Cooking for Dull Guests
Food that's fun or a bit tricky
to eat, or that involves your guests in the
preparation, is the culinary equivalent of a game of
Twister. It's also ideal for livening up soporific
guests. Lay out all the ingredients, give clear
instructions to your guests, and invite them to do
all the work. That way, everyone has something to
do, shy people get involved, and the food becomes a
natural focus of conversation.
It's a good idea to serve interesting punch or
cocktails when people arrive (essential if members
of your family are coming). Prepare everything in
advance - you may long to escape and hide in the
kitchen but your guests will be left stranded and
feeling awkward. Then vary the rhythm of the meal,
so you're not sitting staring at your plate and the
same bit of the wall for hours.
Five-point anti-dull party plan:
1. Break the ice with a heady strawberry punch: mix
1 bottle of white wine with a handful of
strawberries, roughly chopped, 10 mint leaves,
removed from the stalks and chopped, and 3 tbsp of
vodka. Leave for a couple of hours to chill and add
a handful of ice cubes before drinking.
2. Lay the first course out on a side table and have
it as a buffet, for example, or insist that people
switch places between each course, to see if they
find more in common with their new neighbor.
3. Lighten the atmosphere by eating with your
fingers. For a starter, try artichokes, boiled in
water until the leaves pull away easily, or
asparagus, lightly steamed then dipped in butter and
salt. Or brush fresh sweet corn with olive oil,
roast in a hot oven until soft and serve wrapped in
4. Serve coffee and possibly pudding in a different
room, to encourage everyone to stand up and move
around. And keep an open mind - they might turn out
to be slightly less dull than you feared.
5. Set the evening alight with a burning cocktail.
Place a sugar lump on a spoon, soak it with cognac,
and hold it over a glass of hot coffee to warm up.
Then set fire to the alcohol and slide it into the
glass. Or put an inch of Baileys into a glass then
pour a thin layer of cognac over the top. Hold the
glass over a candle to warm up, set fire to the top
and drink carefully, while still lit, through a