping below the table. It is the endless, unstoppable 'stream' which is so very tiresome with seldom ever the chance to intervene. But successful dinner parties, and ones to be enjoyed, are those where there is lively banter and plenty of exchange of views.

      Your buffet style lunches sound to us wonderful fun, something we should much enjoy as, we imagine, do all of your friends and guests.

      Delete
  17. I have a tendency to be a little too amusing at dinner parties.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But we should put you down as being of exceptionally good value - and that, in our book, is what counts!

      Delete
  18. Indeed, sparkling humour; where would we be without it!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jane and Lance, that was utterly hilarious... I really got a kick out of the chicken fiasco... hahaha!!!! Too cute :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely true, we really do assure you Launna. What they said to each other afterwards we have absolutely no idea!

      Delete
  20. I hate the formality of a dinner-party these days, it is too much work, especially for me the hostess (I do not have a Timea lurking in the background).
    One of my good friends entertains via M & S, she tells us so, and we all have a good time together, especially knowing we can do the same in return.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When left to our own devices, we are frequently in the very capable hands of M & S. Our guests are only too aware of this, it requires no announcement on our parts, since if the the food is in the least bit edible, it certainly cannot have been created by us!!!

      Delete
    2. I am chuckling at your reply.

      Delete
  21. I think good food is essential. It doesn't have to be a ginormous meal, nor does it have to be exotic. But if we wanted ordinary stuff, we could eat at the local chippy.

    That said, good wine, good coffee and good company make a decent meal into a memorable dinner party. And that is special!!!

    At a conference today, I had lunch with an old friend today who has just come back to Victoria. It was SUCH great fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There would be many who would agree with you, dear Helen, that food should hold the centre stage. And, we must admit that when the food is delicious, it really does make the whole event so very special.

      As you say, when old friends are gathered together, it matters little where or what one eats or drinks, just sharing time with them is a party!

      Delete
  22. Dear Jane and Lance, many years ago someone passed on to me what has turned out to be one of the most useful social tips I know of: when 'working the room', one should always carry two glasses of wine. If waylaid by a bore, one is just on the way to deliver a wine to dear Gertrude, and will be straight back, whereas if a fascinating person is encountered, a glass is there at the ready to offer him or her. You and your friends will not need these little social crutches, I know, with your experienced expertise, but this one helps me to navigate the masses to my satisfaction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, dearest Mise, this is absolutely perfect advice and will be, most certainly, something which we shall adopt for ourselves with immediate effect. Or, at least as immediate as the next drinks party!

      Sometimes, we all meet our 'Waterloo' and so an army of social crutches upon which one can draw is very, very useful indeed.At least then there may be something which works!

      Delete
  23. Dear Jane and Lance

    The napkin says it all. I recall a party at our neighbours in Ireland and the witty host the next day when discussing a certain boring guest said "sure one would be better off with a photograph of him".

    I have no doubt you both fulfill your moral obligation and are more than amusing.

    This post has brought to mind several interesting dinner parties. Fun, fun
    Have a glorious week

    Helen xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Helen, how we have laughed at the thought of a photograph being a better dinner guest than the person represented. Sadly, one can bring to mind some individuals over the years who might fall into this same category.

      Fortunately, one can indeed recall many, many dinner parties which have been great fun, not the least of which we enjoyed with our international dinner guests this past weekend.

      Delete
  24. To be invited to dinner with friends is the most pleasurable experience, ,especially when they serve up laughter - after all it is the food of LIFE!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We agree, Sue, laughter is the best possible food to be encountered at the dining table. How right you are that it is the essence of Life itself!

      Delete
  25. We don’t do dinner parties anymore; we held our fair share when my husband was in the RAF. Instead we invite no more than three other couple for the occasional meal with no expectation that the hospitality must be returned. Best of all is the tapas and last year we had a go, making our dishes as as authentic as we could. I wrote about on my blog Tapas Evening. Napkins were used (linen) but for finger food and informal gatherings it’s the paper variety, which we call serviettes. I suppose it’s a distinction of sorts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is nothing worse than to feel obligated to return the invitation to dinner, lunch or anything else for that matter since it then becomes a duty rather than a delight.

      It is rather good when eating alfresco to have a selection of finger food and Tapas is ideal for this. We very much like the sound of yours, although we should be totally incapable of producing these ourselves!

      Delete
  26. I agree with you Jane and Lance. Good company is always forgiving of the culinary disasters which often ensue when we host a dinner party.

    But it reminds me of the time we invited one particular couple for dinner - we had such a terrific night. When they were invited again a few months later, they had exactly the same dinner conversation as our last encounter! It was eerily like ground hog day. They were never invited again because of their limited conversation repertoire!! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What an extraordinary experience. The one topic conversation, how strange. As you say, it must have seemed eerily déja vu but, we cannot help but wonder, would it have occurred for a third time?!!!

      In Brighton, where we have to fend for ourselves, our guests have grown accustomed to our culinary disasters, indeed, they make a topic of conversation in themselves. But, there is Waitrose!

      Delete
  27. My limited cooking abilities, dictate limited dinner parties!
    I have lovely linen napkins however, just in case I have a lapse in judgement and decide to throw one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How wonderful, Jenny, that you have beautiful linen napkins at the ready for an impromptu dinner party. For those kind of dinner parties are, in our view, invariably the best!!

      Delete
  28. I had my years of the semi-obligatory social round and its unspoken pecking orders...so, the sheer joy of just inviting the people I want to see!
    One of the pleasures of Costa Rica is being invited to family get togethers where, unlike Europe, peoples' activities span a wide range....judges, lawyers, postmen, taxi drivers, smallholders, teachers - all in the same family and no social distinction being made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have to say that we have never subscribed to the [as you put it so well] 'semi-obligatory social round'. All too fraught and never enough fun to merit the stress and the work.

      Your 'get-togethers' in Costa Rica sound absolutely perfect. How could they not be delightful with such a mix of people with all their varied interests and ideas. And, most importantly of all, no social distinction being made. In our view, wit counts above all and that can be the preserve of anyone!

      Delete
  29. It is no longer true that dining with friends is a culinary lottery in England, certainly not here at Valley's End. We attended a wonderful dinner party only last Thursday, where the host, a man on his own, served delicious soup, a lamb crown and a rhubarb tart with aplomb and great skill, while he and the guests were discussing music and literature, as well as remembering to entertain each other with a light touch. While there were no gales of laughter - that simply doesn't happen here - I was able to add the evening to my ever growing fund of memorable dinner parties. Actually, we call them supper parties, we are rarely more than six or eight and no more than four courses are ever served at the table.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Valley's End does indeed sound to be a Mecca of culinary talent and entertaining guests, how lucky you are to have this all on the doorstep so to speak. Fortunately, we too have exceptionally talented cooks amongst our friends, but we most certainly do not include ourselves amongst these culinary wizards. It is always a lottery dining with us in Blighty in more ways than one, but, games of chance have always fascinated us!

