OPINION: DINNER FOR ONCE
For many top-level business people, dinner is often a luxury or the only meal that is a none negotiable gathering for friends and family to connect. It’s that time of the year again, when many will be entertaining friends, family and business associates at some dinner, lunch, festive gathering or New Years Eve celebration. It’s also that time of the year when an ancient TV programme titled “Dinner for One” tends to resurface on a channel somewhere on the satellite bouquet.
This short, quirky skit starring a little old lady named Miss Sophie and her butler James, enjoying a birthday dinner with the absent-minded old ladies non-existent gathering of friends, is an all time classic, as the poor butler is forced to not only be the one and only waiter for this imaginary dinner party, but he also stands in as each of the guests, having to impersonate their peculiarities as if they were still alive, and indulge in the various alcohols paired with each dish. For those who’ve not had the chance to watch it, the final result is a complete cataclysm as the butler ends up unbelievably smashed and the senile dinner host is somewhat oblivious to the complete breakdown of her party – some might say, purposefully so.
Some might be able to identify with elements of this story resulting in panic and anxiety when December arrives. However there are a few lessons to be learnt from this 18-minute comedy sketch, also known as ‘The 90th Birthday’. The most evident one is not serving your guests bountiful goblets of alcohol and more so, mixing every drink in the liquor cabinet. This is a cocktail for pandemonium, amplified over a period of an afternoon or evening.
As this “Dinner for One” has been going year on year, the menu seems not to have changed – ever. It seems James is forever having Mulligatawny soup paired with a dry sherry, fish with white wine, chicken with champagne and ending with fruits for dessert paired with a port. Avoid serving your guests the same family favourites you’ve been serving them since 1963. It’s great having that signature, tried and tested dish that always comes out as a carnival to the palate, but your guests are probably dreading your infamous ‘December Delight’ and besides that, there are millions of superb recipes in the world that deserve a try and this time of the year provides ample time to attempt some new dishes, using produce that is currently in season and different to last years festive food fair.
One of the more memorable moments of Miss Sophie’s soiree is her butler James stumbling over a tiger rug as he moves between the dining table and bar area in his endless endeavor to keep the glasses filled. Eccentrically, he manages to trip over the tiger rug less and less the more drinks he consumes on behalf of the fictional dinner guests, which probably proves the point that the merrier the get-together becomes the less the irritating or imperfect things matter.
Pandemonium aside, there are quite a few valuable pointers from this somewhat unusual dinner gathering. Although only impersonated by one person, namely the butler, the dinner party has a colourful array of guests – if only they were still alive! Having a great mix of people is as important to a successful gourmet gathering as the food and beverages that are served. Make sure there is a good combination of people joining the party that tend to all get along, have something in common or are at least interesting personalities that will compliment your new culinary creations.
Miss Sophie’s dinner table is beautifully set, with only the best crockery and cutlery the residence has at hand. During the year it isn’t always practical to do up an entire table for a dinner party, however over the holidays, and with more time than usual, it’s a treat to bring out all the “good pieces” and really treat guests to some theatrical gastronomy, with no rush.
Eventually, the conceptually absent Miss Sophie decides to retire with a completely shattered James by her side. It’s probably best to call it a night, in good time, before things really become unrecoverable – rather finish on a high!
For those bold enough to try something different, this time of the year is an opportunity to discover hidden kitchen treasures, showcase dining creativity and enjoy hours of great company with colourful characters. For others it’ll be the same procedure as last year – the same procedure as every year.