Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Making a meal of it


We had twelve people round our dining table the other day. It ought to have been a specially blessed occasion, and as far as the meal was concerned it certainly was. C., an amiable Swiss lady who lives some distance away, did all the cooking and brought the entire meal, plus wines and coffee, to our house in her car.

Entrée: Avocado dressed with salmon mousse, salad with vinaigrette

Main course: Chicken pie in a rich creamy sauce

Cheese: Camembert, Gouda, Mimolette, Brie

Dessert: Iced lemon mousse

C.'s guests were all those volunteers who had helped her organise last summer's series of concerts. It was her more than adequate way of saying thank you. J. was delighted merely to lend our kitchen and supply cutlery, glasses, etc. and clear away afterwards.

It was a superb meal. We sat down at about 12.45 and didn't get up until 4pm. I wish I could say the time flew by, and that the conversation was sharply illuminated with flashes of French wit. But it didn't and it wasn't. Two of the company decided the opportunity was ripe for long uninvited monologues about

a) The origins of local place-names (22 minutes)

b) The probable effects of the imminent reorganisation of French local government (38 minutes).

I sat next to C., feeling for her and desperately hoping that this brutish commandeering of her event hadn't taken the lustre off her hospitality. I told her quietly that in the UK three topics of conversation are traditionally avoided at table in polite society: sex, religion and politics. She was genuinely surprised. I felt I was carrying everyone else's boredom.

I hereby make public apology for deliberately creating a between-course diversion to limit the first monologue by inviting everyone to come to the window to see a distant mountain-top chapel the speaker had just mentioned, St Martin du Froid, St Martin in the Cold. I even supplied binoculars to spin the interruption out while everyone had a look. (This tactic of desperation had its price: the window became covered in fingerprints as people pointed it out to each other.)

As for the second monologue, maybe I should have created another diversion, but I chickened out. It's so easy to become known as a disruptive, subversive and thoroughly irresponsible element. And when in Rome, of course...

15 comments:

english inukshuk said...

oh dear, how very tedious

perhaps you might suggest the perpetrators take up blogging to relieve their chests (and the luncheon circle in general) of these thoughts and opinions. . .

on a lighter note, what topics would you have liked the conversations to have covered?

synesthesia and its wonderful combinations (for example, which flavour is tasted when listening to one of Christopher's creations) is something I'd be happy to discuss over a plate of cheese!

Z said...

Some years ago, we held a party for about twenty people. We had to use two rooms with both our dining tables to accommodate them. It was dismaying, but perhaps understandable, when my sister took over one table with her description of how unhappy she was since her husband died, but it was a bit of a downer, especially when she cried. My mother, who was at the table in the other room, said that the atmosphere there had been equally deadened by the description, by a farmer friend, of the dreadfulness of having had all their healthy pigs slaughtered (shot on the farm) because there was swine fever in the area, they weren't allowed to sell them and they no longer could afford to keep them. She was traumatised by the awful event, so again it was understandable but it ruined the party and everyone slunk away feeling as miserable as the two of them were.

I have never held a sit-down party for so many people again and actually it put me off inviting people for a meal for a very long time. Thinking about it, I'm still upset, a decade later. It was impossible, under the circumstances, to turn the conversations to something lighter.

Dave said...

This is why I never host dinner parties.

Z said...

I'm always a cheerful and tactful dinner party guest, Dave. You can safely invite me.

Christopher said...

EI: Tedious is exactly the word. I don't know many French blogs, but those I do tend to be tedious too and very ill-written.

*furtively leafs through dictionary looking up 'synaesthesia' having guessed from the Greek that it must mean 'together-sensation' which sounds vaguely suggestive and surely IE can't mean that, I mean, it's hardly a dinner table conversation topic...discovers true meaning, one sensation evoked by another*

Synesthesia? Yes, good idea. All my music is inspired by F and N. I've never invoked the muse of cheese.

Z: I quite understand your reluctance.

Dave: I quite understand your reluctance.

Z: And me.

Dave: When is it to be?

Dave said...

Sorry. I should have said 'This is one of the reasons why I never host dinner parties.' Another is that I am a misanthrope.

Rog said...

The sound of that food is making me hungry. I would have munched away oblivious to the hot air but possibly said something a little too controversial over the red wine and cheese.

Sarah said...

Well...I have been known(at my own lunch party I hasten to add, not someone else's. Even so it does not excuse my outburst) To stand up and announce that the man sitting next to me, was probably the most boring and opinionated individual I had ever had the misfortune to try and entertain.....and then moved my chair to the other end of the table.....ooops.

Rog said...

It's such a shame Sarah can't elaborate that tale in a blog post! I believe it was the lead singer of Duran Duran as well....

Christopher said...

Rog: You would have been more than welcome, a breath of fresh air in an air of French breath.

Sah: You must have been a fearsome milk monitor...are you available to see fair play at lunch parties? Terms?

letouttoplay said...

How very inventive (and adult) of you. I might have been tempted to take notes. Or to make sketches. Certainly I would have been driven to making faces, wriggling, swinging my legs under the table and turning round to stare out of the window in a dreadfully childish way.
We've just had a very nice dinner party (only five of us fortunately) otherwise I'd be raiding the cheese cage after reading about your meal.

Anonymous said...

Apologies: See my short answering monologue of seconds that should have been placed here to make sense (I trust) that may be accessed with the click of a mouse misplaced (for some reason) in the comments of previous 'Conjectures, etc...'.

Vicus Scurra said...

I had Daily Mail man in my house the other day. I intermittently listened to all of his opinions, unable to shut him up, as he had my central heating in bits, the equivalent of the Jedi death grip. I only gave him tea, though. No biscuits for his sort.

Christopher said...

Mig: Making faces? I never thought of that. Next time...

Anne O'N: I followed you. But what were you doing up at ten to two in the morning?

Vicus: Very glad to see you. I thought you might have repaired to your garden shed until the old stuff had blown away, and no one had thought to tell you. I hope your central heating is now doing all you ask of it - was the engineer accredited to your supplier? I don't suppose an Independent would have been preferable, maybe accompanied by an Observer?

Vicus Scurra said...

Thank you for your concern. I have little choice in the matter of engineers, as I have an unusual boiler. (do your own jokes). Your concern is comforting. My central heating is not.