      We have never served more than three courses at table, our dining chairs would preclude it!!!

      Delete
  30. Oh, I agree, the food is not nearly as important as the company one keeps, but when the two are both exceptional, nothing is finer. What becomes troublesome is when, as seems to be happening more often these days and almost always the woman of the couple, a guest believes they have developed the need for a gluten and dairy free diet. It makes cooking a challenge and not much fun. Salad and fruit is good, very good, but how does one live without butter and pasta? Granted, I could do with less of both, but I hope I never have to do without either.

    Love the napkin quote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, what bliss it is when fine food and fine conversation come together but, if there has to be just one, in the belief that one rarely has all that one wishes in life,then it is sparkling wit that wins every time with us.

      Oh, the tangled web of dietary difficulties. We have to confess that this would totally defeat us and, as on all such occasions as this, we fall back on the Champagne, often literally!

      Delete
  31. An enjoyable post, Jane and Lance and I would agree that the quality of the conversation is more important than the quality of the food if there has to be a choice. Interestingly, except when we have visitors, we almost never have people round for a meal in the UK, as that kind of dining out just isn't part of life in the very rural areas we know, or at least not among our friends.

    Things are different in France where we are regularly invited for meals or issue invitations in our turn. Don't ask me why.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. None of it is, of course, as we know that you appreciate, to be taken too seriously. In Brighton we restrict ourselves to having friends for very informal suppers as we have insufficient room for many people at any one time, but here, in Hungary, with Tímea's taking charge, entertaining, which we do quite frequently, is much easier.

      Your French lifestyle sounds very relaxing and very pleasant indeed.

      Delete
  32. So interesting to read and think about the differences in the food/conversation ratios and qualities from country to country, culture to culture. We have Russian friends who spend a lot of time in Italy and England, who manage to do both--memorable evening of good food and conversation--and I felt a lot of that (a good blend of the two) when I was in Italy last fall. Hard to generalize, but I think in the U.S. there is more of an emphasis on the quality of the food, and less on wit and conversational skills.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We never cease to be amazed at the cultural differences which abound in so many aspects of life and food is most definitely one of these we think. Not surprising, perhaps as it is so essential to the quality of one's life and well-being.

      Of course, a good mix of fine food and delicious conversation is the ideal, but we are most interested to note that, on balance, you feel that in the US there is more emphasis on what is to be eaten that what is to be said. It is all so fascinating, we find!

      Delete
  33. One of the many things I do love about where I live now is the lack of pretense and expectations. People here gather mostly for a good time under the guise of potlucks and BBQs, and although always curious about new people they still are welcoming. The cooking leaves much to be desired in my opinion but the talk is always fresh and juicy, and if one couple is contrary it is easy to move on to others because no one sits still for long. It is a simple way of life here in the hills of southern Oklahoma.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, your life in the hills of South Oklahoma sounds simply lovely to us, Rubye! 'Fresh and juicy' conversation would win us over every time and, it is most appealing to think that when a conversation has reached its natural conclusion, one can simply move on without being trapped. Perfect!

      Delete
  34. Dear Jane and Lance,
    There was a time when a dinner party was my very favourite occasion - and I gave a lot in times gone by! I loved the excited chatter, witty banter and gales of laughter that often used to happen but I also loved the initial hush when people tasted the food...I would have been disappointed if that hadn't occurred. My treasured memory is of a very polite, rather refined friend who, after eating his meal, picked up his plate and unashamedly licked it!! He was very apologetic afterwards, but I was delighted. As the Brody House napkin says, guests should be very entertaining.
    (I don't allow my children to say 'serviette'..)
    Axxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Annie, your dinner parties sound to have been wonderful and, coupled with delicious food, how lucky your guests were to be invited. Yes, when all these elements come together, these are the most joyous occasions we can think of, especially when the washing up machine can take care of the mountains of plates!

      We are pleased to note that standards, in terms of entertaining guests and napkins, are still alive and well with you and your children!!

      Delete
  35. Excellent napkin quote :-)
    We are somewhat allergic to anything formal, especially as I [Antoinette] had parents who had to host loads of formal parties as part of my father's job.
    When we have had larger numbers round it has always been very informal: BBQ, buffet, or potluck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh dear, entertaining when one is 'obliged' to do so can be so very tedious. No wonder that you have developed allergies to such things!!!!

      From the photograph of the 'blogger party' gathering that we saw you at recently, it looks as if you have now found a party formula that certainly works well for you!!

      Delete
    2. And I dare say a dinner with Jane and Lance must be an extraordinary cultural feast. You know good food :) and you most definitely know sparkling conversation. I'll never forget that goulash :)...

      Delete
    3. As long as Timea has prepared the food, the guests can rest easy in the knowledge that, at the least, they will not return home hungry. As for us, well, we love to talk...and talk...and talk...!!

      Delete
  36. Ah, yes, we know the calamities well. We have friends, one of whom is a professional caliber cook. We invited them over to inaugurate our new grill (you know that American pasttime, I suspect). We could not get the grill to work, and even if we had, the skirt steak we had purchased was all gristle and no meat. They were polite, but we've not yet been able to get them to come back . . . though we've been more than welcome to their house on more than one occasion since. We will keep trying . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dearest Susan, how we have laughed at this!!!

      Well, we have never been ones for showing off our negligible culinary 'talents', much preferring the secrecy of the kitchen to an outdoor grill performance. In this way, in our time, we have managed to scrape pastry from the floor, collect wayward frozen peas which have bounced around out of sight and reassemble any number of collapsed cakes. You were brave, very brave, to even try to grill in front of a professional....but,just a suggestion, perhaps, you might offer your grill to your friends to save any future embarrassment...that is surely worth any number of 'free lunches'???!!!

      Delete
  37. 5 hours between starters and mains was the longest we sat.....my friends were notirious for their dinner parties in the 80s but that one was the winner!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, that really required stamina...5 hours between starters and mains. Goodness knows how long the wait must have been for pudding....did it arrive the next day?!!!!

      Delete
  38. A very fun post to read. I also love the napkin quote!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. It is good to add some levity to the posts from time to time, we think. One really cannot take life too seriously!!

      Delete
  39. Dear Jane and Lance,
    The most memorable dinners that I have attended or have given, are the ones that go array. To some, food is important, for me and my friends and family, it is all about the laughter and the enjoyment of each other's company. Good thing since my culinary capabilities are sometimes questionable. As long as we are all together and the wine is flowing, a good time will be had by all.

