Dinner Party Dilemmas

4 November 2022

Ah dinner parties; the food prep, the table set up, the matching wines and the food nit-pickers. Judi describes her wicked ways around the fussy eaters.

My father calls us part of the chattering classes. He thinks our lives consist of endless dinner parties brimming with erudite guests. He imagines pretentious conversations about kitchen renovations and weekends in the Barossa Valley. He does not realise that I spend most evenings either in a restaurant letting someone else do the dishes or curled up with a bowl of something on the sofa sporting crotchless leggings not designed to be at all sexy. My husband is usually outside chainsawing wood for our endless winter fires. Dead exciting.

But we do entertain. Carefully. Dinner parties should not be approached lightly. Before you invite that scintillating doctor and his elegant wife into the womb of your home find out if they have food fads. I know entertaining should be about ebullient company but for me anyone with allergies, pretend allergies, on diets, vegetarian or god forbid vegan are discouraged from my door. Also very thin people or people who pick. I cannot abide watching a skinny spouse push my lovingly prepared lobster around a plate while my husband looks set to pounce should she give up the charade.

One can have a bit of fun though. Casseroles are an excellent weapon against the food fey. We have a friend who hates mushrooms. I ensure that anything I cook for him contains the dreaded ingredient food processed and hidden amongst a plethora of flavours. He never notices the abhorred fungi. I do a similar thing with kidney which I believe adds body to any casserole but which most people profess to detest. Ditto with fish sauce.

People with a real gluten allergy I tend not to invite around; too difficult. People with pretend gluten allergy are particularly annoying. Oh so intolerant until the Iggy’s sourdough comes out. I use the same tactic for lactose intolerance as I have seen professed sufferers devour a French brie.

Vegetarians are simple to fool. A little dripping here, a bit of suet there and gravy is a wonderful partner in crime. I once fooled a vego into thinking steak tartare was minced bean curd. Vegans never darken my door as I couldn’t even get away with serving them an omelette. And they’re usually skinny anyway so ruled out on two counts.

If you want to discourage dish dodgers don’t invite anyone who works in fitness, dietetics, cardiology or any profession involving wholefoods. But do invite chefs. They are remarkably easy to please as they usually eat anything and are delighted that someone has had the fortitude to feed them.

Of course one cannot go through life befriending only foodies as this leads to frightening cliques similar to doctors and police officers. At least be prepared to allow the odd offal averse, the occasional vegetarian, even a personal instructor. Never vegans. And don’t forget that it’s possible to have a little harmless, evil fun hiding the odd ingredient. Except with peanut allergy. No one needs a hospital visit before dessert.

Words: Judi Knight

Image: Kenneth Lu