    I would imagine that you two are the host and hostess with the mostest - an old expression my mom used to say.

    I just LOVED this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How really generous of you, Arleen. Thank you so much. Although we are sure that you exaggerate and are, in fact, most likely a superb cook, we are entirely at one with you where the importance of friends and family always comes, and always will, over and above whatever food may be served. And, like you, all will be well if the wine keeps flowing!

      Delete
  40. My dear Jane and Lance, As always, it is a delight to read your post. Please be assured that your sense of humour and irony is not wasted on us. I love your wit! The saying on the napkin sums it up perfectly. I think we all have a fair share of unsuccessful dinner parties and dates in our lives. I once accepted a dinner date with a guy who told me that he read cookery books like novels. I must tell you that he knew nothing about food. I called it a day when he produced a dish called "Cowboy's Pie" on the table.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is something of a relief that the irony, and any amusement that may be derived from it, has not gone entirely without detection [as, of course, it would never do with you, dear ASD] and that you have enjoyed the post. Whatever, it is most kind of you to say.

      'Cowboy's Pie' - now even we would feel that we had met our match, if not our Waterloo. We think that you were, most likely, right to call it a day at that point - a step just that little bit too far!

      Delete
  41. Replies
    1. And a lesson which one is never too young to learn!!

      Delete
  42. Dear Jane and Lance,

    Your post put a smile on my face! Where do I recognise that napkin from? It almost makes me wish we met Anthony or your charming Italian/American friends. You never know, perhaps in future ;-)!

    I enjoyed our dinner party very much. It was my first English one. We look back at it with great joy! Loved the pink theme!!!

    Enjoy your new week!

    Love,

    Madelief & Jan x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now, indeed, where did the napkin come from?!!

      We are certain that you and Jan would be hugely entertained by Anthony, and he by you, and so a meeting at some point in the future there must surely be. And, of course, of many more of our friends.

      How really kind of you to say about the dinner. We shall certainly pass the message on to Tímea who was so pleased with her gift and for which she has already asked us to send her thanks.

      Delete
  43. Well I always try to get my guests well oiled before they taste my cooking, but I really appreciate a great host like your friend. That napkin is very witty! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A drink beforehand does, we believe, help to oil the wheels of any lunch or dinner party. But that said, we suspect you are a very good cook.

      Delete
  44. I always think it's a sign that a dinner party is successful - the food part, that is - when the guests start reminiscing about other glorious meals they've enjoyed, or other great times we've had together.

    You're not going to go all Mitford on us, are you? Not that that's a bad thing, as we say in New York, it's just that your voice(s) are thought-provoking and amusing on their own!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, how we love the idea of going 'All Mitford', Noblesse Oblige and all that. Yes, that will now enter the Hattatt repertoire of famous grammatical constructions.......the verb to go all Mitford we shall employ without delay!

      Yes,we agree, when nostalgia looms at the dining table, that usually is a very good sign.For everything basks in a golden glow of satisfaction and everyone forgets the burnt food.

      Delete
  45. Dear Jane and Lance,
    I had a lot of fun picturing your little feast, the Cheyenne chicken and especially the wine "incident". I suspect the peppered chicken was just an excuse to pour a bit more wine in those cheerful glasses. I know I would definitely use it as an excuse for a fine wine and a giggling company :)
    That said, I would prefer your dinners a thousand times to those blah Hungarian one :) I'm a Romanian after all and our dinners are always an excellent combination of great fun and magnificent food.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Spicy Chicken incident was a hoot and, indeed, was regaled by our dinner guests on subsequent occasions at our house and the houses of others many,many times over. It really sealed our fates as cooks!!

      We have only eaten one meal in Romania to date, but we do so hope to have more. It was great fun and absolutely delicious but ended rather abruptly with the most spectacular of thunderstorms. Such a stylish end!

      Delete
  46. I am reminded of many London suppers where we often didn't eat until very late and the quantities of wine consumed rendered the quality of the food, or lack thereof, unimportant. I find now that we prepare very simple food and prop it up with good wine and good company. Anything more elaborate at this stage, and we would never entertain! Annie x. PS - just read your last comment re Waitrose....oh how I miss Waitrose...now I remember why I could 'cook' in London!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Waitrose has been a life saver on more than one occasion in Brighton when we have to fen for ourselves. With the opening of a single packet one can really appear quite competent, we find.

      Good wine is, thankfully, readily available in Hungary and can be relied upon to save even the dreariest of gatherings. However, there is a no drink policy for drivers so one must ensure that all guests come on foot or by taxi or do not go home at all!!

      Delete
  47. I love this post! Most of the dinner parties we've attended or thrown have been quite good, but I remember a rather painful one our friends put on years ago...we were seated next to some pretentious people who yapped about themselves the entire time and would not shut up...and they thought they were so witty and funny (they were not....) I actually considered feigning a headache so we could go home early!! Don't know how we survived that one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are certain that whatever you 'threw', it would be done with enormous style and so your dinner parties would be no exception.

      But, oh dear, the painful experience with the pretentious bores is something we should all like to avoid but do not always manage to do so. How does one know if one is witty or not....we laugh at each other's jokes, does that count do you think?!!!

      Delete
    2. If they are funny, then yes! :) I remember they kept giving us the "wasn't that simply the funniest thing you have ever heard??" faces....oh dear!!

      Delete
    3. Certainly we think that they are funny, but...!! Oh, those faces - we have seen them too - always to accompany the least funny of remarks.

      Delete
  48. i would love to be a guest at one of your parties, or maybe anthonys:) after many years of catering i can say one thing for sure...food NEVER makes the party. americans think if you spend a lot of money on a party that makes it a good one. wrong, wrong, wrong. it's always the people and you 2 have that down. xo janet

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Janet, it would be a pleasure to entertain you! But, perhaps, the best solution is for us all to have a glass or two or several of Hungarian Champagne and then repair to Anthony's and Nigel's house since they are excellent cooks. The best of all worlds!!

      We are as one with you over the food and the money, ....people make a party every time as far as we are concerned!

      Delete
  49. What a wonderful napkin. I think we will copy it on our next party.
    In America, we hear this phrase often " O! we entertain a lot" Jane and Lance we do "entertain a lot" we really do. But we get entertained a lot too as well. We host at least 2 dinner parties a month, and occasionally breakfasts as well. We have served half cooked meals and burnt vegetables, and roasted squash that we forgot to peel before roasting :)

    Same way we have waited for endless hours for food at some parties, only to get a snack in the end or the food that we are allergic too. Once a friend invited us on her birthday party at a restaurant. At the end we were asked to pay for the food we ate. We humans are very interesting, we never fail to amuse one way or the other :) It depends on how you define "amusing" .

    Best wishes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We loved the napkin as soon as we caught sight of it in the Brody House reception. Now, Brody House, that is a blog post in itself! Copy away, we should be thrilled to think of your guests receiving them at table!

      We love the idea of inviting people for breakfast and have been very fortunate to have experienced this ourselves, courtesy of two Hungarian friends. We just could not face the work involved at such an early hour, but it is delightful to be the ones being entertained,especially if Buck's Fizz is the breakfast drink!!

      We have to confess that we found your party tales of woe most amusing, especially having to pay for the food after having been invited. You are absolutely right...."there's nowt so queer as folk!!!"

      Delete
  50. Dear Jane and Lance,

    For me, fine dining is something to be enjoyed in a fabulous restaurant, as a treat and with the food being the centre of attention. At home however we are very informal. We keep the food simple and seasonal and the wine MUST flow seamlessly! Gatherings are always small(ish) with lots of talking and laughing, quite often bad jokes but always fun. I cannot agree with you more, the food has to be mostly secondary to the company.

    Your time with the lovely M&J must have been totally enjoyable, and such lovely gifts they brought with them! This little space called Blogland is a joy isn't it!

    Jeanne
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We totally agree with you here, Jeanne. Fine dining in a wonderful restaurant is such an operatic performance and that we love, but wherever we find ourselves, we always feel that it is the company and conversation with friends which really makes the difference between a memorable and a fabulous night out!

      Our time with M and J was, as you well imagine, absolutely delightful. They are tremendously kind, charming, intelligent and huge fun.They were enthusiastic about everything and we were terribly sad to see them go. We were determined, however, to keep at least half the city under wraps for the next visit, and the next, and the next!!

      Delete
  51. Hello, Jane & Lance! I think, that people make a party - for me it`s a kind of the fundamental truth. I can eat only in a good company. If it`s not I cannot eat at all. In that situation I feel myself so uncomfortable that I can think only how to get home quickly :o) And the sign on the napkin is so true :o)
    Wish you having a lovely week
    love
    Natasha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We entirely concur with you here, Natasha, that it is 'people who make a party' and we very, very seldom now accept invitations for dinner parties which are simply a formality. We should rather stay at home.

      It is to become quite hot here by the end of the week; we hope that it will be the same for you too in Moscow.

      Delete
  52. While the company and the conversation are the main ingredients of a successful dinner party, it doesn't harm to know what one's guests don't like to eat. I've had made some terrible choices... like serving celery and tomato soup to a guest allergic to both :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That, we agree, is a really important aspect of giving a lunch or dinner party and we nearly always now enquire first about allergies, things people do not wish to eat, and whether or not anyone is vegetarian or vegan.

      Not a happy choice of soup where your guest was concerned. Sounds delicious to us though!!

      Delete
  53. How happy I am to now be a regular follower of your posts. You all have a unique take on everything that you experience, and are so generous in sharing that with us.

    Best wishes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are delighted to welcome you as a Follower, Frances, and very much hope that you will continue to find future posts of interest. One of the great joys of the Blogosphere is that one 'meets' so very many kind and generous people.

      Delete
  54. To register is too much of a bother, so forgive my commenting as NoName, but I simply can't resist telling you how nice it was to read about the correct usage of 'napkin' and 'pudding'.(Nancy Mitford would have enjoyed that! You know her essay, don't you, on 'Ps & Qs'?)
    Thanks for delightful blogs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for such a very generous comment. We do, of course, know of Nancy Mitford when it comes to 'Noblesse Oblige', as we are sure you too will have enjoyed John Betjeman's 'How to get on in Society'!!

      Perhaps one day we can tempt you to follow. It is not really too difficult, But, whatever, we are delighted to have you here.

      Delete
    2. Thank you, dear wonderful couple, for your kind welcome, but - for the time being - I'd rather stay 'an omen',( an anagram easily to be deciphered by you, no doubt).
      Yes, Betjeman's poem is a splendid piece of humour. And talking of 'How to get on in society' - being an alien myself, I simply loved(and learned from) George Mike's book on how to be just one of them.
      Kind regards.

      Delete
    3. Actually, contrary to 'normal' policy where anonymous comments are concerned, always subject to the editor's decision being final, of course, we rather like the intrigue of not quite knowing, perhaps guessing at, who may be behind 'an omen', which is how we shall now think of you with, we assure you, great kindness. Now, George Mike's book is unknown to us; we shall rectify that at the first possible moment.

      Delete
  55. What a charming, vibrant post! I laughed out loud at the end of the second paragraph.

    Thought of you, today, as I glanced through a copy of 'Town & Country' magazine while on a wait.

    I would say hope all is well in your world but it sounds like it jolly well is!

    Love and pomegranate limettas on clever napkins (never serviettes,)
    -Your Suze

    (I sipped on a pomegranate limetta, last week -- fizzy and tasting like red infused generously with citrus of all sorts. I imagine you would quite enjoy it.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are, of course, so pleased, FGD, that you have been amused by this post which is not, of course, designed to be taken too seriously.

      Now a Pomegranate Limetta, which we have, alas, never tasted, sounds to be wonderfully refreshing and even more stylish and just the thing, or so we imagine, to be sipping through the long, hot days of summer.

      All is well here in the People's Republic as we do so hope it is with you.

      Delete
  56. I would imagine that the perfect dining experience would be at your house--a blend of good hearty food, and scintillating conversation! Do you lean more one way or the other, depending on whether you are in GB or Hungary? Your opening words about English dining reminds me of an old adage here that says WASPS (I am a tribe member ;)) might run out of food, but never liquor. I have experienced this, first-hand :-O

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We very seldom, Elizabeth, give dinner parties other than at home and nearly always here in Hungary where we can depend on Tímea's culinary skills and good management of all to avert the kind of disaster of which we are most capable.

      Now we do know a little about WASPS and note that you are a member! This makes us very alarmed and we should, in your company, most likely find ourselves falling back on that endless supply of drink!!

      Delete
  57. I would imagine that the perfect dining experience would be at your house--a blend of good hearty food, and scintillating conversation! Do you lean more one way or the other, depending on whether you are in GB or Hungary? Your opening words about English dining reminds me of an old adage here that says WASPS (I am a tribe member ;)) might run out of food, but never liquor. I have experienced this, first-hand :-O

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For some reason, doubtless known to Blogger, your comment, Elizabeth, has appeared twice. So much better than when, as happens all too often, a comment disappears into the ether for ever!!

      Delete
  58. Oh Jane and Lance . . . I too love the 'napkin' and that is what we say here in the U.S. I love the image of the guests chewing with mouths open and waving forks . . . very entertaining and I cannot even hear what they are saying. Champagne before dinner, wine with and green chartreuse apres will certainly lighten things up.(Not to overdo either) Of course fresh simple food in between the sips with interesting and amusing conversation makes for a delicious evening. One feels so alive, inspired and stimulated after such an intimate evening. You are so right of course, that it is always the people more than the food that make a dinner party. I love reading through some of your comments and I came upon Katherine's . . . Yes! New England in the fall is heavenly . . . I look forward to seeing you here then. I understand about the fear of flying . . . when will we be able to just beam up and down to where we wish to go? I look forward to that day but me thinks I will be elsewhere by then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Carol, you have so very wickedly reminded us of green chartreuse, a drink that we had all but forgotten about and which, in our youths, most likely following a first trip to France, we used to so enjoy as, in those far flung days, it seemed very sophisticated and foreign! We shall go in search of it this very day!!

      We do agree that the companionship of lively people, accompanied by fresh simple food, really is both, as you say, inspiring and stimulating.

      And now, do believe us, we are really working in our minds on the whole idea of the American trip and think that, when it comes to it, we would be able to steal ourselves for the flight. After all, we do manage the short haul of nearly three hours back to the United Kingdom without too much difficulty. And to rent one of your apartments at Flower Hill Farm will be our top priority.

      Delete
    2. OK . . . I was very sure of our kindredness J&L but now . . . knowing of our mutual love and experience with green chartreuse . . . I am certain without a doubt. Be sure to find the dark green - V.E.P. on the bottle (I am sure you will) . . . the bottle comes in what appears to be a simple wooden casket! (The price could cause a heart attack I suppose . . , but it does last so long.) A lovely box . . . I am sure the cross and stars etc. have meaning. Great for shoe polish afterwards- no disrespect intended. The Benedictine monks surely knew how to enjoy herbs and what a combination! Perhaps the box is a hint that one must sip carefully. More than one . . . just a tiny bit over one teeny glass is safe enough but more could prove interesting and depending on tolerance one's head might still be attached the next day. Mind you, I am speaking from one night of over indulgence. I learned my lesson well and luckily did not have to drive anywhere. That delicious elixir can be addictive . . . and after champagne and wine . . . well really!
      Now, as for renting . . . you will be my guests dear ones. Just give me lots of notice. Tell me . . . do you enjoy oysters on the half-shell?

      Delete
    3. How lovely to have your further comment and to appraise us of the correct brand to buy. As you say, not inexpensive but, like most things in life, you get what you pay for and in this case such a truly delicious drink and one which can be savoured in small quantities over time. And always useful to be able to put a smart, wooden box to some other use afterwards [helps to justify the expense!!].

      Of course we shall give you plenty of notice, and the practicalities we can speak of when the time comes. But, putting your huge generosity to one side just for a moment, you must remember that you are in business!! And, we are ashamed to say, we love all food and eat everything!

      Delete
  59. I think that attitude is everything. A great meal, if done with pretension is a huge bore. A total disaster (like your cayenne moment) when done with a sense of humor is a blast and great fun. ALthough I love it when my guests enjoy my food, I am most happy when we all enjoy one another's company.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We really do, like you, dislike anything which might be considered pretentious and sometimes things like the cayenne disaster can work wonderfully in one's favour as a means of giving a dinner party that extra zing.

      Delete
  60. I do agree...what is a dinner party without conversation and enjoyment as the main course?

    The saying on the napkin is perfect, my sentiments exactly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The napkin is great fun. And we came upon it quite by chance when out with our Dutch friends who made a present of it to us. We could not then resist going back and buying more.

      Delete
  61. Hello Jane and Lance, Thank you for this delightful post. I have always thought cooking, and dining, with friends is an expression of love...although the time I forgot to add sugar to the cake was not one of my culinary high points as a hostess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such a lovely thought, Carol, that cooking for, and dining with, friends is an 'expression of love'.

      A cake without the addition of sugar would, we think, be something of a challenge!

      Delete
  62. Chicken a la Hattatt

    Into an 18th Century earthenware dish of fiery but impeccable design arrange any number of pieces of chicken in a lighthearted manner.
    Now get your oven going, at a temperature high enough to make you want to loosen your collar.
    Next you'll need to pop down to your cellar, but be sure to return before too long with several cases of a favourite, cool-climate wine. You may wish to chill these, or you may wish you had.
    Into the dish pour at least 2 or 3 bottles of the wine, several heads of garlic, a ludicrous amount of cream and MOST IMPORTANTLY a large beaker of your very hottest cayenne pepper.
    It's up to you how long the chicken cooks, or maybe it's up to the general flow of the conversation. At least make some effort to present it well at table. You may prefer not to wink salaciously.
    Finally, before serving, ensure that each guest has within reach as much wine as may be needed to douse 3rd degree burns.
    Sit back, or jump up and down and enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, dear Faisal, how we have delighted in this very witty and exceedingly clever comment which, in the annals of all comments, deserves to be preserved for all time along with your hugely funny limerick. Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to write this which has made this Tuesday morning start with gales of laughter [absent from the Hungarian dinner table] as well as much mirth and merriment. Tímea, preparing breakfast, is much perplexed!

      Delete
    2. I would like nothing better, Jane and Lance, than to make you laugh.
      A Hungarian dinner table may be a little dour without some English wit.
      I'm sure Timea is a major asset.
      It's been no trouble at all, but rather a pleasure, to respond to your dining recollections.
      Viva the life!
      Faisal.

      Delete
    3. Darling Faisal!Oh why are you not just around the corner instead of half around the world away from us?

      Tímea is indeed a major asset, we should be completely adrift if left to fend for ourselves in the kitchen. No, better by far that we can be allowed the indulgence of merely sharpening our wit.

      A dour Hungarian dinner table, now on that we could not possibly comment!!!

      Delete
  63. Dearest Jane and Lance,

    Once again you have supplied a most delightful read and cultural insight. But I have to wonder, only after having followed your postings for sometime, if the Great Cayenne Incident was more by design then happenstance. To many times I have read your posting with a preconceived notion that the pair of you have a twinkle of mischief in your eye most of the time, correction, all the time.

    And while you state that ones failure to amuse would cause one to be bumped for the attendees’ roster. I am sure this never comes to pass, since the feel your hosting skills are so tuned as to coax enjoyable conversation from the most stoic of souls. Which the by the by is evident in the number and wonderfully entertaining comments you receive here.

    And finally I must beg for forgiveness, it seems I have inadvertently overlooked your last post on the grandest presents your received of late. The cups and saucers are beautiful, but that vase is beyond beautiful and transcends into a wold of art objects of its own. – gary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now, Gary, how can you think such a thing?!! As it happens the Great Cayenne Incident [we love how you have elevated it to greatness] occurred with really good friends and so whilst a disaster it did not really matter at all. We might, though, be tempted to repeat it with some people we know, but there again we should not ask them to dinner. And if, as would be so wonderful, you both are here at any time for dinner, then anything similar would, we assure you now, be a total mistake and we should be mortified.

      You are too kind about our skills to encourage good conversation. One becomes tired these days and, on occasion, questions whether it is really worth all of the effort to attempt to draw out those who, however likeable, remain stubbornly mute!

      Dear Gary, please do not apologise for anything. But, yes, we are so fortunate to be in receipt of such beautiful gifts.

      Delete
  64. Sorry I came late to this soirée, arriving somewhere between the hushed silence and the gales of laughter, but your post-posts are like a pudding that goes down good even on the end of a knife!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Impossible for you ever to be too late. Should you choose to arrive at the very hour for which carriages are ordered, we should still welcome you with open arms.

      Now, peas on a knife are one thing, pudding quite another!!

      Delete
  65. Oh that napkin is a great idea and long may things go wrong when friends come round to eat - the interest level always soars!
    Celia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, Celia. It is the disasters which, in the long term, are remembered largely because they become the catalyst for further merriment.

      Delete
  66. I am with you in preferring a merry company to a hushed, gourmet one. Sometimes, though, you can have both. They often seem to manage it in France! I love the napkin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course when the two come together it is wonderful. We agree, the napkin is great fun.

      Delete
  67. Hello Jane and Lance, I return for a catch-up and find your wonderful story of culinary-dining-disasters yet thoroughly enjoyable dinner-do's! ;))) How I recall one such time long ago when I was trying hard to be the corporate wife impressing folk with my clafoutis, and when instead of the fruit being evenly placed like jewels they all sank dismally to the bottom I burst into tears like a nerd! ;)))Ah the joys of youth.

    Thank you for your memory of standing upon a freezing snow-blown Hungarian station platform. I was transported to stand beside you, as I too watched the twinkling lights and crimson flags of the Moscow train merging into the swirling snowflakes, all standing together in the cold, as grey silence surged softly backwards carrying with it mysterious melancholy thoughts of that distant romantic city.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is such a relief to know, Jane, that we are not alone when it comes to kitchen disasters. And we really have, on another occasion, had filo pastry in our hair! Now we should not care a jot about any of it.

      But it was your post which evoked that particular memory, and we thank you for it, and for joining with us here and expressing it so wonderfully, recapturing exactly that moment now some years gone.

      Delete
  68. Hello Jane and Lance, thank you for making me laugh, first of all. How nicely (and with what wit!) you've highlighted the cultural shortcomings in English dining.
    I agree, such conventions do drain the fun out of gatherings and one only gets tired in no time. We Indians, on the other hand, have always believed in making a din whilst celebrating, which most of the times tends to go out of control. How nice it'd be if it were a blend of both.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And how splendid, Suman, that you should recognise it for what it is, the cultural shortcomings of English dining.

      We are so very fortunate to be able to count a number of Asians amongst our friends, one of whom, Kuldip, living in Brighton entertains us at her house, along with her husband and two children, with such style and always such laughter which, we swear, can be heard all over the town. Additionally the food, always Indian, is quite out of this world making anything to be had from an English Indian takeaway a complete travesty.

      Delete
  69. I can't cook but that hasn't stopped me from throwing a dinner party in the past. Many years ago, I invited a few friends over for victuals. I made French onion soup. The recette said 2 cloves of garlic I made the mistake of using 2 bulbs! The "Oh my gawd" look on my guests faces spoke volumes as they were served the slimy grey mess and the look of sheer joy when the pizza delivery man arrived with the main course. They stared regally down their noses when I served them dessert, individual ready-made Yorkshire puddings dipped in chocolate and filled with whipped cream with a Cadbury's flake on top like a 69 ice-cream.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Darling Mitzi!! Wild horses or indeed several bulbs of Garlic could not keep us from a dinner party 'thrown' by you. For surely what it may lack in culinary skill it would more than make up for in panache, style, glamour, thrills, spills and adventure.

      In considering, however, your Yorkshire Pudding pudding, we think that this is a touch of brilliance. How often we have been dismayed by the pathetic balls of fresh air, lick of cream and wisps of chocolate that have been 'passed off' as Profiteroles. Now, Mitzi, your version is what we call a proper dessert. Yum, yum!!!

      Delete
  70. Dear Jane and Lance:

    Your delightful post has certainly struck a chord and ellicited many interesting comments! On a serious note, I think one of the results of so many different types of digital communication is that some people have lost the knack for the niceties of face-to-face communication. I've been to a few parties where some (younger) people were present only to be fed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is indeed interesting, Mark, to read the different viewpoints expressed in the comments here.

      What you say, in this age of digital communication in which we all live, about the absence of face-to-face communications, most prevalent among the young, is something not only with which we fully concur but also somewhat regret.

      Delete
  71. When the kitchen creates a culinary disaster (not due to any humans of course) it is best to take it in stride with humor and "second best." I have not had one of those in a few years, but confusing peppermint extract with peppermint oil created some ice cream that would give you fresh breath for a week and immediately put a tear in your eye. It did go down as a lesson to the cook as I have not made that same mistake again.

    Some of our favorite dinner parties are those spent languishing around the table (inside or out) with spirited conversation(s) often competing. Then, when we can sit no longer, moving to softer chairs to continue...

    Bises,
    Genie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mistakes, such as the confusion of peppermint extract and peppermint oil are best dealt with as you say, Genie, with humour and, we think, a sense of proportion. None of us will starve!

      Your dinner parties where the conversation continues long after the food has gone seem to us perfection. Even more so when it is possible to dine outside.

      Delete
  72. Aren't unintended happenings the most memorable part of get-togethers? And who could PLAN these things?

    Trying to get the silver rulered off into Emily Post spaces, placing the hard knock of bread on the cloth, butter banished, and pacing courses and conversation through those hours in corsets and celluloid collars---what romping run THAT must have been, if not for good conversation.

    We have three sets of friends and several relatives, especially, who could take any kitchen failures into Escoffier territory with their wonderful conversation---in company with any of them, our own wit seems multiplied exponentially into the absolute sublime, feeding off each others' words, and the fun flying up around us like butterflies. It's probably a good thing that we're so scattered across the map, for were we all at table at once, some sort of mirth-combustion might occur.

    And would you please expound sometime on the "pudding with a spoon" caveat? Wish we could discuss it at our house---I make lovely Profiteroles, crusty and laden with custard and rich chocolate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right, Rachel, the unintentional is never planned and therefore needs to be, as Genie comments above, taken in one's stride.

      We are glad to have escaped the days of corsets and celluloid collars and suspect, very often, the conversation was both stilted and dull.

      The 'fun flying around like butterflies' so epitomises what a good dinner or supper party should be and we can, from the picture which you paint here, so well imagine what fun you and your friends must have when all together. Yes, good conversation is infectious.

      Your profiteroles sound an absolute dream. A favourite pudding of ours we should probably disgrace ourselves by licking the plates clean! But if on our best behaviour, then eaten with a fork. Tricky with jelly, we do agree!!

      Delete
  73. Hello Jane and Lance
    Having just come back from France, where we enjoy a weekly ritual "dinner", I can report that certainly among our friends over there (a mixed bag of English, Dutch, French, German, American and - certainly last week - Nigerian and Argentinian) the food takes a back seat to the company. Our dinner (the inverted commas are intentional) involves everyone bringing their own food: generally pizza, as the pizza man makes his weekly visit every Wednesday, but those who are not fans of his selection bring their own alternatives. Last week, we were 14 in number, and our oldest group member, Denise, who is 88 going on 35, brought the following small extract from a book she had read a few days before:
    "Des embrassades en entrée, des plaisanteries en hors d'oeuvre, des confidences en plat du jour et en dessert la certitude de ne s'être trompé, ni d'endroit, ni de compagne"
    (embraces as the entree, pleasantries as hors d'oeuvres, confidences as the main course, and, for dessert, the certainty that one is not wrong in one's choice of either the place or the company)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a wonderful ritual, a 'weekly dinner'. How splendid is that, and made even more so with such a diverse mix of friends - the kind of occasion we so enjoy and where the food is completely secondary to the company. And how wise a woman is Denise whose little book should be mandatory reading for all would be, and wannabe dinner guests!

      Delete
  74. Dear Jane and Lance,
    your post is so amusing that you fulfill the request on the Brody house serviette a hundred percent! (And the saying is right in my eyes - cooking we can do also wonderful alone, but good conversation is seldom (:-) done alone).
    Though the idea of good food is nice too. And your "spiced" conversation around that chicken I can very well imagine - a few days ago I used a "MILD" curry paste (so the clowns had written on the tin) trustingly in a recipe. It fired the teint of the whole group to fiery red - the producers must have been related with beer/water/wine-producers....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How very kind and generous of you, Britta. And you are so right when you say that we can all cook alone, even possibly wonderfully, but that conversation requires some additional company and needs to be worked at.

      We have laughed at your use of the MILD curry paste which clearly was anything but. Such are the traps into which we can all so readily fall!

      Delete
  75. Dear Jane and Lance,
    this has been such an enjoyable read! I smile from one ear to the other!

    I grew up in a country were dinner is...everything! It is indeed an essential thing in social gatherings and it is impossible to visit a Greek without getting lots of food ...but it is just like in England as essential to be amusing and yes, as talktive as possible around a dinner table ; )

    I remembered now that scene from the film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when the mother of the ( Greek) bride asks the groom to be if he is hungry and he says no thank you and she says: Ok then I 'll make you something to eat (!) - which was actually the only part of that film that was not an exaggeration : D

    By the way, I must say that I have been very lucky and both in England and here in Norway I have been served good tasty dinners by English friends : )

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are so delighted that you have enjoyed this post, and how kind of you to say.

      How splendid to be able to draw on such a tradition, as in your Greek upbringing, where food is always accompanied with lively, spirited conversation. And yes, we too recall that scene, along with so many others, from 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'.

      You are indeed fortunate to have had good dinners served by English friends. Of course one can eat very well in England but we have not, as a nation, given cuisine to the world.

      Delete
    2. You have given Shepherd's pie to the world ; )

      Delete
  76. I was so pleased to read this post as I know that my cooking leaves a bit to be desired.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Take heart for on your very worst off day in the kitchen, you will, we assure, you be in Division 1 compared with the two of us!

      Delete
  77. Hi Jane and Lance, great post! Oh I do love a nice dinner party! As much as I love the food that goes with them - the company is definitely what can make or break it!

    I'd like to get a few of those napkins!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We absolutely agree, Clare.

      The napkins are indeed great fun. We are off to Brody House this afternoon to have tea there with a friend and may well be tempted to get more!

      Delete
  78. Ah Jane and Lance,
    And not to fall 'fowl' of your culinary capers and when I say 'capers', it is not a reference to an unripened flower bud, but of course, more of a playful leap into the wondrous world of exquisite cooking.
    I would like to inform you that cayenne placed in socks can keep one's feet warm on a cold day. However, said socks should not be then placed on one's menu!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your puns, Gary, however you contrive them never fail to amuse us and for which we thank you.

      We shall bear in mind your tip for keeping one's feet warm in Arctic conditions!!

      Delete
  79. Thankfully conversations can make up for a multitude of sins from the kitchen and if that doesn't do it truly is best to have more than enough libations to make up for it. You remind me of the time I made a most perfect looking plum pie with a beautiful lattice crust and a just right interior consistency, just firm enough and not too runny. Alas it was the most bitter pie I ever tasted, you see I forgot to remove the skins of the plums and they caused the pie to be sour extraordinaire. It has been enough years that I have lived it down, but pray tell me why is it that the mistakes are remembered far too easily then the perfect culinary delights.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why, indeed, Linda, is it that all the kinds of mistakes, such as yours with your plum pie, live on whilst one's culinary triumphs are consigned to the annals of history almost before the plates have been cleared away?

      Like you, our solution to such situations is to bring on more in the way of wine!!

      Delete
  80. I once baked my engagement ring into a pie prepared for guests. All I knew was that I had lost it somewhere in the kitchen, it was a wild guess that it had somehow found it's way into the pie. But it had. Luckily no one broke a tooth. Thus began probably the most jolly party we have ever held. People still say 'Do you remember when ...'

    I imagine it was the frisson of danger - will I swallow the ring? - that added to the fun. Or maybe I just have odd friends!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Annie, this is so funny! As you say, the heightened sense of adventure which must have been present round the dining table wondering whether the ring would make an appearance in the next forkful. Well, it certainly makes a change from a fish bone!

      And, as you say, the best of the disasters merely become apocryphal stories to be revisited every time the friends are gathered again. Wonderful!

      Delete
  81. I have never been one for hushed silences over dinner. But the chewing with an open mouth makes me quickly lose my appetite. I have found a collection of excuses for changing my seat at the dinner table to avoid facing a distant relative (no blood relation I'm proud to say) who had in the past ruined several meals for me by displaying what she was munching and how well it was progressing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh dear, Mitch, this sounds all too gruesome. Musical chairs around the dining table indeed, now that is something we have yet to experience, but if your distant relative was at the table, we are sure that we should be asking for a move too!!

      We are quite certain that gales of laughter whatever the food, whatever the occasion, whatever the place would be the order of the day for you and J as you sound like party people to the core to us!

      Delete
  82. Ha ha we never went to dinner parties in the UK but we had many in Africa. There we used to all bring a dish to take the strain off the host and we generally had amazing meals. There was always plenty of wine and beer going so laughter was never a problem. Diane

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When the alcohol flows, it generally does help to loosen inhibitions and let the party swing. Your African dinner parties sound to have been great fun and, of course, with everyone bringing a dish, the unexpected would be the usual.

      Delete
  83. Hello Jane and Lance, what a very amusing post. I loved the story of the spicy chicken. It reminds me of one particular Christmas, when we went off to the village pub, and I came back rather worse for wear. I had cooked my large Capon upside down as I heard that it kept the breast more succulent. When it came to carving, I had forgotten this fact, and wondered why the bird has such little meat on it (duh!)To add insult to injury, my sister's boyfriend made a cracking curry the next day, with my lovely succulent chicken breast!!

    I think I would prefer a dinner party with a mix of good food and good fun. I usually try to make everything myself and end up in a complete tizzy or exhausted, so much more sensible to cook one or two things, and buy the rest at a good deli or bakery.

    Thanks for giving me a good laugh, oh and I enjoyed the advice on keeping cayenne in your socks! Lots of love to you both, Linda xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Linda, what a wonderful story and one which, doubtless, it has taken many years to live down. But the Boxing Day curry must have been exceedingly good, largely consisting of breast meat.

      An ideal mix at a dinner party is, of course, good food AND good company. But if we have to choose, then we come firmly down on the side of the people and fun. We have given parties for large numbers in the past where we have simply served Gary Rhodes' Shepherd's Pie with what we like to think was huge confidence given the simplicity of the dish.

      Delete
    2. Hello again, I am sure that Gary Rhodes' Shepherd's Pie, is not all that simple, he always struck me as a real perfectionist. I do think though that the simple things are often the best. I know that your parties would always be good because you are so interesting, and interested in others.

      Many thanks for your visit. I do love to see your name in the comments, you bolster my ego so! A big hug to you both, love Linda x

      Delete
    3. Believe us, Linda, the complete idiots that we are in the kitchen, if we can produce a Gary Rhodes' Shepherd's Pie, then anyone can!!!The secret lies in chopping everything into very tiny cubes, other than the minced lamb that is!

      You are very kind, Linda, and we are certain that you show the most charming consideration for any guests in your beautiful home. We do wonder, however, if you have problems in getting your visitors to leave!!!!

      Delete
  84. Dearest Jane and Lance!

    What a coincidence! I've just had such similar thoughts as I put up my last post.

    I get very anxious before any kind of party! What will I say, what will we have to talk about? I almost get paralyzed but the silly thing is - it always turns out to be very fun.

    Also, in the past year, I've thought about how much I crave and need conversation about things that interest me but that most people have never heard of...Itoh peonies (just discovered) and William Morris being the last two subjects that fell very flat and unnoticed - sigh! =( Yet, still, there's so much joy in talking about 'the good old days' when the ponds used to freeze over by Thanksgiving and there was ice skating up and down the river or, about the funniest stories from the farm or I don't know.... what did we talk about? All I know is that I've noticed how sharing a meal is magic! At the end, there are usually stars in our eyes and a golden haze over everything!

    yet, still, I wish that I had the gift of drawing others out! I love the quote: "Charm is the quality in others that makes us more satisfied with ourselves." (Henri-Frederic Amiel) Well, and I'm getting better at biting my tongue when I get on to a topic that really, really interests me... I CAN get like a runaway freight train. But, in my defence, I'm joyfully enthusiastic - heh, heh.

    Have you seen the Danish film "Babette's Feast"? Have you seen "Chocolat"? The power of a meal prepared with loving and gifted hands! =D

    Love to you both!

    Katy xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh dearest Katy, it is one of our greatest wishes that we could spend a long time [a very long time] with you over a meal and talking the night away. We are absolutely certain that we should never be short of a topic and we are equally certain that whatever your current, past or future enthusiasms would be you would convince us in an instant that we should share the same passions [that is if we did not already have them.

      We absolutely love your quotation. Indeed, this was a topic of conversation between the two of us only yesterday. We really think that charming people are treasures and we certainly want our lives to be surrounded by such individuals as, we hope, that we too can be relied upon to be charming in the company of others.

      'Babette's Feast' is one of our all time favourite films and is one we are always recommending to friends to see. As you say, it is a powerful reminder of what emotions can be stirred amongst people sitting down at table together when food is prepared with passion and skill.

      Delete
  85. Dear Jane and Lance,
    I don't know why id didn't see this post earlier. Something is wrong with my blog!
    But what a delightful post it is. I actually laughrd out aloud.
    I've been here for 21 years now, and i don't know why and how, but i also can't say serviette. It is napkins. It just is!
    Here so to more dinner parties where the food matters but not as much as good company!

    Red

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These days we expect something to be wrong with our blog all of the time....it has become a way of life. We have considered setting up a mutual blog 'agony aunt' page but have decided against it as it would make too depressing reading!!!

      Well, we shall certainly join you in a toast to dinner parties where the company takes pride of place at the table. Indeed, if we drink a large enough toast, it could be that the food will cease to matter at all!!!

      Delete
  86. Oh gosh, I don't think anyone will ever invite me for a party if I do visit your place. I'm usually quiet around other people and talkative among family...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, Karen, just think of everyone as your family, that should do the trick!!

      Advice we once heard concerning how to overcome nerves when asked to speak in front of other people was to imagine them naked....does this work for you?!!!! It certainly makes us smile!!!!

      Delete
  87. Hello! I did not know that...And I want to say the esten people are very hostiable...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amin, it is true to say that we have found hospitable people all over the world.

      Delete
  88. If food and wine don't stin







    Fussy eaters, teetotallers, attention-seekers, bores and narrow-minded types are never worth inviting to dinner. Get the right group, good food and well selected wine, though, and there is no better formula for an engaging, enlightening, and memorably funny night.

    ReplyDelete
  89. I must admit that I am not too partial to lousy food. I hope the wine is good at least! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  90. Gosh Jane and Lance, if I wanted to eat in silence, I could eat alone. The fun of a meal is sharing with others; talking, laughing, enjoying the moment, making memories.
    Anthony sounds a charmer, well suited for all the above.

    ReplyDelete

Your comments are warmly welcomed and appreciated. We shall reply to each one individually since we value establishing a dialogue. However, we do not publish anonymous comments.

PLEASE NOTE: On occasion when comments are in excess of 200, then it is necessary to click on 'Load More' to view all comments that have been left.